Because I can't just photoshop the thing in real life...
March 8, 2012 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Help me figure out this foundation/concealer business, please!

I'm a little hopeless when it comes to figuring out beauty products. I bluffed my way through my twenties managing to look pretty flashy, but I'm finally trying to figure this stuff out. I've pretty much managed the hair stuff, and now I need help on the skin. And oh man, you can google all day and get twelve million contradictory results. I need anecdata!

I'm 32 years old, and my skin is just barely beginning to do things which annoy me related to that. I'm getting spider veins on my nose, for example. It would seem that perhaps concealer of some kind might help with that? But before I even reach that point, I need to figure out how to even my skin tone so that my nose and the area around it are not redder than the rest of my face. I need to do all these things while not getting any more pimples or clogged pores, because I still get those, and I am a really compulsive skin-picker (which I try to stop, but I have not yet managed). So even if concealer won't work on the spider veins (will anything?), I'll need it for those...

And dark circles under one's eyes. What do you do with those? Every time I've ever tried to use any kind of foundation, even a few years ago when there shouldn't have been any age-related changes, it's always gone all cakey and found lines to clot up in. I'm not even sure where it gets them. I'm totally at sea here. And it is a sea of products rather than of waves, and while I can now manage not to go QUITE as glassy-eyed in drugstore aisles as I used to, I could still use some navigational assistance.

I'm white and pretty pale. I tend to think of myself as having a slight yellowish cast to my skin, but it's nowhere near as yellow as the cheap drugstore concealers I have tried thus far seem to want it to be. I'm also a goth, so regrettably tips about looking natural or using neutral shades or warming one's skin colour aren't really applicable. I know this eliminates some of my potential expert base, but what are you going to do? On the plus side, this also means I don't get much sun and have always been careful about how much I do get.

I'm in the UK, in Birmingham, so I have access to City Things but not necessarily US Things at the moment. My skin is what I believe is classified as "combination"-- oily in this T-Zone I have heard discussed, dry in other places. Um. I think that's it.

So there are fixative things and base things and... Erm, help? I'm not as effective a girl as I need to be to dress as femmey as I often like to.
posted by Because to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
You sound like a good fit for powdered mineral foundation. You can control how much coverage you want, you can use a concentrated amount as concealer, and it is wonderful for oily/combo skin. Many people find it doesn't cause them to break out since it's not full of tons of ingredients; just minerals.

I don't know what brands are available in the UK, unfortunately. But, I am very pale (and I used to be pretty gothy) so I can tell you that there are brands of mineral foundation out there that will work with pale skin. I used to like Bare Escentuals/Bare Minerals but as my skin has gotten dryer the talc base it contains doesn't work for me as well. I currently like the one from L'Oreal which is talc-free, although the packaging sucks. Maybe see if either of those are available to you?
posted by joan_holloway at 1:21 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

OK, here's what I suggest. First, Clinique is your friend because their stuff doesn't cake or give you pimples. Also, they swore to me they don't test on animals.

So: get some Clinique concealer, close to your normal pale shade. Dot under your eyes on the dark circles and under your nose. Also, get some nice pale Clinique foundation. Dot a larger amount on your cheeks, forehead, and chin. Finally, get some soft, absorbent facial sponges (not those nasty shiny latex sponges from the drugstore) and blend it all in, making sure you aren't leaving a line anywhere. Sponges will last indefinitely if you periodically wash them by lathering repeatedly in dishwashing liquid, rinsing out, and allowing to air dry.

Nose is tougher. A very gentle dabbing with your sponge may work, or not. Noses tend to show foundation and not to blend well. Keep the amount applied very small.
posted by bearwife at 1:28 PM on March 8, 2012

If you are concerned about foundation settling into lines under the eyes, you might want to try a foundation primer. Pretty much every brand has them, some have silicone and some do not (many people prefer silicone-free but it doesn't matter to me). What they do is form a smooth surface for your foundation and concealer to adhere to. Also, you might smooth a bit of green primer over red areas to counteract the redness - don't worry, it doesn't make you green! The one I use is from Smashbox and it comes in a travel size so you can try it out. You might also try using tinted moisurizer instead of foundation to even out your skin tone - it has a lighter coverage and may look more natural. Many people swear by Laura Mercier's but I don't like it much. My favorite is NARS.

If you feel that concealer is too heavy, another under-eye option is a light-reflecting pen, such as YSL Touche Eclat (expensive) or something similar (Sephora has a good one that's much cheaper).

If you are over 35, a mineral foundation may not be the right thing for you, because it can adhere to and emphasize dryness and wrinkles and uneven skin.

If you have access to Sephora, they have lots of brands there and friendly salespersons who can consult on your needs and give you free samples. Basically keep trying different stuff until you find something that works. There are also some great makeup tutorials on YouTube - Lisa Eldridge is a great one to start with because she has a lot of natural looks and isn't stuck on any one particular brand.
posted by matildaben at 1:50 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The product reviews at Makeup Alley are wonderful. You can search by all sorts of parameters, including age, skin type, and complexion color. Registration is required, but it's worth it. Lots of detailed reviews there.

They can help you find drugstore equivalents of expensive brands. My recent find from there is the Maybelline Dream Lumi concealer which was inexpensive, matches my skin tone perfectly, and covers both skin unevenness and blemishes on my face.

Another thing to think about is Gifts with Purchase - basically, you spend X amount at a retailer and you get a bunch of deluxe samples. That's usually for the higher-end cosmetics. I like to stock up on Estee Lauder doing that.

Finally, if you have a US address you can ship to, there are sample programs like Birchbox and Beauty Army where you can test out stuff before buying as well. I bring this up because I think I remember seeing where some overseas people have a US address for ordering purposes.
posted by Addlepated at 2:02 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I recently had a groupon in my Inbox for laser spider vein treatment at a med spa for only $35 (instead of their usual $125 or something). Even at full price it seems like a no-brainer. You get it done and you're finished with it for good. Here are some before and after pictures.
posted by Dragonness at 2:08 PM on March 8, 2012

Folks, we don't have this mythical Sephora in the UK, though it does sound great :)

Because: I still haven't really figured out the foundation thing (I too am quite pale but tend to turn red easily) but I can recommend Boot number 7 green concealer which really does work against redness.

I will be watching this thread, as most things are too yellow/orange for me, too.
posted by altolinguistic at 2:17 PM on March 8, 2012

I'd recommend Garnier Miracle Skin Perfecter (£10 in Boots or Superdrug, and there's a link to click on the Garnier website for free samples), in the Light shade. It is wonderful stuff. It has SPF15 and gives a light, even coverage that hides any blemishes. Apply it as you'd apply moisturiser - a dab on the forehead and each cheek and blend it over your face. It'll match your skin tone, even if it's rosy (like mine) or yellowish, like yours.

Leave it to set for 10 minutes, then apply a light dusting of Bare Minerals Veil (a transluscent powder sold in Debenhams, House of Fraser and Selfridges in Brum, about £20). You'll look as if you have the most dewy, perfect skin but you also won't look as if you're caked in make-up. You can also use the mineral veil on a make-up brush to dab - very lightly - on dark circles.
posted by essexjan at 2:39 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would suggest this Benefit kit - no, I am not suggesting you use all of these at once, but it's a nice range of different products to learn about spider vein and eye bag cover up products. If you are not big on foundations (and I am not either) I would suggest this because I am fucking useless at this stuff and miracle of miracles, it does actually give me an even, flawless face.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:40 PM on March 8, 2012

I've had a few blasts of IPL -- what Dragonness is linking to -- and, yeah, if a few broken capillaries are the big bugboo here, just go get rid of them. Not, initially, the cheapest option, but tote up the cost of primer and paint and powder and brushes over just a couple of years, and it's a fantastic deal. The scary bruising subsides in a week or two.

As for dark circles, I tend to vote 'ignore' -- who cares? -- but you might enjoy a "illuminating" product there. (I like Stila's.) See above re. Touche Eclat.
posted by kmennie at 3:15 PM on March 8, 2012

I'm youngish but I have some weird veins and quite discolored spots on my face, but Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer (in the lightest shade) works for me. You can dust some powder over it if you have oily skin.

Also, if you're going for a deliberately pale, matte look, Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse will probably give you pretty good coverage for around $10 a tub. You can apply with your fingers and it blends very easily so you don't need to cover your whole face. I don't know how available U.S. drugstore brands are in the UK, though.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:18 PM on March 8, 2012

(I say "deliberate" because I use it from time to time, but it generally isn't glowing enough for me, but for your purposes it might work great.)
posted by stoneandstar at 3:19 PM on March 8, 2012

Make up is such a personal thing to each woman, so many different skin tones and types and its hard to learn techniques for applying make up over the internet. I suggest you contact a local salon and make an appointment with a make up artist for a consultation. Tell them exactly what you're trying to do and they can help you select the right colors for your skin and show you how you should apply the products. I could never find the right concealer or foundation colors, no matter how easy the make up companies made it for me with color matches (warm/cool tones, etc). Getting a consultation will cost you more than you'd probably like to spend, but the methods you learn will not only have your make up looking the way it should, but last you a lifetime.

You can always go to the make up counter at a department store too, but they will push more product on you than you want or need.

Good luck!
posted by NoraCharles at 3:21 PM on March 8, 2012

Find a friend who knows about make-up and go shopping with her! It's the best thing I ever did in that regard (although... um, my intention to start wearing make-up faded after a week or so and I stopped again).

I don't know if it's available where you are, but the one product that my friend recommended that I really was amazed by is Maybelline Wonderfinish liquid-to-powder foundation. It comes out of the tube as a very liquid cream, but it dries almost immediately when you put it on your skin, with a powdery finish, so that you don't end up feeling oily or shiny at all. And it's super cheap (I got it at a discount shop for $2 a tube and you don't use much each application so it lasts a while). And it comes in pale enough shades for me (super pale skin). The friend who recommended it works as a model, and has spendy tastes in most make-up, but said this was as good as any of the more expensive foundations.
posted by lollusc at 3:37 PM on March 8, 2012

First, I am sorry that you don't have a Sephora. If you're ever in the US, you should try them. They're great.

First: You need to moisturize! I have acne prone skin and something with salicylic acid works well for me. Find a moisturizer that you like that isn't too heavy - one with SPF is ideal. A lot of people swear by the Clinique Dramatically Different moisturizer; I use one by Patricia Wexler.

Next, I have had a lot of luck with using primers. That can really help with the caking. A primer basically provides a smooth canvas for you to apply your foundation on top of. I use Laura Geller's Spackle in bronze. Tinted or untinted, whatever you prefer - it barely shows up, it's very light, so I like the tinted because it gives me just a hint of glow.

Then, you'll want to use a foundation - or, if you are me, a tinted moisturizer. Foundation just seems too heavy in my opinion. This is where things get a bit tricky and the color really matters. If you have a nice department store with makeup counters, go there and try stuff on. Have someone who works there help you. I personally have pale skin but it's not ivory, translucent pale, so I use Laura Mercier in Sand. Has an SPF of 20 and is very nice. A little bit goes a long way.

Finally: Use a sponge to apply! That makes a huge difference for me. It's a recent discovery and I am so excited about sponges now. I use a Beauty Blender (it came in my monthly Birchbox, which is one of my favorite things - mentioned above) but you can get sponges at the drugstore for cheap. It is great for covering up under eye circles, blemishes, and spots with the tinted moisturizer. That was not easy until I started using a sponge.

I don't use concealer. I just find it to be too heavy. I find that using the sponge with a tinted moisturizer really does cover everything up nicely and naturally. I do not like looking like I have a bunch of makeup on my face (no one does!)

It took me about a year to figure all of this out, so don't despair. These things take a bit of time, but when you hit on what you were looking for you'll be solid for a very long time. It's worth a bit of time investment up front.

(By the way: I don't do this every day. Only on special occasions or days when I just want to feel extra fancy. I do moisturize every day, though, and wash my face every night: that is really important.)
posted by k8lin at 4:58 PM on March 8, 2012

FWIW, I run a beauty blog. You could call me a beauty junkie.

Probably you have a friend like me. Someone who loves to try out new products and is knowledgeable about what is on the market. My best advice is to go makeup shopping with her. It doesn't even have to be a close friend - if someone at work who I never talk to asked me to help her chose her first foundation/concealer, I would jump at the chance! I think most beauty junkies are like that.

If you don't know anyone like that, go to a department store counter and tell them what you just told us. Don't get pressured into buying anything. Tell them that you have had caking before and you want to try the foundation/concealer on for a day and see how it lasts. I suggest going in the morning. The counters are quieter, the sales people have more time, and you can see how your face looks in the afternoon after the makeup has been on for a while.

As for which brand to go to, this totally depends on the sales people at the department store near you. I would suggest to go with Clinique (they have a bunch of different kinds of foundation) and to avoid MAC (I love MAC products, but I don't often like their sales people). If you think they are being pushy/you don't like your face afterwards/you just get a bad vibe, don't give up - just go to another brand.

Again, don't get pressured into buying anything! Test out the foundation for a day!!
posted by xmts at 5:25 PM on March 8, 2012

I also have a beauty blog, and I totally agree with xmts - it would be ideal to go foundation shopping with a makeup-loving friend. But, that aside, here are my tips:

- You can use foundation or tinted moisturizer. My favorite products are MUFE HD foundation and Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer, but you might also like MAC Face & Body Foundation which comes in white - it's sheer enough that it's not going to look really stark on you, but if you're pale enough, it'll even out your skin and look nice. You can also mix it with other foundations to make them paler. I definitely recommend checking it out since you're pale and like a goth look.

- Apply your foundation or tinted moisturizer with a brush. It will go on more evenly, thus looking better and lasting longer. My favorite foundation brush is the Sigma F80 (ships internationally), or the Real Techniques stipple brush (available in the UK, though I'm not sure where - but it's designed by a woman in the UK).

- Set your foundation/ tinted moisturizer with powder, especially in the summer, and especially in the t-zone. Even an inexpensive powder should work pretty well. You can use a tinted powder (something that's your skin tone), or mineral makeup - either of those will provide extra coverage - or you can use something that's translucent. This will make your foundation last a lot longer.

- Apply foundation first, then concealer second. You won't know how much concealer you need until you apply your foundation. Plus, if you put the concealer on first, rubbing foundation on over it will mess it up. So - foundation first! I do foundation, concealer, then powder. (Actually, I usually skip concealer).

- You can use a primer, but that starts to turn into a lot of steps, what with moisturizer, primer, foundation, concealer, powder . . . I'd personally skip primer (and I do) - if you have trouble with your makeup not lasting long enough, then think about primer.

- I don't have an undereye concealer recommendation - I rarely use it - but I agree that Makeupalley is a great resource. My other recommendation is to go for a department store / high end product instead of a drugstore brand; I think high end products are worth it for foundation and concealer - you'll get a better skintone match and a better texture (for color products, drugstore brands can be awesome.)

- Most of all, remember that makeup can be lots of fun, and it's never mandatory! I hope that you wear makeup because you enjoy it and it makes you feel good about yourself :)
posted by insectosaurus at 7:39 PM on March 8, 2012

The problem with going makeup shopping with a makeup-loving friend is that your orientations are incompatible. Your makeup-loving friend will give the thumbs-up to products that you will not end up using, because using them is too time-consuming, requires too much skill, or offers too little bang for the buck. She sees it as fun: you don't.

I am a little bit like you: I'm very pale with uneven colouring, I wear makeup, and I am not that good at it. I too have done a lot of research. Here's some stuff I learned that may help you:

* If you've got visible spider veins and redness around your nose, you may have rosacea. Here is a very detailed comment about rosacea that I made here a while ago.

* Yes to IPL for visible veins. In the long run it will save you time and money.

* Yes to sponges for putting on foundation and concealer.

* Laura Mercier makes a good concealer. Some settle in my pores: it doesn't.

* Vincent Longo makes a good foundation. It has excellent coverage without being too thick, and "porcelain" is very pale.

* FWIW, spackle/primer things have never worked for me. I have used them a bit, but always gave up because they didn't seem to make a visible difference.

Good luck!
posted by Susan PG at 8:51 PM on March 8, 2012

Almost all concealers are yellow. A concealer needs to be an exact match for your skin tone in order to work, but ideologically, yellow is considered to be the correct tone for foundations and concealers, because normal people have yellow skin already, and people with pink skin need to become more yellow.

Prescriptives used to do products with varying undertones, but they've folded in the UK.

Your best bet is treating your skin conditions. Try to fid a private dermatologist to get a real diagnosis and treatment recommendations. You will never get a dermatologist on the NHS, so don't try. Beauticians will make haphazard diagnoses and take unlimited amounts of money in exchange for random treatments that are ineffective or even harmful. So at least shell out for one trip to a dermatologist.
posted by tel3path at 12:24 AM on March 9, 2012

Bourjois Healthy Mix serum foundation (it's in Boots, often on offer, tall glass bottle with red lid) fixed this for me, after I spent ages agonizing about what to choose. It's very light and doesn't come off at all paste-ish when applied. Tiny tiny spots of it for even-ing skin tone, slightly more for dark circles - the coverage you get is enormous. (There's a matching concealer if you're interested to try that too.) I'm white with pale pink/yellow skin and the palest shade suits me. Test them. I was also a goth once upon a time, so my preferences for makeup are still quite 'pale and interesting' in tone, and I'm medium femme. Thorough recommendation, can't stress it enough!

(Birmingham-specific info: try the biggest Boots, on High Street; makeup is on both sides as you go in, but 'premium' brands on your left, normal stuff - Bourjois included - on your right.)
posted by lokta at 3:23 AM on March 9, 2012

I also want to recommend Laura Mercier. This concealer (not the same as the one mentioned above) is absolutely fantastic. I use it now instead of foundation - it can be extremely subtle and doesn't give you pancake face if you avoid using too much. It's dealt beautifully with my nose and around-the-mouth redness. And dark circles. I actually found the initial recommendations for it here.

For what it's worth, this kind of redness is extremely common.
posted by kitcat at 7:49 AM on March 9, 2012

I concur with the recommendations to see a dermatologist and/or IPL for the redness and spider veins. Often a specialist can make additional recommendations and/or discover underlying conditions (like rosacea, etc.) you might not have considered.

Mineral powder (non-talc) works great for me, and I happen to be in my mid-40s, so if it's a look you like, you might consider trying it. I don't have particularly lined or dry skin however.

The most significant fix to the increasingly-visible dark circles I've always had under my eyes, that had gotten worse with age, and were becoming actual bags, has come not from concealers (tho for the immediate, any good two-tone concealer like the Laura Mercier linked above is ideal) ... or even sleep or hydration issues (I sleep 7.5+ hours a night on average and drink 2-3 litres of water daily). Turns out that wasn't it at all.

my dark circles (and considerable puffiness and blotchiness and zits and general skin-related GRAR, along with fifteen unwanted pounds and a few random other ills) has completely vanished in the two months since I entirely cut all sugars and grains from my diet. YMM (of course) V.
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:53 PM on March 9, 2012

Go to the MAC store in Birmingham, and they will be able to answer all of these questions for you, and show you how to use all their products. I used to use Benefit until they recommended powder foundation for my dry skin (!), and MAC consultants always listen better and are happy to demonstrate exactly what to do.
posted by ellieBOA at 11:56 AM on March 10, 2012

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