Is a life without makeup in my future?
March 17, 2008 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Foundationfilter: Ladies, have any of you had success clearing your skin for good by foregoing foundation of any type?

After three months, my nightly use of Retin-a is showing good results. My skin's smoother, pores tighter and breakouts have been reduced. However, I'm still getting pesky little blackhead breakouts on my forehead and cheeks but notice them only in the evening, after a full day with makeup on. I'm thinking of going without foundation for a few days to determine if that might be the cause of the problem. (Right now, I'm using StudioTech, the only one of the MAC foundations that comes in a shade I can wear ... but I have tried them all.)
This is huge for me. I'm one of those women who doesn't go to the mailbox without at least some lipgloss.
I know that many people claim that an oil-free makeup won't cause acne but I just can't believe this is completely true. Mineral makeup is not an option for my dark skin and I still think it's another marketing gimmick.
So, questions are:
1) Did going sans makeup help your skin?
2) What are some other tricks I might try to fake the even-toned skin look without foundation? How do I keep the oilies at bay? (I've heard many makeup artists recommend a bronzer to help evening tone.)
For the record, I wash my foundation brushes and buy multiple powder sponges and change them fairly regularly.
posted by notjustfoxybrown to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
1. Going without makeup never really helped my skin that much, but results may vary for everyone. Leaving it on overnight certainly hurt it, though, so it's important not to be lazy with the facial cleansing. That said, I've read articles from "makeup experts" who say that women shouldn't wear foundation anyway because it just doesn't look natural. I don't know if these people are aware that the average female doesn't have flawless skin, though, so take that with a grain of salt.

2. Have you tried just applying some concealer to the areas you most want to hide and blending it in with your skin as best you can? As for the oilies, you can dab some powder onto just those spots. I'd stick with a translucent powder - not the pressed stuff - and use a brush to dust your face with it rather than those dirt-trapping powder puffs.
posted by katillathehun at 10:00 AM on March 17, 2008

i use maybelline pure stay powder foundation, and it doesn't seem to bother my skin. i'm very breakout prone, too. you can apply it with a damp sponge for more coverage, but i find applying it dry is fine for me.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:02 AM on March 17, 2008

No, going without makeup never fixed my skin. (I'm a never-leave-the-house-without-it type, too!) But even if I were 100% zit-free, I'd still have uneven tones that I'd want to even out with foundation, so I'm a makeup for lifer. :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 10:09 AM on March 17, 2008

As for beating the oil w/out wearing make-up... I've found wiping my face with a few rolling papers (yes, cigarette rolling papers) sweeps the oil off. The cosmetic equivalent would be oil blotting papers, but I can never find them.
posted by wg at 10:11 AM on March 17, 2008

Best answer: I used to be on Retin-A Micro, before my skin dramatically changed into a different type. It was great, but it took probably six months before I saw full improvement. There may just be some waiting left to do.
posted by Coatlicue at 10:21 AM on March 17, 2008

Best answer: Another wear-makeup-to-the-mailbox girl here. I've never found going without foundation to improve my skin. However, the wrong kind of foundation is certainly bad for your skin and can cause clogged pores and breakouts. Foundations have gotten better and better, IME, since I was a teenager back when Ayla invented foundation. Most no longer contain problem ingredients like isopropyl myristate.

MAC makes good foundations. However, if you feel the urge to switch, Prescriptives and Lancome make foundations in a HUGE range of shades.

What finally cleared up my skin for good and all was using cleansers and moisturizers with alpha-hydroxy acids and glycolic acid in them. I swear by Ole Henriksen Pure Perfection night cream and his Sheer Transformation daytime moisturizer (the latter is extremely light!). The acids are supposed to firm skin and reduce wrinkling - a lovely side benefit is that the same process, increased cell turnover, keeps your pores from clogging up.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:34 AM on March 17, 2008 [4 favorites]

Going without foundation never helped, but sticking to this routine seems to work:

1) Wash gently with warm water and: a) Dove soap, and washcloth, or b) Oil of Olay foaming cloth;
2) Blot with Neutrogena pore toner;
3) Moisturize with Neutrogena SPF 45 sunblock.

My mother used to say that you should always blot some water or toner on your face before applying foundation, so that there is a barrier protecting your pores. I think she might have been making that up, but I always do it... You know, just in case.

I have oily skin, too, and have found that skipping either the scrubbing or toning steps is an invitation to disaster. I've tried blotting papers, but they always make me feel like I'm pressing oil into my skin, so I'm not a fan.

In the summer I often skip the foundation and just use tinted moisturizer + powder.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 10:41 AM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I do not wear foundation. I consider it a hinderance more than anything. Besides, it is gross to hug someone and notice you left your "mark" on their shirt or jacket. (It is gross to be on the receiving end of this as well.) So what if you don't look perfect all the time? Let people see the real you. You'd be surprised how liberating it feels to do that.

Have you ever consulted with a dermatologist? I see a dermatologist who initially prescribed Metrogel for me to use twice daily, and I like it. However I have slightly dry skin and a teeny bit of rosacea on my cheeks. I really like to use cocoa butter on my face in place of foundation. There is a lot of bad crap and bad karma in foundation and that is not good for your face or for you.

I like to steam my face over a just-boiled pan of water at the kitchen table. Hold a bath towel over your head so the steam can't escape. This helps open pores so you can gently wash your blackheads away. It doesn't happen overnight, but wearning makeup sure won't help.

Have you consulted with a nutritionist to see if you need to change your diet? I used to eat a strictly vegan diet and I remember having absolutely amazing skin during all of that. Have you talked to your doctor about a cleansing fast for a couple weeks?

On the other hand, we can't all have perfect skin. Maybe you have a rash of blackheads and that's just the way nature made you. If people are examining your skin so closely that they notice that then demand more personal space and less judgment.
posted by mamaraks at 10:50 AM on March 17, 2008

I've only ever worn foundation when on stage. While I've been genetically blessed in the complexion department, I've also worked out a routine as sometimes my skin can get patchy:
1. Exfoliation first
I make my own exfoliant out of vegetable glycerin and oatmeal. Spring through fall, I use it once a day before applying cleanser. In winter, I only use it once a week.
2. Cleanser
Use whatever type suits your complexion. I'm pretty happy with cold cream or plain old Noxema.
4. If it's in summer, I frequently use a toner or mild astringent; vinegar smells awful but actually softens/improves the skin, otherwise I just use witch hazel extract in a low dose of alcohol.
3. LIGHT moisturizer. I'm in the process of formulating my own, but in a pinch I use Dove. Sometimes I just use whatever aloe I can find that has the least additives possible - right down to just breaking off a leaf from a houseplant.

Once a week - usually less frequently for me for a lot of excuses - I give myself a facial steam and apply blackhead strips to various areas, mostly my nose. After the steam, astringent, and after the astringent dries off, I moisturize.

I also ALWAYS make sure I remove makeup before bed.
I also want to vouch for blotting paper - the best brand I've ever used is available here.
In high school I had a round with stress-induced excema, and it was the only thing that controlled it at all. Also, when I got really desperate, I jumped off my naturals bandwagon and resorted to a Mary Kay Night Cream that really did do wonders for cleaning up my skin. I'm not sure if the new stuff is the same formula as the old stuff from their bunny testing days - it really just took a tiny application every night for two weeks and my skin came out gorgeous.

Your mileage may vary, especially if you're prone to oily skin. You might want to consider trying mineral makeup as a transition away from foundation. Lollibomb makes some great stuff, but I don't know if all skin tones are covered.
posted by medea42 at 10:58 AM on March 17, 2008

I don't think you necessarily need to stop using foundation. There are other ways to prevent breakouts. I break out very much, but I do get oily on my forehead and nose, so I use blotting papers throughout the day. It's much nicer than reapplying pressed powder all day, which just builds up and I think would clog your pores more than foundation itself would. My favorites are by Clean & Clear, and are only around $5.

Another idea would be to use a pore-clearing mask from time to time. My two favorites are Clear Improvement and Out of Trouble, both by Origins. Clear Improvement is a charcoal mask that opens your pores, and Out of Trouble lifts out any gunk that might cause breakouts later. I use them both, starting with All Clear, maybe 3 or 4 times a year. You might want to start out using them weekly until you see improvement.
posted by boomchicka at 11:16 AM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I break out very much

Oops, I meant to say I don't break out very much. But controlling oil and therefore clogged pores, is the key to breakouts.
posted by boomchicka at 11:17 AM on March 17, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for your answers, ladies ... and please keep them coming. I'm considering a few of the newer companies that make mineral makeup specifically for women of color. Most of it just makes me look like I've been embalmed but I'll keep trying. I've also heard a lot of great things about that Ole' Henriksen. I might check that out as well.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 11:28 AM on March 17, 2008

My perhaps not helpful suggestion - consider not using foundation again, only because it's unnecessary. Do you ever see men worrying about "uneven skin tone?" I think this is a problem often created by women and "solved" by the makeup industry. Your skin could only benefit from the pores not being clogged by foundation every day.
posted by agregoli at 11:53 AM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Agregoli, I do appreciate your comment but there are a LOT of things that women worry about that men don't. Men are not penalized for not worrying about it; women are.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 12:06 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think this is a problem often created by women and "solved" by the makeup industry.

No, it's a "problem" both created and solved by the industry.
posted by youarenothere at 12:19 PM on March 17, 2008

You also might want to check out the reviews of mineral makeup on This way you can look for other women of color who use mineral makeup and find out what works for them. The market for mineral makeup has exploded over the past couple of years, and Bare Escentuals (which doesn't work for me, either, btw - all the shades are too yellow) is no longer the only game in town. Some really great stuff comes from small retailers or drug stores.

And Ole Henriksen is THE BOMB. I don't find it necessary to spend big bucks on makeup (I've found great products from Cover Girl and Wet-n-Wild), but I find it's worth it to spend a little more on great skincare, especially because I'm no spring chicken anymore. Since using the Ole Henriksen products I have never had such smooth, clear skin.

Every so often, I give myself a facial using LUSH products - I scrub with Ocean Salt and use one of their "Fresh" masks - I like Catastrophe Cosmetic, which looks and smells yummy and clears everything out of my pores.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:25 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mod note: A few comments removed. Focus should be on the question asked, please.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:25 PM on March 17, 2008

I like Almay---they have a foundation that has salicylic acid in it and it actually does help with occassional breakouts while giving you a light everyday coverage. Their concealer is just as good.
posted by hulahulagirl at 5:12 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've never worn foundation unless I've been on camera. I think my complexion has greatly benefited.

You asked how to keep the oilies at bay. When you don't wear foundation, you can swipe a cleaning pad or cotton ball with astringent over your t-zone whenever you want. I keep these at my desk.
posted by 26.2 at 1:39 AM on March 18, 2008

I find this post interesting, as I have dry skin that breaks out if I even go near it with makeup. Actually, it breaks out anyway, but more reliably if I wear anything resembling foundation.
posted by ysabet at 5:53 PM on March 18, 2008

I've never been a wearer or makeup, but what helped me is washing my face with only water. Talk to your skin doc about what you should do. Because I have rosacea I'm "allowed" to put two things on my face - prescribed cream, and sunscreen. Three if you count the water.

Nobody tells me I should wear makeup, but it has been suggested more than once that I "do something about" my eyebrows...
posted by bilabial at 5:19 AM on March 19, 2008

Do not wear MAC foundation or pressed powder. It's very pore-clogging if you already have acne prone skin
posted by chickaboo at 6:14 AM on March 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm a mineral makeup girl, I use Meow (available online) and before that used Bare Escentuals (horrible name). I've found that my skin isn't as bad with these, and going without doesn't help. God knows I've tried. I trust things with fewer ingredients, and this stuff seems to agree with my skin much better than any of the talc based powder foundations I used before.

Second the above that the retin a takes quite awhile to kick in. I always used retin a at night and benzamycin (sp?) in the morning to control my acne.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 11:05 AM on March 19, 2008

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