Base Makeup

My Foundation Testing Experiences & Thoughts + Holy Grails: Part 3

February 14, 2011

Finding the perfect foundation is like trying to find the perfect pair of jeans. There are so many options it’s overwhelming to know what to look for. You have to try a wide variety of different types to find the one that’s right for you. So what are my holy grails and next-best-picks for foundations? Click read more to see my extensive list.

Quick Recap: I have normal but sensitive medium-toned skin with yellow and olive tones. I prefer natural but visible coverage (prefer evened out skin versus a very sheer tint). I tend to go with formulas that are liquid (versus solid, cream, gels) because I find them easier to work with. I’m 29 and have had decent skin for most of my life with the exception of occasional stress breakouts that happen once every couple of months or when I try new products that are too harsh for my skin.

My Perfect Prep Combination before applying makeup:
1. Cleanse with Clinique’s Foaming Cleanser
2. Tone with La Mer’s Tonic (the pink one) or Paul & Joe
3. Apply Laura Mercier’s Renewal Serum (I’m afraid this has been discontinued)
4. Apply MAC’s Prep + Prime

Holy Grails:
1. Chanel Teint Innocence Liquid in Shell
2. Chanel Double Perfection Compact in Tender Bisque
3. Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua (shade to be determined)
4. Dolce & Gabbana Powder Foundation in Warm or Tan

Close to Holy Grail Material:
1. Giorgio Armani’s Lasting Silk 5.5+6.5 mixed (not to be confused with their Luminous Silk)
2. NARS Sheer Glow Foundation (used Punjab but it’s too dark now)
3. Chanel Lift Lumiere in Shell+Beige mixed
4. Guerlain Lingerie de Peau
5. Diorskin Nude (still searching for the right shade, will most likely have to mix)

Swatches of foundations from November 2009 linked here.

Here’s a quick breakdown of all the foundations I’ve sampled by brand (yes, it’s a mother-load, I can’t remember all the shades I was matched to). Do note I did not purchase most of these, foundation is one item counters are most willing to sample if you ask nicely.
  • Armani Face Fabric – lightweight mousse-like cream in a squeeze tube, had a soft matte-powdery finish, great concept however this did not blend well on my skin, looked ashy and emphasized any imperfections, color selection was extremely limited
  • Armani Lasting Silk – liquid foundation with a nice pump, one of my holy grail finds, I mix 5.5 and 6.5 (read review here)
  • Armani Luminous Silk – creamy liquid in a pump bottle, one of the original releases from Armani, matched to 5.5 and 6, looks amazing for a few hours but then slides off the face and made me look really oily
  • Armani Matte Silk (now d/c) – matte finish foundations, flawless and natural coverage, evened out skin, the only problem was that daily use resulted in clogged pores
  • Bobbi Brown Original Oil Free (pre SPF days) – loved the texture and natural coverage, but it left my skin super oily within hours
  • Bobbi Brown Foundation Stick – full coverage foundation in a thick twist up stick form, I tried her original version, I’m not sure if this is something that has gone through a revamp, loved it for full natural coverage, easy application, I never repurchased simply because it got used up so fast it didn’t seem economical to keep repurchasing
  • Bobbi Brown Natural Finish Long Lasting – thumbs down (read review here)
  • Bobbi Brown Tinted Moisturizer – sheer tinted moisturizer in a squeeze tube, I love the idea of natural tint, this one has an ingredient in their sunscreen that gives me a severe allergic reaction (deep red bumps all over the cheeks)
  • Bobbi Brown Oil-Free Even Finish Compact Foundation – solid cream compact foundation that gave a nice full coverage with a sponge, it did require extra blending to smooth out on my skin (with fingers or brush) however I had the same allergic reaction with her other foundations
  • Burberry Luminous Fluid Foundation – liquid foundation with a pump that has a great finish, I developed a bad reaction (read review here)
  • Chanel Double Perfection Fluide (d/c liquid glass bottle) – a very fluid but richly pigmented foundation, WHY did Chanel discontinue this???? It was the most amazing long-lasting matte foundation ever, medium to full coverage with a matte finish, the new Mat Lumiere formula does not compare at all
  • Chanel Double Perfection Creme Poudre (d/c black tube) – another discontinued favorite, the only true cream to powder finish foundation I’ve tried that stays matte all day and did not need any powder, absolute perfection in a black tube
  • Chanel Double Perfection Powder Foundation – compact powder foundation, both formulas (original and new) have been holy grails for me, the original was rougher in texture, the newer version (released about 2-3 years ago now?) has a softer more finely milled finish and the product you get is smaller
  • Chanel Lift Lumiere – liquid foundation with a pump that’s supposed to give lift to the skin, another holy grail, I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed it, but it’s a less dewey version of Teint Innocence with slightly more opaque coverage, I find the shades to be slightly lighter than the Teint Innocence, I custom mix Shell and Beige together for a perfect match, great long lasting finish, but you do need powder, can’t really say whether or not it gives me “lift” but I like the way it looks, feels and wears throughout the day
  • Chanel Mat Lumiere – thumbs down (read review here)
  • Chanel Pro Lumiere – I have so-so feelings on this, thicker and creamier in texture than most of the other Chanel foundations, but still very liquid, gave full coverage but found it too heavy in texture and scent (read review here)
  • Chanel Teint Fluide Universel (d/c) – another Holy Grail long discontinued
  • Chanel Teint Innocence Compact – solid compact cream foundation with full coverage, you need an exact match due to the full coverage finish
  • Chanel Teint Innocence Liquid – another soon-to-be-discontinued holy grail (curses!)
  • Chantecaille Future Skin – I tried this in Shea, this is a thicker cream in a tub with full coverage, I remember not loving this because the texture seemed a bit thick for my skin and it slid off after a few hours, I prefer thinner liquids, but so many have raved, I may have to try it again
  • Chantecaille Real Skin – sheer solid gel-like cream in a compact form, too sheer to even see what was on the skin, I got this in a swap and used it all up, but never repurchased
  • Dior Hydralife Pro Youth Skin Tint – tinted moisturizer in a pretty blue tube, limited shade selection prevented me from looking into this one in great detail, sampled two shades, both were completely off
  • Diorskin Nude Foundation – liquid foundation with a pump, semi-rave (read review here)
  • Dolce & Gabbana Powder Foundation – Holy Grail! (read review here)
  • Guerlain Lingerie de Peau – fluid in a pump bottle, close to Holy Grail material (read review here)
  • La Mer Fluid Tint SPF 18 – tinted moisturizer in a tube, I bought and used up the Medium shade, never repurchased, for the price it just didn’t wow me enough to justify repurchasing, gave sheer coverage just like you’d expect from a tinted moisturizer, has that classic La Mer ocean scent
  • Laura Mercier Creme Smooth – thumbs down, although if you liked Chantecaille’s Future Skin you might want to check this out (read review here)
  • Laura Mercier Foundation Stick (d/c) – amazing! gave wonderful coverage, goof-proof application, easy to apply on-the-go, why do brands discontinue great items?
  • Laura Mercier Oil Free Foundation – liquid foundation with a pump, thumbs down for me, did not blend well on my skin (tried all the Laura Mercier techniques with the primer, moisturizer, damp sponge too)
  • Laura Mercier Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer – great tinted moisturizer but best when mixed with a regular foundation, unless you find an exact match the luminous quality can look a bit too glowy on your skin
  • Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer – I used to love this and repurchased numerous times, the coverage is very sheer, I prefer something with more visible coverage, sometimes this can be too natural
  • Laura Mercier Mineral Powder Foundation – loose mineral powder, gives perfect glowy coverage but it’s a bit high maintenance and not good for oily skin, it’s difficult to get the right amount on, most times I either had too little or one brush stroke too much
  • Laura Mercier Silk Cremecream-to-powder type of formula in a squeeze tube, I found it close in concept to the Chanel Matte Foundation in the black tube, but you need an exact match or else the full coverage just leaves you looking too ashy or mis-matched, great coverage, matte finish, doesn’t need powder to set, long lasting
  • MAC Face & Body, Studio Fix Compact, Hyper Real, Studio Tint … I’ve never been able to wear any MAC foundation and I tried every single one (up until 3 years ago) hoping to find one that wouldn’t give me cystic acne, I’ve given up, the damage their foundations and powders do to my skin is not worth the risk, I can use their highlighting powders and blushes though without any problems
  • Make Up Forever Face & Body – thumbs down (read review here)
  • NARS Oil Free Original (d/c) – loved this one
  • NARS Sheer Glow – thumbs up (read review here)
  • NARS Sheer Matte – thumbs up, the shades in the Matte line aren’t an exact match to the Glow lineup, I need to get rematched again in this formula
  • NARS Gel Fraicheur (d/c tinted moisturizer tubes) – I remember loving the concept but the formula was not the greatest, best used when mixed with other foundations to give a soft tanned glow
  • Paul & Joe Light Cream Foundation – creamy liquid foundation in a white bottle with a pump, this was hard for me to find a good match, I ended up with 40 which is too dark, but 31 is too pink and 30 is too pale, it is not photo-flash-friendly, the SPF combined with flash photography results in a white ghost-like face and tan neck, it is a great foundation for normal-to-dry skin, soft and creamy and moisturizing with natural medium coverage
  • Paul & Joe Creamy Powder Foundation Compact – bought this in 40 which is deceivingly dark in the compact but a perfect match, have repurchased twice, love this for the nice thick creamy texture but applies smooth and matte, full coverage
  • Prescriptives Luxe – the good old Px brand, best known for their foundations, I was sad to see the line go, Luxe was the first luminous glowy foundation on the mid-high-end market, loved this one although it was probably too much coverage for what I needed when I was in my late high-school days
  • Prescriptives Photochrome – good in concept, came in a cream compact form, was supposed to auto-adjust to match your exact skintone, was a failure for me, simply too heavy and did not sit well with my skin
  • Prescriptives Traceless – the PERFECT tinted moisturizer, have never found one as good
  • Prescriptives Unmakeup – the PEFECT no-makeup makeup, I used the Px Gold, nothing has come close to this one either
  • Prescriptives Virtual Skin – probably one of the first foundations I ever purchased in high school, a classic but I remember it being hard to find the exact match sometimes
  • Stila – I used to love this brand, I cannot for the life of me remember which formulas I used to use since this brand has gone through so many changes (changes I am not loving), I did love their Illuminating Powder Foundation for a flawless glow, I remember when Jeanine Lobell was the director, I loved all the foundations because they had that wonderful olive undertone that worked so well for my skin
  • Trish McEvoy Even Skin Foundation – I have fallen in and out of this line, I loved her original Even Skin foundation but got a bit irritated with her constant revamps, I repurchased this one 3 times but stopped after discovering Chanel
There are a number of brands I have not tried such as Cle de Peau, Lancome, Shiseido, YSL, BE, Urban Decay, Tarte etc. I haven’t explored La Mer very much either. I avoid brands that are known to have highly fragranced products. Some brands are just overpriced in my mind. Packaging is also key. I like sleek simple classic looking packaging.

So now that I’ve shared my list, what are your favorites? Experiences you want to share? I used to rely heavily on the Product Reviews section on Makeupalley. I still find the reviews helpful to scan when something new comes out, but sometimes you will find such a diverse range of reviews and reactions it can be hard to sort through. Now that various beauty brands have picked up on Makeupalley as a valuable resource, I have noticed some seemingly overly positive comments which I believe are not from consumers like myself, bur rather from actual brand reps. While I do expect brand reps to represent their brands in a positive light, I think it’s a bit iffy for brands to participate in their own product reviews on a website that is known to be a community of consumers. Just my two cents.

If you’d like to share your thoughts, please include the following to help us all:
1. Your skin-type
2. Skin undertone (ie fair, light, medium, olive, pinkish etc.)
3. Age range (if you’re comfortable with that)

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