Retro Rerun — Foundation: Where It All Begins

| Oct 30, 2017

Picking out just the right foundation was one of my most frustrating experiences when I began to get more serious about my look. I tried cheap stuff, expensive blends. Powders, creams, and liquids, but nothing was just right. I spent a small fortune and had nothing to show for it but a box full of barely used paint.

It was a hard lesson made all the more difficult because unlike a lot of other cosmetics this is one that you MUST try on to get right.

That alone can be scary, but also kind of fun. Just remember to be bold and brazen (say it with me: Bold and Brazen). And don’t worry about the salesclerks. At the minimum they will get a kick out of working with you and if they are any good at all they will enjoy the challenge.

I’m going to leave the very special challenge of beard cover for another article, because it is a subject unto itself. But for now just keep in mind that your are NOT selecting a foundation to match your beard cover, but your natural skin tone. Where is the most natural tone? Well it sure isn’t on your wrist. Try matching to your cheekbones or forehead.

I am also going to save discussion of different types of foundation for another article, because that too is a subject of its own. For now, the focus will be on color.

Why Foundation?

Many transsexuals go through a no make-up phase, but thankfully many of them eventually realize that hormones are not a cure for all skin problems and that most people over 25 can use a little help. Transvestites really don’t have a choice. Without the skin softening effects of hormones, a good foundation is a must for the occasional woman

The goal is a clean, natural look. But wait, how can a cosmetic, especially one so “heavy” as a foundation, help create a “natural” look? The answer is in color matching and the type of product you use.

Step One: Dump all the bad stuff

If you ever have the slightest inkling that the foundation you are using is off somehow, get rid of it. Especially the cheap drugstore stuff. Not that inexpensive foundations are bad, au contraire, cheap is good, but if it makes you look bad get rid of it. Besides, now you’re going to learn how to get a foundation that works. Once you find the right one you will use it all up, I promise.

Step Two: Know your season

If you don’t already know your “season” go to the expert of experts and read Carole Jackson’s classic Color Me Beautiful. You MUST know your season or you’ll be buying foundation, and other cosmetics, forever and not ever be quite satisfied.

Step three: Shopping

Presuming that you do know your season, suck up your courage and go to a department store with your face shaved as close as possible. If this is too scary for you, try a theatrical shop or get an in-home demonstration from a Mary Kay or Avon person.

You need to now identify the range of shades that work best with your season. Jackson says that if you are Winter or a Summer, you want to find cool or rose-based shades. These will often be labeled rose, sand, mahogany, or neutral. Autumns and Springs should look for warm or yellow-based shades. These often are called ivory, peach, golden, bronze, or natural.

You will be faced with a bewildering variety of choices, but the sales person should be able to tell you which of the colors are rose-based or yellow-based.

Unlike most things cosmetic, our redheads and strawberry blonde girls (the Autumns and Springs) will likely have a little easier time at this point. Makeup artists and cosmetics sales people seem to like working with the yellow-based products better than the roses. I think this is because they are often working under fluorescent light in a department store which brings me to my next little tip:

Never buy a foundation without seeing how it looks in daylight!

Okay, that is easier said than done, but as always it comes down to this: you either get this done right once or you’ll be fooling around, making mistakes and spending unnecessary money in an endless quest for the right shade. I know this, because BOTH my wife and I went through a bunch of wrong shades before we wised up to this simple idea. Scared? Well what are you anyway? A man or mou…wait that isn’t quite right is it…Anyway you get the point.

Before you go outside, narrow down your field by putting trying three or four different shades on your face in the store, a “strip” of color will do. See which one or ones seem to “disappear.”

Ask the sales person to let you borrow a mirror, or have one of your own, go outside and check it out. No one will care. (Bold and brazen always) The one that you cannot see is the right one. The ones that don’t work will sit there and you’ll see them.

For you scaredy-cats with a lot of money to burn here is what Carole Jackson recommends as general guidelines (from the Color Me Beautiful Makeup Book):

Winters will look best in a cool, neutral shade, and that includes Asian or black winters. Try a slightly rosy beige if you have visible pink in your skin; a pale, sand color if you are very fair.

Summers: a pinkish beige if you have visible pink in your skin; a neutral cool shade if your skin is more beige than pink.

Autumns: a warm peach if you have ruddiness or lots off freckles; ivory if you are fair and slightly creamy; a warm natural beige if your skin is beige; golden beige if your skin is quite golden.

Springs: a warm peach or pinky peach, if your face is ruddy or you have “high coloring”; porcelain or ivory if your complexion is creamy and light; golden beige if your skin is darker and golden.

Once you’ve got the right color, buy it! Spend the money on the best quality you can afford because it will last longer and go on lighter. Furthermore, once you know what the right shade is, you can take a flyer or two on drugstore “cheapies” that look kind of close…who knows you might get lucky for $6.

Part 2: What Is The Best Type for You?

As I was going through the process of determining what foundation color was best for me I discovered that I also had to figure out which type of cover was going to work best.

I liked the sophistication and coverage of liquid and cream foundations, but the lightness and natural look I got from pancake (pressed powder) was hard to argue with too. Then there was the whole question of oil or water-based products. Both had advantages, and of course, disadvantages.

But before I get too deep into any of these questions let me emphasize one point: nothing matters more than the right color. You can get away with the wrong formulation for a night, but the wrong color will wreck your look in a second. Read the first part in this series and other articles about color if you still aren’t sure what your best colors are.

What Formula For Me?

Here are a few simple guidelines:

If your face looks like you just ate a bucket of chicken after wearing foundation for an hour or so, you probably shouldn’t be using that oil-based liquid (make sure you dispose of it in a certified hazardous waste site).

On the other hand, if the lines around your mouth bear a strong resemblance to the crack in the Liberty Bell you probably need a little oil in your formula.

I have a lot of oil in my skin, which my black friends tell me means I won’t wrinkle quite so fast. Schyah, I say to that. So when do I stop getting acne? When I’m 80?

Your Options/My Options

Anyway, having oily skin AND a five o’clock shadow posed a major problem for me before I began electrolysis. The trouble, as you may already know, is that really good beard covers have to be opaque in coverage and I know of no truly opaque cosmetic that isn’t oil-based.

My answer was an oil-based beard cover used as lightly as I could get away with and a pressed powder foundation on top of that. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but I found that it was easier to get a decent match using that combination than it was using a water base which tended to cause everything to smear.

Today I use Prescriptives products and favor their pressed powders as a basic foundation over a little concealer. This is all really just a variation of the same thing I used to do before electrolysis, except that I trowel it all on a little lighter.

A pressed powder is very different from a loose, finishing powder. The high quality ones are very close to being creams except that they are sheerer. I admit to a bias towards such products, brought up as I was as a young transvestite with nothing more than clown white and pancake.

Today’s pressed powders can be used over water and oil base foundations, but they really can stand on their own. I remember how truly amazed I was when I used one for the first time. I just could not believe that a powder could provide such cover without looking cakey and dry. These days several companies actually make products that go on as a liquids or creams and become powders, the best-known of these comes from the Princess Borghese line. It is expensive, but really wonderful.

Water-based products are also a good choice if you have oily skin. I’ve never found them to be as good an option as a quality pressed powder, but some people really like them and they do go on very smoothly. Plus, you can find good ones like Revlon’s Springwater Oil-free Foundation in the drug store.

If you have dry or normal skin you’ve got all the options.

My first choice would a quality oil-base for it’s smoothness and coverage. After that I would go with the water-bases or powders, but it is strictly a personal choice for you since you don’t have to worry much about shininess.

Ingredients

Liquid foundations are made mostly of primarily of water, talc, oil, pigments, various additions to benefit the skin, preservatives, and, sometimes, fragrances. Avoid the ones with fragrance.

Some ingredients to look for that are good for most skin include aloe (a skin softener), soluble collagen (to maintain suppleness of the skin’s outer layer), hyaluronic acid (to add moisture), hydrolized elastin (to enhance elasticity), and PABA (sun screen).

If you have allergies or sensitive skin, choose foundations with almond, sesame, or avocado oils. These natural oils are known for their soothing properties and low level of irritation.

Mineral oil can be a problem, though it is very common is cosmetics, because it can block your pores. If you are prone to acne, stay away from foundations containing oil (except perhaps as one of the last ingredients) and detergents such as sodium laurel. In fact, if you find that you get a break out a day or two after using ANY foundation. Toss it.

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Category: How To, Makeup

About cindymartin: I am one of the original co-founders of TGForum, which obviously was a long time ago now. I'm very proud of how it's changed and improved. It's great. Kudos to all. I'm not nearly as active as I once was, but I still really enjoy the life, and from time to time I'll share some tips and ideas for improving your feminine self.

Comments (2)

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  1. carlaroberts says:

    Squch good information. I think many of us could start our own cosmetics enterprise if we had all the money I’ve spent on foundation products, only to find it not working. Encouraged by a genetic female friend, who agreed to accompany me, I was able to step out of my comfort zone, and go to a mall Merle Norman store. The lady that owned the store, had to know I was Trans, but to her credit, never even hinted they she knew or cared. I quickly lost myself in the opportunity to experiment and get suggestions. I walked away happy, and it was such a validating experience, being treated like a lady. Having had that experience to broaden my horizons, I’ve since discovered, that many makeup kiosks, are very welcoming. Of course they want to make a sale, and makeup can be expensive, but more than one sales associate has confided, that they are often bored waiting for customers, and having a chance to do someone, is a challenge, and often a treat for both associate and customer.

  2. carlaroberts says:

    Such good information. I think many of us could start our own cosmetics enterprise if we had all the money I’ve spent on foundation products, only to find it not working. Encouraged by a genetic female friend, who agreed to accompany me, I was able to step out of my comfort zone, and go to a mall Merle Norman store. The lady that owned the store, had to know I was Trans, but to her credit, never even hinted they she knew or cared. I quickly lost myself in the opportunity to experiment and get suggestions. I walked away happy, and it was such a validating experience, being treated like a lady. Having had that experience to broaden my horizons, I’ve since discovered, that many makeup kiosks, are very welcoming. Of course they want to make a sale, and makeup can be expensive, but more than one sales associate has confided, that they are often bored waiting for customers, and having a chance to do someone, is a challenge, and often a treat for both associate and customer.