Having a Good Foundation, from a Dermatology Perspective

Shan YUAN, Chair of Dermatology, Dermatologist

Foundation – of the makeup variety – is the basis for adjusting color, improving skin texture, and covering flaws. Foundation that looks natural on your face is the best choice for everyday makeup.

Type and composition

Anyone walking into a department store could tell you there are many types of foundation: cream foundation, liquid foundation, stick foundation, concealer pens, etc.

The main components of foundation include:

  • Talc: Talc helps to even out the skin and make it smooth.
  • Kaolin and titanium dioxide: These mainly mask any shine caused by the talc.
  • Zinc stearate and zinc myristate: Adhesive properties
  • Calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate: These help the surface of the skin to absorb sweat and grease but also to mask talc induced shine.
  • Color: Generally a mix of inorganic and organic pigments, iron oxide red or orange organic pigments are typical bases of the main pigment.
  • Adhesives: Made from plant and animal products (such as liquid paraffin, mineral oil or synthetic fats). Different proportions of adhesives create different foundation types.
  • Other ingredients include preservatives, antioxidants, and spices

Function of Foundation

  • Improve skin tone and smooth out uneven pigmentation
  • Protection: Now, there are liquid foundations that provide sun-screening capabilities. To some extent, this protects the skin from the harmful effects of other cosmetics, external pollution and UV damage. This also prevents dust from entering your pores.
  • Adjusts general skin quality: Cares for and moisturizes the skin, increases defense against sun exposure, helps reduce oily skin secretions
  • Makes facial features stand out: I call this “giving your face more contour.” Dark foundation can be applied to enhance the depressions in your face – e.g., around the nose, eye sockets, cheeks, etc. Light foundation can be applied to highlight raised parts of your face. This dark/light contrast enhances the natural three-dimensional shape of your face.


Choose your foundation according to your skin quality, purpose of application and the season. It is best to choose a color that matches your natural skin color.

You can apply foundation creams in two main ways: with your fingers or with a sponge. If you use your fingers, gently even out the foundation with the pads of your index, middle and ring fingers. There are three ways to do this:

1.Lightly tap on the foundation without smearing it. This approach gives a natural look and is mainly used to cover a variety of spots and scars.

2.Slide the foundation down the side of your face with your fingers. This method is mainly used to smooth out the interface between light and dark foundations.

3.Rub the skin with fingers. This method is commonly used to make foundation cream even. But do not use this method as first step because it can wipe off the foundation cream and give your makeup an unnatural look, as if it was floating on your face. Put some foundation on a slightly damp sponge and rub it on your skin from bottom to top, from the middle then out. Do not smear the foundation back and forth.

Comments for people with special skin types:

  • Sensitive skin – avoid skin-irritating sponges
  • Large pores or rough skin – use a light-colored foundation first, and then apply another coat that is slightly darker than the first foundation
  • Red skin – apply some light green or light blue pigment to the red parts of your skin, then go over your face again with another layer of foundation
  • Pigmented skin – first apply foundation on the pigmented areas with a covering, then apply another layer of foundation
  • Yellow-toned skin could use a pinkish foundation
  • Darker skin could use a light brown or dark brown foundation

After applying foundation, check it with your finger. If you leave a fingerprint, you’ve done well. If your face feels slippery, you haven’t applied enough foundation. The ideal situation is for your finger to slip a little but stop slipping immediately.

How to choose a foundation

First, choose a foundation that matches your natural skin color.

  • Pink foundation / powder: If your skin is pale, pink foundation makes you look ruddy and healthy. In addition, applying more to the cheeks can take the place of blush, giving you a very natural look.
  • Green foundation / powder: If your skin has a reddish color, or if you have freckles or acne scars, green foundation can give an attractive whitened effect and cover small spots.
  • Yellow foundation / powder: Yellow foundation can help even out yellow skin. It gives a bright, soft look, but don’t use too much. The best ratio of yellow foundation to skin color is 1:4.
  • Purple foundation / powder: For yellowish or dull skin, or for covering dark circles, purple foundation has an almost magical effect. It allows your skin to look crystal clean, delicate and seem transparent. It can also highlight your nose, forehead and other parts, making them shine.

Second, do the rest of your makeup to match your foundation type and skin type.

  • Crystal liquid foundation (good for dry / medium / oily skin types) – moisturizes the skin, natural-looking makeup
  • Liquid foundation (counteracts oily skin) – natural makeup
  • Powder foundation (good for medium/oily skin types) – powder for crystal-clear look, good foundation type for thick makeup
  • Dual concealer pen (good for dry / medium / oily skin types) – modifies dark circles, fine lines and facial blemishes, good foundation for eye areas
  • Loose powder (good for dry / medium / oily skin types) – stays well, reduces facial shine