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Buying foundations always seems like such a daunting task for me and my oily skin. I’ve tested 6 foundations over the past year (including tinted moisturizers and CC creams) and put together my pros and cons for each.
What Do I Look For When Choosing a Foundation?
Before we get into it, here’s what I personally look for in a foundation:
- I’m not picky about the type of finish. I like both dewy and matte foundations – but I don’t like foundations that dry out my skin. Nor do I like foundations that make me look overly shiny.
- I also don’t want a finish that will accentuate my textured skin, pores, acne, fine lines, etc. No one wants that. I want my foundation to smooth out my skin as much as possible.
- Lasting power is always a great thing. I want a foundation that stays put from work through happy hour.
- Ease of application is huge. I’m mostly looking for something that I can apply evenly and quickly when I’m rushing in the morning. But the ability to apply my foundation with my hands will always be a bonus for me because my hands don’t soak up product the way a beauty sponge does and I find it easier to control the application with my hands. Plus, there’s no need for the tedious process of cleaning brushes every few days. However, I’ll use a beauty blender or a brush if absolutely needed.
- Last but not least, shade range. It goes without saying that I want to support inclusive brands that can cater to the lightest of light and deepest of deep skin tones and acknowledge that different undertones exist.
SPF in Foundation: Does it Matter?
I also want to include a quick note on SPF in foundation. It’s a nice plus, however, keep in mind that SPF is only effective if you apply enough of it. Regardless of the SPF rating in your foundation, you will never apply enough to be able to rely on it as your sole sun protection – unless, of course, you’re cool with looking like a clown! I included the SPF rating for each foundation here, but because I always use a separate sunscreen before my foundation, it’s kind of irrelevant to me and doesn’t affect my thoughts on each foundation either way.
Getting to the Point…
Below are my thoughts on every single foundation I used in 2019.
Light Coverage Foundations
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30
Shade Count: 10 shades
Pros: First Aid Beauty’s Tinted Moisturizer provides a surprising amount of coverage compared to some other tinted moisturizers I’ve used. It feels lightweight and comfortable and it really evens out my skin tone. The formula includes ingredients like colloidal oatmeal and hyaluronic acid to soothe and hydrate, and I feel these ingredients can really help to reduce any redness caused by irritation. And, lastly, First Aid’s tinted moisturizer is easy to apply with my hands.
Cons: The shade range is pretty outrageous at this point – I don’t even know how we’re still having this conversation in almost-2020. Not only do they not carry enough shades for those with deeper skin tones, but there also isn’t much diversity in the undertones provided so even those with lighter skin tones will have difficulty finding their perfect match. I used the “light” shade throughout the summer (which actually surprised me because, in most foundations, I’m normally considered a “medium” skin tone throughout winter and in the summer I’m much more golden/tan), but right now my skin tone is sitting somewhere between the light and cream shades and neither fully match me. In addition, this tinted moisturizer transfers very easily. It sweats off easily and if I touch my face (bad habit, I know!) you can see a huge spot where the foundation rubbed off.
Medium coverage foundations
Milk Makeup Flex Foundation Stick
Price: $36/10g (or test a trial size for $10/3g)
Finish: Unbelievably natural-looking finish (not matte and maybe just the slightest bit dewy).
Shade Count: 36 shades
Pros: Milk’s Flex Foundation Stick is called “Flex” because it does just that. Milk’s description of it says that it “becomes one with your skin” and I can’t think of a more accurate way to describe it! My favorite part of this foundation stick is how much it actually looks like skin. It provides fantastic coverage and really smooths and evens out my complexion without creasing or looking cakey. The first few times I wore this I couldn’t stop looking in the mirror because it looked so natural I was in awe. I loved it so much I bought it in a lighter shade to carry me into winter.
Cons: Milk’s Flex Foundation Stick is kind of easy to overapply if you’re not as used to stick foundations (i.e. me). It’s also difficult to apply with anything but a brush – but I like this foundation so much that I’ll let that one slide. In addition, I really love the slightly-dewy finish of this one in person, however, it’s not the cutest in photos – especially if someone rudely uses their flash (haha).
Related: This Lighted Mirror is the Key to Applying my Foundation Flawlessly
Dior Backstage Face & Body Foundation
Finish: Semi-matte/satin finish
Shade Count: 40 shades
Pros: I normally don’t reach for matte foundations because most make my skin feel tight and dry no matter how much I prep my skin beforehand and they often accentuate my texture. Dior’s Backstage foundation does neither and it feels so lightweight that I forget I’m wearing foundation altogether. It’s easy to apply and the amount of coverage is very customizable – I can use my hands for a thin, light-coverage layer, or build up to medium or full coverage with a beauty sponge or foundation brush. Dior Backstage has amazing lasting power – I used this on a hot, sweaty day and it didn’t budge. It’s a great choice for those that want a more mattifying finish, but don’t want to worry about drawing attention to texture or fine lines.
Cons: Dior Backstage Face & Body dries really quickly, so I always feel in a rush to blend it before it sets. Also, the squeeze-bottle dropper dispenser can be a bit messy.
Marc Jacobs Shameless Youthful-Look 24H Foundation SPF 25
Price: $46/1.08 oz
Shade Count: 27 shades
Pros: Marc Jacobs Shameless Youthful-Look Foundation has great lasting power and provides medium coverage while still managing to feel lightweight on my skin. And that’s about as far as the pros go for me.
Cons: Womp womp. I bought this after an Allure editor said this was the perfect foundation for lazy butts like me who apply their foundation with their hands. Nope. Wrong. Maybe I’m just foundationally challenged, but I found this difficult to apply in general – it doesn’t matter if I used my hands, a brush, or a sponge. I was never able to get an even application that didn’t look streaky or patchy. In addition, if you deal with skin texture, fine lines, wrinkles, acne, or dry skin (which would be most of us) this is not the foundation for you.
Note: I have a feeling Marc Jacobs Youthful-Look Foundation is about to be discontinued because it’s 50% off on Sephora and on MarcJacobsBeauty.com right now.
IT Cosmetics CC Cream SPF 50
Finish: Natural/Slightly Dewy
Shade Count: 12 shades
Pros: IT’s CC Cream is super easy to apply with your hands. I normally mix it with a few drops of my favorite oil to create more of a dewy/medium coverage finish (however, do not do this if you are relying on it as your only SPF. Again, I wear a separate SPF every day, so I’m not worried about impacting the SPF by mixing this CC cream with other products). It provides fantastic full coverage, smooths out my skin, and evens my skin tone.
Cons: IT’s CC Cream is lacking in shades for people with darker skin tones. I’ve been told this is because they’ve had trouble formulating darker shades with SPF 50 in them. While I found this pretty long-lasting, it tends to oxidize throughout the day and always looks about a shade darker than it did when I first applied it.
Related: How Do you Minimize Large Pores?
Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-In-Place Foundation
Price: $43/1oz (+ an additional $10 if you purchase a pump)
Finish: Matte-est of matte
Shade Count: 56 shades
Pros: Estee Lauder’s Double Wear is a cult favorite for a reason. It gives impeccable coverage and it won’t budge all day. It’d probably stay in place through a hurricane. Double Wear also looks incredible on camera – if I were ever to finally pull the trigger on starting my YouTube channel, this is the foundation I’d use. Estee Lauder extended their shade range a few years ago and Double Wear is now available in 56 shades across cool, neutral, and warm undertones.
Cons: It might sound petty, but my absolute biggest issue with Estee Lauder’s Double Wear is that it doesn’t include a pump dispenser. And since it’s almost impossible to control how much foundation pours out of the bottle, you’ll need to spend $10 purchasing Estee Lauder’s handy dandy pump. With that being said, the pump is reusable so it’s a one-time purchase (and I’m sure there’s someone out there smarter than me that has found a cheaper pump that works on Amazon). But I still think it’s ridiculous that I’d need to spend additional money in order to make this already-pricey foundation usable. *end rant!* As far as the foundation itself – it feels so incredibly drying on me. My skin feels tight and itchy every single time I wear it and the only way I can wear Double Wear for an extended period of time is by mixing in a pump of moisturizer.
Wrapping it Up: My Best and Worst Foundations of 2019
This past year I completely fell in love with Milk’s Flex Foundation Stick and Dior Backstage Face and Body Foundation (which I, coincidentally, purchased on the same day!). I prefer to use Milk’s Flex on a more daily basis because I love the natural-looking, dewy finish. I use Dior Backstage when I’m going out and need a foundation that’s slightly more mattifying, more photo-friendly, and won’t budge.
First Aid Beauty’s Tinted Moisturizer was absolutely perfect in the summer – it was lightweight and I was really surprised by how much it evened out my skin tone and reduced redness. But it loses so many points for the extremely limited shade range. I understand that First Aid Beauty is primarily a skincare brand, however, if you’re only able to offer a handful of shades, I’m not sure you should offer a tinted moisturizer at all.
And the award for my least favorite foundation of the year (and possibly ever – sorry) is Marc Jacobs Youthful-Look 24H foundation. It’s difficult to apply and just not flattering at all – I can’t imagine it makes anyone look or feel youthful unless they had completely flawless, youthful skin to begin with.
Talk to me in the comments! What were your best and worst foundations of 2019?
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