Navigating the world of base makeup can be tedious, not to mention expensive. After all, experimenting with various products within a single makeup type alone can set us back many hundreds of dollars before we find something that works for us, and we have better stuff to do with our money.
So if you’re still on the hunt for a foundation, tinted moisturiser or BB cream-slash-cushion that works for you, then perhaps this handy breakdown of base types will help you to solidify your decision – or at least narrow down your search. Good luck!
At the heart of K-beauty is the BB cushion compact. There’s very little not to love about these little babies, really: You get to reap skincare benefits, colour correct and camouflage flaws in a handy compact, plus the refills are cheaper (and eco-friendly). These cushions tend to have a lower level of coverage, but you can generally expect decent SPF protection, so you can use this in lieu of your sunscreen in a pinch.
We do wish these cushions came in more extensive shade ranges, but if you’re at least on the light-to-medium spectrum, you should be able to find something to work for you. The Laneige BB Cushion is a classic choice, The Face Shop’s CC Cushion is a more wallet-friendly option, but if you’re willing to splurge you can try Sulwhasoo’s Perfecting Cushion.
This is simply a more portable way to carry your liquid foundation. In fact, you can make one yourself by buying an empty compact and sponge, and then saturating it with your favourite liquid foundation. What sets foundation cushions apart from BB cushions is that the coverage tends to be fuller; although on the flip side, these also typically don’t boast the same skincare and colour correcting benefits.
Foundation cushions are also more commonly found in Western makeup brands, so they may be less forgiving when finding your colour match. Yves Saint Laurent Beauty’s Encre de Peau cushion foundation offers high coverage and gives a matte finish, which is rather unique in the typically dewy cushion realm. We also like Bobbi Brown’s Skin Cushion Compact Foundation.
Liquids are the most popular option because they’re a little more versatile: You can mix them with skincare to sheer them out, or incorporate lighteners or darkeners to alter the colour should your skin tone shift over time.
Also they’re easy to work into the skin with a brush or damp sponge for a truly skin-like finish. If you have dry or normal skin, or even just prefer a foundation with less coverage or a more dewy finish, then opt for foundations that are more about healthy “fresh” skin, like the Too Faced Born This Way Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk, or Burberry Fresh Glow Luminous Fluid Foundation.
If you have more oily skin or simply need something to stay put for an entire day of being out and about, then you need a solid longwear liquid foundation in your beauty arsenal. These long-lasting foundations are typically matte, though you may find some that are more on the demi- or semi-matte side that still allow some radiance to come through. Some great long-wear foundations include the Lancome Mat Miracle Liquid Foundation, Kat Von D Lock-it Foundation, or Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay in Place Makeup.
Powders were a lot more popular in the 90s and early 2000s, but these days they’re more commonly used as a finishing layer to either build up coverage, set liquid makeup, or simply by those of us who prefer the fuss-free nature of powders. They’re typically better-suited to oily or combination skin types because powders help with oil absorption, but there are definitely some powder foundations out there that are meant to be hydrating. We recommend the Nars All Day Luminous Powder Foundation, Urban Decay Naked Skin Ultra Definition Powder Foundation, and Cover FX Pressed Mineral Foundation.
These weren’t terribly popular in the past as they used to be heavier, drier, and more unwieldy to use. The good thing about stick foundations is they often give you full coverage and will stay in place for hours. There are of course some exceptions to the rule, with newer formulations that are bridging the gaps between foundation types, but you can generally expect pretty high coverage from stick foundations.
Some more dense and dry formulas may require a bit more finesse to blend out, but if you’re on the hunt for super blendable and flawless looking stick foundations, you should try the Hourglass Vanish Stick Foundation and the Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Stick. They’re on the pricey side, but they make your skin look beautiful and are great for special occasions.
These are great if you just want to even out your skin tone and have dry, normal or dehydrated skin. It’ll give you enough moisture to leave your skin looking radiant and supple, with a hint of coverage to take care of any slight discolouration or redness. If you have skin insecurities or major blemishes you’re hoping to conceal, then tinted moisturiser isn’t for you. Otherwise, try the BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream, Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer or the Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturiser SPF30.
You can expect similar formulas out of your BB creams and BB cushions, with packaging being the primary difference. The one limitation I notice in BB or CC creams is a lack of shades in the range. Some brands may only have two or three shades, while a few may go up to five or six.
Admittedly the shades are a little more forgiving since most of these creams aren’t high coverage and the perfect shade isn’t completely necessary, but we’re still left with the issue of mismatched undertones with many BB/CC creams skewing cool-toned or pink. If shade matching is important, you can also look for CC creams that shade-adjust upon contact with your skin, which is pretty neat. We like the It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream (with five shades), SK-II Auractivator CC Cream, Shiseido Perfect Hydrating BB Cream and Estee Lauder Crescent White Full Cycle Brightening BB Creme SPF50/PA++++.
If you aren’t into high or even medium coverage foundations, then something more water-based is right up your alley. These are great if you just want sheer coverage to even out your skin tone, because it lets more of your natural skin peek through.
What I like to do is mix a more watery foundation in with my regular long-wear matte one to create something a bit lighter and less matte for days I don’t want full coverage but still need medium coverage, at the minimum. Try Make Up For Ever’s Water Blend foundation, Tarte Rainforest of the Sea Water Foundation (available on Tartecosmetics.com), or Mac Cosmetics’ Studio Waterweight Foundation.
While most of us aren’t fans of heavier cream foundations in a climate as hot and humid as Singapore’s, some creams might work for your skin type. For instance, you can choose between a gel or pressed cream foundation, depending on the level of coverage you’re into.
Gel creams or more hydrating cream foundations are amazing if you have very dry skin, because the extra layer of moisture will keep your skin hydrated for longer. Some creams are actually cream-to-powder, meaning they’ll dry down to a powdery finish – perfect for oily skin. If you have dry skin, try the Koh Gen Do Manifashi Moisture Foundation (a mineral cream foundation); normal skin types can opt for the Cover FX Total Cover Cream Foundation. Oily? The Hourglass Liquid Powder Foundation is a great option. The name may say liquid, but it pumps out as quite a thick cream foundation that dries down to a powder and sets pretty quickly, lasting all day on your skin.