I have a bad beauty editor confession to make: I (almost) never, ever wear foundation.
Between my desk and at-home collections, there are at least 15 bottles of the stuff in different shades and formulations that I am constantly telling myself I’m going to open “someday.” But that day has never come. Every time I try it out, I wind up taking it off because my skin starts to feel sweaty and claustrophobic and all around gross. And don’t get me wrong—there are plenty of people out there who love and swear by foundation, but unless I’m going to a fancy party or getting my makeup done professionally, I am just not one of them.
The good news, as I personally have learned through years of trial and error? There are plenty of ways to even out your skin tone and enhance your glow without ever having to open a single bottle of foundation. “You don’t always need foundation to look and feel your best, and looking fresh faced is in,” agrees celebrity makeup artist Mary Irwin. But the first thing you need to do? Moisturize. “It’s so important to work with hydrated skin,” she says, calling out Blue Lagoon Iceland Hydrating Cream ($82) as one of her favorites for keeping skin looking fresh and dewy all day. Next, you want to prep your skin with a primer, like Heir Atelier ($42) to help smooth pores and fine lines, and if you need a little bit of coverage under your eyes or on any blemishes, dab on a few dots of concealer.
Easy enough, right? To up the ante even more, though, these products—every single one of which is a part of my regular rotation—will give you full coverage, sans foundation.
Tinted sunscreen: Elta MD UV Daily Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 ($31)
Who doesn’t love a double-duty makeup situation? Tinted sunscreens—like this dermatologist favorite from Elta MD, which I slather on my face every morning—protects skin from the sun while giving your glow a little bit of extra oomph in the process. “I would recommend using a great primer and concealer with a moisturizer in addition to the sunscreen if you are really going for a foundation alternative,” says Irwin.
Bronzing drops: Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Antipollution Sunshine Serum ($36)
Never have I ever fallen so deeply in love with a product as I did the first time I used D-Bronzi. I mix one drop of this stuff with two drops of moisturizer every morning, and it gives my skin a sort of lit-from-within glow that makes me look like I just got back from a vacation in the Amalfi Coast (without having to run the risk of sun damage). But, Irwin advises, you want to be careful when trying this type of product on your own. “If you add too much, your face could be the wrong shade,” she says, which is a lesson I’ve (sadly) learned the hard way. “Some tips to do this properly would be building on the color, start with one drop, do a test on your hand, and if it’s not dark enough, do another drop, then so forth,” she recommends. It’s also great for mixing with SPF for a DIY tinted sunscreen that will protect you from the sun and pollution all at the same time.
Tinted moisturizer: Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector ($47)
Tinted moisturizer was essentially the original “no foundation foundation,” and the sentiment still stands. Instead of giving you the same type of full coverage that a foundation would, tinted moisturizer offers something slightly more sheer (and, especially this time of year, something you’re less likely to sweat straight through). Laura Mercier’s icnoic tinted moisturizer—which just got a brand new formulation—leaves skin looking naturally dewy, but somehow looking (and feeling) product-free. And it’s got SPF in it.
Tinted primer: Supergoop Smooth and Poreless 100% Mineral Matte Screen ($38)
As Irwin mentioned, primer can help smooth pores and fine lines, and when it comes with a tint it can also function as a way to even out skin tone, too. This one, from Supergoop, also happens to come with SPF 40, which means all you have to do is slap it on over your moisturizer and your skin will be smoothed out, evenly shaded, and protected. In other words: ready to go.
Glow enhancer: Normalife Glow Color Enhancer ($40)
Instead of making your skin glow from the top down, Norma Kamali’s new Normalife Glow Color Enhancer does the job from the bottom up. It seeps into skin and builds over time to give you the type of rosy-glow that you’d expect after a workout. I’ve been using it all over my entire face and neck in the morning, but Kamali suggests using it on your cheeks and forehead as a way to give yourself a natural-looking, sunless glow.
Tinted facial oil: Kosas Tinted Facial Oil ($42)
I’ve already written 500+ words about how fantastic tinted facial oil is as an alternative to foundation, but really it all comes down to this: Instead of being thick and slimy, the Kosas oil goes on super thin and grease-free—giving my skin a dewy, hydrated finish. Because there’s literally no cakey-ness at all, it sits flawlessly throughout the day, all day, and doesn’t cake with sweat the way regular foundation does. In other words, it’s worth giving a try, and might just make you consider tossing your regular foundation straight into the trash.
If you do want to wear foundation, this is exactly how the world’s most famous makeup artist puts it on. Plus, a few easy tricks to help you actually prevent that dreaded makeup melt.
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