Foundation was never my thing: I could feel it on my skin, the shades were never quite right, and I resented the time it took to massage and buff it into the skin to look natural (I’m a two-minute face prep kind of gal). Instead, my preferred beat when I was a magazine beauty editor was skincare. My philosophy then was to learn how to take care of my skin so I wouldn’t have to worry so much about covering it up.
Well, that was 18 years ago and at age 40, I regret my lackadaisical attitude towards foundations. My skin is still smooth (thanks to my other obsession with acids—glycolic, lactic and salicylic) but because of my sun-worshipping days in my teens, I have dark spots and uneven pigmentation that only a cosmetic laser can remove (trust me, I’ve asked).
So while I’ve always been a huge fan of BB and CC creams and tinted moisturizers (they are exceptionally light and feel like skincare instead of makeup), many of them don’t offer the coverage I’m starting to need. Add hormonal acne (yes—even at my advanced age) to the mix, and my time to trade-up to a full-fledged foundation has arrived.
However, my must-have list is a long one. I want a formula that will even out my skin tone, yet look like I’m not wearing any makeup, feel weightless, won’t sit in my fine lines, match my skin tone exactly, add hydration AND give me that glowy complexion of someone 15 years younger. All reasonable requests, no?
Thankfully, formulas for foundations have come a long way. And after a lengthy test-drive (you’re welcome), here are the ones that passed my, ‘doesn’t feel like I’m wearing foundation’ test.
The Estée Edit Skin Glowing Balm Makeup. This foundation provides the least amount of coverage of the six here, but it’s perfect for the days when you don’t have to look so profesh (covering a pimple, acne scars or brown spots will need additional concealer). Super lightweight, it uses skin-loving ingredients such as shea butter, muru-muru seed butter, pink peony (to help with inflammation) and evening primrose oil to get that glow-from-within complexion
I’ve already raved about this beauty brand here, but they deserve all the love I’m giving them. This foundation totally changed my life. Super-hydrating (thanks to the hyaluronic acid), creamy and blendable, I swear it took years off the look of my skin.
Tarte Rainforest Of the Sea Water Foundation. Seriously lightweight, this foundation has a runny consistency but is easy to blend. It balanced out my skintone (the pimple on my chin required a concealer touch-up), left no signs of product and didn’t seep into fine lines. I also love that the formula contains Vitamin E, algae extracts and titanium and zinc oxide (non-chemical sunscreen ingredients) for a bit of bonus skin protection.
Stila Aqua Glow Serum Foundation. Similar to the Tarte, this has a water-y consistency but is easily blendable. It offers slightly more coverage than the Tarte foundation and won’t cake if you need to build it up to cover that nasty zit.
Benefit Hello Flawless Oxygen Wow Brightening Makeup. One of my old-school, beauty editor faves, this really paved the way for me to even consider foundation. A bit thicker in consistency I found that it looked the most natural when applying it with a foundation brush or beauty sponge, and buffed outwards.
Too-Faced Born This Way Undetectable Medium-to-Full Coverage Foundation. The most full-coverage of the bunch, this formula still felt undetectable on the skin. Again, a beauty sponge worked best to buff it into the skin.
After trolling the blogsphere, I realized I’m not alone in my quest for foundation that doesn’t feel like foundation. Refinery29 did a great post here, showcasing other brands you may end up loving.