What to Do When You Hate Foundation but Don’t Want to Look Like a Ghost

As a total product junkie, I've purchased and sampled hundreds -- thousands? -- of creams, serums, mascaras, eye shadows, lipsticks, concealers, and blushes. But one cosmetic that has eluded me since I started experimenting with makeup as a teen? Foundation. Its very name annoys me: foundation, as in the beginning, the base -- the one product that you must use first if you expect the rest of your makeup to not look like hell on your face. But foundation is kind of like the Brussels sprout of the makeup world: if you don't have a great experience when you first try them, if they are steamed instead of smothered with butter and fried, you may never want to give them a second chance. And that's kind of what happened to me. My early experiences with foundation have left me scarred.


As a teen, I felt self-conscious about my super-pale skin. So when I discovered a spectrum of tan and beige foundation bottles at my local drugstore, I thought: Fantastic. Here's a way I can finally look like a California girl! I purchased whatever CoverGirl foundation was four shades darker than my ivory skin and proceeded to blanket my entire face -- eyelids, eyebrows, etc. -- with the thick goo. And it worked! Photos from when I was 15 reveal a girl who kind of, sort of, looks Mediterranean. From the jawline up. But what is that garish white stick under my face? OH YES, that's the neck I completely neglected to include when I aggressively assaulted my face with foundation.

Sometime around age 17, I decided to embrace my natural skin and ditched my foundation. It was a good thing to do and made me look a million times less scary, but one of the results of my early misuse of this product is that I now have absolutely NO IDEA how to apply foundation or what hues work for my skin. This has no impact on my daily life, mind you, as I don't see having the patience to apply foundation to go to work or shop. But there are times when I'm all dressed up and attending a formal event and I think, Hmmm ... do other women wear foundation? Am I missing a critical cosmetic that would pull my look together?

But, alas, I still haven't been able to bring myself to buy a bottle of foundation. I have found other foundation substitutes that I actually like:

1. Tinted Moisturizer: A moisturizer with SPF and a slight tint to it, such as Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Radiant Moisturizer ($17.49 at walgreens.com), acts as a great protective canvas for the face. And you won't feel like you're wearing a mask after you apply it.

2. Highlighters: A really special highlighter pen, like TOUCHE ÉCLAT by Yves Saint Laurent ($41 at Sephora), won't cover major flaws like brown spots, but it will make your skin look like it is being lit up from within.

3. Pressed Powder: Compacts, like Maybelline's Fit Me Pressed Powder ($7.99 at Ulta.com), offer a light, non-greasy alternative to foundation. Your skin will feel like it is breathing, but at the same time, you'll achieve a matte, shine-free look.

4. Color Correctors: Corrective powders like Corective Camo ($18 at aboutfaceco.com) are interesting -- and fun -- to play with. The yellow powder combats dark circles, green attacks red spots, lavender corrects sallow complexions, and beige camouflages minor imperfections, like blemishes.

Nice to know there are options for foundation-phobes like myself!

Do you wear foundation? Which is your favorite brand and what secrets can you share about the best way to apply it?


Image via SELF IMAGES/Photononstop/Corbis

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