The Easy Guide To Giving Up Foundation For Good

“Oh, I never wear foundation.” Have you ever felt a pang of envy when someone dropped that carefree statement into conversation? I have. “How nice for you, you radiant woman, but most of us aren’t blessed with clear, glowing skin every day of the week.” Well, my friends, since realizing that the less cover-up you wear, the less you need to cover up, I’ve weaned myself off the hard stuff and come out the other side.
I’m here to give you the tools you’ll need if you’re looking to banish foundation from your makeup bag for good. Having worn foundation for over 10 years, this was no easy feat. Using a long holiday weekend to bear the brunt of my exposed skin, it’s taken two weeks in total to get used to not wearing the hero product of my makeup arsenal.
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Why would I want to stop wearing it? Well, thanks to my oily complexion, while my skin looks pretty great in the morning, by the time I reach work it’s mostly patchy and, by lunchtime, there’s nothing left but an oil refinery. During my period, spots flare up that require heavy-duty concealer, which then builds up into a cakey texture. It’s all rather unpleasant and, after seeing friends who have foregone foundation in favor of natural skin, I rose to the challenge.
While I’m not claiming that living a foundation-free life will guarantee great skin all the time, I do believe your skin will look healthier and surprisingly fresh. Read on for the pro-approved tips and star products that will help you – from the oily and blemished to the dry and uneven – reach peak skin peachiness.
Perfect your base
First things first: In order to stop wearing your trusty cover-up, you need to work on whatever it is you’re trying to conceal. That means you still have to keep your skin-care routine in check, so commit to a simple makeup remover, good cleanser, tailored serums, and a moisturizer.
Up first? You guessed it: double cleanse. “Make sure you deeply cleanse your skin, morning and night. It is very important that you remove all traces of makeup, dirt, dust, and pollution from your skin. REN’s Rosa Centifolia™ No.1 Purity Cleansing Balm gets down to the nitty-gritty without stripping your skin, while Pixi + Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse is an oil and cream duo that leaves you with plump, clean skin.
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For those of us with oily skin, the idea of foregoing foundation to reveal our shiny selves is slightly scary. “One of the most common mistakes people with oily skin make is to avoid using a moisturizer,” Howard Murad, MD, founder of Murad Skincare, tells me.
“Hydration is critical when keeping the balance and harmony of the skin – it stops the sebaceous glands going into overdrive to compensate for the lack of moisture.” Murad’s Oil-Control Mattifier with SPF 15 is a great oil-free moisturizer, while REN’s Clarimatte™ T-Zone Balancing Gel Cream mattifies by evenly redistributing the oil on the skin and reducing its production, avoiding congestion and breakouts. The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid is also a great way to restore moisture to the skin without creating excess slick and shine come midday.
What about uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation? Foundation provides an amazing base tone to give your skin some equilibrium, so what’s the alternative? “Using products with brightening and illuminating ingredients will help even out skin tone”, Dr. Murad explains. Pixi’s Glow Tonic is the holy grail for its brightening abilities – sweep over your face with a cotton pad several times a week and you’ll notice a vast improvement. Tata Harper’s Replenishing Nutrient Complex is as rich in vitamins as it sounds, repairing cells and creating a barrier between your skin and the nasties of the world (pollution, weather, etc.). New brand Epara has a whole range based around the hyperpigmentation most Black women deal with, but it can be used by anyone who suffers from acne scarring, too.
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And for those prone to breakouts: The Ordinary’s Advanced Retinoid 2% is wildly effective and after two weeks of use you’ll likely notice a difference in your complexion. It’s a cult hit for a reason. Reducing redness is always key in keeping inflammation under control, and Murad’s Blemish Spot Treatment is a good place to start.
Take it step by step
You don’t have to go into this cold turkey. “Try a step-by-step approach to let the skin recover,” Dr. Murad suggests. Try a few days per week without foundation until your skin improves and you feel confident enough to go the full seven days. Weekends, hibernation days, or holidays are a great time to start if you’re self-conscious.

Weekends, hibernation days or holidays are a great time to start if you’re self-conscious

If your skin is really playing up or you’re just not ready to bare all, start with CC cream or tinted moisturizer and go from there. A personal favorite is Laura Mercier's Tinted Moisturizer. It comes in a range of shades, divided into cool and warm undertones, and is so lightweight you’ll forget you’re wearing anything at all. As her cult Secret Camouflage proves, the brand doesn’t scrimp on decent coverage, and this base skirts around all manner of sins without caking. Another good one is Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare’s Instant Radiance, which contains SPF 40, makes tired complexions zing, and adds a glow that doesn’t veer into glittery.
While we’re on the topic of SPF: Most of us rely on our foundation having SPF built in (which isn't enough coverage anyway), but this mustn't be an afterthought once you’ve stopped wearing base. “You may find your skin improves dramatically when you stop using foundation, but don’t compromise on sun protection,” Dr. Murad warns. Bliss’ Triple Oxygen Ultimate Protection UV Moisturizer with SPF 30 is a non-greasy, super-lightweight hydration hit.
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Don’t worry about the bad days
Look, we’re all going to have poor skin days. Thanks to stressors like an unbalanced diet, transitional weather, hangovers, unruly hormones. and lack of sleep, you’ll still have flare-ups occasionally. The trick is to accept what you’ve got and work with it, not against it.
For an emergency quick-fix, when I have angry blemishes, tired eyes, or generally look quite gray, I always return to the Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer. It is the best concealer I’ve ever used and it miraculously removes all traces of stress, period spots, and last night’s tequila without sitting heavily on the skin. Another fabulous alternative is the aforementioned Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage, which provides two shades to reduce redness and dark patches.
When you have a little longer to deal with skin flare-ups and dull days, there’s nothing better than a restorative mask. The copper-rich NIOD Flavanone Mud Mask is fantastic for decongesting hormonal or hungover skin, while Farmacy’s warming Honey Potion mask uses antibacterial propolis and immune-boosting echinacea to blast life into your dermis.
Know your tools
Last but not least, understand that there are little things out there to help you if you get an attack of oil just before a meeting, or look so shattered by 3pm that your colleagues ask if you’re ill. The Clarins Pore Perfecting Matifying Kit includes a translucent powder and blotting papers for a two-pronged attack on shine; if your skin is more dull or dry, then facial spritzes are for you. Caudalie’s Beauty Elixir has a reputation for revival for good reason, with brightening and energizing elements to wake you right up, while the Molecular Saviour Mist from Allies of Skin is like a shot of moisture, feeding your skin some much-needed hydration.
That doesn’t seem too scary, right? Whether you’re trying to forego foundation in the build-up to summer, or you’re just kind of tired of covering up every day, I wish you luck in your voyage to a fresh, glowing visage. Now, go show ‘em some skin.
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