The best makeup looks all have one thing in common: a flawless base. But when it comes to achieving a smooth, perfected complexion, you've got plenty of options, which can make things a little confusing. Not only do you have to choose the amount of coverage and the right shade, but you also have to decide on the perfect finish, and the right formula—not exactly an easy feat. So we turned to makeup artist Brittany Spyksma to explain the differences in foundation formulas as well as alternative options like tinted moisturizers, BB creams, and CC creams.
"Foundation coverage can be such a personal preference," Spyksma explains. "Knowing what look you like will help you in choosing the right foundation. Also, knowing your skin type can be a huge factor in choosing a foundation finish."
Meet the Expert
Brittany Spyksma is an LA-based makeup artist who has worked with celebrities such Jessica Alba, Olivia Culpo, and Cara Santana.
Once you've established what look you're trying to achieve and what your skin needs most, follow the below quick, easy guide to foundations, tinted moisturizers, BB creams, and CC creams to help you on your search for the right product.
The best product for fuller coverage, foundation works to improve skin tone while also slightly camouflaging blemishes. Foundations of the past were known for being thick and cakey on the skin, but the application, comfort, and finish of today's formulas have come a long way. Foundation is thicker in consistency than tinted moisturizers, bb creams, and cc creams, comes in a multitude of shades for all different skin tones, and can be used for everyday wear or when you are getting dressed up for a special occasion.
Start applying foundation in your problem areas, then blend it into all the other areas of your face to even it out. This is a great way to ensure you're applying product where you need it and not using too much.
With foundation, you have several levels of coverage, from sheer to full, but even the lightest still has more coverage than tinted creams typically provide. You can also find a finish that fits your skin's specific needs. "I have dry skin, so I don't ever wear a matte foundation because it makes my skin look dull and dry," Spyksma says. "I prefer light-to-medium coverage with more of a dewy finish. So when I'm looking for foundations, I look for keywords like 'medium coverage,' 'natural,' 'dewy finish,' or 'buildable.'" Her top pick for medium coverage and a glowy finish? Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk ($64). "It has really nice, light-to-medium coverage with a beautiful finish. It's on the list of favorites for most makeup artists I know."
If you have combination skin or your complexion is neither dry nor oily, a satin finish is a good in-between option. Try the Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation ($43). For those with very oily skin, a matte foundation can help control oil production and allow for longer wear. If you like full coverage or matte skin, Spyksma says to look for keywords on product labels that say something like, "18-hour wear" or longer because those will have a lot of coverage and are less likely to break up throughout the day. Spyksma's top pick for a matte foundation is the YSL All Hours Longwear Natural Matte Foundation ($54) for its longevity and flawless finish.
If you prefer a more natural look than even the sheerest foundation can provide, tinted moisturizer is a quick and easy alternative. "A tinted moisturizer is going to give you minimal coverage," Spyksma says. "It's like skincare with a little color." Keep this product on hand for good skin days or times when you only want a hint of color. Spyksma recommends using your tinted moisturizer in addition to your regular, everyday moisturizer or finding a formula that gives your skin enough moisture on its own. Because it's a hybrid of face cream and foundation, you might find using your fingers the best, easiest way to apply and blend the product. Spyksma loves the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer ($46) for its a beautiful finish and added SPF protection.
Whether you know it as beauty balm, blemish balm, or BB cream, this product is known for its ability to even out skin tone and correct blemishes. BB cream is lighter in coverage than standard foundation but thicker than a tinted moisturizer. "If you want a light, natural look but a little more coverage than a tinted moisturizer, try a BB cream," Spyksma says. "It'll still have skincare qualities and give you a minimal makeup look." BB creams can sometimes contain sunscreen, but their key ingredients are antioxidants to help protect skin against free radicals and damage from pollution. On the negative side, you'll generally only find a handful of shades in BB creams; you might find two to four shades of BB cream in any particular brand, whereas you might have 40 or more foundation shades available. To apply BB cream, put a little bit on your forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin and blend in with your fingers, a wet sponge, or a foundation brush. Spyksma's favorite BB cream is this one by Coola. "It perfects the skin with nice medium or light coverage and gives a really beautiful, glowy finish."
Also known as "color corrective" or "color control," CC cream is lighter in texture than BB cream but allows for a foundation-like coverage. The concept behind a good CC cream is to even out blotchiness, redness, or hyperpigmentation of the skin while adding ingredients to calm redness and promote radiance. "If you like the idea of a BB cream but have some skin issues like discoloration or redness, try a CC cream," Spyksma says "It has color correcting qualities that can make it a better fit for people who need a little more color balance." As with BB cream, you will find only a few shades to choose from in this product. CC cream can be applied the same way as a BB cream, but it also works well as a color-correcting primer underneath foundation. By doing this, you completely even out the skin tone while adding anti-aging and hydrating benefits. Just a small amount of foundation blended on top will give you a flawless, airbrushed finish that will last longer throughout the day. For smoothing results, Spykma recommends this color-correcting cream from Supergoop!.