I’ve been on quite the foundation kick lately, and even though I don’t get nearly as excited about foundations as I do about eyeshadows or lipsticks, there were a ton of great foundation releases this year that really fueled my love of foundations.
I recently just bought a bunch of them to try out and have been testing them for the past 6 weeks or so and I’m ready to share my thoughts on everything. I have also been trying out some new primers and other base products to include in this roundup.
I tried out these products:
- By Terry Glow Booster CC Serum
- Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Foundation
- Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter
- Flesh Beauty Foundation
- Flesh Beauty Illuminating Primer
- Kosas Cosmetics Tinted Face Oil
- Pat McGrath Skin Fetish Foundation
- Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick
- Westman Atelier Super Loaded Tinted Highlight in Peau de Peche
A note about my skin type and shades before we start: I have combination/oily skin that leans more combination during the winter. I tend to have an oily t-zone and cheeks near my nose, and my upper cheeks are more normal in the winter. I am a light-medium golden olive skin tone, and it leans more neutral in the winter. My best foundation matches (not including the foundations mentioned in this post) are MAC NC30 or C4 during the winter, and MAC NC35 in the summer.
By Terry Glow Booster CC Serum in Starlight Rose
$89, currently on sale for $71.20 at By Terry
I was gifted this cult favorite CC Serum by the brand before the holidays. It’s supposed to be an illuminating makeup prep/primer with an illuminating rose tint. There are a few shades available that are supposed to give you different effects and the Starlight Rose shade is supposed to be brightening. I˚ve been using this mainly as a primer and I really do notice a subtle brightening effect. It doesn’t really have noticeable shimmer so I wouldn’t say its a glowy primer, but it just makes my skin look slightly fresher and brighter.
As a makeup primer, it’s not really a smoothing primer with a silicone feel. It feels more like a light lotion that sets, which I think helps with gripping any makeup I apply over it. I think this does a pretty good job of keeping my makeup on throughout the day. While it isn’t an oil controlling primer, it also doesnt give me extra shine. Since it’s the winter, I don’t really need heavy oil control so I’m not sure how this would hold up in the summer. However, the brightening effect and how it seems to prep my skin for any base products makes this a great primer for me. I’ve also mixed this into fuller coverage foundations to sheer them out and have really loved the result. It is extremely pricey so I wouldn’t call it a necessity, but I do enjoy using it a lot.
This full coverage matte foundation from Charlotte Tilbury was released in the spring of 2019, and although I wasn’t initially super interested, the rave reviews about its lasting power on oily skin intrigued. I don’t normally wear full coverage foundations anymore, but I perk up any time I hear a product is oil controlling. To pick out a foundation shade, I initially used The Beauty Lookbook’s review, since she has a similar skin tone to mine. I ended up with 7.5N, which I probably wouldn’t have picked out if I hadn’t read her blog! Over this past year, I’ve discovered that the olive tones in my skin actually makes my skin pull more neutral than golden in the winter when it comes to foundation, and then my skin turns more golden as it tans. Ever since I started buying more neutral shades, I’ve noticed how much better all my foundations match. Shade 7.5N ends up being a near perfect match for my skin.
This is definitely a fuller coverage foundation than the light coverage foundations I normally wear, but its not so full coverage that it would cover a tattoo. I find that it’s actually pretty easy to sheer out the coverage to make it more medium coverage. And while this has a matte finish, it doesn’t look flat on my skin. It’s a nice natural matte, which prevents it from looking too mask like on my skin.
The lasting power is also as good as everyone says it is. It stays matte and intact on my skin for at least 6 hours before my natural oils start to break through, but my skin still doesn’t look greasy even after 12 hours. After a full day my skin looks flawless and there’s a nice natural glow to it. The most impressive part about the wear is that it doesn’t sink into my pores or settle into lines, as many heavier coverage foundations tend to wear on me. This is not an every day foundation for me since I still reach for my lighter coverage foundations every day, but it has become the one that I reach for for events or when I really a flawless finish.
This is not a new product for me, but I recently bought a second shade of it so I thought I would just add my thoughts here too. The Flawless Filter is kind of an enigma. It’s hard to pin down exactly what it is and what it’s supposed to be used for. It’s kind of a highlighter, but not quite. It’s too shimmery as a primer or concealer, though a lot of the marketing implies it could be used as such. The way I like to use this is as a an illuminator on the high points of my face to give me a healthy glow. I generally apply it on a broader area of my cheeks and forehead than I would a highlighter. The effect is not so much like I applied a shimmer highlighter, but that I have perfectly dewy skin that looks healthy. I also like to mix this into foundations to give them a dewier finish, which makes it a great companion for the Airbrush Flawless Finish foundation. The lasting power on this is also fantastic. It keeps my face looking glowy all day but it doesnt break down or look oily at the end of the day, even during the summer.
The only thing to watch out for with this product is the shade range. I originally bought this in shade 5 Tan, which is a deep golden shade. It works great as a bronze glow during the summer when I first bought it, but the shade difference between 4 and 5 is large. Shade 4 is very beige, around my NC30 skin tone, which is great for a more brighter illuminated look. It seems like the difference between shade 3 and 4 is much smaller than with 4 and 5. Still, this product, which I originally thought was unnecessary, has snuck into my makeup routine and become a regular step in my base. It really makes my skin look healthy and glowy without looking like I even applied any product.
Flesh Beauty is generally a brand that has intrigued me from the very start – from their mildly intriguing name, but curiosity definitely got the better of me. This primer really caught my eye because it’s generally clear, but it has a beautiful subtle pink-purple shift that’s supposed to have a brightening effect. I was afraid that it was going to be a really obvious pink-purple tint, but I actually barely notice it on my skin. It is, indeed, just a very glowy primer that brightens my face. If you like a glowy base, but you don’t like the illuminating primers that have shimmer in them, this is one to try out. It looks like my face it almost reflective in how shiny it is, but it doesn’t feel like an oily or heavy primer. It has a light lotion texture that sets down slightly. Because it has such a shiny finish, I don’t think this would work on my skin during the summer when I want to tamp down any oiliness, but for the winter, it makes my face look wonderfully glowy in the dull weather. I think this would be most suitable for dry-normal skin rather than combination or oily. For me, ill enjoy using this for the season, but I wouldn’t reach for it regularly any other time of year.
To go with the primer, I also wanted to try the foundation, which had promising claims of having a natural finish. It has a water based finish, which is my usual preferred formula. I used the pictures on the Flesh Beauty website to find my shade. I ultimately ended up with Butterscotch, which is a medium neutral. Again, I find that the neutral tone suits my warm-ish olive skintone better than a true warm shade. I think this shade is probably half a shade too dark for my winter skintone, but it will work great in other parts of the year when I have more color. Since I don’t have any Ultas by me that carry Flesh, I had to make my best guess online, but I am pretty impressed with the shade range and that there is a good spread of fair to deep shades.
The actual finish of this foundation is indeed, a very natural medium coverage. I find that it applies best with my fingers so that I can blend it into my skin. I think this applied best over the Illuminating Primer, as it helps it blend and look more natural and glowy. When I layer the two products together, my skin looks super bright and impossibly glowy. However, with any other primer, it gets a little more finicky. I’ve used this with the By Terry Glow Booster CC Serum, Laura Mercier Primers, or with no primer, and it doesn’t blend quite as effortlessly as with the the Flesh Beauty primer. Since it’s water based, it doesn’t spread as smoothly as an oil based foundation, which makes this more suitable for combination/oily skin. I think if you have any dry spots, this is likely to catch on them. However, for my combination skin, it does give me a semi-matte natural finish. The wear time on this foundation is about 8 hours before I start to notice it starting to settling in my pores. I wouldn’t use this as an ultra wear foundation, but it works well as a day time foundation.
Kosas Cosmetics Tinted Face Oil
$42 at kosas.com
I’ve had the Kosas Cosmetics Tinted Face Oil for several months now so it’s not as new of a product for me, but I thought I’d include it here because I haven’t really talked about it. This is a really unique base product that really feels exactly like a face oil with tint. It’s a very liquidy serum-oil based foundation that has medium coverage that blends right into my skin. As someone with oily skin, I never thought I would voluntarily reach for something called a tinted face oil, but I think this may actually be better suited for combination/oily skin than for dry skin types. I use just 3 to 4 drops of this for medium coverage on my face. It blends effortlessly into my skin, and once it’s completely blended in, it really looks like I have nothing on my face, but my skin looks polished.
The oils in this foundation, including Avocado Oil, Jojoba Oil, Rosehip Oil, among many others, blend with the natural oils in my face. However, I do notice that this sometimes catches on any dry spots I have, like dry patches from old acne scars, and I have to make sure I blend it away. It’s not to say this wouldn’t work for you if you do have dry skin, but I’d test it out before you go all in. The wear on this foundation is also surprising – I find that this lasts all day, which is usually 12 or so hours for me, without breaking down or making me even more greasy. The long wear of this was a pleasant surprise, as I was expecting it to break down on my face in a couple of hours. I have yet to try this in the hot and humid summers, but for a winter foundation, this does a great job of making my face feel nourished and polished.
This may be one of the most buzzed foundations of the past year. I held out on trying this for a really long time because I just haven’t been super interested in base products until later in the year, but once the Pat McGrath Black Friday 30% off sale came around, I just had to try it. There’s no debating that this is a beautiful foundation from the heavy weight glass packaging to the black lid. It’s not what I would consider especially travel friendly because of how heavy it is, but the pump bottle with lid is a plus. The foundation also comes with 35 ml of product compared to the usual 30 ml so at least you’re getting a bit of a bonus…?
I ended up with shade light/medium 14, which is described as a light/medium with neutral/olive undertones. It’s also maybe a tad too dark for my winter skin tone, and I probably could have gotten away with shade 13, but the shade difference is not huge.
The formula on this is unlike anything I’ve ever tried. It’s described as having a buildable long-wear satin finish. It contains a “vita-serum complex” that’s supposed to boost hydration and smooth skin texture, and it is supposed to have a soft focus finish. I’ve tried applying this with brushes and fingers, and I definitely prefer using my fingers. It helps the product meld into my skin and it almost seems to blend itself, leaving behind exactly what it claims – a velvety soft focus finish with medium coverage. It was more matte than I was expecting, so if you’re looking for a glowy or dewy foundation, this may not be the best option. It has almost a powdery finish that really looks like velvet. This is also quite a pigmented foundation so I found that one pump gives medium coverage, although it can be sheered out or built up to be slightly more full coverage. Tip: I actually really like to mix this in with the Chanel Water Fresh Tint for the perfect blend of a sheer glowy and more matte finish foundation.
As for the wear of this foundation, it really depends what I use under it. The first 4-6 hours will always be beautiful. It starts to settle into my skin’s natural oils, and my skin will look impossibly soft filtered. After about 6 hours, I start to look dewy, but the foundation still looks beautiful. After that, it really depends on the primer I wear underneath. If I wear a luminous primer like the By Terry or the Flesh Beauty, I look straight up oily between hours 8-10, but if I wear a matte primer like the Laura Mercier Anti-Blemish Primer or the Hourglass Mineral Veil, it stays at the dewy mark until about 12-13 hour mark. After that, my oils still start to peak through, but after 12 hours, I’m usually at home where it doesn’t totally matter how my skin looks anymore. But regardless of how oily I get, I don’t find that this foundation starts to look blotchy or patchy, so that’s a huge plus.
Although it took me a few tries to get it right, I am really impressed by this foundation. This gives me the most airbrushed flawless look without looking like I’m wearing a mask, though isn’t what I’d consider a super natural finish. It’s a foundation for when I want to look super polished and put together, not when I want to look natural or wear minimal makeup. The finish and wear are really beautiful and unique, but still easy enough to work with that I will reach for this on a regular day.
Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick
$68 for .31 oz/9g at Westman Atelier
Continuing the round up of some very pricey foundations, the Westman Atelier Foundation Stick was another much hyped release from makeup artist Gucci Westman. Considered a “clean” brand, this foundation does not have silicones, but it uses squalene, camellia oil, and coconut oil for an ultra smooth finish that evens out skin tone, enhances you skin’s natural radiance, while looking natural on the skin. These are certainly some ambitious claims for a foundation, but after testing it out numerous times, I can safely say that it lives up to ALL the claims. It glides onto my skin effortless straight from the stick, and I can use my fingers or a dense synthetic brush like the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush to blend out the product. It blends smoothly and it really does look completely natural on my skin, and I honestly can’t tell that I’m wearing any foundation, yet all my redness is gone, my spots are lighter, and my skin looks radiant. This is another buildable foundation though I tend to prefer using a light coverage on most of my face, and then a second layer on my trouble spots. I wear shade V, described as a medium-tan golden skin tone. I find it a touch more golden than my winter skin, but I would consider it a medium tone as it matches my winter skin really well. I can barely detect the golden tone when I blend it into my skin.
With its radiant finish, I was skeptical about how it would wear on my skin, but it held up beautifully through an entire 12+ hour day. It stays natural and lightly dewy but it doesn’t ever settle into my pores or veer into the oily territory for the entire day. Even when I look into a close up mirror, I can barely tell I’m wearing any foundation. So yes, is the foundation unreasonably pricey, even for my extreme makeup buying habits? Yes. But is it worth every penny for me? Also yes. It is my favorite base product I’ve tried for this round up and I’m sure it will become a new holy grail soon. It’s really difficult to beat the convenience, wear, and finish of this stick foundation.
Westman Atelier Super Loaded Tinted Highlight in Peau de Peche
$75 for .14oz/4g at Westman Atelier
Although this isn’t quite a base product, I wanted to add this in here since I was already testing out the foundation. This is a cream-powder highlight in a peachy bronze shade. It’s not a traditional cream, but it has a powdery feel, while still being as blendable as a cream product. This makes it a super buildable highlighter, and it can look like the most subtle glow, or it can be built up to a more dramatic sheen. I also really love the peachy bronze shade as I think it looks really natural on my skin. However, as beautiful as this product looks, wears, and applies, it’s not so crazy special or unique that I would shell out $75 for another one. It’s a beautiful luxe product (housed in a gorgeous compact, too!), and I’ll get a ton of wear out of it, but I think the foundation is more worth the money than the highlighter.
I’ve also swatched everything:
…and that’s it! If you’re still reading this post, I applaud you. Since I wanted to cover more products, I may not have gone in as much depth on any of the products as I normally would, so if you have any questions, let me know below.
As always, thanks for reading!