By Alison Kerr
Foundation forms the canvas for all your make-up. Get it right, and anything you put on top of it will be twice as easy. The trick to a flawless foundation is finding the best product for you, so here's 4Beauty's guide to getting the right foundation shade and the right product for your skin type.
Your foundation should be exactly the same colour as your skin. The best way to find this is to visit a few beauty counters and ask them all to match the foundation they recommend for your skin colour and type.
Ask them to paint a strip on your jawline (forget about trying out shades on your hand - it has to be tested on your face). Then go outside or to the nearest natural light source with a mirror and choose the shade that is the most invisible on your skin and has the nicest texture. You might feel silly popping out in public with a stripy face, but it's much better than walking around for the next year with an orange make-up mask.
These days, there really is a foundation for everyone. When you're young, a good foundation can give you confidence as it can mask skin problems (redness, spots and greasy foreheads do nothing for a girl's self-esteem) and as you grow older, the latest moisturising or anti-ageing foundations will help to keep skin feeling comfortable and looking fresh.
Foundation comes in various textures, including liquid, cream, cream-to-powder (which goes on as a cream but sets as a powder) and powder. Many foundations have a sun protection factor - titanium dioxide, which is used in sun block as it prevents the skin from absorbing ultraviolet rays from the sun. Even if you spend all day in front a computer, your skin is still exposed to low levels of UV radiation so SPF is a great addition to your make-up base.
Oil-free foundations should be avoided by anyone with dry skin. Look for hydrating foundations with an oil base. Not only do they keep the skin comfortable by locking in moisture, they also give it a radiant, dewy glow. As we get older our skin tends to dry out, so oil-free foundations will sit like a mask on top of the skin and look heavy. The latest bases for older skins are anti-ageing moisturisers and foundations rolled into one cream.
Women with oily skin should seek out oil-free bases that offer lasting coverage but aren't too heavy. If your nose and forehead often become shiny, a matte foundation (packed with powders that absorb the grease from the skin) could be the answer. Mineral powder foundation is the most popular option for this skin type as it soaks up excess oil.
Foundations for combination skin have to deliver a double whammy: they have to keep shininess at bay while preventing dehydrated areas of the complexion from drying out. So, they pinch the shine-control aspects of the traditional powdery foundations for oily skin and the locking-in moisture party trick of the foundations created for older and drier skins.
If you have sensitive skin that's prone to flare-ups, make sure you go for a fragrance-free, hypo-allergenic foundation. Powder foundation can be the best option for reactive skins; because it doesn't contain water it doesn't need as many preservatives, which are often the culprits when it comes to triggering irritation on the skin.
Mineral foundation has been big beauty news in recent years, and most brands now offer a mineral-based product. Made from ground-up rocks (mainly mica), it is the ideal choice for many women with sensitive skin as it contains no additives and, in powder form, it needs no synthetic preservatives. The powder doesn't sit in fine lines and is non-comedogenic - meaning it won't clog your pores.
These foundations contain three-dimensional pigments, which bounce light about the face and keep it looking radiant, as well as light-diffusing particles which give a sort of soft-focus effect to the skin, making fine lines appear less harsh. If you've ever wished you could airbrush your face when you look at yourself in photos, this type of foundation is right up your street.
Although the EU banned all testing of cosmetics on animals within the EU in 2009, a British or European company can still carry out certain animal tests for cosmetics outside the European Union's borders. A full ban, that will prevent animal testing on all cosmetic products sold within the EU, is not due to come into effect until 2013.
If you want to avoid these products altogether, visit PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) for a comprehensive list of companies who guarantee that their products are entirely cruelty-free. Look out for Go Cruelty Free's leaping bunny logo if you are not sure.
For vegans, finding a foundation is more of a challenge as some of the common ingredients - such as glycerin and beeswax - are animal-derived. Visit The Vegan Society for advice.