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What Is Foundation Makeup?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 21, 2024
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Foundation makeup is a neutral-toned base that is meant to even out skin imperfections and create a blank canvas for makeup application. Foundation comes in many different formulations, including liquid, cream, and powder, and may be customized for different skin types. Choosing the right foundation makeup depends on skin color, texture, and level of coverage desired.

The basic purpose of foundation makeup, also called base, is to make the facial skin look even and flawless. Some formulations use special compounds or fillers to diminish the appearance of lines or scars. Ideally, foundation will be identical to natural skin tone, so that the face does not appear to be a different color than the neck or hairline. Depending on the coverage level, base can also help reduce the appearance of under-eye circles, acne, freckles, and moles.

The most common types of base makeup are liquid, cream, and powder. Liquid foundations come in tubes or bottles and are often applied with a sponge or liquid base brush. The lightest type of liquid foundation is often called tinted moisturizer, which provides extremely sheer cover for those who don't like heavy makeup or don't need much coverage. Cream formulas typically offer heavy coverage, come in a compact, and are applied with a sponge. Powder or mineral foundations come as a loose powder and need to be applied with a fat, diffusing brush. Since powder foundations can be custom blended on the skin, they can be great for people who need heavy coverage in some areas, but light coverage in others.

One of the most important factors in choosing the right foundation makeup is skin color. Traditional wisdom suggests that all people have either pink- or yellow-toned skin, but in truth some may have areas of both colors. Testing foundation color is easily done by applying a strip of the foundation along one cheek, and seeing whether it matches or stands out from the surrounding skin. Some people advise trying foundation on the back of the hand, but this can be misleading, as the color of the face may not match the color of hands.

Oily, dry, combination, and acne-prone skins all require different types of foundation makeup. People with oily skin may want an oil-free base that helps absorb extra moisture throughout the day. Dry skinned people need to find a foundation that does not add to dryness, and does not increase the appearance of flaky skin. Reading the ingredients can be important for those with frequent acne problems, as some formulas may contain oils and other ingredients that may further irritate the skin.

Foundation makeup also comes in a variety of coverage levels, including sheer, light, medium, and full. Sheer and light coverage may be good for people with great skin and few imperfections. Medium coverage can help disguise lines and dark spots, and is typically longer lasting than light coverage base. Full coverage can be good for those who want to cover a lot of imperfections, such as acne scars, but may feel heavy on the face and need a lot of touch-ups throughout the day.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis , Writer
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for BeautyAnswered. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

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Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis


With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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