What's Really in Your Foundation?

The best one will cover blemishes, even out skin tone, and still look natural enough to make 'em wonder, Did she wake up like that? Discover your beauty ally, here.

Here's what you should know about your foundation.

First, the Basics

There are two main kinds of foundation: liquid and powder.

  • Liquid foundation is your best bet if you have mature or dry skin. (It's hydrating and won't settle into fine lines.) It starts with water,oil, or ­silicone, with emollients like mineral oil or jojoba oil added to help the makeup spread more easily. Humectants like glycerin or hyaluronic acid give skin a blast of moisture.
  • Powder Foundation will benefit oily skin most — it has a mattifying effect on slick ­areas. These formulations are a bit less complicated: They can be made of talc,mica, or ­titanium dioxide, all of which even out skin tone and help ­refine texture.

So What Gives It the Color?

Your perfect match can come from natural minerals (they end in "-oxide" on the label) or FDA-certified synthetic dyes (like yellow No. 5 or red No. 40). Most fair shades begin with a white base (often titanium dioxide). Then a mix of red, yellow, and black is added to create a multitude of flesh tones. Extra black pigments are added to formulas meant for deeper tones, but they can go on dull or muddy. Unimpressed with a mocha shade? Look for an ingredient called ultramarine blue — a pigment that brightens darker skin.

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So Many Kinds! Here's How to Pick

The vocabulary boils down to two things: coverage and finish.

  • Full coverage, no surprise, has the most pigment and covering agents to conceal skin issues.
  • Sheer foundations, as you would expect, hide only the minor stuff and are formulated to subtly help even out any skin type.
  • Matte products typically use a silicone or talc base, which controls shine and disguises pores. (Foundations that promise a glow — you'll see words like "luminous" or "radiant" on the label — are made with oil or mica and give dry skin a dewy, hydrated look.)
  • Mineral makeup contains fewer potential allergens like fragrance and certain preservatives, and is great for sensitive skin.

Pro Tip: To find the right shade, try on foundation. Apply to your jawline and let dry to see the true color. If the store won't allow try-ons, make sure you can return it.

This story originally appeared in the January/February 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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