foundation frustration


A friend recently likened my complexion to milky tea. As a lover of the hot beverage and someone who is a little tired of being benevolently described as catch-all-brown, I took it and ran with it. You see, describing my colouring is easier than finding a foundation that matches. And that is aside from the endless qualities that I desire in a good makeup base.

In no particular order, here is my wishlist plus where I have been failed by my army of foundations. For the record, although I have a preference for fluid over powder or stick formula, I have a plethora of foundation in myriad shades and finishes. All collected in my never-ending search.

Am I being unreasonable and overly demanding? Or are some of these on your list too?

The thin line between glow and sweat

So, I’m not oblivious to the fact that there is a decent range of oil-free makeup out there. My personal stash has healthy, non-greasy representation from drug-store and high-end brands. The thing is, I am yet to find a version that gives me a luminescence hitherto only observed in formulas with mineral oils.

Admittedly, most of the former variety are pretty good and I may have managed to look dewy once or twice. That said, I have found the ones that claim to be mattifying/ shine free are particularly bad and render me (pun intended) sweaty-Betty . . . . . Maybelline FitMe, I’m talking to you.

Every now and then I give in and use an oil pigment base and pay for it dearly a few days later. My skin just can’t cope and protests in form of breakout. Goodbye Armani Maestro, we were never meant to be together.

Is oil-free and satiny just a paradox?

Undertone! What undertone?

Olive-skinned girls will bob their heads in empathy when I silently scream the need for more yellow and less pink in my foundation. It should be no surprise really that most women have slight to strong yellow undertones to their skin. I have olive skin with warm undertones.

[Undertones are the shadow of colour underneath the skin and which, depending on the person, can vary from cool (pink-peach) to warm (golden-yellow) to neutral (mixture of cool and warm) to olive (green) and in between! You can Google simple tests to work out your undertone if you’re not sure which one you are. Here is one from Beautylish.]

I read somewhere that it is extremely difficult and expensive to create foundation that does not pull ashy and pink on the skin. This is because a certain amount of blue pigment must be present to counter redness and produce the right amount of yellow. Sounds complicated and it is probably why very few manufacturers have got it right.

So far, I have found Bobbi Brown foundations to consistently contain an appropriate level of yellowness. Drug-store varieties look ashy on me unless I correct them with some yellow pigment (a post for another day).

If your foundation shade is right (not too dark, not too light), but still doesn’t seem to match, odds are it is the wrong undertone.

A tester! My kingdom for a tester!

I get it, my skin tone is in the minority. What I don’t get is why there isn’t always a tester for all shades on offer. I’ve often walked out of a store empty-handed because there is simply no way for me to test the product prior to purchase. The darker shades sit silently on display, quietly willing me to take them home. I have blind-bought foundation several times in the past but they were becoming an expensive series of mistakes I do not care to repeat.

I often trawl other blogs for swatches of foundations for comparison. KarlaSugar‘s site is/was?  a treasure-trove of very useful colour swatches. Small problem though. I am nowhere in the vicinity of her skin colour.

It can be just as frustrating visiting a sub-continental beauty blog. Without turning this post into a rant, I will say that there is a ridiculous number of beautiful, well-educated, smart young Indian women who are unwittingly preoccupied with having a lighter complexion. There are so many great foundation reviews that end up flawed because the product is too light. Worse still, many reviewers only have swatches on the backs of their hands. I don’t know about you but my hands and my face ain’t the same.

A lot of pharmacies have begun offering testers of all shades in the past 3-4 years though so I am a little happier.

Department stores – better lighting and judgement?

Foolish fool I was once upon a time when I trusted my foundation decision-making to the sales staff at a department store/ boutique counter. I’ll qualify this by first acknowledging that sales staff have become much much better at matching foundation.

However, I do have several bottles of hasty purchases that serve as reminder to the times when I have been ‘tricked’ into believing only the darkest shade in the range will suit me. A situation exacerbated by the tricky lighting that diffuses imperfections and mismatches. I don’t know what it is about those lights that make everything look great as long as it is still in the store and then turn to shit once you step out. Like a soufflé maybe?

Girls, try on the foundation and then check it out in daylight. For a few hours minimum. It sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many don’t do this because they either can’t be bothered, are convinced by the in-store lighting or are too conscious to step out with potentially mismatched foundation.
Better yet, ask for a sample to trial at home over a few days. Note, fellow brownies, they don’t always have samples in the darker shades (reason Guerlain Tenue de Perfection eludes me).

I’m perfect. Until you stop looking

It’s a great feeling when all the stars align and you find a foundation in the right shade that delivers long wear in the right finish and doesn’t force you to eat canned food for a month.
But that feeling can transform into fury when come 11am you discover a new shade of orange happening on your face, or a southerly migration of your foundation.

Oxidation doesn’t happen to everyone but it has happened to me. Clinique Perfectly Real Makeup, for instance, is wonderful but only wearable over a silicone primer because otherwise it reacts with the oils in my skin and changes colour. Maybelline FitMe not only makes my face look like a megawatt bulb within two hours, but it pretty much slips off during this time as well.

Again, I stress the importance of trialling the product before committing.

US$1 = AU$2???

This is probably very high on the list for most Aussie beauties. Having to pay more for the same product because of geography. This applies beyond makeup. Having access to international pricing at the click of a mouse button has made shoppers a lot more knowledgeable and caused a big boom in internet shopping in the past few years (hello Asos and Strawberrynet!)

I understand that we are a smaller market here and shipping, taxes and labour cost a lot more than they do state-side. What I’m not convinced by is the doubling of retail price. Sephora has recently announced the opening of its first Australian store in Sydney this coming summer (December for my dear northern readers) and has promised US pricing. This is welcome news to many ears and a Sephora expansion to Melbourne cannot happen soon enough. I may need to resort to aforementioned canned food in preparation but that is my problem.

So there you have them, my foundation frustrations. Most of them are fixable and I generally get around the problem by mixing different brands and formulas, correcting the undertone (thank you Make Up For Ever Chromatic Mix) or by using a primer.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t stop looking for THE ONE.

Tell me, have you found your Holy Grail? Vote on the quick poll here.

What do you look for? And what frustrates you about foundation?

Or would you care to share your secret?

foundation frustration

12 thoughts on “foundation frustration

    1. How right you are Rae.There is a fine line between yellow and orange (aka muddy).
      I noticed you like L’Oreal Lucent Magique in Gold Shell – it looks like it’s got a decent amount of yellow. Sadly, we don’t have that shade here 😦
      What did you think of the Koh Gen Do?


      1. I think they only sell the “Lucent Magique” variant and color range in Southeast Asia, but I’m not sure. The label is Lumi Magique in the rest of the world.

        Koh Gen Do is awesoooome. It’s really yellow with no hint of orangeness.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hey there! I’d suggest the NARS tinted moisturizers or foundations. They tend to have colors for women with yellow undertones. That’s my holy grail brand for foundations and I have an olive skin tone with strong yellow undertones!


  2. I’m incredibly pale. I mean so pale that my friends make sure I’m in photos with them so they look tanned in the middle of winter pale. I have natural redness in my face that I like to use full coverage for as my neck and body is whiter than my face and company’s do not make actual light foundations, Ivory and porcelain are way too dark and beige. I have no beige to my skin at all! The only one I’ve found close is the lightest shade of Estee lauder double wear in cool bone and that texture and everything it does is my holy grail, but I still need it to be lighter so I have to mix it with a pure white foundation. I’m hoping they restock the Kat Von D lock it foundation it their very lightest color as that’s almost white! Rant over lol, I go insane about foundations because the extremely pale are never thought of by makeup company’s


      1. Oh dear! I feel your frustration, Amber – I can’t quite relate but I can definitely sympathise.
        Have you tried Face Atelier’s Ultra Foundation in Zero Minus? It is essentially white pigment which you can mix with other foundations to achieve the tone/lightness you want. I’m pretty sure the range features other ‘colours’ to correct foundations (so you could achieve zero beige).
        They’re on the exxy side but thankfully available here.

        I hear you on the friends using you as a bit of a yardstick – I get a bit of a similar thing, being short and all. Same same but diff.

        As long as you’re happy with your complexion (I personally don’t get the obsession with tanning), the rest is trivial in a relative sense, yes?

        It also just occurred to me you might have better luck with Japanese/Korean foundations. . . Have you explored this?


  3. Simran says:

    If you got a mecca maxima store near you, they sometimes allow you to take samples of foundations for you to try it in different lighting or just to try at home. Give it a go! Just ask the sales rep if you can take home a sample before you commit to the product. It has saved me a lot of money on some products. 🙂 Best of luck!


    1. Thanks Simran, I’ve been doing this more and more often now. It helps a lot to be able to try the shade and wear of the product and it has saved me heart ache and wallet ache 😉
      Thanks for visiting.


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