You know, there are times when I'd just love to look like some of my clients, like Trisha Yearwood. But the fact of the matter is that no mater how hard I try, I can't. I simply don't look good in a cowboy hat and if I try and wear one anyway, it looks ridiculous. We'll its the same way with cosmetics. Each of us is born with specific features, a specific skin color and a specific "look" that is the product of a hundred different things like size, weight, bone structure and other aspects of life that we have no control over. My job with my clients is to understand what I have to work with and then enhance those features in them to bring out the best in them. Your job is the same with your own face and selecting the right foundation begins the process.

A successful makeup application starts with a foundation that blends into and merges with your skin. But, there are pitfalls with every form of cosmetic and foundations are no exception. First and foremost, if you're lightly complected, you can't use a darker foundation to give you the color you need. So many people try this and it simply doesn't work. You must select a foundation color that so closely matches your skin that the edges can be feathered in to disappear into your natural skin with no perceptible line and then use it in moderation. Also, good coverage doesn't mean obvious coverage. Too thick is too much whether is due to simply applying too much foundation or not having the time to fully work it because it dries too quickly. Select the appropriate foundation based on the information below and then refer to Foundation Application Techniques to help you apply it.

The vast majority of individuals, men or women, have natural skin tones that run from ivory to ebony with beige, tan and darker brown in between. And while there is usually a very slight yellow undertone to the skin, you'll never find any oranges or pinks in there no matter what the cosmetics counter person in the nice, white lab coat tells you. The skin tones of Indian, not American Indian but East Indian people, may have an ash undertone while Polynesian, South American and some African Americans will have a reddish tone to their complexion. So, consider honestly what skin tone you have, decide what skin type you have (oily, dry or combination) and then select your foundation based upon how much coverage you think you need. After that, the application should follow the "Less is More" philosophy; the less foundation, the better results. And finally make certain to feather the edges into your natural skin.

Let's start and one end and work our way to the other. Oil-free and matte liquid foundations will almost always have a have a silky finish with no shine to their appearance. Typically lasting for at least a few hours, their longevity depends on how oily your skin is. These foundations provide the skin with a sheer to medium coverage and thus is most easily blended into your natural skin at the edges. These foundations are best for individuals looking for balanced coverage with little or no shine and a matte or dull surface. They last much longer on oily skin or over oily areas than most other foundations.

The new Ultra-matte foundations are a group of medium to full coverage products that cater to the active lifestyle individual, people with naturally oily skin, people who live in Florida, south Texas and other humid areas and people who tend to feel their makeup is "slipping" or disappearing during the day. These foundations will outlast any other foundation on the market today, are easy to apply and will provide a dull or matte look for people looking for that type of foundation. As you might imagine, these foundations are great for my stars that have to endure hours under the hot lights and the perspiration that comes from a high-energy show. And that's where the downside comes in. Ultra-mattes tend to dry very quickly and thus, if you're not good with the applicator, they can tend to go on heavy resulting in a mask-like appearance. Next, ultra-mattes have a tendency to "grab" onto blushes and eye eye eye shadows making blending and correction difficult. Finally, I've discovered that dark skin has a tendency to look ashen and grayish with this type of foundation so I don't usually use it on actors and actresses of color. If you've got oily skin, this is the foundation for you but you have to be committed to working with it to get the right results.

As you might expect, Oil-based foundations have oil as their first ingredient so they look, feel and go on greasy and thick but, because of their consistency, can blend out quite nicely to a sheer texture. Because they're oil-based, they can be very good for individuals with extremely dry or wrinkled skin as the emollients help the skin look moist which minimizes the appearance of wrinkles. The down side, however, is that oil-based foundations are VERY greasy and thick and can look that way on the skin unless you're really experienced at blending. While they typically provide medium to full coverage, they also have a tendency to turn orange after wearing them for awhile because the extra oil in them affects the pigments in the foundation causing them to oxidize. Also, the oil, in this type of foundation grabs the talc in face powder, blushes and eye shadows and the face can appear coated with heavy makeup. In short, this type of foundation is great for dry skin and you should use cream blushes over this type of foundation.

Pressed powder–based foundations look, feel and perform much like any pressed powder only with more coverage and they have ability to stay put providing light to medium coverage. They blend on as easily as any pressed powder does and are wonderful for individuals with normal to oily or combination skin. In addition to going on easily, they last all day, don't change color and are light on the skin. As such, pressed powders are really best for those who want a minimal feel and polished appearance from their foundation. They also work very well over sunscreens and can help take down the shine some sunscreen ingredients can leave on the skin. The down side is that people with dry skin should avoid powders and they tend to make dry skin look dryer and flaky. On the other end of the spectrum, individuals with very oily skin might want to avoid them because powder-based foundations can appear thickened and blotchy as oil re-surfaces on the face during the day.

Cream-to-powder foundations are new and an interesting cross between a pressed powder and a creamy liquid foundation. They have a very creamy, almost oily appearance but when you blend them on, the creamy aspect disappears and you're left with a slightly matte, powdery finish. Cream-to-powder foundations provide a much broader range of coverage than pressed powder–based foundations and blend on quickly and easily. They work well for someone with normal to slightly dry or combination skin and this type of foundation doesn't require powder after you apply it. However, should you wish to use powder, apply it as lightly as possible to avoid a caked look. So what's the down side? Well, cream-to-powder foundations can blend on slightly thick and don't work well for individuals with oily skin because the cream components can make skin look more oily. Also, they don't work well for really dry skin because the powder element can be too powdery looking and cause more dryness. In short, they're best for normal skin types.

Liquid-to-powder foundations have a gel-like wet feel right out of the bottle, apply easily and dry to a smooth, slightly matte finish. Typically they have water as the first ingredient together with a slip agent such as glycerin. Unlike cream-to-powder foundations, liquid-to-powder foundations feel lighter on the skin and last longer over combination or oily skins. Liquid-to-powder foundations go on quickly and easily providing a semi-matte to matte finish with sheer to medium coverage. They work great for individuals with normal to oily or slightly combination skin and their consistency doesn't require powdering after you apply it. The down side is that unless you're good with makeup, liquid-to-powder foundations dry quickly and can be hard to blend. They don't work well over dry skin because the water portion tends to cling to dry areas leaving a powdery finish that's not easily moved. Finally, if not tightly closed after each use, the product dries out as the the water will evaporate.

Stick foundations are essentially cream-to-powder foundations in stick form with the main differences being that stick foundations 1) come in formulas that range from full to sheer coverage with either matte or creamy coverage, 2) employ as an ingredient sunscreens making them great all-in-one options 3) can do double duty as concealer and 4) come in a wide variety of shades and colors easily matching your natural color and skin tone.

Recently, Sheer Foundations and Tinted Moisturizers have hit the market filling a nich need in casual application. These "Vacation" products provide coverage that’s so sheer, it is barely noticeable so they're popular as a weekend makeup for people with normal to dry or slightly oily skin that doesn't need significant coverage. So, for people with normal to slightly dry skin, these products, many with integrated sunscreen, can serve as their sole morning makeup product. They're extremely easy to choose because the shades are so sheer, getting the color right is not as important as with other materials. As for color, these products are a great way to add a touch of color to pale skin and their sheerness prevents a slightly dark or tan-toned shade from looking wrong. Beware, though, because the market for these products is extremely small, restricted to those people with almost flawless skin. People with skin discolorations or birthmarks, broken capillaries, damage due to acne, Rosaceae or dark circles under the eyes will find these products insufficient for their needs. Further, individuals with oily skin should shy away from these products.

Beware the Self-adjusting Foundations These new products are a great idea but, the fact of the matter is that, in my humble opinion, they're simply that...a great idea. These products supposedly claim to stop or control oil production and moisture loss. No one I know has ever seen this happen but hey, wouldn't it be great if it actually worked. As we looked at in Skin 101, oil is a natural product of the body and when it comes to the surface through the sebaceous gland, is carrying 10% of the toxins out of the body. As to controlling moisture loss, given what we know about skin, somebody please tell me how this is possible.

Finally, there's Custom-blended Foundations which is a foundation that's made for you and only you. What a Great Idea!!! I mean, here I am telling you that you need to match your skin color as closely as possible to avoid perceptible "edges" and you can't use color to make your natural skin darker and now, voila!, here come custom blends. This is great! Unfortunately, though, it doesn't work. The biggest issue is that the success of the blend depends on the ability of the blender and there simply aren't that many independent blenders out there. Most of them, it they're that good, are working for the Big 5. The second largest issue is that skin is always changing; color, texture, everything. The third is the fact that what works on oily skin doesn't work on dry skin and, as we discovered a while ago, the average face is a combination of dry and oily skin. And finally the fourth is that as nice as custom-blended sounds, the formulations are not always better than or in many cases equal to off-the-shelf products. But that's not to say blending can't be successful at all. So when should you consider it? In two instances. One is in my world of million-dollar faces. I have to custom-blend all the time but only because the camera lens sees everything. Two is when you're one of the small percentage of people out there that are frustrated with the choices and nothing seems to work. When this happens, take the foundations you've tried that came close to matching your skin to Prescriptives (I know, another shameless ploy but actually they don't pay me anything either; they're just the best at custom cosmetics). Having samples of what didn't work and what came close to matching your skin helps the Prescriptives professional match you color. For the rest of us, there are far too many colors out there to choose from not to find a color that works.

So, for foundations, the bottom line is blending and color. Find the right composition for your particular type of skin and then match the color as closely as you possibly can. From that point on, it's all about applicators and technique. Here are some pointers to remember in your search for the right color foundation.
  • Less is best.
  • Foundation should match the skin exactly so there are no lines of demarcation.
  • Concealer should be only a shade or two lighter than the foundation
  • Powder should match the foundation exactly or go on translucent so as not to affect the color of the foundation.
  • To create a tanned appearance, use golden brown and chestnut shades for your blush, eyeshadows, contour, and lipstick, but do not, under any circumstances, apply a foundation or bronzer all over the face if it leaves a line of demarcation at the jaw or hairline.
As to techniques, in the coming weeks and months I'll be illustrating some of the techniques I use to get the results my clients need. As to applicators, don't skimp. There are great sponges, brushes and other tools available from everywhere you can possibly think of including Studio Direct and there are cheap imitations as well. In the end, no matter how much you spend on cosmetics, the end result is always governed by the tools you use so don't skimp.