living a well tended life... at any age

about face, part two: foundation

Foundation seems to be one of the biggest make-up challenges for women – so I’m devoting an entire post to the stuff.

First things first:

You need foundation. Yes, I’m talking to you.

Foundation evens out your skin tone, provides a base for the rest of your make-up and offers protection from the elements (sun, pollutants, etc.). Today’s foundations are more lightweight and sheer than in the past and are actually better for your face than wearing nothing at all.

I’m currently a big fan of beauty balms, but there are so many options to choose from, so you can pick a foundation that contains exactly the features you’re looking for – sunscreen, moisture, oil-control – and get a more flawless, polished looking complexion in the process.

So, how do you pick the right foundation?

Foundation is the only product that I would suggest you purchase in a department store. The only way to know if it’s the right shade,  coverage and texture is to – guess what? – put it on your face. Swatch cards, testing it on your wrist – none of this will tell you if the foundation is right for you. If you’re concerned about the price point, remember – a little bit of a higher quality product lasts longer, and looks better.

Hopefully you will get a salesperson that knows her stuff and can advise you on the right product. But just in case, here are some things to keep in mind while you shop:

The more sheer the formula, the more natural the finish. If you are concerned about a perfect match, or just prefer something that’s lightweight, go with a foundation that is more sheer. Buzzwords like “almost” makeup or “tinted moisturizer” are good clues.

If it matches your neck, it will match your skin. I’m not suggesting that you wear foundation on your neck. But as you’re sampling different shades, swipe each one from your jawline down to your neck. If it blends into your neck completely (= it disappears), you’ve found your match.

Don’t try to correct your skin tone with your foundation. Ever. If you’re pale like me you might want to deepen your complexion by choosing a foundation that’s a shade or two darker than your natural skin tone.

Promise me you will never do this.

You know “those” women? The ones whose necks are one shade and faces another? You can avoid that every time by always matching your neck. However,  there are a few subtle tricks I employ for deepening skin tone:

Powder. Dust a slightly deeper shade of powder over your foundation. The lighter, more translucent finish of a powder does the trick nicely and never looks unnatural.

Bronzing gel. A tiny dab of gel (mixed into your foundation before applying it – use the palm of your hand to blend) takes the edge off that too-pale look.

Self-tanner. I wear sunscreen every day of the year, so I rarely get tan. But I love how I look with “some color”, and self-tanner  gives the perfect boost to my foundation. Just remember –  self-tanner is NOT a replacement for sunscreen!

Now you’ve got your perfectly matched foundation home – here’s how to apply it:

Properly prep. Your make-up will only ever look as good as the skin underneath it. A skin that is clean, exfoliated and moisturized will result in makeup that looks better and wears longer. Read my post on skin care tips for more on this.

Fingers are your best applicators. The warmth of your fingers makes them the best tools for applying and blending foundation. I detest sponges and never use them – they are unhygienic, wasteful, and tend to streak the product along the surface of your face, rather than blend it in. And you always have your fingers “handy”. Get it? Handy???

Step away from the powder. You know who you are. And I’m talking to you. Powder junkies need a major intervention and I’m doing it right now. Chronic application of powder – throughout the day, every day – causes the product to eventually embed itself into the surface of your skin, rendering it flat and dull. Powder absorbs light rather than reflecting it,  highlighting every little line and crease you never knew you had.

That said, powder can be convenient for touch ups – just apply it very sparingly. And please,  toss out  that “puff” that comes with the compact. They are impossible to clean and pack the product on to your face. I flatten a large cotton ball to tuck into the compact and use that instead, tossing it at the end of the day. Easy peasy. 

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful – are there any you would add? I’m curious to know how many of you wear foundation, and if you do, is it every day, or just for special occasions? Share here!

Next up – eyes, cheeks and lips!


  1. Jennifer Cullen on April 25, 2012 at 7:44 am

    I’m a foundation newbie so these tips are awesome! And I’m so glad you said that about using your fingers as applicators. I hate the sponges and the last time I tested some makeup, the person tries to sell me on the sponges. Can’t wait for eyes!

    • sheri silver on April 25, 2012 at 8:05 am

      (In my best Faye Dunaway/Joan Crawford voice): “No. Make-up sponges. EVER!” Glad you liked it! 🙂

  2. Sara on April 25, 2012 at 7:58 am

    I think you should do clinics with all of us in a make up rut ~ still doing the same thing as when I was 20 …

    • sheri silver on April 25, 2012 at 8:04 am

      Okay – I LOVE that idea! You put it together and I’ll be there! 🙂

  3. Arin on April 25, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Love these posts!

    What do you think of bronzing powder vs gel? Never used gel before..

    I’m curious about your thoughts on beauty balms- went back to read post on this and I’m still confused if it is meant to be foundation and what products it replaces? Is it better for spring/ summer?


    • sheri silver on April 25, 2012 at 3:23 pm

      Thanks Arin! Bronzing powder is more like a blush – used in spots, rather than all over. Gels are very concentrated so I usually recommend thinning it out in the palm of your hand with either your foundation or even a moisturizer (which looks great in lieu of foundation). Beauty balms can either be used alone or as a make-up base. The Clinique one that I’m using (and loving) gives enough coverage – I feel – to use alone, yet it’s sold as a make-up primer as well. I think it varies from place to place. Does that answer your question??

  4. Sandra on April 25, 2012 at 8:59 am

    I haven’t worn foundation in a long while as I have very sensitive skin and am also just simplifying – better skin care but less make up. I think post motherhood, it’s been a time saver too.

    Love the series – great idea!

    • sheri silver on April 25, 2012 at 3:20 pm

      Thanks so much – yes, I agree, I wear much less too than I did when I was (ahem) younger……………

  5. Christi Wampler on April 25, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Sheri, this is great!! So helpful. I’m going to share this on my FB.

    What are your thoughts on powder foundations, like Bare Minerals, etc.? I used to use Mac Studio Fix, but I know now that I’m too old for that nonsense, lol. But I like the feel of a powder over a liquid. I’ve been using Bare Minerals for about 6 months and really like it, but I’d love a “professional’s” opinion.

    • sheri silver on April 25, 2012 at 3:20 pm

      Thanks so much! I was very skeptical about the mineral powders but my daughter uses them and I have to say that I am really impressed – the finish is flawless and not dry or “powdery” at all! I’m not surprised that you like them, especailly if you prefer a powder.

  6. Leslie on April 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    I don’t wear much makeup at all and never foundation except on a few areas on special occasion! You are such an expert and make it sound so easy!

    • sheri silver on April 25, 2012 at 3:18 pm

      Thank you! it really is easy, once you know the tricks – feel free to ask me questions any time! 🙂

  7. Punky on April 25, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Great post–couldn’t have come at a better time because I’m running low on my current foundation from the DRUGSTORE and am looking to upgrade to something else a little bit fancier. I’ll have to check out beauty balms…

    • sheri silver on April 25, 2012 at 10:24 pm

      Love this! Let me know how it works out! 🙂

  8. Hotly Spiced on April 26, 2012 at 12:34 am

    Yes, it’s difficult. I buy foundation but I’m always worrying I’m buying the wrong shade. And they can be very expensive and then you get home and find you don’t like the texture or the colour or the application sponge etc. When you find the right one, buy in bulk! xx

    • sheri silver on April 26, 2012 at 7:31 am

      That is my biggest make-up “pet peeve” – I hope these tips help! 🙂

  9. rebecca on April 26, 2012 at 8:25 am

    i’ll take any knowledge i can get in the make-up arena. great tips sheri!

  10. Amy stein on April 29, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Thanks Sheri! This post came at the perfect time. I’ve been thinking that although my 5 minute makeup routine might be ok for the weekdays, it’s probably time I step it up a bit for an evening out. I wasn’t sure where to start – the last bottle of foundation I bought was for my wedding 5 years ago. I didn’t even know powder foundation existed till just now. Thanks for the jump start I needed!

    • sheri silver on April 29, 2012 at 9:42 pm

      Anytime, cuz! xo

  11. Weekly Joy Feed | {joycreation} on June 6, 2012 at 12:40 am

    […] Sheri always has such wonderful advice on skin care! […]

  12. karen on September 28, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    i was wondering what you thought of georgio armani luminous silk foundation? a friend who is a licensed esthetician really likes it. thanks for all your wonderful info, karen

    • sherisilver on September 29, 2014 at 7:35 am

      First of all, thank YOU for your nice comment! As for the foundation – I’ve never personally tried it but it does seem to pop up on a lot of “best of” lists so it may be worth a try! 🙂

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