Primer & Foundation

Foundation Oxidation, or “How Not To Look Like An Oompa Loompa”

Hello fabulous people ūüôā It has been a month of crazy project after crazy project at work. Today I finally have a chance to stop spinning for a little bit so we’ll see if I can get this typed up!

In my last post I mentioned something called oxidation. Now when you see this word, most people think of the green patina on copper or, less attractively, rust on iron. While these are certainly different materials, the mechanism here between the very green Statue of Liberty and your¬†foundation are similar. What this means, in summary, is that the various metal oxides that make up your makeup (ha!) are reacting to the sebum and natural oils on your skin and shifting color. This behavior isn’t exclusive to foundation but it’s certainly the one that is most obvious. Oxiation is also known to make blush and other colors muddy and grey. I have the particular joy of having found some conclears that turn a muddy grey when applied which does me such a great service when I’m trying to conceal dark spots.

“But Wendy, if it was as simple as that then everyone would have this problem. Why can my friends wear this foundation and look great, but if I wear it I look like a tangerine?”

Well that’s because nothing we do with, to, or on our bodies is ever that simple. We have to take our own personal body chemistry into account. While some foundations are notorious for oxidation (I’m looking at you, M¬∑A¬∑C), for the most part it is more likely an issue between your personal body chemistry + the chemical make up of your makeup + the oxygen in the air around you.

Everyone’s skin forms what is called an acid mantle. This mantle is a protective barrier made up of sebum and sweat.

Quick biology lesson: sebum, from sebaceous glands, are the oils that protect your skin. If you have too much you are battling acne. If you have too little you are battling dry skin. The only place you don’t have these glands are on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet.

The next player in this game is pH. You hear this term a lot but it’s not always clear what it even means.

Quick chemistry lesson: pH stands for potential Hydrogen and is scale from 1 to 14 that gauges how acidic a substance is. On that 1-14 scale, the natural pH balance of skin is 5.5. This number is effected by our own natural body chemistry, the time of the month, what we eat, the weather, you name it.

I rather appreciate that they used "wine" as a value...

I rather appreciate that they used “wine” as a value…

So what we get here is a combination of the various metal oxides in your makeup reacting to the acids in your natural sebum and further reacting to the oxygen in the air around you.

Some folks will argue that last part saying that isn’t as big of a factor. In my own personal experience, when I’m seeing a foundation oxidize, it gets significantly worse as soon as I step outside. I’m going to go ahead out on this limb here and suggest that while that is not the primary cause, it certainly doesn’t help.

Now what do we do about it? There are some options. Not all foundations are created equal. Different brands, lines, and formulas are going to have different chemical make up and will react differently to your skin. This leads us to a¬†point I can’t possibly stress strongly enough:


Any cosmetics shop or counter worth their salt will let you try a foundation sample (or three) to see if you like it. USE THIS PRIVILEDGE. Do NOT buy a $30-60 bottle of foundation without test driving that bad boy! You are putting this stuff ALL OVER YOUR FACE. Don’t feel bad about trying it out and not buying it until you know it’s right! A happy client is a return client. It’s better to take a few samples and¬†come back¬†to buy the one that was best rather than buy something that doesn’t work and come back to return it. Anyone in retail knows you are far MORE likely to make additional purchases and return in the future if you are happy with the product. Most people aren’t making additional purchases if they are returning a product they were unhappy with and if they’re really ticked off they aren’t coming back at all. Especially if they are returning a product that they wore out in a social situation and they suddenly realized they looked like Snookie.

Although I think in this case it’s a lot more than just her foundation…

Color matching is of course important. A makeup artist will select 2-3 shades closest to your skin tone and apply streaks, normally near your jawline, to swatch the color on your skin to find the best match. Also, if you are near a Sephora, they have a fancy little machine called the Pantone Color IQ which determines your Pantone color code and is pretty awesome. HOWEVER, once you find the right color and apply the foundation the oxidation begins. Now to be clear, most foundations rely on natural oxidation to achieve a more perfect color match. Many of them are very much geared this way, especially when you are looking at something like a BB or CC cream where there are only a small number of color options (often light, medium, and dark) to choose from. What we are looking to avoid here is when the oxidation goes too far and you suddenly look like an extra for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Why do you keep asking if I used a primer?

Why do you keep asking if I used a primer?

One thing to keep in mind here is that even your favorite foundation can color shift at times due to changes in your body chemistry. So how do we deal with that?

Primer. Specifically a silicone based primer.

“But Wendy, I thought we used primer to keep our makeup in place?”

We do. The function of the primer is to form an even layer on top of your skin that locks your makeup in place. Reread that line… form a layer. That’s right. The primer is forming a protective layer on top of your skin, creating a barrier between your acid mantle and the makeup. This simple step will greatly reduce the oxidation in your foundation.

You can help this along a bit further, as well. While you should always start with clean skin when applying makeup, beginning any makeup routine with an antioxidant moisturizer will further limit oxidation. Antioxidant… oxidize… get it? Got it? Good ūüėČ

Some things to note…

Oxidation is more likely with cream and liquid foundations, however it will occur in any foundation type, including powders.

Oxidation is not usually an immediate reaction. It can take a half an hour or a few hours. This is why it’s important to test drive it home.

The color shifts can be subtle depending on lighting. Give yourself an hour or more after application and then check in¬†fluorescent light, incandescent light, natural light, and my personal fav, the rearview mirror of the car. This may seem like overkill, but you can hit all of these points between the store, walking outside, getting in your car, and getting home. If after a few hours you’re still good to go, awesome!

If you are finding a foundation oxidizes on you, check the ingredients. Write down any of the oxides. If you keep doing this you may be able to pinpoint which oxide doesn’t agree with you and save yourself some time and effort in the future by knowing not to bother with foundations with (insert oxide here) in the ingredients.

If you find yourself between two foundation shades, ALWAYS go with the lighter shade. I realize that the bronzed look is in right now. That is what bronzer is for. A rule of thumb is that you can always go darker from lighter but it is very difficult to go lighter from dark. Wearing a too dark foundation is difficult to correct. Or, in short, you look foolish. Honestly, this one could be its own post.

 And that is my crash course in How Not To Look Like An Oompa Loompa!

I hope to see some of you Sunday at 2pm for Princess Farhana‘s Exciting Stage Makeup workshop!

Alphabet Soup: Things people call Foundation

Why hello there! Welcome back! I have been a bad, bad otter as I realize it’s been almost a month. Time flies when I get home from work exhausted.¬†Upside is my current assignment has a good bit of downtime SO… here we are ūüėČ

One of the first things that you learn¬†you need to add to your makeup toolbox is foundation. I know once upon a time not so terribly long ago the only thing you really needed to know about foundation was what shade you were. Not so much anymore. Now there are not only shades, but every kind of brightening, firming, pore reducing, age defying, sheer, full, tinted, gravity bending… you get the idea.

The most obvious player in this game is reliable ol’ foundation. You can dress it up, dress it down, powder it and make it sparkle, but in one form or another it’s been around since makeup became the thing to do. It can be found in powder, liquid, cream, and mousse. The only huge differences here are matters of preference, really. Some skin types (dry, oily, etc) take to certain types better than others (ie powder foundation doesn’t always work real well with dry skin, etc). Now for our purposes I will differentiate foundation into two categories: regular and full coverage. Regular foundation is the tried and true workhorse, meant to give you an even complexion as a foundation for the rest of your makeup. Pretty straightforward. Full coverage foundation is more opaque and meant to obscure more serious skin and coloration issues. For a gal like me with cystic adult acne and the scars to prove it, I tend towards full coverage foundation. Honestly I’d tend towards grease paint if it was just less… greasy. Anywho…

In the last year or so (or so says my brain with a really faulty calendar) some new players have come onto the market. Namely BB creams started popping up in the US. BB cream, short for Blemish Balm or Beauty Balm, originated in Germany in the¬†60’s¬†as a treatment after facial peels and surgery and was introduced in South Korea and Japan in the 80’s where women valued a youthful, porcelain complexion. BB creams are normally offered in a limited number of shades (if not just one) and rely on oxidation to match each skin tone. We’ll talk more on what oxidation is in a later post called How Not To Look Like An Oompa Loompa.

Following the success of BB creams came CC creams because marketing people are nothing if not creative and original. The selling point of CC creams is Color Control or Color Correction. What this means in practical layman’s terms is that it’s geared to cancel out redness or yellowness in the skin. Very exicting.

Not to be outdone, they are now shopping the idea of a DD cream because why the hell not, really. I’ve heard these touted as Daily Defense creams. I’m waiting now for the EE creams (Extra Exfoliating?) or even SS creams (Spectacular Spackle?).

Moving right along we also have a less common but equally baffling product called tinted moisturizer. It is exactly what it sounds like. Someone took moisturizer and added color to it. Because clearly, more similar products with differing names and descriptions makes this all so much easier on people. Yep.

So what you are probably asking at this point is what is all this mess and what’s the difference? That’s a great question. The real short, to the point, least complicated answer I can give you is “opacity”. Every different type of all of the above is going to claim to be (insert all of the good yummy skin properties here) so really sticking them to those¬†criteria is moot. After all’s said and done it’s about coverage. And the best way to exlain that is with pictures!

The tricky part was finding a volunteer who wasn’t me who would let me slather makeup all over their face. Having searched high and low I found such a willing subject. Some of you may have met them before. Everyone say hello to Ollie the Otter ūüôā

Ollie really had no say in the matter...

Ollie really had no say in the matter…

Now Ollie is a perfect candidate for this test for a few reasons. One, he doesn’t complain. Second, all those dark browns and crisp black lines are a great way to really show off the opacity of a foundation that you really aren’t going to see when watching YouTube videos of pretty young women with great skin.

Now one thing that is important in every makeup lesson is tools. What do we use to apply the products? Good brushes and tools will be where much of your makeup budget should go. They are pricey up front but if taken care of will last you many years.

In the case of liquid and cream foundation the fun new tool that everyone, including the best of the world’s makeup artists, is swearing by is the beautyblender. One of these will run you $20 and it is worth it.

Yep, I'm an egg.

Yep, I’m an egg.

Now this little critter looks awefully small at first glance but that’s because it’s dry. The first step in the directions is to get it wet and squeeze. What then happens is this:

Size does matter.

Size does matter.

Now the brilliant minds who came up with this critter will tell you to “bounce” the foundation onto your skin. I just envision women standing in front of mirrors lobbing gobs of foundation at their faces expecting it to bounce. To be more clear, you use the sponge to tap and pat the foundation on. Don’t rub. Rubbing actually causes skin problems like blemishs and redness. So don’t do it.

On to the products!

First we start with BB Cream. For this I am using Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Beauty Balm SPF 25 PA++ which will run you $34.

Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Beauty Balm SPF 25 PA++

Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Beauty Balm SPF 25 PA++

Not so opaque.

Not so opaque.

The moral of this short story is that if you have great skin and aren’t looking to really cover-up anything (acne, blemishes, discoloration, etc) you can totally get away with BB Cream.

Next in line is the Tinted Moisturizer. For this I am using CLINIQUE Moisture Surge Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15 which will run you $27.

CLINIQUE Moisture Surge Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15

CLINIQUE Moisture Surge Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15

Little more opaque.

Little more opaque.

This one packs a little more oomph. If you are looking for some subtle color evening qualities this could be an option. One downside to TMs, BBs, and CCs is that each brand, even differing products within the same brand, will have differing levels of opacity. Much like I will expound upon in my Oompa Loompa post, it is always best to try these out ON YOUR SKIN to make sure they are what you want before you drop $25-60 for a whole vat of the stuff.

On to the foundations!

Now I am a brat and I asked the lovely gal at Sephora to recommend for me the best foundation they had. Her response was Yves Saint Laurent LE TEINT TOUCHE √ČCLAT Illuminating Foundation SPF 19¬†which will run you¬†$57.

Yves Saint Laurent LE TEINT TOUCHE √ČCLAT Illuminating Foundation SPF 19

Yves Saint Laurent LE TEINT TOUCHE √ČCLAT Illuminating Foundation SPF 19

Yep. Looks like foundation.

Yep. Looks like foundation.

So in the grand scheme of foundations this is about the opacy I would expect. Would I spend $57 for it? Heh… yeah see, that’s what free samples are for.

Last but not least is the heavy hitter for today: the full coverage foundation. When I asked for a waterproof, streakproof, zombieapocalypseproof, hide all these red spots and acne scars worthy full coverage foundation, without hesitation I was handed Kat Von D Lock-It Tattoo Foundation. This little bottle of awesome will run you $34. Now for those of you who are unfamiliar, KvD has tattoos ON HER FACE. She’s kinda known for it. That and being a tattoo artist. Which is presumably why she has¬†tattoos on her face.¬†Sometimes she wanted to cover up some of the tattoos along her temple and the full coverage foundations on the market just didn’t cut it. Much to my joy she created her own. Behold the awesomeness…

Kat Von D Lock-It Tattoo Foundation

Kat Von D Lock-It Tattoo Foundation



Just a reminder of how dark black and brown are :p

Half an Ollie! Ollieclops?

That is probably the best extreme example I can come up with unless I can find a volunteer with rich dark chocolate colored skin who is willing to make themselves look really silly on camera!

As I¬†conclude today’s visual tour I can’t stress again how important it is, not only for your skin but for your sanity, to find a favorite cosmetics store and get comfortable with trying things out and asking for free samples. Any makeup artist worth their salt wants you to be satisfied and realizes that if they help you pick out some options and let you try them in the comfort of your own home you will likely return to them. Mental note to selves, you can ask for 3 samples from each of the “worlds” at Sephora, the worlds being skin, fragrance, and color. Foundation falls under color. Many of the TMs and BBs fall under skin. And if the “cast member” really likes you he or she may “forget” how to count to three. Just sayin’.