I’m an old-fashioned girl. I believe we should all be drinking egg creams while exchanging enamel pins with our beaus, leave our work at the office and wear foundation on our skin if we so choose. Like lipstick with lead in it and Sun-In products, foundation has developed a reputation as a beauty vestige. As millennial beauty brands emphasize a dewy, no-makeup look (I like to call it That Wet Look TM), consumers are steered further and further away from full-coverage makeup.
I don’t think that’s right.
Sometimes, my skin isn’t good enough for just a sheer tint (always in a limited range of shades that do not cater to women with a skin tone other than the made-up “shell” or “porcelain” varieties) and lip gloss on my eyelids, or whatever it takes to be sexy and modern now. This is how the hegemonic beauty industry traps: I need a full face of makeup to act as a base coat for my proceeding, fussy, no-makeup look. “Good” here, of course, is entirely subjective but enforceable by beauty-industry sales teams. Does “good” mean “free of acne?” Does “good” mean “free of discoloration or blotchiness?”
In putting together this piece, I tried about fifteen different foundations including drugstore brands, high-end brands, K beauty brands, designer brands, Russell Brands and more. I tried Estée Lauder, Hourglass, Armani, Laura Mercier, Almay, Urban Decay, Benefit, Bobbi Brown, Missha, AmorePacific, this ancient brand called Joe Blasco that I learned Kim Kardashian sometimes uses because her dad took her to a makeup lesson there for a Christmas present, and probably so many more hiding behind the unused facial brushes and clay masks in my product-spattered medicine cabinet. I did not try Bare Minerals because once, in 2008, it broke me out.
The process of wearing many different types of makeup at a single time was often a slimey one and, sometimes, a crusty one. I have dry skin that I literally won’t ever stop talking or writing about, it was March and I was cleansing and changing up my foundation a couple times a day. This also coincided with a time in my life wherein I started a retinol and the fellow who operates the old-timey elevator in my building (it sounds fancier than it is) handed me a bar of laundry soap one night, claiming that it was a miracle cure for acne and wrinkles.
I tried it all. The products I tested had to be proper foundations — none of that BB creme or skin tint or tinted moisturizer bullshit. I tried only full-coverage products, and I Honestly Think I Found the Best Foundation ®, one I’d never heard of before this challenge began. I was tipped off by a friend of mine with beautiful skin and an understanding of beauty products more extensive than my intensive working knowledge of the faces and corresponding emotions of our family weimaraner, Huckleberry. So, very in-depth.
It’s called Koh Gen Do Moisture Foundation by Maifanshi, which is a mouthful. More like a faceful! The Moisture Foundation comes in a red tube, leading its consumer to believe she’s using a BB creme, but don’t be fooled. With just two to three “pearl sized” drops, your whole face will be covered. It’s buildable without being thick or pasty, and I have a lovely moistness about me when I wear it, like I awoke refreshed in a patch of dewy flowers, or like a golden retriever puppy just sneezed on me. If I’m in public and don’t have a cheap-o fake Beauty Blender with me or a makeup brush, this puppy goes on smooth with just dirty, grubby little fingers. I honestly don’t mean to sound like a Proactiv commercial, but this might be my new “holy grail.”
There are downsides, though. I’m a white woman with peachy undertones, and while Koh Gen Do accommodated my skin tone, women who are darker or more olive than me will have a more difficult time finding a match in its eleven tones. The most elegant foundation I’ve ever used, and the second favorite foundation I tried for this piece, Giorgio Armani Power Fabric Natural Finish Foundation, comes in 20 shades with supreme, velvety covering abilities. Black Up’s Matifying Fluid Foundation is also phenomenal, and comes in 18 shades specifically created to suit the dire lack of coverage options for women of color in need of foundation.
Foundation isn’t evil like we’ve been told, but the beauty industry is! Writing it off entirely, or dissembling the master’s house with the master makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic’s tools, is a different column for a different day. Or maybe it’s not so tough — it’s just “don’t wear it,” like Leandra. But I’m not there yet. I’m not a fashion plate or an industry person (I’ve just recently discovered “wearing pants”). And so I wear foundation, even though it keeps me from being a thoroughly modern woman who takes control of her own life and only partially conceals her skin with an oily tint.
Claire Carusillo is a freelance and fiction writer in New York. She writes a weekly beauty newsletter offering off-label product usage advice. Photos via Claire Carusillo.