Please make my foundation stop rejecting me!
September 10, 2011 9:50 AM   Subscribe

I haven't worn makeup for years, but I'm in a new job and would like to pull together a more professional look. What can I do to make my flaky, sensitive, rejecting skin hold on to foundation smoothly for an entire day without looking sandblasted by noon?

I'm in my 40s, white, with relatively pale skin with a yellow cast (matching MAC NC20), but I also have a fairly uneven skin tone and some pink blotching. I have some enlarged pores on my nose and chin, but I rarely actually break out. I have some fine lines around my eyes and forehead, and I'd prefer not to emphasize these with heavy foundation.

I treat my skin gently with tepid water, Cetaphil, and a light moisturizer with sunscreen. I use real sunscreen when I actually go outside.

Although I have mostly oily skin, I also have dry patches on my cheeks and forehead that go away if I wash with tepid water and use a little moisturizer. But after I apply foundation, things look smooth for only a few hours. I end up with a scaly look, then a flocked look on my cheeks and forehead, as patches of the makeup slowly escape into the ether. I also get makeup escaping from my oily nose and chin, with the added bonus of some makeup settling inside the pores.

I've tried heavier moisturizer, like Pond's Dry Skin Cream, and I've tried various foundations.

- Most drugstore makeup is very transient.
- Natural Fx from Cover Fx goes on too thick, and even if thinned with moisturizer to look normal, it still leads to a scaly look on my cheeks and forehead.
- Perfect Cream B.B. Cream looks best the longest, but it also doesn't survive more than a few hours
- MAC Studio Sculpt was disappointing: the color and coverage are great, but it escaped even earlier than the BB cream
- Mineral makeup looks great from a distance, but anyone within speaking distance can see how scaly it gets

So what can I change about my skin care routine (tepid water, Cetaphil, moisturizer) or makeup products to make this work? Do I need an exfoliant for the dry patches? If so, it would have to be a gentle lotion, not anything with a scrub as my skin has shown it does NOT like that. Do I need a foundation primer?
posted by wexford_arts to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried a mineral powder foundation instead of the gloopy stuff?
posted by DarlingBri at 10:01 AM on September 10, 2011

I really like Tarte Smooth Operator tinted moisturizer. I've heard that foundation isn't the best idea for women with large pores and fine lines. It settles into them and makes them more obvious. I would also go to your dermatologist and get a prescription for some tretinoin to help reverse your sun damage and clear up oily patches, skin clarity, and uneven skin tone. I would also ask your dermatologist if your flaky skin isn't actually a medical issue versus extreme dryness. You may need to wash your face at lunch if your flaky skin is really as bad as you describe. I would use a gentle washcloth every morning, followed by CeraVe PM or AM. Both of those moisturizers have worked very well as mild primers for me, and they are quality derm-recommended moisturizers for a low cost.

I seriously rep CeraVe every time one of these threads comes embarrassing!
posted by 200burritos at 10:01 AM on September 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

*would also would also would also would also

Change that first one to "Consider going to" and that second one to just "I would ask".
posted by 200burritos at 10:04 AM on September 10, 2011

You say you've tried mineral makeup. What kind did you use? I have similar skin problems, but I use powder mineral makeup by Everyday Minerals, and it holds together fairly well. And did you use a primer underneath it? That can help even things out, and also keeps the makeup on longer. Physician's Formula makes an excellent (and cheap) primer that you paint on with an attached brush. I use Tarte Clean Slate now because it's a little easier to apply and feels amazing. It's three times as expensive, but you only need a minuscule amount each time, so it lasts a while, and it does a good job of keeping your makeup looking fresh.
posted by katillathehun at 10:05 AM on September 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Mineral makeup is very drying, so any dry patches of dry skin you have will look that much worse later in the day. I can't recommend any specific foundation as I'm not that familiar with brands (and I am fortunate in that when I do have to wear makeup these days it's only for a few hours at a time) and how they maintain their "look" for eight hours plus. I can, however, recommend a green cover stick concealer for red blotchy areas and on the nose and chin to cover large pores. Blend it into your skin and then apply foundation over it. As for moisturizers, my rheumatologist prescribed Lac-Hydrin Lotion back when it was prescription-only (I suffer from Sjogren's Syndrome and have had extremely dry skin since my 20s). I don't know if the OTC version is the same formula, but swathing my face with it before going to bed left me with much-improved un-flaky skin in the morning.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:11 AM on September 10, 2011

For what it's worth, I would focus on foundation-free ways to pull together the professional look you want, particularly with the qualities of the skin that you describe. A full face of foundation, even on the smoothest, most obedient skin, almost invariably draws more attention to the makeup than it does to you, which is doing you no favors in the "look great for my new job" department.

If anything, I would try a tinted moisturizer like Laura Mercier's (you can get it at Sephora, and they're great about returns if it doesn't work for you), or make your own by lightly mixing a more traditional foundation in with a light "plain" moisturizer. Your goal should not be to have a solid, even layer of color over your whole face -- just try to gently even out the tone/blotching but generally let your pores breathe and your natural skin show. Overdone foundation can look pretty aging, too, and from what you describe, foundation may not be the proverbial hill you want to die on, grooming-wise.

I think you'll get more bang for your effort by focusing on the following:

1. A very neat, carefully accented eye. Have your brows professionally groomed once every six weeks or so (tell them you want a very natural look, nothing too styled or thin or severe), and just tweeze the blatant outliers in between. Find a concealer that blends well and apply on your undereye circles, the dark corners of the inside of your eyes (near your nose) and on the lids. Use a smudged brown eyeliner along your top lash line, and maybe a little matte brown shadow on more of your lid, but nothing outside of or above the lid. Curl your eyelashes before applying a lengthening mascara (don't go for thickening formulas, which are too prone to clumping).

2. Subtle, flattering lip color. Nothing too bright or glossy, but check it often (and reapply often) across the day to keep it fresh. Use a lip liner if you like, not to "line" your lips, but all over the lip to serve as a base for the color.

3. Clean, well-groomed hair. Depending on your hair type, this may mean blow-drying it every day... which blows, but it's one of those things that people don't notice if your hair consistently looks neat and done, but they do when you try to get away with an unwashed ponytail... and that kind of thing is what will detract from your professional look, no matter whether you find a magical solution to the skin care question.

The rest is all in your tasteful clothes/jewelry/shoes/bag (oh, and neat fingernails!) and, of course, how well you do your job.

Congratulations on the new gig -- wishing you much success!
posted by argonauta at 10:16 AM on September 10, 2011 [9 favorites]

Have you tried going to the makeup department at Macy's. They will try and sale you the whole kit and caboodle but you can have a makeup session and try the products before you buy. I like lancome.
posted by cairnoflore at 10:16 AM on September 10, 2011

1. get thee to a dermatologist, you could have a medical issue and it could be treatable or even curable (your skin sounds a lot like mine and my Dr diagnosed it as Seborrhoeic Dermatitis )
2. Exfoliate. If your skin is flaking, that skin is dead and need to come off, moisturising it wont bring it back to life, just temporarily mask the problem.
posted by missmagenta at 10:26 AM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Instead of trying to cover your uneven skintone with foundation, you might try evening out your skintone so you can skip the foundation. I'm partial to Estee Lauder, but Clinique also makes products designed to even out the skintone. A trip to the cosmetics counter at a good department store is probably in order so you can see and try out the various possibilities. Oh, and don't let the cost deter you: you can usually find smaller or gift-with-purchase sizes on eBay for very reasonable prices.
posted by DrGail at 10:29 AM on September 10, 2011

I agree with everyone who's said you don't need foundation to look polished--truly! But if you prefer it, I have a couple of tips from experience.

Use a primer! I use the regular Smashbox Photo Finish; they also have an oil-free version. It makes a noticeable difference both in the amount of foundation I need for adequate coverage and the amount of foundation that slides off my face during the day--even without the setting spray.

Speaking of which, try a setting spray. I thought these were totally bogus at first, but one day at Ulta I found a trial-size version of Urban Decay's All-Nighter spray for a buck. IT IS MADE OF MIRACLES. As long as I don't touch my face, the foundation, concealer, and powder stay where they belong all day! No settling into lines or pores or around my nose. Amazing.

Check out Makeup Alley for extensive reviews on anything you're not sure about. The community is so big, and so full of makeup junkies, that it can be really helpful even if you have unique problems.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 10:30 AM on September 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

I am not totally dissimilar... My Rx would be a cream with AHA -- alternatively, a toner with AHA, or douse yourself every other week or so with the high-test stuff; I use this 50% glycolic acid from and like it a lot. You can tip a drop or two into your regular moisturizer in your palm, too. Goodbye flakes and rough patches.

+1 primer!

If I absolutely no-fooling want foundation on and on and on: Lancome Teint Idole Ultra. Does not budge. I brush it on as concealer when/where needed; full-face, it is a bit too much coverage for everyday and can be fussy to apply. But I am greasy, and it stays put and doesn't change.

If it is a normal day and I do not want to spend a lot of time: Korres Wild Rose Mineral Foundation; I was not at all impressed with mineral make-up but the reviews, and the brand which is generally wonderful, sold me, and it's great stuff and it stays put very well.
posted by kmennie at 10:44 AM on September 10, 2011

I would replace your moisturizer with Cetaphil Daily Advance Ultra Hydrating Lotion, and leave it for 10 minutes before applying a sunscreen-containing product.
posted by tel3path at 10:51 AM on September 10, 2011

There are many great product and technique suggestions above, but I wanted to add that sometimes you just can't get makeup to last all day and you need to re-apply. During oiler stages of life I would give myself a quick mid-day face wash (cheeks/chin/forehead, leaving eye makeup alone) and reapply sunscreen and any concealer/powder that I needed. Felt fresher, looked better, only took a few minutes. If you're applying a full face of foundation, blush, etc this would be more time-intensive, but sometimes that's just how it goes!
posted by tetralix at 11:02 AM on September 10, 2011

Try a primer. I like the Laura Mercier primer. it goes on under the foundation and helps it stay in place and look even. And a tinted moisturizer might work better for you than a foundation, I also like her tinted moisturizer - it doesn't go on so heavy and has a more natural look, I think.
posted by citron at 11:34 AM on September 10, 2011

I have oily skin with large pores. I am a year away from 40 and starting to get more normal to dry on my cheeks. I have fine lines forming around my eyes.

Currently I am using MakeupForever HD invisible foundation. I love it.

I also use Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-In-Place Makeup. I was color matched at the counter. This foundation has a heavier coverage, but not mask like, and can look less heavy depending on application method. It lasts longer than most foundations. Makeup slides off my skin since my skin is oily in areas. I believe they make a Double Wear Lite as well with less coverage.

Seconding primers but a lot or primers break me out. If you have no problems with silicone primers try them. They help foundation last. Primers will help with the appearance of large pores and smooth lines. Laura Geller's Spackle gets great reviews. Smashbox Photo Finish is very popular but breaks me out. My favorite primer is Cover FX Clearprep FX Matte Foundation Primer. It contains silicone but magically does not break me out. I love this stuff. Perhaps it would work on your more oilier areas. Cover FX make other primers too.

You may want to try some chemical exfoliation for the flaking on your forehead and to help your pores look less conspicuous. I am in love with Wrinkle Revenge 2. These are cream cleansers and do not foam. I use them on clean skin and often use them as a mask. As a matter of fact I have the Wrinkle Revenge 2 on as I type. If you are interested I would start with Wrinkle Revenge 1. I own it and 1 is what I began with. It is non-irritating and does a great job of keeping my skin exfoliated without causing flaking, burning, or redness.

If you are afraid of going the glycolic acid route try lactic acid it is much gentler but still exfoliating. Lisa Eldridge, famous makeup artist, loves Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant. Here is Lisa talking about her cleansing and her favorite skincare products. She features a lot of products that a gentle and mild.

Here is Lisa showing a tutorial for a college/work makeup look.
She features a Bobbi Brown foundation that is long lasting.

Dermadoctor also makes makes products that specifically target enlarged pores. This product, Picture Porefect gets excellent reviews.

Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 11:59 AM on September 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding missmagenta - go to a dermatologist before you do anything. You might have a skin condition that can be cleared up with the appropriate medication. Also, a dermatologist can prescribe or steer you to a moisturizer that doesn't aggravate your combination skin or sensitivity issues.

Ole Hendriksen makes good, albeit expensive, moisturizers that work on many skin types.

My skin never liked mineral makeup either but after trying several (including Bare Minerals, Urban Decay, and Laura Mercier) I found my holy grail in Jane Iredale Pure Pressed Foundation. Many people with sensitive skin swear by Jane Iredale mineral makeup, and, as a bonus, it's offered in many different shades for different undertones.

Jane Iredale's "Light Beige" (their lightest cool tone) is the ONLY thing that blends into my skin. You want to find out if your skin has "warm" or "cool" undertones and select your shade accordingly - most women are warm but about 25% of us, including me, are "cool" and have to hunt to find makeup that doesn't look like a mask. Wearing the right shade, with the right undertone, matched to your skin looks so much better.

As for primers, I wear Fusion Beauty Prime Results in "Brightening" - a lavender tone - because I have very little natural color and it makes me look perked up. Fusion Beauty also has a green shade to tone down ruddy complexions.

MakeupAlley is the place to go for reviews - I would check out reviews by women of your skin tone and type and then shop accordingly.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:13 PM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Such wonderful advice. Thanks, everyone!

I've handed out a few favorites that are pointing me to promising techniques or products I think could work. Some other brands suggested for me, like Clinique and Cetaphil moisturizer, have actually irritated my skin, so they're great options for other people but not for me right now.

I'd really, really like to make foundation work, even though I understand the alternatives a few of you have suggested. I went to work foundation free a couple of weeks ago (was getting my eyebrows waxed that evening), and a co-worker approached me with concern, asking if I was OK, under stress, was I sunburned, etc. Yeah, that was tactless of her, but it did make me a bit self-conscious of how I look with naked skin right now.

So I'll talk to a derm, try out a few products, and see where it takes me. If I get any good results, I'll be back to hand out some Best Answers.
posted by wexford_arts at 2:32 PM on September 10, 2011

Foundation won't stick to skin that is trying to correct itself. Skin usually produce oil to protect itself. Since you mentioned your skin gets flaky and is oily, I will suggest a microdermabrasion and moisturization. I have suggested Mary Kay before, but it is really the least expensive, high quality product. If you don't like it, they refund you your money, so you have nothing to lose!

Try their microdermabraision once every other day for a week and then use it once every three days for a week. After that, you may only need to use it once every two weeks. It is a two-step process where you use the microdermabraision and then the replenish which will give your skin all sorts of vitamins. Use a moisturizer after the replenish. If you get the MK product, try the Intense moisturizing gel for oily skin at night.

You may find that you get a little irritated the first couple of times you use it. This will happen because everyone tends to SCRUB TOO HARD! Make sure your face is wet for this and use a small dot of product to start. You can always add more scrub if it is not enough. Once you do this a few times, you will get accustomed to how hard or gentle to be with your skin.

You will see how nicely the foundation go on and stay on. I suggest you use a cream to powder foundation. Get a little packet of blotting paper and just blot your face is you do get a bit shiny during the day.

If you remove the dead skin, you will be able to properly moisturize your skin and thus reducing the oil over production and the foundation will sit nicely on your skin.

Also, drink lots of water if you don't already and get good rest, it will help you have better skin!

Good luck!
posted by Yellow at 4:19 AM on September 11, 2011

I forgot to mention! You don't want a product that lasts really long...that means there is some sort of chemical that stays on your skin for an extended period of time. That chemical may not be good for your skin.

I hope that the microdermabraision will make a big difference in your skin. The blotting paper will remove the excess oils that you produce without removing the foundation.

Foundation primer is great, but correct the skin first and then you can pile on product once you have figured out what you need to do to make it behave. Continuing to put more items on your skin will only create more flaky and oily skin.

; )
posted by Yellow at 4:28 AM on September 11, 2011

I love Tarte Clean Slate and use it with Laura Mercier foundation primer. If I need a touch up, I keep Benefit's Get Even.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:29 AM on September 13, 2011

I would try exfoliating and using jojoba oil as moisturizer(also can be used to remove makeup and as a cleanser). Just use a drop or 2 of the jojoba and massage into the face. To exfoliate I just use a facial pad thing with some olive oil soap, but there are other options since that method doesn't work for your skin.

I had oily/combination skin and the jojoba oil helped even me out.
posted by fromageball at 8:39 AM on September 25, 2011

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