Reader E-Mail: Full Coverage Foundation Recommendation

Hello Beauty Idealist,

I have regular breakouts and lots of redness. I currently use Make Up For Ever HD High Definition Foundation but I think it may be making my skin worse. Help! How can I hide my acne without giving myself even more acne?!

Sincerely,
Damned if you Do

— 

I LOVE receiving e-mails and having conversations with everyone. I can definitely relate to your situation, it truly is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario! On the one hand a product like Make Up For Ever HD’s foundation truly does give full coverage for problem skin but on the other hand it is known to exacerbate the situation for many people. The ingredients list for MUFHD is a who’s who of skin irritants: silicones, PEG, petrols, parfum, etc. It is also just a really heavy product so while it hides a lot, your skin is also masked which isn’t healthy as skin needs to be able to breathe. While we’re on this page, you probably want to skip MAC Studio Fix as well.

To be honest with you, I’ve tried a lot of foundations from clean brands to varying levels of success but if your skin was anything like what mine was like when my skin was really bad, none of them will really work to cover everything. I can only give you the information I have, but I hope it is enough to help you make a clear decision on which product to try next, good luck!

Laura Mercier Silk Creme Foundation
($42, Sephora)

I’m sure we all are aware Laura Mercier isn’t a natural brand nor does it really try to be, but compared to MUFHD, it is substantially ‘lighter’ on the skin. The concentrations of silicones are slightly less than MUFHD while there are some ‘good’ things like Tea extracts. The primary reason it is on this list is because it provides long lasting coverage and really does conceal acne marks without making you feel like you have a heavy mask like foundation on your face. I think this might be a nice product to use sparingly and saved for major events where you only need to have this on for a few hours at most.

Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage Foundation 
($38, Sephora

Not a product a purist site like No More Dirty Looks would get behind, but if you’re okay buying Make Up For Ever HD, this is a cleaner, better, formulated product. There are still ‘bad’ ingredients like silicones, PEGs, and phenoxyethanol, but it is free of parabens, petrochemicals, synthetic fragrance, and phthalates which are SO COMMON in most mainstream products. This is also cruelty free, just wanted to point that out since with mainstream products, a lot are unable to get this seal.

The best part of this foundation is that you only need a tiny dab of the clay-cream hybrid for medium coverage. My recommendation for full coverage is to first apply a thin layer with your fingers. Then use a foundation brush like Shiseido’s Foundation Brush (reviewed here) or Tarte’s own Airbrush Finish Bamboo Foundation brush to buff and distribute another layer for that flawless full coverage. This works to give skin full coverage while still maintaining a ‘natural’ not caked on appearance. Tarte’s foundation also feels lighter than MUFHD which at times can feel like a mask. In cooler weather, I found that I was able to wear the Tarte foundation for a full day without oxidation, while in warmer temperature sometimes I found that it did ‘melt’ off my face after about 6-8 hours. Overall a good, cleaner alternative.

 RMS Un-Coverup
($36, Spirit Beauty Lounge

This is a very cleanly formulated product that most pure-natural beauty lovers consider a cult product. It works as a concealer but I found that it is more a concealer-foundation hybrid. You can cover it over the areas that you think need a boost and it gives a wonderful degree of natural coverage. The formula is a nice creamy texture but for blemish prone skin, definitely ask for samples before buying because some people do say that it makes skin oily. I think the coconut oil and beeswax won’t do your skin any favors but if you are mainly looking for something clean – do look into this product, it might work for you.

Nvey Eco Creme Deluxe Flawless Foundation
($60, Spirit Beauty Lounge

At $60, I know this is quite a splurge, but this might be ever so slightly more suitable for your skin. There is also coconut oil and beeswax in here, but I think the concentration is less than RMS’s Un-Coverup product. You can really adjust the coverage with this foundation. For full coverage, apply with a foundation brush, add in concealer, then use a pressed powder puff to gently pat on another layer. The cream is a matte finish so it will not make you appear oily. I’ve been using this for the past two weeks and I have to say that it didn’t really un-balance my skin or give me breakouts. I did get the initial one or two bumps when I try new beauty products since my skin is still very prone to breaking out but they have since disappeared without turning into anything serious.

Vapour Organics Atmosphere Luminous Foundation
($34, Spirit Beauty Lounge

If there is any clean product that can compete with the silicone filled synthetic mainstream foundations in terms of performance, it is this Vapour Organics Foundation. It gives decent coverage without looking cakey. The only caution you should take is around any fine lines or creases as it can accentuate them (as can all stick foundations). The wear time for this foundation isn’t as long as all day foundations but thats because the formula is so pure, the good news is that re-applying is a breeze. The only ingredient in here that could be not bad for acne prone skin is the beeswax, but that is listed lower on the ingredients list than the other products on this list so there is less of it. I think of all foundations on the list, it might be the lightest coverage so some acne marks might still be visible, so I would suggest trying it out first and if you want slightly more coverage just use a concealer such as RMS’ Un-Coverup.
 

Concealer Overview

clockwise top to bottom: Hourglass Hidden Corrective Concealer($32), Edward Bess Platinum Concealer ($38), Ellis Faas Concealer ($40), By Terry Touche Veloutee ($58), Tarte Smooth Operator ($22), Clea de Peau Beaute Concealer ($70), Vapour Organic Beauty Illusionist Concealer ($22)

I recently had this conversation with a few guy friends who work in the beauty dept of Vogue which is “how much makeup is too much makeup?” I think somewhere along the line, there was a paradigm shift and it was no longer in vogue (pun intended) to be too obvious. You see gorgeous girls on Intothegloss espousing skincare parsed lightly with minimal makeup, and beauty magazines now tell you how to do the ‘natural’ look. Food, makeup, boobs – everything has to feel organic and natural now. A few of my guy friends said they draw the line at eye makeup and mainly do foundation and concealer. A few also said foundation is not necessary if you have good skin and that concealer to illuminate and hide spots might be all you need. It seemed clear to me that concealer was the ‘gateway’ product for most people. 

Working in the beauty department has its perks, mostly I get to take things home! Without that perk, I would not be able to compile this list of my observations on the top concealers in the market today. I know that concealers can last a long time, so it is really important especially for high-end beauty products that the products do what they say. 

Clea de Peau Beauty Concealer: This concealer has won more awards than any other concealer on this list. Beauty editors and interns swear by this stuff, and this has become one of the most ordered stock products at Neiman Marcus/Bergdorf. At $70, it is the most expensive stick concealer on my list, however if you want a concealer that will be reliably high quality- look no further. This stuff has great coverage, looks natural, retains wear after 10 hours, doesn’t shift/melt, and doesn’t crease. It applies like silk, and is easily blendable. The only minor con to this product is it doesn’t offer a great range of tone so unless you tend to be fair to light-olive toned, you might have a harder time finding the right match.

Hourglass Hidden Corrective Concealer: Hourglass kind of came onto the scene with their Veil line of foundation and primer. I think they’re best known for their primer, although it breaks me out so badly. The Hidden Corrective Concealer retails for $32, half the price of Clea de Peau— which is still a lot, but the results are very similar. I would say of the stick concealers, this replicates Clea de Peau the most – which is a high compliment. It is very creamy and light, easily blendable and extremely undetectable. The hue is slightly darker than Clea de Peau and the coconut oil and Vitamin E make it a little more buttery which is great if you’re in a dry place or for winter – but for people with oily skin, try to sample this first.

Tarte Smooth Operator Concealer: I really don’t think Tarte gets the respect it deserves amongst luxury beauty products. It is more Sephora/QVC than Barneys, however they make really good products and try to steer clear of not-so-good ingredients. The Smooth Operator Concealer is waterproof and loaded with Vitamins A/C and soothing Amazonian clay to balance skin. It completely hid the dark circles under my eye. It goes on matte, is buttery, and doesn’t flake or slip after a full day. At $22, this is the best value on the list. The only minor issue is that for me, I’ve noticed after a day of wear, my smile lines are somewhat accentuated but when I reapplied, this problem went away quickly. Although Tarte isn’t a ‘clean’ company, it does make efforts to put only good things in its product, as such they do not use mineral oils, parabens, or synthetic fragrance which a lot of products do use- so I want to commend them for being able to make a comparable product at a reasonable price point while filtering out a lot of the bad ingredients.

Vapour Organic Beauty Illusionist Concealer: The cleanest product on this list bar none. I am a huge fan of Vapour and really want to support clean companies in general. This is also why I don’t want to grade them on a slope, because I truly believe these companies need to put out products that are just as good as traditional products in order to remain competitive. To that end, the Illusionist Concealer is a wonderful product that provides great coverage. It falls short of earning full praise because it is a little on the thick side and there is some creasing after a few hours, especially if you apply under your eyes. The longevity of this product also leaves me wanting more and the colors are a bit too pigmented/dark for my skin tone. With that said, if they reformulate this product, I will be the first in line to try it!

Edward Bess Platinum Concealer: I love a niche product, but this fell short. It made my normal-oily skin look dry, made the dry spots very obvious, and was very heavy. It is the opposite of lightweight and creamy – it felt drying and heavy. I really feel you need to apply a lot of moisturizer before this product will look decent. Also, it only comes in 4 shades! Skip.

By Terry Touche Veloutee Concealer: This is a cream pen that dispenses the product through the brush head. The product is said to hide fine lines and wrinkles with its silky finish. I’ve found this to be true when first applied, however this product dries to almost a powder texture and accentuates tiny flaws. If you want a concealer for a quick event, like a dinner – this is a great product to use as it will illuminate your face, but for anything longer than 2-3 hours, I’d skip it.

Ellis Faas Concealer: Another cream pen option, unlike By Terry, this product doesn’t crease or wrinkle. It stays on very well and needs minimal after-application maintenance. It covers everything a concealer is supposed to with full coverage but with the feel of a light layer. The only negative is the beautiful pen will quickly become your worst nightmare! It doesn’t dispense by click, instead you have to dial the clicker over and over until this weird oil comes out and then it spews out the product. I think some more work needs to be done on the engineering of the packaging because the product is terrific.

Vapour Organic Beauty Clarity Cleansing Oil

When it comes to beauty products, I would describe myself as being on the adventurous side! I remember using the Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil, it was my first oil cleanser. I was so surprised at how soft it made my skin feel and how great of a job it did in removing my make up. However I always hard a difficult time ‘washing’ the oil off and the fact that they used mineral oils really bothered me. I also tried out the Amorepacific Cleansing Oil which was beautifully packaged, but the fragrance was too strong for my taste.

I feel like with skincare, it’s always a delicate balance. I don’t think a cleansing oil is versatile enough to act as a sole cleanser, and I don’t think traditional cleansers (milks, gels, creams) can really remove makeup as effectively as cleansing oils while imparting the same degree of softness (since they tend to use lots of alcohols). 

Recently, as part of my switch to cleanser products (and also keeping with my personal love of everything niche-luxury)- I decided to try out the Clarity cleansing oil/makeup remover from Vapour Organics. At $28 for 1 oz, the price is actually quite reasonable. 

The formula is very clean- 95% organic/5% wildcraft EO:

Ingredients: Organic/Bio Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil, Organic/Bio Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Organic/Bio Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Organic/Bio Camellia Oleifera (Camellia) Seed Oil, Organic/Bio Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E), Commiphora Myrrha (Myrrh) Essential Oil, Eriocephalus Punctulatus (Cape Chamomile) Essential Oil, Organic/Bio Borage Officinalis, Organic/Bio Helichrysum Arenarium, Organic/Bio Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail)

The major base oils in here are: Sunflower, Castor Seed, and Jojoba, which are known to be soothing and moisturizing to skin. Castor Seed and Sunflower are a little ‘rich’ for my skin type but as this is just a cleanser and not something I’m leaving on my face, I wasn’t too concerned. You might notice the lack of preservatives in this oil and that is because the container dispenses product via an airless pump to keep airborne bacteria out. 

2 Pumps of this stuff applies removes all traces of makeup when massaged into skin. I’ve used this to remove a face of: Sunday Riley Cashmere SPF 30, Sunday Riley Tinted Primer/Korres Primer, Koh Gen Do Foundation, Edward Bess Concealer, Shiseido Bronzer, Koh Gen Do Powder – not to mention eye products, etc. All layers are off in a minute.

Besides just removing makeup, it also nourishes skin and imparts a soft, dewy finish. The oil itself is thicker than what I am used to, but my skin handled it just fine. I think this is a must-have product for heavy makeup days for these reasons but not a daily cleanser especially if you’re just going out sans makeup. But for the ladies who want a very cleanly formulated product that will remove all their makeup, you will not be disappointed. 

My July Must Have Products

(Starting Top-Clockwise: Aesop Tuberose Lip Heal, Byredo Parfums Le Tulipe, Weleda Skin Food, YULI Liquid Courage, Vapour Organics Lipstick, Sunday Riley Cashmere SPF 30, Kahina Cleanser, Guerlain Terracota Bronzer, Sunday Riley Effortless Tinted Primer, Tom Ford Foundation Brush, YULI Panacea Elixir)

Instead of a one-product review, I thought I’d also do a post on what my favorite products have been for the past month. During the summer, my primary focus is taking care of my skin in the hot, sunny weather. These are the products I’ve been using:

1. Aesop Tuberose Lip Heal ($31, Aesop.com) – a gorgeous lip roller that uses a blend of plant and nut oils to deliver gentle hydration. It doubles as a scent which really smells good and kept me from licking it off! 

2. Byredo Le Tulipe ($145, Byredo.com) – The spring/summer scent from Byredo, a very pure, simple fragrance that has a beautiful tulip scent between vetiver and rhubarb notes. This is that perfect scent that once worn a little is the perfect subtle blend whether you’re at the beach or walking to lunch in Manhattan. The price might be a little high, but I love myself a lux-niche product, if you couldn’t tell.

3. Weleda Skin Food ($18.50, Weleda) – A staple for any season, Skin Food is always in my bag for those ‘touch ups’. This is my clean version of the 8-hour cream. It moisturizes rough spots on the hands and arms and leaves skin soft and healthy. Although it is for dry skin, I feel like using a the right amount on any type of skin will provide lots of benefits.

4. YULI Liquid Courage ($125, YULI) – Sun damage and summer go hand in hand. I really wanted a clean, antioxidant serum to protect my skin from the sun and found it with Liquid Courage. It is such a light serum that really sinks into skin and absorbs fast under any SPF and smells fantastic. It uses a blend of antioxidant rich plant seeds and biofermented actives to deliver a potent natural antioxidant kick. My skin is absolutely glowing and radiant from this, while it protects my skin, I have to say, it also gives me the appearance of ‘rest in a bottle’. The price might scare some, but it lasts a long time, and I know that they just launched the option to buy deluxe samples of the products on their website.

5. Vapour Organics Siren Lipstick ($22, Vapour Organics) – Created by some of the brains behind the late, great Kevyn Aucion, Vapour Organics uses clean formulations that provide comparable results to leading cosmetics brands. The Siren Lipstick is the first product I bought from them, after reading about the dangers of lead, carcinogens, and other chemical junk found in most lipsticks on the market. The pigments are very rich and I noticed that unlike a lot of pigmented lipsticks, this also moisturized my lips. I think the blend of castor seed oil and beeswax gives it a lip balm effect, but the high pigmentation makes it a very successful lip stick. A wonderfully made product that will be a staple in my beauty closet.

6. Sunday Riley Cashmere SPF 30 ($125, Sunday Riley) – This isn’t the cleanest SPF on the market, but it might be the most expensive. To be honest, I’m disappointed with the options for sun protection on the market, the luxury brands think for some reason everyone wants a bronzer and spf in one or they stock it with chemicals, while the natural brands tend to go for clunky physical blocks. Sunday Riley Cashmere SPF 30 is kind of that right balance between clean enough and high end. The white fluid sinks into skin very fast and leaves no scent. It didn’t make my skin shiny or oily, nor did it make my skin dry. I think the consistency is perfect, not watery but not clunky.

7. Kahina Cleanser ($56, Kahina) – I’ve mentioned this cleanser on my blog a few times already but I really like it. It’s fortified with nourishing oils for skin but at the same time balances your complexion so skin is not dry or oily. I think the Vitamin E is especially needed to cancel out any sun damage sustained during the day. 

8. Guerlain Terracota Bronzer ($50, Sephora) – The epitome of a natural bronzer. Does not go on orange, or muddy. Just the right shade and density for most skin types, stays on all day. Gives that perfect healthy glow. 

9. Sunday Riley Effortless Tinted Primer ($48, Barneys) – A lot has been said about this primer. I don’t know if the ‘oxygen hole’ technology is marketing hype or if there is a real benefit to it, but I just enjoy this primer for the simple fact that it is like a primer + tinted moisturizer in one. It smooths the skin while adding a little color. I find on my low key days, this is all I need.

10. Tom Ford Foundation Brush ($70, Neiman Marcus) – My favorite brush by a wide margin. Very soft, densely packed brushes with little shed over time. I also love the high-quality ‘heavy’ feel of the brushes. I know that these brushes are made in Japan, which has a reputation for their brush quality. I know it is a white colored brush, but it really does retain this color after many applications and washes. The brushes themselves pick up just the right amount of foundation and are not streaky at all. Makeup goes on seemless and flawless.

11. YULI Panacea Elixir ($36, YULI) – There was my skincare before this product and there is my skincare after this product. Panacea means ‘cure-all’ and this product is exactly that. Some people don’t believe in toning their skin, but after you’ve tried this and see the results, you will be converted! This made my pores so tiny and really firmed up my skin. It’s like a bootcamp in a mist for the face. There is also no alcohol in here, everything is natural and clean. Also, this sets make up really well, and the skincare benefits are delivered throughout the day with this under the makeup so your skin is actually improving as you set your makeup using this product.