Saturday, 29 December 2012

A Pale Girl's Misadventures in Foundation

Every beauty junkie has their vices. Mine is foundation. I am all about the base (base base the buttery biscuit base) and have yet to find my ONE TRUE FOUNDATION (otf.) There have been some close contenders. When I was young I pretty much lived and breathed for MAC NC15 while a couple of years ago I was near ready to run off and marry Estee Lauder Double Wear in Shell. Both were great foundations - but not flawless (making me look jaundiced and stripping my skin) and I realised I've tried a shit ton of foundation over the year's so thought it may be worth sharing them with you.

I am first of all a pale girl. Like - a stone's throw away from chalk white. I'm still on the search for a foundation pale enough for me that doesn't cost ALL the money and has a formula and finish I like. My skin is pale pale (I suppose let's go with very fair) and I'm a bit of a combo girl. My forehead likes a wee bit of shine and my cheeks like a bit more nourishment as they can feel tight. When I do break out it is nearly always round about my chin and if I don't wear some colour people tend to just assume I'm ill. Foundation wise my experiences with finding a shade right for me has been...trying. Either I'm offered foundations that aren't even close to the right colour for me (counter girl that is making me two shades darker, no) or jaundiced - as in, you would be pretty convinced my liver is ready to pack up in leave. So for you dear reader - an (abridged) history of my foundation.

Maybelline: Dream Matte Mousse in Porcelain Ivory

This guy was my first true love foundation. I discovered it quite my accident but it very quickly became the standard for me and my friends. We were a bunch of 16 year olds who wore way too much eyeliner and with looking back - skin that wasn't actually that terrible. However this guy had a gorgeous light-weight formula and pretty much blanked out all our features earning it the nickname "Sex on the face" (we were 16.....and it was the very early noughties, I get a free pass right?)  Good matte finish and full coverage. Maybe too full (I sound like a blasphemer but yeah.) I didn't find it lasted super long and would often have to reapply, which to be fair was super easy.
I did revisit it later and found that it dried out quite quickly and I found it a little bit cakey. Colour wise it wasn't terrible but as a foundation it's shade collection is still fairly limited.  A fairly limited run of colours and in retrospect still not a great colour match for me - however as high street foundations go it's not bad.

MAC Studio Fix NC15

Bring me someone who enjoys a matte finish and hasn't used studio fix and I will show you a straight up liar. This was my first "real" foundation that wasn't from the high street and oh how I loved it. Mac was my everythang gurl. I was blinded by brand loyalty for a very long time and bought all the things and it was all down to this guy. However after a time I began to realise this guy made me a little bit - yellow. Definitely yellow. The thing is the formula is pretty good, the finish is good but the colour - not so much. 

Maybelline Dream Satin Liquid

Is it possible just to feel mild indifference to a foundation? I've never really felt passionately either way about this guy. It offers a medium to full coverage and the finish is perhaps a bit too satiny for me. The formula isn't terrible and neither is the packaging (it's pretty standard to be honest.) I guess the worst I can say about this foundation is that I found it unremarkable - distinctly average. Also 8 shades? Seriously - how you meant to get a colour match for anyone with that?

Stila Illuminating Powder in 10 Watts

This guy had me nearly converting to powder. I discovered this guy in Watt Bros for something ridic like £2 and it came in the perfect pale pale shade imaginable. My skin was having a brief romance period with me so I didn't need anything too heavy This guy provided a light to medium coverage, felt great on the skin and lasted forever. I bought pretty much all of what the store had going, and the rest. Now Stila is back in operation fo realsies now I'm yet to dip my toe back in to the Stila pressed powder pool (at £18 it's going to be pretty deep) but if the formula and finish is anything like my bargain basement foundation of dreams I may have to revisit. It kept my big shiny forehead at bay and was an excellent colour match. Still - I was not ready to go powder. I suspect if my skin becomes any less temperamental this could be a shout.

Calvin Klein Long Wear Pressed Powder in 106 Light

Another Watt Brothers number setting be back what, a whole £2? Good cover, good finish but could definitely feel it on my skin. It wasn't quite the magic powder of dreams that I experienced with Stila, but I was shocked by how much coverage I got from this (medium) and the good colour match I managed to find. With Calvin Klein back making make-up I'd be interested in trying some of their other foundations as this was a pretty solid shout, if a bit cakey at times, but that may have been down more to my heavy hand than anything else. Also did I mention it was £2?

Make up Academy Pressed Powder in 1

Perhaps the single worst foundation I have ever used. The coverage is pretty decent but it felt heavy on my skin and oh the break outs, the horrible horrible break outs. This guy pretty much killed my brief love affair with powder foundation. Only £1 but still just a WORLD OF NO.

Estee Lauder Maximum Cover in Light

I remember it clear as day. I walked up to the Estee Lauder counter and asked for the fullest coverage they had. I pretty much wanted to look like I had no face. The lady on counter looked at me reluctantly but my skin had been having a shit time of it as of late and my rational response was to make it disappear completely. And they she showed me maximum cover. "Used mostly for people recovering from surgery" she told me as she demonstrated it on my tattoo. Boom. Gone. RING ME UP GURL. And for so long I used this as the way to give me no face. I came in like 3 shades and even Light was a touch (just) too dark for me, but the real problem with this is the formula. This guy suffocates the skin. It is like wearing a mask. And oh how it dried. Don't get me wrong, this guy is great to have in your make-up bag for bad days and works a treat as a good concealer. They offer a few more shades now (6) which is I suppose, baby steps so may be able to get a closer match. Every day foundation though, give that a miss.

Estee Lauder Double Wear in Shell

Was there anyone who did not use double wear? I swear there was a moment in the blogosphere where this was the go to product. We all fell for it and with good reason. Great colour, great coverage - if a little heavy. This was great for a very full coverage but without the mask unnatural effect of max cover. That said, this hardly gave you a natural finish either. For a long time I found it hard to fault this guy other than it was a bit heavy and soon came to realise how drying it was. In winter my skin becomes near reptilian and feels it is about to fall off at any given moment. If I was still rocking double wear I would have a certain - scalish quality. I still think this is one of the stronger foundations I've used for cover and colour but the actual formula just is a bit too drying for my skin for day wear. Perhaps a good one for a night out. 

Laura Mercier Silk Creme in Soft Ivory

THIS GUY. This guy right here is right up there as my current foundation of all time and it truly is a wonder why I ever use anything else. I sliced open the tube of this guy to get to more of it's creamy deliciousness. The colour is perhaps my favourite and closest to my own skin tone and the actual formula is lovely and moisturising. Lasts for ages, applies easily and very creamy. It's one of the foundations that gives me a great coverage (medium to full) and while keeping a very fresh and natural look. I remember being a bit unsure about this at first because before I was def part of the camp of MATTE TILL I DIE. The colour selection for this foundation is pretty limited (10 shades, what the what) but I've found soft ivory is a very very close match to my own skin. I'm coming back for you soon Laura Mercier, I promise I'll never stray again. Comes in a nice wee tube which packaging wise is pretty unremarkable but perfect for shoving in to the bottom of your bag. The closest I've ever come to my OTF.

Shu Uemura Face Architect in 284

Moving away from solely matte finishes, this guy offers a gorgeous natural looking satin finish. The colour for this guy is great and I LOVE the formula -  but this foundation is best if your skin is for the most part - pretty decent. I like that I could build up the coverage with this guy and it never felt too cakey, however if broke out wasn't the best guy for hiding it. It has a lovely radiant finish and worth checking out if looking for something lighter with a more natural finish. I did have to crack out the powder to set this one though and avoid my dreaded shiny forehead. Nice clean minimal packaging, but nothing too exciting.

YSL Touch Eclat in B10

Furthering my exploration in to more satin finishes. I've def moved away from wanting a straight up matte coverage to something that looks a bit more natural and healthy. This guy offers a medium coverage and is very rich and moisturising - and of all my foundations is the one that made me look the most glowy. In the bottle it looks a lot darker but on the skin swatches a beautiful creamy ivory. It feels quite lightweight on the skin, covering most of my skins big bads (not all of them though) without feeling like I'm wearing a mask. It comes in 22 shades so should cover a broad selection of bases. It's a great winter foundation but maybe a little bit too satin in it's finish for me. I'm yearning to go back to something a little bit more matte - but for what this is it's a great foundation. Packaging is nice and sleek although perhaps a little bulky.

Illamasqua Cream Foundation in 115

Perhaps the greatest selection of shades across the board from the brands I've tried. When they say their foundations are pale they mean PALE. I didn't even go for the lightest shade (which is just straight up white) instead opting 115 which describes itself as "for the very fair with neutral undertones." If you have a near porcelain skin tone 115 is pretty much made for your skin. This one applies almost a little too cool for me but with a bit of wear settles down in to a more natural look. The formula is nice and creamy though will stick to your dry bits (boo.) I found application with my brush a pain and it went on a bit streaky but blended well with my fingers. Offers a nice medium coverage but not fabulous for build up. It is a gorgeous foundation and the packaging is to die for and HOLLA £10 in the sale, so I kind of had to try it. For the price I paid it's a nice wee foundation for the bag but sweet jesus, what the feck am I meant to do with that tiny sponge? Bit redundant no? Great shade selection and worth checking out although you don't get a lot in the pan.

So yeah - I've pretty much got around with my foundations and Laura Mercier Silk Creme is still my favourite. I'm dying to try Bobbi Brown and I'm curious (although very sceptical) about Dainty Doll. GOSH apparently have a good selection of pale pale shades for a cruelty free high street alternative so I am sure my search for the perfect foundation is far from over. Do you have any faves?


  1. I have the same problem as you I'm super pale and always find it difficult to find foundation.
    Deffo always get matched at a counter and go away for a while before actually buying it to let the colour settle, I went to bobbi brown once for a colour match and came away with warm sand... big mistake its almost orange and at least a million shades too dark.

    I stick to Illamasqua Skin base no.2 mixed with gleam cream and MAC Select foundations now nw15/20, occasionally maxfactor xperience foundation in warm silk, they are all pretty good matches depending on the time of year and what coverage I'm looking for.

    For the price the maxfactor one is pretty good x

    1. For me I don't care about the price of foundation - I just want it to work. I've found that happen at the counters too. I now tend to just ask for the palest thing they have got going. The only time I've had a good match up was with Laura Mercier in Space NK (I know I know...I'll stop going on about it.)

      Trialing the illamasqua one just now because it was in the sale so hopefully will have a more rounded view of it shortly. Will say that their delivery service is FLAWLESS. x

    2. Haha thats pretty much what I do too, just tell them to show me the lightest and that should do.
      To be honest I hated the Illamasqua Skin Base at first, it didn't sit right on my skin and went cakey, turns out I was using far too much of it, you need just a teeny tiny bit of it and you are best using a buffing type brush, I've been using the real techniques buffing brush from the core collection recently and its great.
      Stick with it, its really good.
      Haha I made a huge order in the last sale, few hundred worth, and took the day off work to wait in for its, courier knocks the door and I realised that Ross took both sets of keys to work and I am locked in. Had to sign for it through the letterbox and tell her to leave it outside.
      I was raging had to set up camp at my front door looking out the letterbox incase anyone stole it.

  2. Love posts about palest of pale foundation, I am a fellow pale girl & have tried SO many foundations! I really wanted to try dainty doll but i've haven't heard any good reviews on it :/ I really want to give the laura mercier one a go now though :) Definitely a few new contenders above that I might try out :) I've tried the new Gosh BB cream and it's pretty pale! Also Mac full coverage foundation comes in w10 which is super pale :D Also make up forever face + body have a pretty pale shade, i loved it but I've run out of it :( Thank for the great post!! :) x

    1. I have heard great stuff about gosh so may try it when through will illamasqua and ysl. Mac do cooler colours? I've beeen away from them for so very very long. x

  3. I'm super pale aswell. I just went to MAC today actually and matched up to an NC15 but they now do an NW10 and an NW13 if you wanted to try a sample. I also match up to Calico in Boots No7 foundations and Alabaster in Clinique :)


    1. I may have to ask for some sample and give a shot. i tried no7 primer and had nothing but hate, would take something special for me to roll the dice on them again. x

  4. i used to use double wear in shell but since they discontinued it i've also switched to laura mercier silk creme. its so nice! i always need high coverage to cover my freckles but with a glowing finish & it has to be ghostly pale so this stuff totally fits the bill. i used to wear max nc15 too, can't believe it took me so long to realise my face looked orange. i tried a really nice pale suqqu foundation sample the other day but the full size is £65!!!! i normally am willing to spend whatever to get a good foundation that actually matches my skin colour but i think that might be a bit too much! xx

    1. Oft £65 may just be too much. £35ish seems to be my bar for something super good, such a shame that guy seems so far. Will try see if I can get a sample.
      V.sad shell was discontinued but was also way to dry. Silk creme is still my fave thing I ever did use, and this chat of paler MAC may be something to explore! x

  5. I'm the same as you - I've tried so many foundations but I've never found. 'The one' I'm quite pale too. I do really love Chanel Vitalumiere though that has to be one of my faves

  6. Can't believe I missed this post - where have I been! Awesome roundup love, I also suffer with pale/unruly skin so I'm thrilled to see you've MAYBE found your holy grail with Laura Mercier, definitely going to try it out!


    1. DO. I love it. Trying some Bobbi Brown at the moment (got little sample pots) and so far so good. The oil free moisturiser is pretty nice! x

  7. Lancome teint miracle is excellent. Good coverage but not mask-like, not too matte but keeps the dreaded forehead shine at bay.

    1. That sounds amazing! Will have to give it a go! x

  8. Love this Claire! Excellent topic.

    They actually do a lighter version of Double Wear if (like you) it feels too heavy / drying for your skin sometimes. I think it's called Double Wear Light. (A+ for imagination there, Lauder.)
    I too have ghost skin but also mine is REALLY oily so not only do I have the inevitable 'Is this pale enough' quandry to contend with, I also have the "Is this going to give me acne?" battle. And 99% of the time it WILL give me acne. No doubt about it. I also have uneven skin tone (hello redness) so I require full coverage, and most foundations just don't cut the mustard.
    Working in the beauty dept of 'Britain's Favourite Department Store' for two years allowed me to try All The Things when I was supposed to be working. (I regret nothing.) Double Wear saved me. Nothing else stays on my face. I'd love more of a luminous glow to my foundation these days tbh but I am a coward and I fear change. Currently experimenting with pearlescent primers underneath Double Wear. Results: promising but as yet, inconclusive.
    Fellow counter staff at my old job unanimously praised both Dior's Diorskin Forever Fluid foundation or compact, and MAC as Double Wear substitutes. I have yet to try either, however. You might have persuaded me to try Laura Mercier Silk Creme.

  9. Also - avoid Dainty Doll. Got super excited about them a few years ago after Nicola Roberts, Pale Queen got involved. Bought some during Debenhams Mega Day. We're talking a late 2008 purchase so they MAY have improved since then - but my experience was no better than anything you'd find in say, Superdrug... but with a racked up price point.

  10. Excellent post lady. I'm the same, pale skin, but I have the neutral undertones which makeup making people don't seem to understand. Just to add a little flavour I aint been into gothicly white for a decade, I like abit of warmth or glow, without the orangeness. I know I expect miracles. Add in the fact it has to be animal testing free cause I'm a big hippy. I've recently discovered my perfect foundation, it's a mineral powder company called alima pure, unfortunately they are american and the shipping is like 25 quid which I resent. They are stocked in london but not in glasgow which is grating, we have shops too. But I'm not even the palest shade with them, tons of colour choice and with it being mineral no break outs. Yeyface. You can mix mineral powders with a moisturiser to make a liquid base. I was against powders for years, now I'm a convert. Lily lolo is pretty good too, not as finely milled and I find it a bit more drying than others but I moisturise like a beast anyway. Superdrug have released a brand called b. All hippy friendly, am not so keen on their liquid foundation, but their setting powder is amazing. Its normally on sale too. Gosh is pale but breaks me out, body shop moisture foundation is pretty good but a tad too dark, I use it in summer, or give my face a good dusting with a setting powder. Avon calming effects wasnt pale enough and made my face angry, like 10 angry. Dainty doll was the devil. Anyways great post, very helpful. Ta much.

  11. I also loved Shell. I will try the Laura Mercier foundation. I have freckles and people tend to want to match me with a foundation color that matches my freckles, which then leaves a big difference between my face and neck (anyone else have this trouble?) Also, what do you recommend for a concealer? Thank you!

    1. I get this freckle matching too! I tell them to match my neck now. Looks like dw shell is back, or should I try Laura mercier

  12. Have used tried the NW colours in MAC? They're for pinker toned skin so don't give the 'jaundiced' look.

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