For many women, there’s no doubt that foundation is the most important makeup product, and we have seen exponential development over the last ten years, with foundation technology being repeatedly refined so that today's products give an extremely natural result. When you choose foundation, you should first decide what effect you are aiming for. Do you want to make your skin matte, give it a radiant glow or provide complete coverage? Today the majority of foundations are suitable for all skin types, so it's more important to focus on the results than on skin type. However, if you have oily skin you may want to choose a matte finish to obtain a more durable result, and dry skin often looks best with a moisturising foundation that produces a radiant finish. It's also sensible to have a number of different foundations for different occasions – such as a light, natural makeup for everyday use and more coverage and durability for partying.
Consistency often goes hand in hand with results. If you want a foundation that's barely visible, you should choose a liquid foundation. For greater coverage, you can choose a mousse or powder-based foundation. There's one simple rule if you're unsure about the level of coverage a particular foundation gives: the thicker the consistency, the more coverage it will give.
The "cushion" is the latest packaging trend, and a foundation phenomenon that originally comes from South Korea. In recent years a large number of new products have been launched on the European market. The cushion format is a liquid foundation in compact form. The foundation cream is contained in a sponge, and you apply it with the help of a special puff included in the compact. The advantage of this type of foundation is that the results are naturally sheer, but you can also build up greater coverage. The compact is also easy to use, with a mirror in the lid, and easy to grab from your bag to improve your makeup during the day. The prices of this type of foundation are often higher if you compare the millilitre price and you pay a lot for the actual packaging technology. However, you don’t always need to buy a completely new compact as the majority of brands offer refill solutions.
You should always choose your foundation according to your skin tone; it’s important that it isn’t too dark or too light. Find the right shade by testing it in daylight. Apply the foundation to the jawline so you can see the shade against both face and neck. The right shade should be least visible and should blend into the skin without you having to work it in too much. The aim of foundation is to even out the skin tone, not to give it colour. If you want your skin to look sun bronzed, you achieve this using bronzing powder, and not foundation. Also remember that your skin tone can change, often depending on the season, so be careful to test the shade before each new purchase.
How to apply foundation for the best results Ensure that your skin is clean and moisturised, and apply a primer if necessary before the foundation. Brush, sponge or fingers – whatever you choose to apply your foundation with is a matter of taste (the exception is loose mineral powder, which requires a dense brush to apply it correctly). Your fingers are an excellent tool and the heat from your hands makes the colour blend naturally with your skin tone. Always clean your hands carefully before applying foundation, however, as we always have natural oils on our skin that can sometimes “disturb” the formula. A brush makes it easier to work layer on layer, and a sponge is useful for blurring sharp edges. Wash your tools as often as you can, both to extend the lifetime of your brushes and to remove bacteria which can lead to infections.
A foundation shouldn’t cover everything and you don’t need it over all of your face. Focus on the areas where you need it. These are often in the centre of the face, around the nose and on the chin. Then continue to blend it outwards toward the hair and jawline. Apply in thin layers and work your foundation in carefully so that it is evenly distributed.
We carry out our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. In our tests of foundation, we asked someone who works professionally with makeup to use the products, both in their work and on their own face. An additional two people of different ages, with varying skin types and under various conditions, have also tested them. In this test we have focused on examining the following:
Use: What’s the consistency like? How easy or difficult is it to apply? And how economical is the product? What type of skin does it suit best?
Result: What effect does it produce? How much coverage does it provide, and what’s the finish like? And how long do the results last?
Packaging: What does the product promise? How is the bottle or tube designed, and how easy is it to use?
In addition to this, we have also included in our calculations how much foundation is contained in the packaging, whether the formulation has any skin nourishing ingredients or sun protection, and how many colours are available in the range, compared to its price. We have then designated the test winner.
Loose mineral foundation with soft texture that goes on sheer and naturally conceals flaws. If you require more coverage, this can be built up in layers. The powder can be blended with a cream that you then apply to your face, but we obtained the best results using a dense brush which applies the powder directly from the container. The finish is nicely matte and is unlike the original bareMinerals foundation which shimmers and can give the impression of shiny skin. Nor does it contain bismuth oxychloride, which can cause skin irritation. It also has an SPF of 20, which gives it plus points. The range contains many shades, although the darker ones can be perceived as a little ashy – a common problem with pure mineral foundations. It’s generally a little more expensive than other mineral foundations, but is economical and keeps for ages, so it's clearly worth the price.
One of the very first products in the cushion format on the Western market, and still very popular. The cushion with foundation and the application puff make the job straightforward. Light, fresh consistency, which gives the skin a nice moisturised feeling and a slightly radiant finish. The result is transparent but with a few extra applications you can build up better coverage. Durability isn’t great, but still among the best when compared with similar cushion foundations. We had to wait for around five hours on normal skin before we had to apply it again. The compact is attractive and you can buy refills – better both for the environment and your budget! However, it is still expensive given that you only get 15 ml. This foundation is available in many colours, including for the very darkest skin tones, and the wide colour range gives definite plus points. What it's missing is sun protection, but Lancôme Miracle Cushion Foundation's many advantages outweigh this and this is therefore our choice for the best cushion foundation.
Liquid foundation, which according to the marketing is primarily intended to even out pigment spots, but which works well on all sorts of unevenness and skin types. Only the very driest skin may need more moisturising. Coverage is good, while at the same time the result is incredibly natural and never cakey. The foundation produces a matte finish, yet with an attractive, subtle radiance – a perfect finish for concealing spots and freshening up a grey skin tone. Sun is the biggest cause of pigment patches, and Clinique’s Even Better provides sun protection factor 15. We would have preferred a higher SPF, however, simply because according to the marketing materials this foundation is aimed at people with pigment problems. Consequently, we recommend that you supplement this foundation with a protective day cream if you're going to be spending time in the sun. Durability is phenomenal, and even on greasier skin types it easily lasts for eight hours.
Liquid foundation with a silky consistency which blends into the skin in a natural manner. The coverage is light and allows the skin to shine through while concealing minor blemishes and redness. The finish is matte, and this is where the problems arise. If you have dry skin, the powdery surface can exaggerate dry areas and wrinkles in an unflattering way. If your skin is normal to greasy, this isn’t a problem.
Attractive, substantial compact with fluffy foundation-filled cushion. The consistency is light and mousse-like. Initially it feels a little sticky on the skin, but after a few seconds it dries in nicely. The finish is half-matte, which we like among the many cushion foundations giving a radiant finish. The cushion means that it can be applied evenly in a single stroke. It gives a natural feel, but is simultaneously one of the cushion foundations that will suit those who need a little more coverage and have greasier skin. You get an extra refill with the compact, but it only contains 8 grams per cushion, which makes it one of the most expensive in the test. After the two cushions are finished you can’t refill it, but must buy a completely new compact. This foundation is available in four colours, and we like the fact that the darker skin colours have not been forgotten. We also like the fact that it provides sun protection factor 50, together with a range of skin nourishing ingredients such as Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) and hyaluronic acid. Of course these are only in small quantities, but it gives plus points nonetheless.
Sensai Total Finish Natural Matte SPF 15 powder foundation from Sensai is so easy to apply that it’s immediately impressive. If you dab the powder over your face with a dense powder brush, you get a very matte, even and fine finish. A smaller and more compact brush can be used to cover blemishes, breakouts and even dark rings beneath the eyes. Sensai Total Finish Matte is a durable powder that, despite falling onto the bathroom floor several times, didn’t suffer any damage. Other, similar powders will crack the first time they're dropped. However, it’s relatively expensive, and Sensai also sells a separate case for the foundation. But you can save money on this as you can just as easily keep it in the original box.
Sensai’s powder foundation lasts a long time and is specially developed for greasy skin. This means that it covers shine very well, but after a long day at work it may need touching up before you move on to your evening activities. Unfortunately the powder has a tendency to flake. After doing your makeup at the last minute on the train on a sunny day you can see obvious traces of the product both on your knees and in the sunshine. The product is available in five shades and the pack contains 12 grams of powder foundation, which can seem rather stingy. But you only need a very small amount to get a good result, so the fact that Sensai Total Finish Matte goes a long way still makes it good value for money. Other plus points are that it provides SPF 15 sun protection and that the case is extremely classic and stylish.
Liquid foundation with watery consistency. Easy to spread and get an even application over the face. The formula is economical and only a few drops are required for the whole face. Coverage is initially sheer but with a little work you can build up the coverage. Feels moisturising and has a radiant finish, bordering on shiny for some of our testers. The fact that the name contains the word “serum” is primarily a marketing tactic. It does contain nourishing ingredients, but absolutely not in the same concentrations as a serum. However, the sun protection is complete, which is an important part of preventative care. The enormous range of colours makes it easy to find a perfect shade. bareMinerals sell a matching brush, but application is just as good with other brushes or a sponge.
The liquid texture provides good coverage but is easy to work and it isn’t difficult to get it to blend in for a natural result. The finish is matte but not flat, and we detected a subtle radiance which made the skin smooth and completely perfect. It's also economical; only one pump press was sufficient for the entire face. According to the marketing it should last for up to 18 hours. That’s stretching the truth somewhat, particularly if you have greasy skin, but it certainly lasts for the whole day. The range of colours is good with at least one dark shade. However, the colours oxidise after a while on the skin, so make sure you try before you buy. The attractive bottle and fresh scent enhance the experience.
The cushion filled with foundation is fluffy and delivers just the right amount of colour for an even and natural result. The colour is semi-matte and lasts throughout the day, even on those whose skin has a tendency to be oily. There is a wide range of shades, except for the very darkest skin colours. However, the lightest colours are a little yellowish, which can be unflattering. IsaDora is a budget brand, but its cushion foundation is a little more expensive than normal, which is entirely due to the packaging. This is also of high standard, and can definitely hold its own in terms of quality with the more expensive variants in the test. The compact contains IsaDora’s liquid Nude Super Fluid Foundation, which is normally sold in bottles of 30 ml. When you buy the compact, you get 15 ml but pay almost four times more per ml. IsaDora doesn’t offer a refill for its Cushion Foundation, but suggests buying Nude Super Fluid Foundation and pouring it onto the cushion in the compact to refill it. However, you have to remove the cushion and wash it thoroughly between each refill to keep everything clean and hygienic. When you have done this several times, the cushion unfortunately loses its elasticity and so you will ultimately have to buy a completely new compact.
A now iconic foundation that paved the way for the enormous success that the bareMinerals brand has become. The powder is easy to work into the skin with a brush. The finish is shimmering, bordering on glittery, which means it doesn’t suit greasy skin, but nor is it perfect on dry skin either as it feels a little drying and cakes easily. Good selection of colours, but some skin tones take on an unflattering ashy tone. Contains bismuth oxychloride, which causes skin irritation in many people. Provides sun protection, but only SPF 15 and it was difficult to apply enough for the sun protection to be sufficient.
Soft, liquid consistency which is easy to apply and obtain an even result. Can be applied relatively transparent but can also be worked to achieve higher levels of coverage. Once applied, it gives a matte finish and lasts the whole day. Not even the most oily skin types will need to powder their nose before the afternoon. However, it can feel a little dehydrating on very dry skin. Provides sun protection, which is always a major advantage. The only big problem we found was the range of colours. There are too few, particularly in the darker scale, and most shades are pinkish, which is unflattering for the majority of people.
Compact with liquid foundation in a sponge. The formula is light and easy to work into the skin. The coverage is transparent and there is no risk that it will ever look cakey on the skin. With a little work you can achieve higher levels of coverage, but this isn’t a product for those who want to conceal many flaws The foundation is similar to Lancôme’s variant, but the finish is even shinier. Unfortunately the shiny effect can exaggerate an uneven complexion rather than concealing it. The formula has SPF 29 and the fact that it contains titanium dioxide guarantees good protection. We got it to stay on the skin for around four hours, after which it needed to be topped up. The compact feels less substantial than IsaDora’s, but it's also cheaper. However, you can’t buy a refill, but have to buy a whole new pack when it's finished. The pack contains 14.6 grams, which is normal for a cushion foundation but not very much if you compare it with what you get if you buy a bottle of foundation. It's available in many shades, but unfortunately not for the darkest skin colours.
Liquid compact cushion foundation. The formula is sheer and initially feels a little wet on the skin, but dries in and the finish is nicely satiny. Babor is primarily a skincare company aimed at salons, so its foundation includes nourishing ingredients such as antioxidants, flavonoids and vitamins to protect the skin and counteract premature ageing. However, these ingredients are not present in high levels and should be viewed as a complement to your skincare regime. Unfortunately this foundation doesn’t contain complete sun protection, just a filter which primarily provides protection only against UVB rays. Given the price, we would have liked better protection and still more skin nourishing properties. The compact is attractive, but only contains 10 ml and is not available as a refill. The consistency is transparent, which means that it looks good on many skin colours, but we would have liked a wider range of shades. Unfortunately there are currently only three.
Lily Lolo has developed mineral makeup and made it even “cleaner” than previously, including by excluding bismuth oxychloride, which many people find gives them a tingling feeling on the skin and creates irritation. The loose minerals can be applied easily and in addition the container is nicely frosted. Coverage is very sheer, with a matte finish and it’s more like a normal loose powder than a foundation. Many pale women are fans of this product because there is such a wide range of light shades. Unfortunately the range of darker colours is not so good, and here we recommend you to check out the competition. Good value for money given that the container holds 10 grams compared with bareMinerals’ 8 grams.