Make-up Review: Foundations for Dry, Sensitive, and Aging Skin

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

 close-up picture of my skin. photo credit: Joshua Franzos

Here's something that happens in your thirties, that youthful essence starts to loosen its stranglehold on you and suddenly those crazy late nights you used to be able to get away with as a fresh-faced teenager and twenty-something, well, it shows now. I used to be able to get away with wearing foundation only when I was hired as a model. But nearly fifteen years ago, I had a make-up epiphany while I sat in a beauty salon chair, hair freshly washed, black cape snug around my neck, stylist looming behind me. My dripping, wet hair was plastered against my sallow face. The salon lights created dark hollows in my eye sockets. My lips were colorless and pinched. In short, I looked like the ugliest ghoul, not-so-freshly returned from an earthen grave. For the next 45 minutes, I gaped in horror at my Ivan Albright-like visage in the mirror while my hair was trimmed. Not fun. I vowed to never again visit a hair salon without a full face of make-up. So, it started there but eventually as I blasted my way into my third decade, the make-up and skincare became an everyday thing and avoiding the ugly death omen in the mirror became a way of life.

I'm actually wearing Bobbi Brown foundation here. photo credit: Joshua Franzos

Segue to foundation. I don't love foundation, but I love the way I look with a good foundation, and loving the way you look isn't vanity, it's important. My goal with foundation has always been to look healthy and natural, never fake and overly made up. I also don't want to feel it on my skin. I have different tactics when it comes to everyday make-up vs. photoshoots, but I always have at least one stand-by foundation on hand. This also means I'm constantly on the prowl, looking for an age-defying, skin evening, time-stopper in a bottle. This means I've tried a lot of foundations and will continue to. 
Cue the Law & Order music.
In the fashion and beauty system, there's a special division of real-life beauty bloggers that aren't paid to review products. Here are my stories. Pong Pong.

Neutrogena Hydroboost foundation

I was attracted to this foundation because I've been hearing a lot of good things about Hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid attracts water molecules deep into your skin, a very good thing when you have skin as dry and prone to eczema as mine. This was described as a hydrating tint and I expected minimal coverage. I was surprised that it gave me medium coverage. It was very moisturizing. There is a wand and sponge tip applicator which I think I liked...not sure how sanitary that is though. The look of this foundation was very dewy; which was something I'd never experienced before, but I tried it out for a few weeks. I ultimately decided this kind of dewy is not for me. It just looks shiny and greasy. What I disliked most about this foundation, was it came off all day long. (I guess I touch my face a lot). I had this make up all over my clothes and hands because it seemed like it would never fully "dry" and set. It slipped and slided all over my face and by the end of the work day, it was mostly gone. I threw it out well before it was empty.
Price: Nice, drug store prices are hard to beat! $9.99-$16.99
Overall Grade: Fail

Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-hour foundation

I am new to the amazonian clay hype- apparently amazonian clay self-adjusts to the needs of your skin whether you be oily or dry and everything in between. I picked this up because I was looking for a creamy foundation, with good coverage, that could be dotted on and applied with my MAC buffing brush - Side note: I think I most prefer how foundation looks on my face when buffed out with a brush, rather than using my fingers or a sponge. This foundation has medium coverage and a little bit goes a loooong way. Also, it stays put. But, I've noticed it tends to dry my face a tiny bit. I will probably keep this one around because it is a good bargain for everyday, but I don't think it will hold up for photoshoots.
Price: not a bad price, I've seen it retailed for roughly $37-$42
Overall Grade: Pass. (B)

IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream with SPF50+

A friend of mine used this and I loved how her complexion looked with it, so I bought it myself. I didn't love this. Even though it is particularly marketed towards sensitive skin, SPF ingredients are often a culprit for me, they seem to irritate my eyes and my eyes end up watering all day long. Which is exactly what happened with this cc cream. Also, this formula lends a dewy look that is best described as a light to medium coverage; but it says full coverage, but my freckles were still very much on display. Out of the bottle and freshly applicated, it's very pretty. However, and the final nail in the coffin for me, it never quite "sets/dries" so it comes off, on my hands, on my clothes, on my husband, on my dogs, and by the end of the day, I look like hell.
Price: $36-$42
Overall Grade: Fail

Makeup Forever Invisible Cover Ultra HD Stick Foundation

My go-to foundation for when I'm doing photo shoots, (since 2015) want to look my absolute best, or have zero time because I'm running late. I love this creamy stick. I just swipe some on my forehead, nose, cheeks and chin, and buff and blend it out with a brush. The finish is the look of health, and luminous skin right before the dewy level. It covers freckles like a boss. The only complaint I have with this stick, I believe it clogs my pores and causes comodones, so I try to use it sparingly, and really deep clean my face afterwards.
Price: not cheap, but this will last me at least a year's worth of photoshoots, magical evenings, and running late days $43
Overall Grade: Pass (A-)

Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat Le Teint Radiance Awakening Foundation SPF 22

I find myself a little sensitive to this formula - which means cue the weeping eye syndrome of mine, I think this is due to the SPF being chemical, rather than a physical blocker. This is a lighter formula which looks very pretty on if you don't have lots of skin issues/blemishes.
Price: expensive, $58-$60
Overall Grade: Pass (C+)

Urban Decay All Nighter Liquid Foundation

It's true, this make-up will last all night. But, and it's a huuuuge but. It is very pigment dense and subsequently full coverage, BUT it is verrrrry drying. I will note, this could be a good thing for younger women with oily skin, but as is, this equals not at all flattering for thirty+ year olds with dry, aging skin. All the lines you didn't even know you had suddenly pop up to the cracked surface of your face. My skin looked like a cracked desert floor. I've been mixing this up with YSL to use it up, because, dude. This cost $40 and the YSL cost $60, so....I can't wait until they're both gone and out of my life.
Price: not cheap, $40ish, which makes it incredibly expensive for something I hate.
Overall Grade: Fail

Bobbi Brown Long Wear Even Finish Foundation SPF 15

I've been using this since 2013.This gell-y liquid formula was a favorite of mine. It had medium, buildable coverage. I applied it with my fingers and was happy with it for everyday use and for photo shoots. It has SPF too and I didn't cry! It stayed on all day. I really liked this foundation, but didn't like how hard it became to buy it. Sephora stopped carrying it, so I had to internet order it, and when you internet order foundation, you absolutely have to remember what color you are (remembering my foundation color and passwords are not my strong suit). I loved this foundation, but a Bobbi Brown rep confirmed that it's getting discontinued:( Bobbi Brown is toting a new foundation, Bobbi Brown Long Wear Weightless Foundation SPF15. If you blink, it basically looks and sounds like the exact same thing. I will try that one next and report back. 
Price: hated the price, but it's so good that I paid it over and over again, $50.
Overall Grade: Pass (A-), sad to see this one go.

Sephora 10 HR Wear Perfection Foundation

Sephora Collection 10 HR Wear Perfection Foundation was recommended by a favorite blogger of mine whose make up always looks flawless, and....I hated it. I could feel it sitting on my face and the finish was streaky and uneven. I eventually threw it out. I cannot recommend this product. 
Price: so nice! $20. I wish it were a better foundation.
Overall Grade: Fail

There you have it. The Makeup Forever Invisible Cover, Bobbi Brown Long Wear, and the Tarte Amazonian clay are my current top three foundations out of the eight I've tried so far. Please note, I have dry, super sensitive, and aging skin. Beauty products aren't cheap, so I highly recommend you find beauty bloggers with skin types and conditions similarly aligned with yours for best results. Don't just fall in love with a pretty face! 

Do you have any foundations you'd like me to test out? Do you have dry, sensitive, aging skin and like foundation that doesn't rub off, and know something I should definitely try? Hit me up in the comments below.

Your bosom friend in Pittsburgh,


  1. This is, hands down, the best foundation review I have ever read. I have aging, dry, stupidly sensitive skin that is prone to excema (it's started appearing on my eye lids now, too...I'd love to know if you have a favorite mascara you could recommend). I also hate the feeling of foundation on my face, and struggle to find one that doesn't dry my skin or look greasy, so I am excited to try a couple of these!! Thanks for sharing this, Meryl x

    1. I'm so glad this was helpful to you Niki! I have eye allergies too, so ever since I started wearing makeup, I've worn waterproof mascara so if my eyes start watering or start to itch, it won't raccoon, smear, and/or run everywhere...I'm pretty happy with Lancôme DÉFINICILS WATERPROOF - High Definition Mascara. When used with a curler, it makes my lashes long and feathery, which is what I like. I've had a few sephora samples of mascara that I was impressed with, the one that comes to mind is Bobbi Brown No Smudge mascara, but I haven't ventured out from Lancome in years. Long range mascara goals, I'd really like to find a "natural" mascara that has minimal chemicals and petroleum based ingredients.

  2. Thanks for this wonderful article- super helpful as I also am in a constant search for the formula that will cover my freckles and not over-dry. I was heavily screen-shotting your recommendations for my future trip to Sephora �� hope all is well Meryl!!! ❤️✌��

    1. Glad to hear this was helpful! Thanks Christine.

  3. Love this review, Meryl. I’m definitely noticing that my usually oily skin had become much more dry over the last few years.

    I’ve become a really big fan of the Urban Decay Naked foundation —it’s very lightweight with buildable coverage.

    For a heavier, but less drying, foundation, I’ve been happy with the Kat Von D foundation.

    And last—not a foundation, but for photo shoots, I really like to wear the It Cosmetics Bye Bye Red formula. It’s also a little heavier coverage but when I mix it with my moisturizer, it’s a nice neutralizer.

    Great post!

    1. Your the 2nd person to recommend the Urban Decay Naked, so of course I'm going to have to check it out! Thanks Lauren.


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