Introduction to tinted creams, primers, powders and highlighters with a small aside about blushes and bronzers
For a long time I avoided foundations and powders because they clogged my pores and gave me pimples. In the past I preferred to simply and exclusively use a good, non-greasy and un-tinted face lotion with sunscreen. This is still a good option to maintain the healthy glow and clear complexion you may already have. Combined with a good diet–getting all of your vitamins, minerals, proteins and healthy fats and plenty of water–your skin could be great without any tinted creams or powders.
BB, CC, and Tinted Cremes
Since BB (beauty balm) and CC (complete coverage) creams have become popular, I’ve changed my tune about putting tinted cream on my face. These products are beauty cocktails providing nourishment and protection for your face, tending to include minerals and emollients that brighten and soften skin. They also even out your skin tone and texture, conceal pores, and prevent sun damage. Protecting your skin from the sun is especially crucial in terms of preserving the elasticity and vibrancy of your skin and preventing wrinkles over time.
At the shrewd suggestion of my friend and personal makeup guru, who highly and tirelessly recommends Korean skincare products for all your skincare needs, I use Dr. Jart+ Premium BB Cream SPF 45. I am really happy with this product. It is light, non-greasy, breathable and makes my skin look healthy, clean, bright and smooth.
Besides the Premium BB Cream, Dr. Jart+ has a variety of different BB creams to choose from. The black label BB cream is a little less expensive and works equally well, but it only has a SPF of 25. The Dis-a-pore BB cream is a little thicker, offering more coverage for the pores you are trying to make “disapore.”
I’ve also tried and liked Supergoop! CC cream, This product offers a nice lightweight foundation that also completely and seamlessly covers the face.
If you prefer a dewy, glowing look, especially if your skin is usually dry and dull, I recommend It Radiant CC cream by Banila Co (another Korean brand).
I tend to prefer BB and CC creams over tinted moisturizers such as Laura Mercier’s tinted moisturizer. These products don’t seem to cover my face as well and do not strike me as equally effective, nourishing, and luxurious-feeling. One exception would be Dr. Jart’s Ceramidin Day Tint–I really love how creamy and moisturizing this product is. Ceramides, which this product contains, are natural lipids that can already be found in your skin–they work to retain moisture and provide anti-aging effects.
You can use BB, CC, and tinted moisturizing creams as foundation or as primers for foundation. You can also use specific primer products before applying foundation or any tinted cream. I like facial primers because, besides helping you use less foundation, you can also use them to clean up any stray dustings of powder that inevitably show up when you put on eye shadow. Additionally, primer helps you blend and soften eye shadow lines on and above your eyelid.
Pro tip: It’s better to use primer over eye makeup remover or water to fix your makeup mistakes. Makeup remover will make it impossible to reapply more makeup and water won’t be strong enough to lift the pigment you are trying to conceal and/or blend.
There are a variety of face primers out there that do different things. A thicker, creamier primer will work to hide lines, pocks, and deep track marks on the face that make your skin’s texture uneven. A thinner liquid primer will add shine and glow to your skin tone at the same time that it helps to reduce the greasy shine caused by extra oily skin. Liquid primer will also help spread and smooth the foundation you coat over the primer so you don’t have to use as much foundation. Different primers also indicate whether they are more suitable to help with dry, oily, or combination skin.
I’ve used Hourglass’s Mineral Veil primer, which is a white liquid primer, and I love this product to help clean up stray eye shadow dust and help spread my foundation over my skin. It also makes my skin feel revitalized and healthier–but maybe that’s the psychosomatic effect of its marketing strategy, telling me that the primer has special minerals in it that are good for my skin.
I’ve also used BareMinerals Prime Time primer. This is a clear liquid primer, good at smoothing and correcting. I prefer Hourglass’s primer over this one simply because the Hourglass one is easier to see how you are spreading and blending it (because it is white) but also works more like water in the way that it works to clean away smudges and imperfections without feeling like it leaves any residue behind.
One thicker primer that boasts the ability to cover unseemly pores is Benefit’s POREfessional primer. It’s a good choice if you want something that offers more coverage.
My main primer at the moment, however, is MAC’s Prep + Prime Skin. This is a shimmery white primer, not too creamy, not too liquid, that goes on thinly and smoothly and does not look too shimmery on the face. This specific product intends to reduce the appearance of oily skin, but it still adds a nice under-glow to any tinted cream you put on top of it.
Foundation is also something you need to sample and experiment with. First, getting the right color to blend with your skin tone is crucial. Then, you have to decide if you want something that is thicker and offers more full-coverage or something lighter that blends into your skin. Different foundations also have different finishes–matte or dewy. Depending on your skin type–oily, dry, or combination–you may prefer a different finish to help you either reduce shine or add luminosity.
I’m using a foundation at the moment that I truly love. It’s a bit on the high-end side, because it’s Givenchy (a French company known mainly for its haute couture clothes and fragrances), but it melts into my skin and makes it look soft, luminescent and flawless. A friend of mine insists that this foundation actually improved the overall texture and tone of her skin after she used it for a while. Check out Givenchy’s Photo’Finish foundation—it is rich and luxurious without being heavy and suffocating, and it also smells really good!
Givenchy’s Photo’Finish foundation
To set in foundations and tinted creams, you can use a face powder such as BareMinerals Mineral Veil powder. A vegan friend also recommends cruelty-free Minerale products as another mineral-based foundation powder option that is less irritating to some people’s skin than BareMinerals. I find that BareMinerals products are nice and light and don’t clog my pores or make me break out. In general, these mineral powders offer a smooth, matte finish over liquid foundation that helps the foundation stay and last on your skin. If your foundation ever looks too wet, just put some powder over it!
BareMinerals’ Mineral Veil is a translucent powder, but you can also use tinted powders to layer on top of your bb cream, foundation, and concealer for even more coverage. Shisheido has some good foundation powders I’d recommend. There are also different translucent finishing powders you can try, especially if you want a more matte finish or pore-concealing look. One option would be Makeup Forever’s HD Finishing Powder.
If you want to cover up areas of your face that need something more potent than a bb cream or foundation, try concealer. If you have red, discolored, or dark spots on your face, you may want to try color correcting concealers that come in green (to hide redness), yellow (to hide dark spots) or purple (to hide excessively yellow complexions). If you want a concealer that matches your skin tone to put on top of your foundation to hide particularly annoying pimples or blemishes, you have plenty to choose from! Currently I use and recommend Makeup Forever’s Ultra HD Concealer.
Blushes, Bronzers and Contouring
You can also use bronzers, blush and other powders to add color and contour to your complexion and face. Don’t overdo it with bronzer and red-orange-pink pigmented powders and blushes. These products look best simply and sparingly applied. To use them, blend into the outer lines of the face with a big, fluffy blending brush, like this one by MAC. Blend along the hairline and jaw line (be careful to really blend around these areas!), the outer sides of the bridge of your nose (apply the product lightly here and don’t apply it all the way down to the tip of the nose), and in the hollows of the cheeks (right below your cheek bones and well above your jaw line). Don’t forget to blend and blend again and again because you don’t want any lines or unevenness in the coloring.
Cream blushes and bronzers or contouring pigments are also available. Some people like to use certain lipsticks and lip glosses to add tint and pigment to their face too. Using lip products is considered a “dated” technique because now you can just buy blush and bronzer creams but plenty of people still use lipstick and prefer to do so. I’m embedding a makeup tutorial video from GossMakeupArtist that discusses how to use lipstick as a blush.
I don’t currently have a go-to bronzer I’d recommend. Truthfully, I generally avoid bronzer, and I particularly don’t like products that add too much shine, sheen or sparkle to my skin. I always prefer a matte, natural look when it comes to shading and perfecting my skin tone. When you go out searching for a product that will work for you, brush the powder onto your skin to assess it for its shiny or matte qualities and how well it compliments the yellow, red, or brown tones in your skin. Usually the light, delicate skin on your wrist is a good place to test face makeup because it provides a surface similar to the skin on your face, which also tends to be lighter and more delicate and sensitive.
Blush is another area that requires experimentation. Depending on the colors in your skin tone, different shades of reds, pinks, oranges, and purples will either suit you or not. Generally a peach shade, that has a mix of red and yellow, looks good on most people. Becca’s Champagne Pop Highlighter is supposed to be good for its ability to look amazing on a wide range of skin colors. I find that for my skin tone bright rose pinks and corals work best. Currently I use Kat Von D’s Everlasting Blush because I think the color stays well. However, I really love and highly recommend Hourglass’s Ambient Lighting blushes if you prefer a softer and more subtle blush.
A final but important note on highlighters
Generally highlighter, as the name indicates, highlights the parts of the face you want to emphasize or draw attention to. You can highlight under your brows to draw attention to their shape and arch. You can highlight around your lips to highlight their shape and plumpness. You can highlight above and on your cheekbones to emphasize them . . . the possibilities are numerous!
Besides adding brightness to your skin tone, highlighters also help reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles because they minimize the appearance of shadows. So, you can highlight your smile and forehead lines to brighten and eliminate the shadows those lines create. You can also highlight under your eye to brighten the eyes and reduce the appearance of dark circles.
You may prefer a shimmery eye shadow or shadow pencil to highlight under your eyebrows and around your lips, but I prefer liquid highlighters that go on like liquid foundation. Yves Saint Laurent’s Touche Èclat is an expensive but sumptuous product that I really like. For a cheaper but just as effective alternative, try BareMinerals Stroke of Light Eye Brightener, which I use all over my face and not just under my eyes. Sometimes if I want a glossier look, especially in the cold winter months, I’ll use a more creamy and luminous highlighter such as Kryolan’s Illusion Silk Highlighter or a powder that’s a tad more shimmery such as Hourglass’s light-colored Ambient Lighting Powder.