The Base: Tinted Moisturizers, Primers, BB Cream, Concealers, and Foundation!
So, I’m starting this beginner’s series to help those of you guys who aren't as well versed in makeup application as you might like to be. I’m starting with foundations because that’s what I started with when I began with makeup myself. I would, however, like to share a little story before I get into it.
I started wearing foundation before any other makeup product when I was 11 years old because of severe, uncontrollable, cystic acne. I had no idea what to do with my skin. It was flaky and dry in some places, shiny and oily in other places, and bright red all over. Anyone that lives in the civilized world knows that kids are cruel and uncensored, so after a traumatizing first day of sixth grade, I asked my mom if I could start wearing makeup. I wasn't interested in looking like the other girls with smudged black eyeliner and over glossed hot pink lips, but rather using makeup as a tool to cover my skin. I didn’t know anyone my age that wore foundation, and to this day, I’ve never met anyone my age or otherwise (irl obviously) with worse acne than what I had. My mother, having struggled with acne herself, agreed. Because I was so young, my mom agreed only to let me wear concealer and powder foundation so that my pores weren’t too clogged. She wouldn’t let me wear the makeup unless I agreed to wash my face twice a day, once in the morning, and once at night, using a moisturizer after both washes. For years following, I seldom left the house without makeup, especially not to school. I still have a hard time going without something, even if it was just a simple tinted moisturizer. Going bare faced makes me extremely nervous, even years after the worst of the acne has passed. Granted, I still have pretty awful scarring, but the skin I have now is the best skin I’ve had since I can remember. The moral of this story is not to use makeup as a crutch. If it makes you feel confident, that’s great. But if you’re using it to feel any confidence at all, makeup might not be the solution you’re looking for. I love makeup, and feel very passionately about it, but it’s taking me more time to fix my self esteem than it took to master the art of makeup application.
Now that the sap fest is over, let’s get into it!
So, you’re ready to start wearing foundation. So you just go to the store and pick up whatever sounds good, right? Sounds like a great idea until you get there. The store is full of a million different brands. Say you pick a brand. There, that should do it. So looking within that brand, what do you see? There are what seem like a million different products. Pressed powders, loose powders, creams, liquids, BB creams, primers, concealer, correcter--wait, why are there different colors of this stuff???-- all in different shades, with different levels of coverage, and are suited to different skin types. Stop. Don’t run. Let’s go through this step by step, shall we?
First, let’s talk about skin type. Identifying your skin type is the most important part of the whole process. If you have the right color and the best products in the world, if they aren’t compatible with your skin type, all Hell is likely to break loose. How do you identify your skin type? Well, there are four main skin types. Oily, Dry, Combination, and Normal. Does your skin get shiny throughout the day? Is it visibly oily? You have oily skin. Does your skin flake? Do you have patches of dead skin? Does your face feel tight after washing? You probably have dry skin. Is your forehead or other parts of your face oily, but you’ve got patches and flakes in other places? Combo skin. If you don’t have anything like this, and you don’t really suffer from breakouts, and your skin doesn’t require much maintenance, lucky you, you’ve got normal skin!
Now, in addition to skin type, your skin probably isn’t perfect. This is easier to spot though. Some common issues are, acne/discoloration, sensitivity, and fine lines/wrinkles. The only one of these that is a little difficult to spot is sensitive skin. Usually you can tell if you use a skin product that strays from your normal routine, and a breakout or other form of irritation occurs. Knowing your skin type and issues your skin might have are going to be really helpful right off the bat!
Are you looking for just a light coverage, just a base to work with? Or are you looking for something to cover every last freckle and pore? Something in the middle? It’s important to decide what type of coverage you’d like too.
Let’s be real. Some of us just don’t have the time of day to go through an hours worth of makeup application, nor do we want to. I know that being in school meant that I needed something that would apply quickly with little mess. Some people don’t care, and will take all the time in the world. Just know your limits.
So now you know what your skin is like, and you have an idea as to what your needs are. So what are all the products and their uses?
Let’s start from the bottom up.
If you know anything about paint, you know that primer comes first. Primer is used to smooth out your skin for your foundation, minimizing the appearance of pores, scars, acne, etc. It also works to make your foundation last all day. Primers are typically in a liquid form, and come in several different shades. Typical primers are either clear or matched to one’s skintone, and some have corrective shades as well, such as green and purples, to counteract any pink or yellow tones. Some even contain a bit of shimmer, but I don’t recommend these for sensitive or acne prone skin. I highly, HIGHLY, recommend that anyone using any type of face product use a primer. It makes for easier application, better lasting power, and it is a good barrier between your foundation and your skin. If you have sensitive skin like me, and have a hard time choosing a foundation because of the breakouts that ensue, investing in a high end primer for sensitive skin will make your life way easier. If you have a barrier between your sensitive skin and that foundation that you love but your skin doesn’t love, you get the best of both worlds. Awesome foundation and happy skin! Also, primers seal off your skin from the outside, so any dirt or impurities that come at your skin throughout the day won’t make it through.
Tinted moisturizer is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a moisturizer with a bit of color in it. This is something I recommend for beginners, as it provides just a bit of coverage, evens out the skintone a teeny bit, and is very low maintenance. You just put it on as if it’s a normal moisturizer and go. Some people layer these under some of the other types of product I’m going to mention.
BB creams are like a step up from tinted moisturizer. Although many BB creams have extravagant claims, they tend to be fairly low coverage and just slightly heavier than a tinted moisturizer. These work well if you don’t have much to cover, or are looking for something low maintenance, as it is the same as the tinted moisturizer. Put it on, make sure it’s blended in, and go!
Powder foundations are exactly what they sound like. Some powders are loose, while others are pressed. Pressed powder foundations are typically more popular because there is minimal mess involved. These come in all shades and are usually light to medium coverage. Typically, any amount of foundation higher than medium coverage begins to look cakey.
This foundation tends to be heavy and typically fairly full coverage. These aren’t my favorite just because they are fairly heavy, and I live in such a humid area that even with my mostly dry skin, the stuff melts right off on me. There are, however, some people that swear by cream and mousse foundations, so just because it doesn’t always work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.
This type of foundation is extremely popular, mainly because it is so very versatile. There are so many different degrees of coverage, weight, and texture. Any skin type can use liquid foundation, assuming you find the right one.
I’ve included concealer in with the previous three foundation types, as the pros and cons of the three different types of concealer typically line up with the foundations of the same type. I will say that cream concealers are generally okay in my book, and are fairly high coverage. As the name suggests, concealer is applied on specific blemishes and areas that you require more coverage.
This type of concealer is usually used in the under eye area, where dark circles need coverage and brightening. Sometimes, people will use these types of concealers as a stand in for cheek highlighter, but we’ll get into all that later.
This seems redundant, probably, because all concealers are supposed to be corrective, right? Well, special corrective concealers are meant to cancel out discoloration. Green corrective concealer is meant to cancel out red discoloration, yellow/peach for purple/blue, purple for yellow, etc.
What will work for me? Lucky for you, I’ve complied everything into a chart.
Most Compatible Skin Type*
*What I mean by most compatible skin type, is essentially “How much extra work do I have to put in after applying this? Powder? Reapplications?” The skin types that require the least extra effort are the most compatible on this chart. With the exception of extremes, such as dry skin with powder foundation, and oily skin with cream/mousse foundation, almost all skin types will fit with all types of face product.
Expanding on skin types, here’s yet another informative chart
Usually must be set with a powder to avoid shine throughout the day.
Great idea for light, buildable coverage.
Set oily areas with a powder.
Light coverage, usually a good idea. Perhaps a little powder to set.
Good idea if minimal coverage is needed. Oil blotters or light powder can be helpful.
Great idea for minimal coverage.
Use oil blotting sheets on oilier areas throughout the day.
Minimal coverage, may need a bit of powder dust on top to set.
This is usually a good call. A quality powder foundation will work well with oily skin.
Bad Idea. This will make your skin look even drier.
Good for oily patches, but dry patches may suffer.
Good idea, as this typically has light/medium coverage.
Some cream formulas are too oily for this skin type, and must be set with a powder.
Typically a good idea as these range from medium-full coverage.
Set oily areas with a powder.
Unless max coverage is needed, usually a cream foundation is not neccesary.
Almost always should be set with a powder.
Great idea, ranges from light-full coverage.
Set oily areas with a powder.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, you get in the store, pick out the face product you think will work best, and get back home. Now...what do you do with it? Well, you have to get it onto your face somehow. I do not recommend using fingers unless you are just using the tinted moisturizer, and in that case, wash those hands! As for the rest of you, most beginners end up using sponges, which work. You can find these triangle sponges in bulk at pretty much any drugstore, or retailer that sells drug store or low priced cosmetics. If you’re using a powder foundation, you need a brush or powder puff, with which many drugstore powder foundations come. If your powder foundation didn’t come with a brush or powder puff, fear not, as there are many brushes and powder puffs available for very reasonable prices.
Obviously, depending on which type of product you decide is right for you, your routine is going to be a little bit different. I’m going to do a quick tutorial showing you my basic routine, just to give you a feel for what may work for you. I’m using a BB cream here, so this routine is a fairly good guideline if you’re using basically any liquid or cream product. If you’re using a powder as your primary foundation and also using a liquid/cream concealer, go ahead and apply the concealer to any trouble spots before the powder foundation. Not having a powder to set your concealer could have it slip and slide all over the place, not to mention how out of place the different consistencies would appear on your face. If you’re using a powder concealer (there aren’t too many of these on the market, but I know they exist!) use the concealer after, so that your foundation application doesn’t disturb your carefully applied concealer.
Let’s get into it!
Here are all the product’s I’m using! The brush is what I used to apply my BB Cream, and the powder puff for the powder is inside the case. Everything else was applied with clean fingers.
This is my foundation free face. This light is so very forgiving, as is my camera (breathes heavy sigh of relief that I also happen to be having a good face day, less face demons than usual). In real life it’s a lot more gruesome than this. No matter what type of makeup you’re wearing, if you’re wearing any at all, you must wash your face. Just do it. You will thank me later.
Next, I’m going to use my e.l.f. Studio Mineral Infused Face primer in tone adjusting green. This shot doesn’t really do it justice, but this primer really does help to cancel a lot of the redness on my face. It’s also silky smooth and makes my skin feel so lovely. Also, if my lips have changed color slightly, I’m using a tinted lip balm, that I applied at some point between photos. My lips were dehydrated, so it had to happen. Also a great way to prep your lips for lipstick or any other drying agents that are soon to be applied to your lips.
After my primer is all set into my skin, I’m going to use my Revlon Photoready BB cream. This stuff has SPF in it, which is really cool if I’m going out for the day and just trying to look nice, but not so good if I’m taking pictures using a flash. No flash is used here, but the titanium dioxide in the BB cream will reflect white in any pictures with flash, so if you are going out for the night or are having any kind of event where flash photography will be present, skip the SPF. (Which isn’t this weird that this is in the Photoready line but it isn’t flash friendly? I don’t know about the other products in the same line, but that’s a weird thing, don’t you agree?) I use my stippling brush to blend it past my jawline so I don’t have a stark line between my face and neck. (Apparently men notice this, because I’ve asked all my guy friends what the most annoying makeup mistake women make is, they’ve all said it’s the line between the face and neck. If you’re looking to impress a man with your makeup, this is something I suggest taking the time to do.)
So, after I’ve got my BB cream on, I’ve still got some issues I’d like to get rid off (ahem, redness and dark eye circles). Lucky for me, I’ve got my e.l.f. Maximum coverage concealer, which is use a teensy bit (They aren’t kidding when they say maximum coverage. I do believe this is supposed to be a dupe for Kat Von D’s Tattoo Concealer.) I only recommend this concealer if you are looking for something with yellow undertones. It works for me because I have so much redness that needs to be cancelled out, and it helps with the dark under eye circles in that the yellow helps to cancel out the color.
Now all of the imperfections that I care to cover are covered. Obviously since I’m using a BB cream I’m not getting total coverage, but that’s not exactly what I’m looking for at the moment. (Some days I like TONS of coverage, and other days I like just a bit. This is somewhere in the middle for me. It’s important to try to find a face product that can be built up and sheered out, as if you like to change it up like me, you’ll easily be able to.) Next, in order to keep this from melting off my face in the humidity, I’m going to apply a powder to my face. This is e.l.f.’s clarifying pressed powder, and it’s not quite translucent, but doesn’t offer up much coverage either. It works for me because it gives just that extra bit of push to my look, with just a bit more coverage, without looking cakey. If you use a powder and are afraid you do look a bit cakey, I suggest a makeup mist or setting spray, to give you a bit of a dewier finish.
Here’s the finished product!
Hopefully this super long post will help any of you that aren't super used to using foundation and face products, but this, to me anyway, is the most important part. You can have gorgeous eyes, lips and everything else done perfectly, but if your base is lacking, it will show through.