All about that base: a flawless face at 50

The ultimate guide to a flawless base for women over 50, including seven foundation mistakes you could be making, tricks to get it right, and how to choose the best foundation

A great foundation applied correctly will take years off your face: fact. Unlike anti-ageing creams that take at least three weeks to show signs of improvement, foundation makes wrinkles, redness and pigmentation magically disappear in an instant.

start quote

Go for a dewy finish by choosing an oil-based liquid foundation

final quote

Better still, the latest formulas do more than just cover up imperfections. “The research and money invested in the best foundations is now on a par with the most sophisticated anti-ageing creams,” says celebrity make-up artist Daniel Sandler.

“Consumers increasingly want their cosmetics to match the performance of their skincare and expect to see the same high-tech ingredients on the packet.”

Now all you need to look younger is avoid these common pitfalls:

Foundation mistake #1: Not applying primer underneath

“Smooth a primer on top of moisturiser and underneath foundation,” says Florrie White, Clinique’s UK Colour Artist. ”As well as giving your foundation staying power, it fills in pores and softens fine lines.” Her kit always includes Clinique Superprimers (£20 each), as they come in different colour-correcting shades to tone down common skincare gripes such as redness and sallowness.

Foundation mistake #2: Applying a thick layer all over

“The purpose of foundation is not to cover every square inch of your face – just use it on areas where you need it most such as around your nose, chin and cheeks,” says Jane Richardson, international lead stylist for NARS Cosmetics. If you have broken capillaries or other imperfections use a matte concealer – not foundation – to disguise them.

Foundation mistake #3: Top-ups during the day

Applying layer upon layer of foundation will make your make-up look cakey and emphasise lines. “Instead, mist a moisturising spray (Clinique Moisture Surge, £22, is good) over your face to rehydrate your skin and wake-up your foundation,” says White. “Then use concealer only on the areas where your foundation has worn off – usually around the nose, mouth and under the eyes.’

Foundation mistake #4: Setting it with powder

Most powders contain talc, which dries your skin out and leaves a chalky finish that sticks in creases. Some even have shimmer in them, which can make your pores look larger. If you need take down shine, use a brush to dust a fine layer of translucent setting powder on your T-zone (forehead, nose and chin, as these tend to be oilier) only. Try Nars Light Reflecting Loose Setting Powder, £27. Never use a powder puff – it disperses too much powder at once.

Foundation mistake #5: Going completely matte

The powders in mattifying foundations can settle on the surface of the skin and exaggerate enlarged pores and wrinkles. “Skin looks younger and fresher when you can see it through your foundation,” says Joanna Czech, Uma Thurman’s facialist.

“Go for a dewy finish by choosing an oil-based liquid foundation (try Giorgio Armani Maestro Fusion Foundation, £40). Unlike water-based versions, they won’t highlight enlarged pores and fine lines. Or make your own by mixing your favourite serum or facial oil in with your regular foundation.”

Foundation mistake #6: The wrong shade

Skin starts to lose pigment when it ages and naturally becomes paler. So this may mean rethinking your foundation shade. “Unless you’re repurchasing, don’t shop online as you won’t get a good colour match,” says celebrity make-up artist Lisa Eldridge. ‘

“Ask for a foundation sample at the make-up counter and when you get home blend a test patch towards the back of your jaw and down the side of your neck. Never test foundation on the back of your hand!

“The skin on the back of your jaw and side of your neck is less pigmented and the truest representation of your natural skin tone.

“Then look in the mirror in daylight and ask yourself: ‘Does it match my neck? Did the colour stay true during the course of the day or did it change once the silicones in the formula evaporated?’”

Foundation mistake #7: Applying it with your fingers

Use a fan brush such as Jane Iredale Fan brush, (£8.95) over your cheeks and chin. It softly buffs on the foundation so it won’t seep into lines, and that means a smoother, more natural application. “Use a make-up sponge to gentle tap foundation around your nose and eyes,” says White. “That way it won’t cake on the skin and deflects from fine lines.”

The turn-back-the-clock foundations

In your 20s you choose your foundation based on your skin type (i.e. whether it’s dry or oily). But over the age of 40 you’ll get the most polished results if you first identify the biggest ager for your skin, then choose a foundation with technology designed especially to improve on it.

Problem: wrinkles and enlarged pores
Solution: radiance foundations

Scan the ingredients’ list for skin-illuminating ingredients such as the mineral mica and pearl pigments that reflect light off your skin. “They smooth out the skin texture, enhance bone structure and blur away fine lines,” says Caroline Barnes, Max Factor UK Ambassador.

Try: Max Factor Skin Luminizer Foundation, £7.99

Problem: age spots and broken capillaries
Solution: HD-ready foundations

In the same way transition lenses change according to different light conditions so too do these foundations, thanks to what is known in the beauty business as ‘photochromatic pigments’. “These adapt to all sorts of situations, whether you’re out in natural daylight or inside under artificial lighting, to keep skin looking fresh and imperfections disguised,” says Gucci Westman, Revlon global artistic director.

Try: Revlon Photoready Compact Make-up SPF20, £8.99

Problem: sagging
Solution: shock-absorbing foundations

You’re probably more used to hearing about shock-absorbing trainers, which protect your joints from impact with the ground when running or walking. In much the same way, the latest foundations contain fillers (usually silicones) in their formulas. These ingredients move with the skin to absorb the ‘shock’ of facial expressions and create a perfectly smooth finish all day so your foundation never settles into lines and creases.

Try: Suqqu Frame Fix Cream Foundation (£62)

Weekly newsletter