It’s difficult being “pale and interesting”: fake tan has a decidedly Tango effect; any minor variation in a lipstick or eyeshadow shade suddenly becomes far more dramatic than originally intended; and the dreaded foundation line between cheek and neck is a daily struggle. Very pale girls often spend years frustrated by the fact that most foundations come in three shades of beige, all of which are far too dark for a redhead or an English rose. We’ve gone hunting for the companies which provide real variation in shades without compromising on what makes a brilliant foundation, and tested them out in their very palest incarnations.
These foundations have been put through their paces, having each been tested for 12 hours in the office under air conditioning, on days walking through the pollution of central London, on long-haul flights, in the sunshine to test out their SPF credentials, and on top of patches of acne, eczema and sunburn to truly test-drive their kindness to skin.
1. Oxygenetix Oxygenating Foundation: £45 for 15ml, Oxygenetix
Oxygenetix is hardly a household name, yet it’s slowly building a dedicated horde of online disciples. Originally developed for use after cosmetic surgery and chemical peels, this full coverage foundation is incredibly easy to apply and very kind to skin: we found it was perfect for covering up sunburn, spots and for use on sweaty days, and that it lasted all day in an air-conditioned office and on a long haul flight. It comes in small packaging but packs a real punch, and its 14 shades mean even the super-pale have four variations to choose from. Its breathable nature means that you don’t start to see patches of oxygenated foundation on problem spots during the day – and if you’ve got sensitive skin, acne or eczema, it protects and treats while providing designer-level make up.
2. MAC Studio Face and Body Foundation: £22 for 120ml, Mac Cosmetics
MAC is rarely a brand that lets you down, and its face and body foundation in the Studio range is brilliant for summer. It’s dewy, with light coverage, and you really have to step away from the mirror after the first application to appreciate how well it evens out skin tone. This one is brilliant for pale girls with minor imperfections which show up on their skin, but who still want freckles to shine through. It takes a long time to dry, however, and while we found that it worked well on combination skin, it could have the tendency to accentuate oiliness. Additionally, its palest shade will still be too dark for the very palest.
3. La Prairie Skin Caviar Concealer Foundation SPF15: £146 for 30ml, John Lewis
Expensive but worth forking out for, La Prairie’s Skin Caviar comes in a big, no-nonsense tub with a brush for application and a hatch at the top containing concealer matched to the foundation colour inside. This easy combo is a dream for pale girls who spend hours trying to find the perfect foundation only to end up without a concealer that works well with it. Both concealer and foundation are creamy and infused with anti-ageing ingredients, as well as SPF15 protection. The dewy, mid-coverage effect makes sure you’re photo-ready – but it did need to be reapplied a few times throughout the day.
4. Shiseido Synchro Skin Lasting Foundation: £32 for 30ml, John Lewis
Shiseido is another foundation with a cult following, and you can see why: it does exactly what it says on the tin. The shade really does synchronise with your skin tone, and the product itself was the most luxurious-feeling we tried: applying it felt like silk. An oil-free complex means that oily skin is protected from shine, though this might be a bit much for those with drier patches. A solid, highly recommended buy that comes in 12 different shades, though only two are suitable for the paler of us.
5. Color Studio Invincible Foundation: £18 for 30ml, Color Studio Professional
A bargain at less than £20, Color Studio’s Invincible foundation provides full coverage with those with acne or imperfections. It comes in a large jar, with a spade-shaped applicator that can be slightly awkward but is very efficient at getting optimum amounts of the product out of the bottle. Its palest shade is perfect for redheads, and its no-nonsense water resistant finish won’t come off your face until you want it to. It really does last 12 hours, and there’s no need for concealer with this bad boy – perfect for teens or those with adult acne who want proper, lasting coverage for day and night without looking like they’re wearing a face mask.
6. Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation: £37 for 30ml, John Lewis
Luminous Silk is a foundation that glides on, and looks beautiful on cheeks, chins and foreheads. Problem areas, however, like the nose, folds of the skin and between the eyebrows need a tough exfoliation and a good primer before this foundation will sit perfectly on it. Having said that, a good skin regime is no bad thing – and once it does sit, this Armani foundation is one of the very best, with a hydrating and subtle finish that forgives hangover skin and pre-period redness in seconds. Available in a whopping 21 shades, Armani offers real choice for the pale of skin: at least 10 of these are usable for variations of skin tone found in redheads, natural blondes and English roses.
7. Nude By Nature Radiant Loose Powder Foundation: From £12.50 for 10g, Feel Unique
Nude By Nature is one of those feel-good companies that promises you the world: a mineral complex free from synthetic ingredients or fragrances, ingredients including kakadu plum (the “world’s highest concentration of natural Vitamin C”) and kaolin clay alongside jojoba esters, and a cosmetic product that improves your skin while you wear it. It comes in a formidable number of shades, and the paler incarnations really are very good: additionally, it managed to do what many powdered foundations fail at and actually stayed on our faces throughout a gruelling day at the office, cleverly concealing the sins of an oily nose. Nevertheless, Nude By Nature’s claim that their foundation is buildable and perfect on its own stretches it – this foundation succeeds best when applied over a BB cream or tinted moisturiser.
8. MAC Studio Waterweight: £22 for 30ml, House of Fraser
It seems like a travesty to mention one brand twice in a breakdown of the best – especially when we tried out over 35 foundations – but MAC’s Waterweight does deserve a mention of its own. True to its name, it is a very watery product, but only a tiny amount is needed to cover the whole face and it’s beautifully buildable. Providing mid-coverage that lasts throughout the day, this is a foundation you can feel confident chucking in your festival bag or carrying on holiday – it requires very little skin prep to sit well on the face, and dries fast so that you can decide how much or little you need to complete a look. It stands out from others in the MAC range by being truly wearable for pale sisters, starting in paler and more forgiving shades. This type of light foundation is never going to double up as a concealer, but it’s an astonishingly good product for the price and a smart summer buy.
For full coverage that is super kind to the skin and doesn’t slide off throughout the day, Oxygenetix takes the top spot – but for brilliant value for money, Color Studio’s Invincible foundation is a highly recommended and dependable buy, and Shiseido is a luxurious pay day find you’ll never regret treating yourself to.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing
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