Since American brand bareMinerals first entered the cosmetic-consciousness on daytime telly infomercials, hoards of women have been taking to the internet and effusing to friends and family, sharing their stories of “conversion”. In theory, mineral foundations are great: natural, non-comedogenic and potentially problem-solving for sensitive or break-out prone skin. But they’re also super-noticeable when they’re wrong: cakey, drying and accentuating pores, fine lines and flakey patches – and downright messy to apply. To help you get it right, we’ve been swirling, tapping and buffing away in an attempt to get past the hype and continue our quest for flawless skin.
There are now several different formulas available, from the traditional loose powders (some with travel-friendly built-in brushes and some without), to tinted moisturisers and liquids. If you’ve got dry skin, you may find the pure powder versions only exacerbate the problem, while those with oilier skin may want to avoid liquid formulas or those with lots of light-reflecting particles, and sensitive skins may find ingredients such as bismuth irritating. Remember that SPF is only effective with liberal application, so wear a sunscreen, too.
Marketing for mineral foundations can be misleading so, if all-natural is what you’re after, it’s important to read the label properly. Most are at best 95% all-natural and many ingredients, such as titanium dioxide, actually have to be extracted in the lab to make them pure enough for cosmetic use. In most cases, what makes mineral foundations good for you is what’s left out, rather than what’s included; most are preservative-, paraben-, mineral oil-, talc-, cruelty- and fragrance-free.
Tool-wise, most (especially the loose powder versions) are best applied by buffing into the skin with a fairly dense, domed, short-handled brush. Our current favourite is bareMinerals’ Seamless Buffing Brush (£24, bareminerals.co.uk; available September 1), which makes a good investment if you find the built-in brush in your chosen formula a little too rough on the skin.
1. Aveda Inner Light Mineral Tinted Moisture SPF 15: £26, John Lewis
This was the first piece of “posh” make-up I ever owned, courtesy of my mother for my sixteenth birthday, and it remains a staple in my dresser. It’s a thicker, creamier formula than most tinted moisturisers so it spreads like a liquid foundation and feels luxurious on the skin. Coverage is light and dewy and skin still feels hydrated after a day’s wear so it’s great for dry skin.
2. Clarins Skin Illusion Loose Powder Foundation: £29, John Lewis
For a tester who wasn’t previously a fan of mineral foundations, this was a real hit. The super-fine formula buffs on like a second skin to a matte, slightly glowy finish and the pleasingly yellow tones even out redness on the cheeks and around the nose perfectly. It’s fairly priced (though still not cheap) and the built-in brush is softer than most and makes it really easy to travel with.
3. Youngblood Natural Mineral Loose Foundation: £35, amazon
Developed by a medical aesthetician in the nineties, Youngblood’s offering is talc-, oil-, paraben- and fragrance-free and gives a good natural glow without any glittery particles. Our tester said it was quick and easy to apply, gave flawless coverage better than a liquid foundation and lasted through a sweaty workout. Top marks.
4. English Mineral Make Up Company Mineral Foundation: £37, English Mineral Makeup
The English Mineral Make Up Company is a new launch this year. We love the light coverage, which gives a sort of soft-focus effect, the fact that it doesn’t cling to dry patches, and the gorgeous packaging. Best of all, it comes in 30 shades, knocking all the other brands we tested out of the park for range. You can order samples in three colours for £2.50 (the cost of which is taken off your eventual purchase, if you make one), so you can test out the coverage and shade in the comfort (and lighting) of your own home.
5. No7 Mineral Perfection Powder Foundation: £14, Boots
For the price, we were impressed with this one. It felt high-end and silky on the face and didn’t clog oily skin like some make-up can. You get a brush to apply it with, but we found our usual one gave better coverage. There is only one shade to choose from, so probably not one for the palest English roses or darker skin tones.
6. bareMinerals bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation SPF 20: £26, John Lewis
No list of mineral foundations would be complete without bareMinerals, which has grown to be the best-selling mineral make-up brand in the world. The loose powder is, of course, worth a try (the matte version is bismuth-free if you find the standard formula itchy, and better for oily skin), but our new favourite of the range is this lighter coverage liquid formula, which is sheer, dewy and feels like a powder on the skin. Be sure to shake it before applying as it does separate.
7. Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Mineral Make Up SPF 15: £30, John Lewis
This light-feeling, super-fine make-up needed a couple of applications to give coverage our tester was happy with, but it looked even, covered up blemishes without caking, and only needed touching up once during a hectic day at the office. There are eight shades to choose from so you will likely find one that’s right for your skin tone.
8. Mac Mineralize Moisture SPF 15 Foundation: £29, John Lewis
The best of both worlds, this packs all the benefits of minerals and natural SPF, with the hydration (it’s great for drier skin types – the shea butter won’t agree with oilier skin) and comfortably familiar application of a liquid. Coverage is light-to-medium, but doesn’t build well without caking so you’ll need a concealer if you want a bit of extra help on some areas. ‘Optical light reflectors’ make the finish just the right side of shimmery and any shiny patches can be toned-down with powder without losing the finish.
9. L’Oreal Paris True Match Mineral Foundation: £15, Boots
This is a reliable high-street alternative to pricier mineral brands with light-to-medium coverage. Aside from the price, the biggest bonus is that it comes with a built-in brush, making it ideal for travelling and touch-ups on the go. It is matte, but a good primer underneath will add a bit of glow.
10. Lily Lolo Mineral Foundation: £14, Feel Unique
Lily Lolo has built a loyal fan base for its even, buildable coverage and naturally reflective mica particles that brighten dull skin and detract from fine lines without the noticeable glitter particles that many ‘light reflective’ formulas contain. We also found that it didn’t show-up or exacerbate dry, flaky patches of skin. Best of all, it’s half the price of most and the lockable filter actually works, so you can bung it in your handbag without half the product ending up in the lid by the end of the day.
11. Elizabeth Arden Pure Finish Mineral Powder Foundation: £26, John Lewis
This one gives sheer, non-drying coverage that irons out minor skin imperfections and feels like you’ve got nothing on. Our favourite part is the compact, which not only feels solid and luxe, with its silver and gold combo, but includes a genius grinding mechanism, so you only get as much loose powder as you need, with minimal waste and mess. We’re not fans of the old-school powder puff application, so would recommend using a kabuki brush in the morning and just using the puff for touch-ups.
As with any foundation, finding the formula that works with your skin type can be hit-and-miss, but our favourites are Aveda’s dreamily creamy tinted moisturiser and Clarins’ super-fine, non-drying powder.
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