Trickier than the perfect eyeliner flick, more labour intensive than a messy up-do and harder to select than a signature scent; finding the right shade, tone, texture and finish of foundation is a seemingly insurmountable task. Chalky, ashy, cakey… our list of complaints about foundation seems endless, no matter whether we’re trying to create a full face of coverage or a barely-there veil of colour. 

One thing rings true for all though, and it’s that the biggest compliment is when it goes completely unnoticed, which is why the new wave of skin-boosting, tone-unifying, super sheer and virtually undetectable formulas are set to change our relationship with foundation forever (and just in time for the heatwave too). The recession-proof cosmetic whose sales overtook those of lipstick during the recent economic downturn; foundation is the make-up essential that, according to a 2016 survey, ‘most women can’t live without’, and the item was recently found to boost our confidence by a staggering 80%. Rain or shine be damned, it seems we’re addicted to it. But foundation is also the make-up item that poses the greatest challenge to women and the one we are most loathed to take a punt on, especially when switching up for summer. 

When you think you’ve just got one akin to perfect, along comes summer to change the beauty game on you. But can your skin really transform that remarkably from one season to the next? “Well yes actually, it can,” says leading dermatologist Dr Howard Murad. “Sebum production changes its form depending on the climate, so as temperatures increase, sebum becomes more liquid, so we see an increase in surface oil as sebum spreads and combines with our natural perspiration.” Skin’s shifting seasonal behaviour has a huge impact on foundation.

S/s 2017 dewy skin

Beauty trends may come and go in the flutter of a false lash but radiant, dewy skin is always on the catwalks and never more so than for s/s 2017. “This summer sees the celebration of two-storey skin that gives the impression of healthy living and yoga retreats. We’re calling it lifestyle skin.” says senior Mac make-up Artist Dominic Skinner. This newest take on skin requires much less coverage and a tad more trickery. Backstage at shows like Balenciaga, Erdem and Bottega Veneta, words like ‘sheer’, ‘veil’ and ‘purity’ were banded about and the models’ skin was luminescent yet hyper-real. You might scoff; of course the skin of a 20-something year old model whose job is to be beautiful is bound to have skin that oozes radiance from its every pore, and requires little more like a mere whisper of coverage to get it looking its best. But can a lighter approach to foundation work in the real world? The answer is a resounding yes. The role of foundation has changed entirely. No longer should it mask the skin, hiding every nuance behind a sheet of flat colour. The intuitive new breed of foundations melt into your skincare, creating an undetectable film of radiance and luminosity. It seems only a natural progression from the BBs, CCs, blurring creams and tinted moisturisers of the past few years, but few of us like to be obviously wearing foundation, particularly in the summer.

The new nude

When it comes to summer skin, a complexion with a higher sebum content suddenly demands a less oily formula, one with a propensity for sweat will no longer be compatible with heavy powders and the stark, brighter light and high position of the sun in summer months is far less forgiving to chunky pigments or tell-tale tide lines. Cue a new wave of advanced and ultra-lightweight foundations that create a healthy layer of skin, rather than cover up, perfect for the warmer months so you never need be without. If the thought of diluting the coverage of your foundation sends shivers up your spine, Nars’ All Day Weightless Luminous Foundation, £34, is a good place to start. A high coverage formula that delivers perfectly polished skin in one single drop. 

According to a 2016 survey, ‘most women can’t live without’ foundation and it boosts our confidence by 80%

Dense enough to cover up any blemishes and fully neutralise redness but still watery enough to smooth into every contour of the face. In true inclusive Nars style it comes it 20 shades. Laura Mercier’s version was formulated to mimic ambient candlelight. Candleglow Soft Luminous Foundation, £35, contains pearl mica – brilliant at reflecting light particles – in a purified water base to maintain a light, buildable coverage suitable for sensitive skins. Shades are divided into cool, neutral and warm undertones, making it easier to match to any skintone. You just knew you could rely on Japanese beauty innovators Shiseido to come up with a techy approach to shine. Their Synchro Glow Luminizing Fluid Foundation, £34, boasts ‘time match powders’ that slowly release during the day to combat the sheen of oily skin without needing to pile on additional coverage or powder. Then sliding a few rungs down the coverage scale is Mac’s new Next To Nothing Foundation, £21.50, a sheer, balmy complexion enhancer with pearlised microspheres to add luminosity. Pitched as a face colour rather than a foundation, it evens skintone and gives a juicy, hydrated glow. 

Those who despise the feeling of product on their skin will love it, but it’s perhaps not the perfect partner for blemished skin. Reserve for good skin days only. It appears renegade beauty company The Ordinary can’t put a pedicured foot wrong these days and their astoundingly cheap Serum Foundation, £5.70, had a burgeoning waiting list of 25,000 names two weeks before its late April launch, so clearly the concept of ‘no coverage make-up’ is already catching on. A weightless, light coverage formula with pigment molecules held in a suspended state for increased spreadability and a completely natural finish. Though should you want to take the concept of nude skin in its most literal sense and have no colour whatsoever in your base, The Niod Photography Fluid 12%, £20, is a light refracting liquid that uses metallic effect pigments suspended in a base of translucent tone adjusters specifically designed to make skin look incredible through a camera lens. Less foundation, more filter. 

Solid Foundations 1

Throwing shade

Once you’ve found the formula, it’s time to find your shade. Skin can be up to five shades darker by the close of the summer months, so your base needs to be tweaked or switched to match. “Don’t repeat buy your foundation,” says Skinner. “Choose the foundation that suits you for now and is perspiration-proof, moisturising and with a stronger SPF content. Test summer foundation colours on your cheek, forehead, collarbone and even shoulder because you’ll likely be wearing strappy tops and showing much more skin.” 

Korean beauty brand Erborian have been impressively savvy and launched a specific summer version of their iconic skin-loving BB Crème Ginseng in just a few shades darker, Caramel, £36, particularly for the warmer months. However, if a new foundation isn’t your idea of money well spent, get mixing. “A great trick to make your summer foundation last right through to September is to buy a darker liquid concealer and use it as concentrated colour enhancer, adding it into your foundation to deepen the shade through the weeks,” advises Skinner. Clinique Blend It Yourself Pigment Drops, £34, take a similar custom approach – add one drop to your moisturiser for a skin tint or more for as much coverage as you’re after.

Put in the prep

Make sporting a sheer foundation far less daunting by getting your skincare routine in check and throwing out all those heavenly rich winter formulas along with your Wolford opaques. 

Cast unctuous balms aside in favour of lightweight lotions to allow skin to take a much-needed breath and select serums for their targeted brightening and pigmentation fighting abilities. Add in a generous dose of antioxidants Vitamin C and E to fight UV damage and toxic pollution and your usual paltry SPF effort needs to be upped to a firm Factor 50. “I always recommend a separate mineral based SPF worn as the last product in one’s skincare, prior to foundation,” says Dr Rabia Malik, holistic aesthetic doctor at Grace Belgravia Medical. “Make-up with built-in SPF usually contains chemical filters that don’t provide adequate coverage because you don’t apply enough to get sufficient protection.”

The ethos of showing off the skin you’re in, rather than caking on the warpaint is a positive one

Different strokes

Treating your foundation as a colour wash rather than camouflage could well be a beauty game changer, leaving concealer to tackle targeted areas in need of additional coverage; exactly what it was designed for. It forces you to take the time to study your face and identify the areas that need a little more coverage – perhaps under the eyes or around the nose. Dotting on a little concealer here and there, will give a far more natural and multi-dimensional result than the flat, blanket cover of a high coverage foundation. No matter your ethnicity, oil production is universal, only the darker your skin, the more apparent the shine.

Combat the uninvited slick factor with an effective mattifying primer like Urban Decay’s Pore Perfecting Complexion Primer Potion, £23, that creates the perfect smooth canvas for sheer make-up. Then ensure you side-step the streak territory entirely by investing in the right tools; sheer formulas will always look better applied with a feather light foundation brush and always from the centre of the face, outwards. For shine fighting on the hoof, Murad MattEffect Blotting Perfector, £32, is an ingeniously clear liquid-to-powder creation that absorbs all surface oil for a matte yet zero-cakey complexion and is suitable for any skintone or type. Trends aside, the finish and coverage level of your foundation boils down to personal preference and what you want to look like come 4pm. None of us can boast perfect skin days every day and the occasional almighty breakout is one of life’s few dead certs. But the ethos of showing off the skin you’re in (with just a touch of techy product help), rather than caking on the war paint in a bid to look seamless, is a positive one and arguably, just that little bit more honest.

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