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The Makeup Maniac

Why are we so obsessed with long-wear foundation?

November 2nd 2018 / Anna Hunter / 0 comment

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It’s the base bestseller that shows no sign of slowing down in sales and long-wear foundation launches are coming thick and fast. Here’s how round-the-clock coverage has changed and why it’s so in-demand…

I’ll start this week’s column with a caveat: not everyone in beauty is sold on long-wear foundation. Cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting “loathes” long-wear formulas for a multitude of aesthetic and skin health related reasons, declaring foundation sticks to be a better alternative as they’re gentler on the skin barrier, easier to remove and don’t appear heavy on skin. Durable full coverage formulas haven’t historically been in the fashion fold backstage either, with legendary makeup artist Val Garland declaring that she’s always avoided long-wear foundation when creating looks on shoots and for shows as it looks too obvious under the bright lights of catwalks and cameras.

Lately though, Val has had her head and brush-wielding hand turned by a new generation of customisable long-wear foundation options that seemingly go against the grain of what typically characterised long-lasting base:

“Much of the foundation market is seeing a decline in sales and demand, but the long-lasting foundation market is bucking this trend. I’ve seen foundation technology change before my eyes recently - formulations are far lighter yet still offer coverage. This is because pigments are much more advanced than they used to be - manufacturers can use less pigment as pigment quality overall is superior. Pigments also oxidise far less than they used to (this means they’re less likely to turn orange or change colour as you wear them).”

Val was speaking at the launch of L’Oréal Paris Infallible 24hr Fresh Wear Foundation, £9.99, which launched at the end of October and promises “to last as long as you”. You should not, it should be said, make a habit of staying up a full 24 hours, and neither should you be wearing your foundation for that length of time, but you get the picture. As Val suggests, the feel and texture of Fresh Wear is indeed incredibly light, almost to the point of watery, and while it dries down fast, it can be blended to incorporate multiple coverage “goals” - it’s not a ‘one mask fits all’ situation as fuller finish, long-lasting foundations have typically fallen into. The gel formula could have something to do with this, but the shift in pigment is perceptible too - chalky just doesn’t cut it with the millennial consumer.

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Incidentally, it is the young millennial consumer that’s impacting on beauty sales across the board according to Mintel. They’re a group that are dubbed ‘video driven’ and ‘influencer aware’ and as a result probably most likely to seek out the kind of ‘filtered’ foundation they see in countless online tutorials. 80 per cent of those in the 16-20 age bracket have purchased a beauty product in the past year, meanwhile base makeup has so far seen a 19 per cent uplift in sales in 2018 according to the NPD Group. While NPD UK Beauty Senior Account Manager Helen Duxbury observes that “we seem to be moving away from makeup products that create a defined, chiseled look ” (in short, see ya contouring), “a smooth, flawless, poreless looking complexion” is apparently highly covetable. This likely explains soaring skincare sales in the UK, but it could also account for the popularity of more polished, long-wear foundation formulas. Clearly not all of us can simply slather on a serum and leave the house looking naturally smooth and poreless, but then again nor should that be the expectation, which is where, skin health aside, there are tensions in the full-face of foundation debate.

Ultimately, we should all be free to choose, and if you suffer from redness, scarring, melasma or any other skin condition that you’d like to confidently opt to conceal from time to time, fuller coverage foundations that stay put are likely to offer flexibility and a comfort blanket for those days when you want to shift the focus. Thankfully, then, long-wear foundation formulas are far better than they once were, to the point that they’ve even had the blessing of the world’s most celebrated backstage makeup artists.

The backstage crew

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Imagery courtesy of Nars Cosmetics

Sheer, “no makeup makeup” has dominated catwalks for what seems like centuries, but makeup artists are now increasingly reflecting how real women wear makeup on the street, which can of course be a ‘tinted moisturiser and go’ situation, but it as often full-coverage and matte as it is dewy. At Richard Quinn’s SS19 show, MAC makeup artist Thomas de Kluyver used MAC Pro Longwear Nourishing Waterproof Foundation, £28 for 25ml, “applied in layers over the face with a Beautyblender to create a mannequin, matte finish on skin.” The inspiration was old-skool (“old YSL shows where they did their own makeup in the 80s, a classic, full-coverage look with individual nuances”), but the product used in surprisingly light, fragrance-free and easily blendable. In essence, a far cry from 80s base.

Also spotted doing time backstage at SS19 shows was Bobbi Brown Skin Long-Wear Weightless Foundation SPF 15, £32 for 30ml, which launched earlier this year and was used by lead artist Jodie Boland at Zimmerman. It was sheered out where less coverage was needed with Bobbi Brown Extra Illuminating Moisture Balm, £45 for 30ml. Think the best of bost worlds where coverage and luminosity is concerned.

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Zimmerman SS19: image courtesy of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics

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New long-wear base convert Val Garland was in action at Erdem blending Nars Radiant Longwear Foundation, £35, and topping with new Nars Soft Velvet Pressed Powder, £28, in shiny spots. The new launch incidentally forms a vital member of the modern pressed powder brigade - matte is back, but it’s laced with light rather than dulling any natural radiance.

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Finally, to complete the fashionable foundation setup, the aptly named new Dior Backstage Foundation, £29 for 50ml, was created to adapt to rightly demanding makeup artists’ varying needs, with a buildable, silky fluid texture that lasts when applied to face and body yet doesn’t feel sticky or appear cakey under hot lights and HD zoom. Like many new-gen foundations, 40 is the magic number shade wise and Dior Backstage ticks that box (Nars, Bobbi Brown and MAC also offer excellent shade spectrums), and this was the foundation used by makeup artist Daniel Martin on Meghan Markle’s wedding day. I think we’ll all agree that she looked beautifully natural and far from suffocated by her base, which just goes to prove how far we’ve come in the long-wear coverage department. Brides no longer have to put up with inflexible ‘full fat’ foundation, and even the longest-wearing options can let our best features (holler freckles) shine on through while covering our back through a day and night of toasting, talking, kissing and eating. That goes for the rest of us too, and it seems that long-wear is going nowhere in many senses. Just be sure to remove it properly, otherwise Dr Sam will be after you. Her very own Flawless Cleanser might come in handy here.

Meghan Markle's wedding look was simple and therein lay its brilliance

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