With all the frequent mask-wearing this year, I was frankly getting a little fed up of makeup streaking across my face mask. Yep, not pretty, and quite a waste of product too. Now I love foundation for the flawless finish it gives, but it looks like something’s gotta give. So, on most days these days, festivities aside, I’ve been trying a little something — going foundation-free.
To be fair, this is something you can achieve at any season of your life, though I only got more confident over time; years of base makeup had gotten me used to covered-up pores, vanished blemishes, and the idea of “flawless-looking skin”. Obviously having good skin helps, so either way, skin prep is key. You’ll want to use moisturisers and sunscreens that dry to a matte, not slick, base. Then, there are other beauty items that help with an airbrushed, filtered finish, which you’ll find below.
Sure, you won’t be getting flawless, but I found it quite liberating to embrace natural, bare skin too — and my skin agrees. It seems to be acting up a lot less compared to maskne days. If you’d like to do the same, here are five important steps that I learnt along the way:
1. Makeup Primers
WHY IT WORKS
Makeup primers needn’t just be the stuff you put on under your base makeup — you can wear them on their own too. After all, they’re formulated to give that filter-like, pore-blurring effect by subtly filling in tiny lines and going over your pores or bumpy textures, so that your skin is at its smoothest before the “next step” of foundation. Just that, this time, we’re skipping that. And what do you know, your skin can still look pretty amazing with just a layer of makeup primer!
Go with a silicone-free formula. While silicone usually acts as a “filler” so your makeup glides on top, my personal preference is something that’s less likely to clog pores over time.
1. Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer – Illuminating Face Primer ($70) — This one’s infused with microionized pearls for a glowy sheen, and yet, being water-based and silicone-free, you won’t build up an oily slick as the day wears on.
2. Supergoop! Glowscreen Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Primer SPF 40 PA++ ($55) — if you’re looking for glow, I highly recommend Supergoop!’s Glowscreen, a sunscreen-primer hybrid that imparts a dewy sheen that’s more obvious when worn on its own. It’s a look that says “I’m a healthy sporty person” even though you’re totally protected from those UV rays.
3. HERA Airy Blur Priming Powder, ($72) — I found the clay-like powder formula suitable for a matte finish — good if you’re on the combination-oily side — without caking up like most matte powders tend to do.
2. Loose Powders & Pressed Powders
WHY IT WORKS
For me, powders offer longevity. Some of these have skin-blurring effects similar to makeup primers, so using them alone even without base makeup will seemingly diminish enlarged pores, giving that skin-perfecting finish you might be looking for. Why they work for me though is because of their mattifying effect, which banishes shine and keeps my skin looking tame even with all that sweating under the face mask. Note that the ones here are different from powder foundations, in that they’re sheer; loose powders are often more sheer than pressed ones too, but either way, go for the most finely-milled options your wallet can afford.
Colours matter. If you’re wearing powders on their own, pick a translucent one or a colour that matches your skin tone so it disappears when applied. Or, go for subtle tints to correct the skin tone — universally, green corrects redness and blemishes, purple gives a brightening effect, while peachy tones are known to hide dark circles under the eye.
1. By Terry Hyaluronic Pressed Hydra Powder ($82) — The pressed powder version of By Terry’s famous loose powder manages to create a nice matte finish while taking care of your skin. I like that it’s infused with hyaluronic acid so the skin is kept constantly hydrated, while the compact case is convenient to stash away in my on-the-go makeup kit.
2. Shiseido Synchro Skin Invisible Silk Loose Powder ($70) — In either a Matte or Radiant finish, Shiseido’s loose powder manages to feel lightweight and look lightweight too; they’re not playing around when they say this is the “finest powder in Shiseido’s history”.
3. Givenchy Prisme Libre Loose Powder ($90) — This cult classic offers a velvety matte finish and truly disappears into the skin as soft focus spheres blur out tiny imperfections. For this shade, the hues on the left even out red and yellow skin tones while the two on the right blend the result for an opalescent glow.
4. Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte’s Genius Magic Powder Under Eye & Face ($75) — I associate Charlotte Tilbury for anything Hollywood-related, so expect this loose powder to impart that level of glam too. It blurs imperfections while boosting radiance, and diffuses light in the most ideal way so your face will look good even under a harsh camera flash.
3. Spot Concealing
HOW IT WORKS
Yeah, there’ll still be days when an annoying blemish pops up for no known reason — junk food diet, late nights, hormones, I don’t know — which eats aways at some of my no-foundation confidence. There’s an easy fix for that though. Concealer! I won’t need to go into detail on why this works, but don’t go ham on it all over your face though. Instead of using it as a foundation replacement, the idea here is to only conceal where necessary, strategically placing it on the exact place where an unfortunate spot has popped up, or if you like, to cover up fine lines or dark eye circles. Only minimally! It’ll take time and restraint to achieve this, but really, you’ll be fine.
Pick buildable ones that move and stretch with your skin. When worn on its own, you won’t really have other base pigments to blend the concealer with, so a sheer to medium finish is even more important. You want this to look as natural and seamless as possible.
1. Make Up For Ever Matte Velvet Skin Concealer ($45) — The new formula is a multi-use one that the brand recommends for even contouring, but I like to use it as pure concealer, one with an airy and flexible texture that moves with your skin. The 24-hour long-lasting promise helps too.
2. Nudestix Nudefix Cream Concealer ($42) — The most sheer of the lot, it does still build to a medium coverage, while I find its small size easy to carry around. Another great thing is that it comes with botanical skincare ingredients so your skin will feel great underneath.
3. NARS Soft Matte Complete Concealer ($46) — This says “full coverage” but I can vouch for how the lightweight formula looks natural on my skin. The great thing here is that it’s buildable, starting with medium coverage that you can pile on without it caking.
4. Skin Tints & Tinted Moisturisers
HOW IT WORKS
Is it cheating if I included some form of tint in my list? Yes, kinda. But these are for the days when your skin isn’t all that great so you still want some coverage, in its most breathable and lightweight form. These tints are more “moisturisers with sheer coverage” than “base makeup with moisturising benefits”. Yes, there’s a difference. Tinted moisturisers keep your skin even more nourished and hydrated, with some subtle sheer coverage that doesn’t shy away from the natural texture of your skin — that still shines through.
1. Sisley Phyto-Hydra Teint ($135) — This product is really skincare, as you can tell from the White Lily extract and plant-based extracts for smooth skin, and yet, still contains sheer pigments to even out my skin tone. I have to say, it’s one of the best tints I’ve tried for a smooth but subtle coverage, and manages to look fresh hours after it’s on.
2. Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint (USD26) — Glossier’s was the first-ever skin tint I tried, and I was amazed at how it blends out so smoothly, with just the right amount of sheer coverage so my skin looked like it got a natural glow-up.
5. Face Mists
HOW IT WORKS
I wouldn’t have considered this until one of my friends recommended it — she’s been “surviving” sans foundation for more than a year, so I trust her on this. She insists on spritzing on a mist about twice a day so your skin appears “more hydrated and glowy”, especially if you’re in an air-conditioned environment, which is important since it’ll really be your natural skin that’s facing the world. My personal experience is that it works like skin prep; the more plump and hydrated your skin is, the better and more healthy it will look. Skin mists maintain that glow throughout the day, and keeps it well-balanced so it won’t over- or under-produce healthy oils.
You don’t necessarily have to look for one that sets makeup, since there’s nothing to really set here. That little bit of concealer doesn’t count. Instead, go for the “skincare” mists that give maximum hydration.
1. Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Ultra-Fine Mist ($43) — This cult brand is the real deal when delivering good-for-skin fruit extracts, and here, even their mist contains a blend of 84% watermelon, hyaluronic acid, and hibiscus to refresh skin and naturally balance oil production.
2. Caudalie Beauty Elixir ($72) — Another cult product that deserves its hype is Caudalie’s option. Yes this functions as a priming base and setting spray, but still has enough skincare benefits to be on the list too, thanks to essential oils and plant extracts that offer a fresh burst of radiance.