Foundation quest: The neverending search for the perfect makeup base

History is full of great quests — the quest for the New World, the quest for the Fountain of Youth, the quest for the Holy Grail. My quest is much humbler, much smaller. It’s the quest for the perfect foundation, and it’s neverending.unnamed (4)

When I was young, it was easy to settle for almost any foundation. I didn’t appreciate my youthful, normal, poreless skin nearly as much as I should have. It was the perfect canvas for any foundation, from drugstore to high end and everything in between.

Starting in college and continuing through my 20s, my go-to foundation was Estee Lauder’s Fresh Air Makeup Base in Ivory Mist. It’s still sold today but, sadly, no longer works for me. As I aged, my skin changed. It became less even, both in terms of color and texture, and fine lines, wrinkles and enlarged pores slowly claimed territory.

Let’s be honest here, in terms of skin complaints, mine are relatively minor. People — even strangers — often ask how I keep my skin in such good shape. The answer? I’m serious, deadly serious, about skin care. I exfoliate, moisturize, mask and do all of the things the experts tell us to do, and it’s served me well. Still, finding the right foundation is a bit like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: They’re either too dry or too dewy; too short-lived or too cakey; too sheer or too mask-like.

With that in mind, I have to say the past couple of months have been a bonanza for women searching for the perfect makeup base. Several companies have launched much-heralded new products and revamped existing ones. Like any foundation-seeker, I’ve tried several.  While I’m not ready to vow undying devotion to one, there are two inside-the-park home runs, as well as a double and a strike out. Let’s start with the top performers and work our way down (and out):

  • Marc Jacobs Re(marc)able Full Cover Foundation Concentrate — This is one of the new breed of highly pigmented, serum-style foundations, and I can attest that a drop or two provides full-face coverage.The finish is matte. Very matte. In fact, users should be sure their skin is hydrated before applying or they’ll end up looking dry and a bit ashy. At least, that’s the way this product worked for me. I found that mixing a drop of my Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Face Primer into the foundation before applying gave me a more flattering, less flat finish. Although the Re(marc)able foundation promises to last up to 24 hours, it didn’t last that long on me (more like eight hours before it started to break up in the area around my nostrils). All in all, though, this is a full-coverage, long-lasting foundation that I like very much and will continue to wear.
  • Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation — This is billed as an improved version of the company’s original HD foundation, and I can attest that it is indeed better. (Count me as one of the people for whom the original just didn’t work.) I very much like this updated formula. It provides medium, buildable coverage coverage that, while not dewy, isn’t as matte as the Marc Jacobs foundation. Both products feel light on the skin and neither settles into my fine lines and wrinkles. I’m alternating the Make Up For Ever with the Marc Jacobs product and like the MUFE slightly more, primarily due to the finish and because it’s slightly longer-wearing.
  • Too Faced Born This Way Foundation — This makeup base is billed as oil-free and completely undetectable on the skin. It also claims to be full coverage and long-lasting. I have to say that upon initial application, I thought I was in love. The finish was impeccable, perhaps due to the presence of one of my favorite skin-care products, hyaluronic acid. Unfortunately, Born This Way didn’t wear well for me as the hours passed. It broke up on my nose, around my nostrils and on my forehead, and ended up looking cakey by the end of the day. I’ll continue to wear it on short, light-activity days because it looks so nice for brief periods. All in all, Born This Way starts out strong but falters in the home stretch.
  • MAC Pro Longwear Nourishing Waterproof Foundation — Let’s face it, MAC isn’t known for its foundations but I had high hopes for this one. I mean, nourishing and waterproof? That sounded perfect for my somewhat dehydrated skin and the broiling-hot, humidity-filled South Carolina summers. It was lovely at first, but broke up in large patches on my nose, chin and cheeks after just a few hours. I wore it several times with different primers and setting powders, but it wasn’t for me.

For now, I’m sticking with the Marc Jacobs and Make Up For Ever products, with a smattering of Born This Way thrown into the mix. As the weather cools down, I’ll give some other near misses — including a couple by Nars and two from Giorgio Armani — second chances. Meanwhile, the quest for foundation perfection continues …

14 thoughts on “Foundation quest: The neverending search for the perfect makeup base

  1. Have you tried good old Revlon Colorstay 24 hour foundation? I have just recently gone back to this foundation and I am in LOVE with it!! It does not settle into fine lines, it stays ALL DAY perfectly on the face, it does NOT break up in any areas and it has a satin/matte look to it. There are two formulas depending on your sk7n type even. I use the combo/oily one. It is just perfection in a bottle!! Plus it is a drugstore foundation!! Give it a go! I am sure you will not be disappointed.


      • Did you try the dry formula? I use the combo/oily formula. Before there was only one formula, now there are two. I bet the dry skin formula will work like a charm on your skin. The combo/oily one is my new holy grail foundation. So, I don’t say this without merit. Read my review on Wednesday. I will have a whole post dedicated to this foundation on Wednesday. Please let me know how it works out. Thanks!


  2. Love this column…I, too, am on the eternal quest for the perfect foundation. Ready to try the Marc Jacobs after reading this. Thanks!


  3. thanks so much for your honest reviews!! the makeup forever sounds amazing 🙂 my skin sounds way to dry for the others.. oh well ❤
    Instagram: the_ch1ara


    • My skin is dry/dehydrated. I reach for the Marc Jacobs when it’s feeling plump and moisturized. If not, I go for the MUFE. You should try to get your hands on a Born This Way sample. A lot of people like it and I do love the finish. It just didn’t last as promised on me.


  4. Great post! I’m always on the lookout for the perfect foundation. I’m a fan of Armani’s Maesto and Luminous Silk. Have recently been using (treat purchase) Tom Ford Traceless Foundation (which I think is one of the best I’ve ever used) and having tried a sample of Chanel’s (my next purchase I think) Perfection Lumiere Velvet.


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