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The Makeup Maniac

The Makeup Maniac: Base basics for pale skin

May 13th 2015 / Anna Hunter / 3 comments

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From redness to dark circles to enhancing freckles, fair skin comes with its own unique makeup requirements. Here’s how to handle porcelain skin like a pro…

Snow White may have rocked being the fairest of them all, but when you’re dealing with a Cullen family-esque complexion day in, day out, pale can feel more frustrating than interesting. In the manner of a white shirt, everything shows up on pale skin - tidelines, wrinkles and makeup mishaps are all the more obvious on this unforgiving canvas. And don’t even go there on the sunburn front (one word: crimson). To preserve and enhance your creamy pallor, I’ve done some troubleshooting…

I can’t find a foundation that’s pale enough

Dark skinned women notoriously suffer on this front, but those on the very fair end of the colour spectrum can experience issues too when it comes to finding a foundation that fits. From too warm or too cool undertones to formulas that oxidise and turn orange (been there), when things go pear shaped for pale foundation wearers, it really shows. There’s no hiding the fact that your head looks like it’s been on a long holiday when your body hasn’t, or that your skin has taken on an odd green or grey tinge thanks to unflattering pink, peach or blue undertones.

Avoid infuriating colour mishaps by getting to know brands and formulations that tailor their offerings to to the pale among us. Lancôme, Nars, Bobbi Brown, Estée Lauder, Laura Mercier, MAC and Suqqu are all high end counters to frequent, while Maybelline, Revlon and Bourjois normally step up to the pale plate on the high street.

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If you’re still struggling to find your foundation soulmate, it’s time to blend your own. Custom FX Custom Cover Drops, £36, are somewhat of a base breakthrough - droplets of concentrated pigment that come in a hugely impressive array of shades and undertones and allow you to control and tailor your exact shade and coverage. The drops can be added to any liquid product, so your moisturiser, sunscreen, serum, primer or even facial oil can be transformed into anything from a super sheer base layer (one drop) to a full coverage foundation (four drops). Many beauty products claim to be works of genius, but this weightless, essentially bespoke skin perfector is so far living up to its state-of-the-art claims. Alternatively, if you’ve found a foundation you love that’s not quite milky enough, blend in a blob of Illamasqua Skin Base Foundation 01, £32. Build up slowly and the effect will be natural and radiant rather than ghostly.

No matter how much makeup I put on, I can’t seem to cover up redness, acne scars or broken capillaries

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Wear ‘normal’ coverage and any skin glitches show through, but applying with a heavy hand makes skin look caked and feel suffocated. Address the dilemma by checking your formulas, layering smartly and smoothing out texture. Prepping, calming and cooling skin pre-makeup application will give you a head start in making skin look more even and give makeup something to hold on to (well conditioned skin not only requires less coverage but will also create a good anchor for the makeup that is there).

If slick, blurring primers feel too heavy or leave you looking washed out, Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water, £20, will be a breath of fresh air, or rather a spritz of invigorating electrolytes. More often found in energy-boosting sports drinks and coconut water, electrolytes give skin a mineral hit while glycol provides moisture and antioxidants add a protective element. The alcohol, silicone and oil free formula, combined with the light, dewy shot of moisture it imparts on skin, make this face mist a great priming option for those that want to soothe flushed skin but not pile on product.

As for effective but not oppressive blemish disguising, take your lead from makeup artist and founder of MY-Management, Lee Pycroft:

“Base can look obvious on pale skin so consider using a stipple brush to buff foundation into the skin and create a seamless finish. Touch out redness, broken veins or blemishes with an opaque concealer and a small pointed brush as this will give a precision coverage and avoid a build up of product.”

Estée Lauder’s Double Wear range offers killer opaque coverage in a good few fair hues and is renowned in the beauty industry for its camouflaging capabilities - apply the Stay-in-Place High Cover Concealer SPF 15, £21.50, as Lee recommends above. A more economical option is Maybelline Fit Me Concealer, £5.99- it’s creamy in both texture and tone range. As for foundation, if rosacea is your bugbear, you may need to adapt both your foundation and you application methods. Lee has a few words of wisdom:

“If you have red cheeks you may need a fuller coverage foundation or to buff in a concealer with a small fluffy blending brush to get even, fresh looking coverage. Alternatively, Jane Iredale Pure Pressed Base Mineral Powder, £33, has a great shade offering for pale skins and works wonders to cover a variety of skin issues, and also has the added benefit of calming the skin.”

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For full yet convincing, healthy-looking coverage, I’m really bowled over by Nars All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation, £32. Siberia will suit even the most melanin-challenged and the cutting-edge redness neutralising pigments, combined with flexible polymers that help the foundation to stay put and radiance-boosting light reflective particles make it a quantum leap in base stakes for those sick of chalky, dull as dishwater cover ups.

I want a bit of coverage but I’m not keen on masking my freckles

First things first, you’ve got your priorities in order, as Lee highlights:

“Always embrace and celebrate your pale skin and if you have freckles let them show. A tinted moisturizer and a touch of light reflecting concealer where needed will keep the base light and erase what's required.”

Secondly, your skin is in. Freckles have been firmly on the fashion agenda for a good few seasons, and their popularity is soaring straight into AW15, which is a welcome boost for fair ladies who have freckles all year round. Flaunt them as much as possible, and for transparent touch-ups, give YSL Touche Éclat Blur Creator, £31.50 or Benefit the POREfessional: licence to blot (launches this Saturday 16th May) a whirl. The first is perfect for making drier skins look and feel like silk, while the second mattifies oily T-zones without the need for stodgy powders.

I want a glow, but fake tan looks... fake

Creating a convincing tan if you’re more ivory than olive is hard work, there’s no doubt about it. By all means go a few shades darker if you feel like it, but don’t bow to the pressure of bronzing. Take a tip from Liv Tyler et al and add luminosity to your legit skintone. Browner doesn’t mean better, but brighter can, as Lee muses:

“Think about using a bright highlighter on top of the cheekbones to add dimension to the face and to give a brightness to the skin.”

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The appropriately named Le Blanc de Chanel, £33, creates the much-coveted subtle gleam. Makeup artist Lauren Parsons has nothing but praise:

“'Le Blanc de Chanel illuminating base is my go-to for creating the radiant, healthy, beautiful skin everybody wants. You can use it all over the face to boost radiance and prime the skin for makeup, but I especially love it used on all the high points of the face after foundation - the cheekbones, bridge of the nose, forehead and Cupid's bow. Because the product has no shimmer, it seems to make the skin glow from within, it's the most natural but effective highlighter I've ever used."

I burn like no one’s business... I need a serious side order of SPF

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The beauty brands hear you; some of the latest and greatest foundations come equipped with SPF 30 or higher. Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum Foundation SPF 40, £39, is available in Bobbi’s typically brilliant palette of pales, slides on like actual satin and nourishes skin normal to dry skin with balancing cordyceps mushroom extract (famed in Chinese medical circles), natural plant extracts and collagen stimulating peptides. It’s about as far as you could get from the sticky, claggy high SPF skin potions of old, and fuses anti-ageing and cosmetic prowess beautifully. If you love cooling gel textures or have sensitive skin, sell-out Bareminerals Complexion Rescue™ Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream SPF 30, £26, could well be your fair skin summer saviour. It colour corrects stressed skin, softens dry patches (that’ll be the 215% boost in hydration) and offers a reassuring degree of protection for us vampires.

Do you have a particular pale skin problem that you’d like addressed? Comment below or send me a tweet @AnnyMaryHunter

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  • Olivia Stone
  • September 30th 2016

Having to hide freckles is such a pain! I have been reading ways to hide freckles in The Beauty Insiders and I have choose to find this remedy. Maybe using concealer can get me far! Thanks for the great tip.

  • Anna Hunter
  • May 15th 2015

Glad to be of service! Would love to hear how you get on x

  • Heather Crowe
  • May 14th 2015

This article is so helpful I'll be looking out for these products :)

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