Just as the moisturiser you used in your 20s and 30s likely needs an upgrade once you hit your 40s and beyond, the same is true of foundation. “As we age, our skin becomes drier and thinner while also losing collagen and elasticity,” says New York-based makeup artist Gita Bass (her clients include Olivia Wilde, Elizabeth Olsen, and Laura Dern). “That, combined with the long-term effects of gravity and sun exposure, causes sagging, fine lines, as well as hyperpigmentation.” The other feature that tends to shift with the passage of time is the tint of our complexion. “A lot of people lose colour in their face as they age; their colour can become more sallow,” adds makeup artist Sandy Linter.
To help you identify what you should be looking out for in a new foundation, we asked expert make up artists for their advice. Below, most of their picks are on the pricer side — costing above £30 — but our experts really emphasised the importance of investing in products with high-quality ingredients as we age.
Before you read on, some foundation pointers from makeup artist Tamah Krinsky (whose clients include Gillian Anderson and Alexa Chung): “No matter how you apply it, keep the product sheer, and blend, blend, blend, making sure you get into the folds around the nose, under your eyes, and between the brows.” And, start small, knowing a 5p coin-size amount should more than suffice for the whole face. “You’re not trying to cover your face in makeup; you’re evening out your skin tone,” Krinsky says. Finally, every expert we consulted here stressed that it’s key to start with a well-moisturised face: “If your skin is dry underneath, there is no foundation that will work,” says Fulvia Farolfi, makeup artist and Chanel beauty ambassador.
Best overall foundation for mature skin
Designed to mimic the feel of silk charmeuse, Bass says this is the “holy grail of foundations for all skin types, but particularly for mature skin.” That’s because it hits all the foundation marks: “It has a gorgeous lightweight feel, it’s easily buildable where you need more coverage, and it creates a radiant glow without a greasy finish,” she explains. Makeup artist Lucky Bromhead (the personal makeup artist to Catherine O’Hara and Anne Frances) praises its weightless texture and ability to never settle into fine lines, while makeup artist Fiona Stiles, (her clients include Gabrielle Union and Elizabeth Banks) loves that the luminosity draws attention away from any wrinkles or imperfections.
Best foundation stick for mature skin
For those who prefer the ease of application that comes with a nonliquid formula, both makeup artist Sarah Uslan (her clients include Olivia Colman and Michelle Monaghan) and makeup artist Lucy Halperin are fans of Tom Ford’s Traceless Foundation Stick. “It’s so creamy, easy to apply, and has a great shade range,” says Halperin. Uslan loves the way it “glides” on and that you can use it sparingly – which is generally good advice for mature skin. “You can just spot-treat areas with redness or discolouration if you don’t want to wear foundation over your entire face,” she adds.
Best medium coverage foundation for mature skin
Whenever makeup artist Alex Glynn is working with a client with mature skin, she reaches for Charlotte Tilbury’s Light Wonder. “This foundation is so lightweight, meaning there’s less chance of it settling in to fine lines,” says Glynn. “It also has a truly radiant finish, which evens out any skin tone, but never looks cake-y.”
Best colour correcting foundation for mature skin
Proof that appearances can be deceiving, Linter says: “You’ll take one look at this foundation and think it’s too heavy, but it’s not! When you blend it onto the skin, it’s beautiful and you can keep building it for more coverage.” That the formula also delivers a glow, hydration, SPF, and is packed with ingredients like peptides, hyaluronic acid, and hydrolyzed collagen — all of which become that much more beneficial with age — makes it a real beauty workhorse.
Best foundation with a velvety finish for mature skin
If you’re after a finish that’s more velvety — meaning less glow-y or dewy — makeup artist Nick Barose (his clients include Lupita Nyong’o, Natasha Lyonne, and Kim Cattrall) is all about this liquid formula by Armani. “It blends like a second skin, blurs lines, and sets to a nice velvety finish, which helps avoid creasing,” he says. A bonus: It also has a subtle lifting and firming effect.
Best long-wear foundation for mature skin
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by foundation choices, Bass’s advice is to look for key words like “hydrating” or “luminous,” which are a boon for skin at any age, but especially when you’re older. “Formulas with words like these tend to help bring back the glow that we lose over time,” says Bass. But to nail the illuminating effect can often mean sacrificing longevity, which makes NARS’s Radiant Longwear Foundation a real unicorn. “It has the most amazing staying power and gives a gorgeous radiant finish,” adds Bass. To even further seal the deal, you might want to consider dusting on a powder for the final touch, ideally with a fluffy brush to help disperse the particles evenly. (Uslan is partial to Laura Mercier Shine Control Pressed Powder “because it’s transparent and very soft and light.”)
Best tint-as-foundation for mature skin
Ideal for the more foundation-averse among us, Linter likes this sheer tint for its “absolutely gorgeous texture,” glow-y finish, and antioxidants that deliver a skin-care boost. “It adds just the right amount of colour to your face so that you look natural but absolutely radiant,” she explains. And because it feels more like skin care rather than makeup, daily wear is that much more appealing. The one negative: not enough shades.
Best concealer-as-foundation for mature skin
“I use concealer in lieu of foundation all the time,” says Farolfi. “I’m European, so foundation is like a five-times-a-year thing, but concealer is a must every day.” For those less-is-more days — and less is often more for mature skin, since, as we said, heavier makeup tends to settle into fine lines — Halperin loves this long-wearing concealer with an easy wand application. “Apply it under the eyes and the T-zone, and blend it out to even the skin tone without using too much coverage,” she says. Halperin also gives Dior high marks for its extensive shade range.
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