February 13, 2004


This past week brought a revelation: natural beauty comes from within—within tubes, bottles, and jars, of course!

Yes, beauty often starts with a product. And in order to keep the face looking beautiful, many of us (myself certainly included) start with a very specific product—the foundation bottle. Foundation is the first thing many girls put on in the morning, the last thing removed at night, and is the base for the rest of the well made-up face. Now, if you are extremely lucky, you might skip the foundation step altogether and just revel in your natural creamy glow, but I (like most of the world) have no such luck.

I've sworn by the same company since I was 17. Like most young girls, my mother ushered me into the chair of whichever company happened to be "doing faces" on the day we first hit the makeup counters. I hadn't looked at another brand since. Naturally, I considered my brand superior and managed to persuade quite a few people to switch brands if they wanted to wear The Best Foundation Ever.

However, I started noticing that my favorite foundation was no longer working the way it did when I was younger. It began caking up and drifting off my face after about four hours. Thus, I examined my faithfulness to the old brand and decided to search for something new.

In an effort to find the perfect foundation, I randomly selected five types to test (including my usual) from the very well known to the more obscure. With the help of the makeup girls at Sephora and Marshall Fields, I garnered samples and gave each a fair trial in an effort to find the best choice. I report my results to you:

Prescriptives: Here is the brand I have used since I was a high school junior. The 100-percent oil-free matte finish ($32.50) gives fairly heavy coverage and looks fabulous, but only for a few hours after you apply it. Because the product is somewhat heavy, it tends to cake a little around the cheeks. Application is key—a foundation brush should be used. But who among us uses a brush to apply our foundation as we rush out the door in the morning? On the upside, it matches well to a variety of skin tones thanks to a unique color-printing system. They even custom-blend foundation, though pricey at $62.

Bobbi Brown: Bobbi's 100-percent oil-free liquid ($36) has yellow undertones, which is a mixed blessing. While a lot of people have yellow undertones to their skin, many don't, so it can appear a bit too yellow. Also, it is difficult to apply and tends to slide around. After four hours, it looked like it had disappeared.

Sue Devitt: This up-and-coming Australian makeup artist got her start by studying with Nars, and now she produces her very own, unique set of three different foundations made with vitamin C and organic seaweed. I tried the 70-percent triple seaweed gel foundation ($38), which is supposed to give medium coverage. It covers well and feels light, but again, it doesn't seem to last very long. It comes with a pump, however, so you don't have to get messy by digging directly into the bottle.

Makeup Forever: This is another little-known brand and is available in Chicago only at Sephora and Endo-Exo (a smaller, funkier version of Sephora, 2304 N. Halsted). The Matte Velvet ($36) is matte-finished and makes your skin look perfect, even after six hours. It does, however, look somewhat heavy on the face.

Christian Dior: There's a reason Dior is generally considered to be the top of the makeup spectrum. His makeup is fabulous. After applying their Diorskin foundation ($38.50), my blemishes were greatly diminished and my skin had a soft, dewy glow. Best of all, it was light as a feather. That just-applied freshness is retained even after six or more hours.

My conclusion? I've decided to go with Dior for the soft, springy glow that will light up any face. However, I'd recommend Makeup Forever if you truly want to cover up. Of course, everyone has different needs and skin types, and there are dozens of brands that went untested by me. Finding the right foundation can be a frustrating search, but a fun one—after all, you are just enhancing your natural beauty!