We love skin here. And imperfections are part and parcel of that. But even when you care for your skin and embrace your flaws, some days it’s nice to change up your look, glam up and feel extra confident.
But most people’s skin isn’t perfect like the girls in Charlotte Tilbury’s Instagram videos, where they can slap on a layer of glowy primer go out looking flawless. Sometimes we regular people need the empowerment of some serious foundation to get there. It takes the pressure off you to always have naturally perfect skin. I think the best kind of foundation is one that still looks like skin, but, like, skin that’s better than your skin.
There’s tons of situations where you want coverage but also don’t want your makeup to be obvious. Maybe you’re just not feeling your acne today but you’re going to a family dinner with your grandma who would rub the makeup right off your face if she saw it. Or you’re meeting your boyfriend’s parents, or going on a low-key beach trip or… well, whatever the reason, you’re looking for makeup that mimics skin. And often that means sacrificing coverage.
So how to do you combine those two worlds? Are there even products out there that can do both?
Believe it or not, some companies out there have produced foundations that are perfect for when you want to cover up, but you don’t want people to know you’re covering anything up. You don’t have to be limited to sheer tinted moisturisers and BB creams anymore to stay looking natural. Let’s get into it.
Qualities of an undetectable foundation
So how can you go out into the world and find a foundation that’s got what you’re looking for? It’s a tough request: both reasonable coverage and a natural look. There’s tons of different types of foundation and even more words to describe them. But what combination makes a foundation skin-like?
In my opinion, this mythical perfectly-balanced foundation should be:
The perfect foundation should offer the coverage you need, and no more. That means a tinted moisturiser isn’t going to cut it (I’m not putting gloop on my face if that gloop is barely noticeable). On the other hand, the fullest coverage – I’m talking blank-canvas levels – ruins the natural effect. Makeup that can totally perfect the skin will never look natural, no matter a perfect formula or shade match. Stick to the middle of the spectrum to be safe.
Natural satin finish
When it’s dried down, the foundation formula shouldn’t be matte and dry, nor shiny and oily. Natural, untouched healthy skin has a soft sheen – often recreated through formulas with words like ‘demi-matte’ and ‘satin’.
The foundation should adhere well to your skin when it’s freshly applied, with no patchiness or bare spots. That also means it shouldn’t highlight dryness and dehydration, flakiness or pores beyond normal. I’ve yet to find a powder foundation that looks anything resembling natural – not matter what they claim. Liquid and cream formulations rule.
The foundation should also stay well adhered and looking good throughout the day or night. It can’t be rubbing off onto clothing when you hug people, nor can it break down with sweat or oil and pool up in unflattering ways halfway through an event. Instead, it should either stay high coverage, or fade gracefully. Waterproof abilities are highly desirable.
Large shade range
Finding an identical shade match is key, and that’s impossible for 90% of people when a product doesn’t have a wide enough range of colours to choose from. No matter how perfect the formula, if there’s a line at your neck because it’s the wrong shade it’s a dead giveaway. And even more subtle mismatches like the wrong undertone will make you look off and different to normal – not what we’re going for. I suggest a product with at least 20 shades in the range, but the more the better.
Lightweight skin feel
This may just be personal but I also don’t want to feel like i’m wearing a mask. That kind of defeats the purpose of a natural foundation. Often this goes hand in hand with the formulation and texture of the product in the bottle.
The top 3 most realistic looking fuller-coverage foundations
Here’s the 5 foundations I’ve come across that meet my stringent criteria for a realistic, but effective foundation:
This product surprised me, because I’m pretty notorious for hating the BB/CC cream hype of 2012. But this CC cream has the coverage and texture of a foundation, so my theory is that they were just cashing in on a trend. For all intents and purposes, it’s a foundation. And a good, medium to full coverage one at that. It has a beautiful lightweight cream consistency, thanks to the water and silicone base, and the addition on my beloved snail secretion filtrate (yes, that’s snail goo) and more skin care ingredients. And while they’re not necessary parts of a natural foundation, the plastic pump/tube hybrid is great for travel and such a bonus, and SPF 50+ is much appreciated. Unfortunately, the shade range is a little less than ideal with only 12 colours, but if you’re lucky you’ll find something suitable for your skin tone. It does have a light citrus fragrance. This product clocks in at the middle-upper pricing tier (think more expensive than drugstore but not quite luxury) and is available to purchase here.
This little liquid gem is definitely on the lighter end of medium coverage on the spectrum, but is buildable. I have an in-depth review with a ton of comparison pictures so you can see exactly how it performs. The thin consistency great for those who like to apply with their hands – but do remember to shake it! There’s a fantastic shade range and undertone choice with 21 total options. The silicone base makes the product highly velvety and silky with a lightweight feel that blends easily. Again, a plastic pump bottle is so easy for travel. And the price is a steal at only $6.70 USD.
This is another whipped textured, lightweight cream that comes out of the convenient tube surprisingly thick. It’s a personal favourite and the current foundation in my makeup bag. Cover FX Oil Free Natural Finish foundation has a stunning glowy look. It gives me the skin I wish I was born with. And while advertised as medium to light coverage I find this is more of a medium-full coverage. It wears well, leaning towards being too dewy thanks to its hydrating properties, so powder is a must. Yet another water and silicone based formula means it lends itself to easy blending. The fantastic range of 40 lets you rest easy knowing your skin tone will be in there somewhere. The price sits towards the upper end of the spectrum, but it’s so worth it for the look and how little you need. Add it to your makeup collection here.
What’s the most natural looking foundation you’ve ever found that still packs a punch?