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making faces :: foundational issues

i need a good foundation to fix all these problems
it might be the colours that catch the attention, but if there's one cosmetic product that everyone- and i mean everyone because i think it applies equally to men and women- could use, it's a decent foundation. a lot of people don't bother with it, because it really isn't that exciting. i haven't generally bothered writing about them, because, even for someone as interested in the world of aesthetics as i, it's not particularly interesting to talk about them either. they're skin coloured. you put them on your face. you sort of blend them so that they look smooth and cover everything. wearing bright blue eye shadow is definitely more noticeable, but if you want to reach for something that will trick people into thinking you're just a little bit more perfect than you are, it's a complexion product that you want.

leaving aside the fact that they aren't that exciting to write about [or to read about, since perceiving differences from one to another isn't easy, unless one of them is horribly wrong], the other reason i don't write much about foundations is that they're completely fucking infuriating. ahem. i mean, once you've started down the road of trying to find something that will give your complexion that extra hit of awesome, you'll soon discover that it's more complicated than filing taxes in eight countries simultaneously. lots of things offer a little improvement, which is why most people try one thing and, if it doesn't make their face fall off, they stick with it. but for some of us, we'll try something and be fine with it, but then we start to wonder if it couldn't be just a little more perfect [which i maintain is a weird expression, because if something can be "more perfect", i think that means it wasn't perfect to begin with, but i digress].

you could say that cosmetic companies are just coming up with new imperfections to make us feel insecure enough to buy a new and more expensive solution to our skin problems. and you're right, because that's how people sell anything: by creating a need for something we hadn't previously considered. but take a moment to pity the poor foundation-makers: matching colour, providing different levels of coverage, accounting for skin's moisture or lack thereof, accounting for the presence or absence of oil, accounting for complexions that may be oily in some spots and dry in others, accommodating for differences in skin from all ages, and for undertones, which can make skin of the same basic colour appear quite different... skin is a complex negotiation of genetics, environment, history and chemistry, so coming up with a great product for skin is like trying to pass all your high school science finals at once. oh, and you also have to account for the particular tastes of all your teachers, because everyone likes a slightly different look.



now that we've pitied them, we can immediately go back to complaining about how nothing works unless you're willing to make compromises. i'm all right with that concept in a lot of areas, but i really hate having to part with a hefty chunk of my sangria and sushi money to get something that turns out to be unsatisfying.

of course, part of the problem is that i am a very difficult woman to satisfy. that's true in many ways, but when it comes to foundations, my list of impossible to fulfill conditions includes:

  • something that doesn't emphasize dry patches on my skin, particularly around my nose, which is the only place i usually get dry patches now
  • something that lasts throughout the day, meaning at least a standard business day including commute time, say 10 hours
  • something that can be touched up without changing colour or appearing heavy if, say, i have plans after the end of the business day and don't want to [or don't have time to] start from scratch
  • something that will not start to appear shiny, especially on my nose
  • something that looks like normal, healthy skin: not "glowing", which usually means "greasy", nor "matte" which usually means "i dusted baby talc on my face"
  • something that disguises the pores on my cheeks and nose
  • something that doesn't collect in the fine lines around my eyes, or in any other lines that are in the vicinity
  • something that can give me light-to-medium coverage, because i've come to realise that i don't actually need more than that; basically something that can reasonably effectively cover the freckles on my nose
  • something close enough to the colour of my skin that i don't need to worry about having to cover every other millimetre of exposed flesh to hide the mismatch
  • something that doesn't make me aware of its presence

reviewing that list, i realise that it's a tall order. i also realise that it might be easier for me to find something to meet my criteria if i removed my nose, but then i'd be left complaining about the fact that i couldn't wear sunglasses to protect my eyes.

but the fact is that i want to keep my nose and find something that meets my stringent criteria because i believe that a great base truly does make a huge difference in a finished look.

three foundations, three absolutely and completely different looks

most recently, i've been trying the new nars luminous, weightless foundation. it's a new formula, the first high-coverage one from nars, that makes the following claims [taken from the sephora web site]:

Achieve full-coverage, lightweight foundation that leaves a natural finish. Highly pigmented and perfectly balanced, this breakthrough, full-coverage formula builds and blends effortlessly. Its Even Tone Technology instantly neutralizes redness and dullness, while it works to reduce discoloration for more even, uniform skin. Perfect for all skin types, it features Weightless Long-wear Technology, an exclusive blend from NARS with flexible polymers and treated pigments that move with the skin while providing 16 hours of staying power. 

i'm quoting here because it's just way easier than copying everything over.

now, one thing you clever folk might have noticed is that it says it's full coverage, whereas i specifically said that i liked light-to-medium coverage. yeah, you got me. i was really eager to try a new nars foundation and so i figured that this was something on which i could compromise. and, yes, it is definitely full coverage with even a small amount of product [believe me, you do not want to use more than a small amount of this]. if you look at yourself up close in a mirror, you can definitely see that you're wearing makeup. you can buff it with a dense brush to reduce the makeup-y look but it's never going to be invisible. the trade-off is that it does an excellent job of disguising redness, pores [double bonus points for this] and any unevenness in colour [in my case, freckles]. 

nars has nailed the weightless thing better than nasa. it's extremely lightweight and at no point do you have that icky "something sticky be sittin on mah face" feeling. i think that's to do with its oil-free nature, since lightness has been a hallmark of each of the oil-free formulas i've tried to date. but oil-free doesn't equate to "dry", which means that it doesn't emphasize the dry side-nose patches, nor does it crimp into the lines that happen when i feel forced to smile.

what more can a girl ask?
  
i've found myself drawn to oil-free foundations because the greatest problem area i've found is my shiny nose-beacon. no matter what i do, by a few hours into my day, i have a shiny freakin' nose. i don't want a shiny nose. i have no use for shininess on my nose. in fact, i get quite irritated by said shininess. so i have dedicated myself to the hunt for something that will win the struggle with the texas oil reserves that apparently populate my proboscis. hence the willingness to go for something slightly higher coverage.

when i first applied the all day luminous, weightless foundation, it definitely gave a nice, not-quite-matte-but-not-at-all-shiny look that made me confident i could go about my life without the risk of ships offshore mistaking the sunlight bouncing from my nose for a lighthouse. sadly, after a few hours [let's say between three and four, although it varies a little depending on temperature, humidity and how active i am, which is never all that much, but anyway...], el noso brilliante has emerged victorious and i'm back to blotting myself and feeling irked.

that would be me

i've been using this foundation for a couple of months now and i will say that there's a definite difference in wear in cooler versus warmer weather, but i'd expect that. the point is that, even in ideal circumstances- cool, dry weather and with me in a less active phase- i don't find that it maintains its semi-matte finish for more than four hours. [of note: it seems to perform a little better outdoors than in, as long as it's not steaming hot outside, in which case nothing survives.]

in terms of overall wear, it never comes close to achieving the 16 hours claimed by the brand. i'm generally fine with having to touch up within a 16 hour period, so that doesn't infuriate me, but i seriously wish that brands would get off these ridiculous claims. if i pass out in a ditch somewhere, i'm expecting that my makeup won't be perfect when i wake up. it's cool. that said, my light freckling was considerably more obvious in six to seven hours after application, regardless of whether i used the foundation on its own, used a primer and/ or set with powder. that's not enough, in my book.

because it's a higher-coverage product, i was a little concerned that touching up would leave me looking like i was wearing a cosmetic mask, but that's not the case. in fact, it's really easy to dab a little more on some critical areas [nose nose nose] and blend it in with a finger and it won't look caked on. that helps mitigate some of the disappointment with the wear time.

nars certainly ranks alongside mac as one of the brands with the broadest range of foundation colours. like mac and, more recently, urban decay, they pay attention not just to colour but tone, differentiating between those who run cooler and warmer within the same colour range. everyone needs to do this. i'd previously been matched to nars "mont blanc" in their "sheer glow" formula, which is their shade for pale people with pinkish undertones. with that in mind, and because i am immensely stupid, i went ahead and ordered "mont blanc" without testing it on my skin first.

as it turns out, "mont blanc" in the sheer glow formula seems considerably lighter than "mont blanc" in any other formula. compounding that, "mont blanc" in this formula is not so much pink-toned as orange. i tried it a couple of times on its own before realising that i'd made a mistake and deciding to use another colour to lighten it. i picked up samples of the two other options for fair-skinned ladies ["siberia", which is the palest of the pale and neutral in undertone and "gobi", which is pale with yellow undertones] and i've discovered that either is probably a better match for me than "mont blanc". don't take guesses with foundation shades, kids.

to give you an idea of how the different shades compare, here's an image with nars radiant creamy concealer in "vanilla" [which is a nice match to my skin and which i've been using to brighten the foundation], luminous weightless in gobi, mont blanc and siberia, nars radiant tinted moisturizer in "terre neuve" guerlain "baby glow"and dior concealer in "010".

all the colours of the rainbow...

yup, as you can see, "mont blanc" is probably the worst match for my skin of the bunch... strangely, though, i find that "siberia", which is the best match, looks more noticeably patchy after several hours wear than the other colours. this is probably because the colour of my freckles is deeper by comparison. "gobi" is definitely yellower than my natural skin tone, but i found that the fading was less apparent than with either "siberia" or "mont blanc". i have no idea why. my brain hurts.

the mistake in colour choice is clearly my own fault, but i will say that the cooler options of the foundation seem too ruddy to work for a truly cool [i.e., pink- or blue-toned] complexion. the warmer shades seem lovely. [in nars' defense, i'll add that this is the case for a lot of brands when it comes to cooler-toned foundations.] also worth noting is that there is some oxidation [i.e., darkening as the product is exposed to air] with the product, so that you'll want to try it for a few minutes and then look to approve the colour match. the oxidation happens quickly and the colour remains consistent after the initial change.

so clearly, my search for the ultimate foundation has not yet ended. i like this formula, because it is so light and because it requires so little to achieve complete coverage. on the drier parts of my skin, it gives a nice, velvety look that i wish held for my entire face [nose nose nose]. the combination of too much shine in certain areas and unsatisfactory wear time make this one fall just a little short for me. will i ever find a perfect match, the dominic of foundations? never give up, i say...

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