If you’re after a natural skin finish that leans subtly matte, the type of look only the supremely genetically blessed would have been born with, then these are the products for you.
Elizabeth Arden Flawless Finish Skincaring Foundation is very much about a natural skin finish, and is neither particularly dewy, nor matte and drying. When I touched my face after I had applied the product, it truly didn’t feel as though I had makeup on, which is quite an extraordinary feat if you think about it. It contains hyaluronic acid for hydration plus vitamin C for brightening and vitamin E for its soothing, softening properties. I still needed to add concealer to cover blemishes and pigmentation, and its staying power isn’t brilliant, but it’s a very nice everyday choice, and one that makes you look as if you have flawless skin, rather than have applied flawless makeup.
Tom Ford Traceless Soft Matte Foundation gives such an elegant look, one that is more a flattering, soft-focus, gently blurred effect rather than a true matte. It contains plant extracts, glycerin, and caffeine, much like a high-end eye cream. I find myself reaching for it when I want to feel polished and put together; the fitted black blazer of foundation.
Revlon ColorStay Light Cover Foundation is more like a tinted serum than foundation, so if you do have the preternaturally perfect skin we all envy or are happy to top up with concealer (more of which below below), this is a great choice. In terms of skincare bonafides, it contains niacinamide and caffeine, and claims to increase skin hydration by 56%. It’s also fragrance-free and contains SPF30, which you’d never guess from how thin and light it is. It’s satisfying to see this type of sophisticated formula from an affordable brand.
Each member of this trio takes your average gorgeous high-end foundation (wears beautifully, makes the skin look smooth and plump, offers major lit-from-within points) up a notch.
Givenchy Prisme Libre Skin-Caring Glow promises 12 hours of glow and 24 of hydration, making it a very easy wear that leaves skin looking and feeling completely comfortable and comforted without any patchiness, even in the current dry, cool weather.
Stepping one more notch up the glow scale is YSL Beauty’s Touche Éclat Le Teint, which glides on with zero effort to give excellent coverage (I barely needed concealer) and positively cushiony skin. This may be thanks to its infusion of marigold bloom and mallow extracts, two botanicals sourced directly from YSL Beauty’s Ourika Community Gardens in Marrakesh, as well as a calming vitamin E derivative.
And taking the whole concept of glowing skin infused with high end skincare and knocking it out of the park is Chanel’s utterly divine Sublimage L’Essence de Teint Ultimate Radiance-Generating Serum Foundation. Glycerin, a brilliant, tried-and- ingredient suited to every skin type, is included in the top five ingredients, which gives you an idea of how serious Chanel’s formulators were about prioritising the way it feels on and treats the skin. Plant extracts round out its luxurious serum feel, including Madagascan vanilla planifolia beans, known for their antioxidant properties, and vanilla enfleurage oil, included for its soothing abilities. The name may be a mouthful, but they aren’t kidding about the radiance, just like the price tag may prompt a brow raise, but I have to admit I will gladly pay up in future when my precious sample runs out. (It may help a little to know the price tag includes a proper, actually excellent brush, not the foundation equivalent of those ridiculous eyeshadow free brushes that either remain serenely untouched for the palette’s lifespan or go straight in the bin). This foundation has won my heart.
Many makeup users who are blemish or acne prone want or need to avoid oil in their foundation. Happily, these formulas have finely started to evolve such that you can avoid these potentially troublesome ingredients without giving up on a flattering dewy finish. I was very pleasantly surprised to test two stellar examples.
MCo Beauty’s Miracle Hydra Glow Oil-Free Foundation is ideal for everyday wear. Sixty percent water, it also contains hyaluronic acid as well as flower and fruit extracts that result in a hydrated, smooth complexion. It provides a good amount of coverage without looking over the top or cakey. Being oil-free, it doesn’t spread across the skin quite as effortlessly as some products do, but being slightly more patient in your application is a small price to bear for such excellent results at a shockingly accessible price point. It performs easily as well as competitors three times the price.
La Prairie Skin Caviar Perfect Concealer is a stellar example of a fusion of luxe skincare and colour-correcting pigment. The brand’s signature caviar extract and caviar water work to smooth lines, hydrate, and brighten the notoriously tricky under eye area both upon application and over time, but even without knowledge of the powerhouses at work one couldn’t help but be impressed at the concealer simply as a makeup product. A little goes a long way, the coverage is buildable, and it never gets cakey or settles in fine lines. Extra points for the pleasingly practical yet thrillingly Bond-esque packaging: a twist-up ring dispenses the ideal amount of product, a cooling metal pen immediately soothes the area as product is applied, and a secret brush pops out for final application touch ups. More of this (useful, elegant) fun in beauty, please.
Milani’s Conceal + Perfect Longwear Concealer has the best coverage I have come across in a concealer in a long time, let alone in one that’s quite affordable. Its opacity and relative thickness means it’s a little less friendly to the under eye area, but if you are someone (like me) who struggles with needing to cover up truly red spots and their residual post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, as well as any brown spots caused by sun damage, you’ll appreciate having this in your arsenal. Concealers designed to be all lovely and creamy and not highlight fine lines in the delicate skin under the eye don’t always cut the mustard as blemish cover ups, so it can be helpful to have a dedicated full coverage product for this task. Also, it contains hydrating and moisturising powerhouses like shea butter, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin, so doesn’t form nasty little dried clumps of product even after a full day’s wear.
Fans of makeup artist Terry de Gunzburg’s iconic creation for YSL Beauty, the Touche Éclat highlighting pen, will know what to expect from the packaging with her new By Terry Hyaluronic Hydra-Concealer: the clever brush with a click pad on the end that dispenses product right into the brush hairs. Easy and convenient, though also a little too easy to go overboard with the amount of product so do go gently with your clicks. It contains hydrating hero hyaluronic acid, as well as Horse chestnut seed extract which stimulates circulation helping to boost and brighten the under eye area. I did find it dries down quickly, so if you have a tendency to drier skin under the eyes, as I do, I would recommend applying a rich eye cream under the eyes a few minutes before you apply this. That way you’ll avoid it settling into creases and making them look more obvious, if that’s a concern. This is full coverage concealer that you only need to use the smallest amount of to notice an excellent difference in under eye circles.
Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage Brighten & Correct Duo is the perfect take anywhere product to apply at home and then throw in your bag, especially while on-off-on-off masking while out and about is still in our foreseeable futures. (If anyone else hates arriving to meet friends only to feel like out-of-season Rudolph as soon as you whip your mask off because the fabric ate the makeup on your nose, I am here to tell you, this is your answer!) A dual-ended pen featuring a creamy, highly-pigmented crayon at each end, ‘Correct’ contains lotus flower to calm redness, and is ideal for covering up blemishes and pigmentation, while ‘Brighten’ is a slightly more luminous, forgiving, and creamy option made for under eyes, with murumuru seed butter and squalane for hydration. You can take your time applying and use a brush if you’re at home, or scribble it on and quickly blend out with your fingertip if you’re out and about and feeling an urgent need to de-Rudolph.