These days mature skin is big business. Thanks in part to the baby-boomers and their expectation of better, beauty brands are switched on to a market for make-up specifically for complexions that have lived a little.
Earlier this year at the age of 85, Dame Judi Dench, with make-up by Val Garland, graced the cover of Vogue, the oldest person ever to have done so. Here, Garland, who is also L’Oréal Paris global make-up artist, contributing beauty editor at British Vogue and judge on BBC’s Glow Up, gives her advice on foundation for mature skin.
First things first: “Skin prep is key. As skin becomes older and thinner, it becomes more difficult to keep it hydrated. Dehydrated skin leaves the complexion looking dull, so make sure you moisturise and prepare your skin well before make-up. Invest in a jade massage roller. Stimulate your face with a quick massage before applying product to get the blood flowing and to add a natural glow to the skin.”
When it comes to applying foundation, Garland believes less is more. “Fine lines and wrinkles show up more under a heavy base.
"Also, the more product you put on, the more it cakes and settles into those lines with time. Avoid this by applying your foundation with a pre-dampened sponge to ensure a lighter application, or do what I do and apply with your fingertips. The warmth from your fingers helps to blend and melt the foundation seamlessly into your skin.”
For the best results customise your coverage. “You don’t need to wear foundation all over your face. The best base is one where your skin still shows through. Apply foundation only where you need it, for example, to cover redness around the nose or to lend a bit of warmth under the eyes and on the cheeks.”
When buying a foundation look for hydrating formulations. “Matte formulas aren’t as hydrating and can make mature skin look drier; dewy finishes tend to be better. Look for foundations that mention moisture, hydration, radiance and glow.”
In testing we looked for foundations that could last the day, felt comfortable on the skin, wouldn’t sink into lines and creases and gave an immediate, visible improvement to the complexion.
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Bobbi Brown intensive skin serum foundation SPF40
As we mature, it’s not always about wanting to look younger, it’s about wanting to look better: less tired, less sallow, healthier and glowy. Luxuriously rich without being heavy, this foundation delivers. We felt it made skin look “expensive” – as if you spend your time between yacht and dermatologist’s clinic.
With natural extracts of cordyceps, lychee, bamboo and apple, the serum formulation feels nourishing and adds luminosity. It hydrates while ultra-fine pigments smooth the complexion. Extra points for the high SPF too and it is available in 23 shades.
Kevyn Aucoin foundation balm
We loved the balm formulation of this foundation – it sits somewhere between a liquid and a compact – and it’s great for building up coverage. A little goes a long way so start off slowly.
Containing hyaluronic acid and vitamin E it scores high on the hydration front. It goes on silkily, without dragging the skin, and dries to a powder finish. Bonus: it comes with its own pro brush and is available in 20 shades.
Shiseido synchro skin self-refreshing foundation SPF30
This is seriously high-tech. The oil-free formula claims to refresh continuously over 24 hours and responsive sensory technology synchronises with your skin tone and type.
We found that the patented correcting powder evens tone and covers age spots and it certainly lasted the day without settling into creases. Heat and humidity resistant means it’s hot-flush friendly too. There is even a protective polymer which guards skin against environmental damage. Available in 30 shades.
Charlotte Tilbury airbrush flawless foundation
Special mention for the fact this comes in an impressive 44 shades across cool, warm and neutral skin tones. Charlotte Tilbury is the queen of glamour and this foundation is very much one for those who like to look “done”.
Although it looks quite thick and heavy when dispensed, it blends out beautifully. It’s really impressive at evening out skin tone, minimising lines and lasting well through the day. We found its matte-ness tended to highlight dry patches on our skin but that was solved by applying lots of moisturiser and/or a primer first. Available in 44 shades.
Revlon youth FX fill + blur foundation
This great name basically sums up what we all want a foundation for mature skin to do: fill and blur those lines and inconsistencies in tone. This does the job beautifully, seemingly adding a filter to the face thanks to micro-fillers and optical diffusers.
While it delivers a hit of hydration, the finish is a flattering matte which leaves skin feeling silky soft. Available in seven shades.
Flower light illusion foundation SPF18
This foundation, from actress Drew Barrymore’s Flower Beauty range, strikes a good balance between natural look and full-on foundation. We found this liquid formulation works particularly well on dry skin.
Its “nude skin feel” is great for those who don’t like the feel of heavy foundation sitting on the skin. We rated it for its even coverage and natural, luminous look which lasted. Available in 15 shades.
Boutique serum foundation
A fantastic product for the price, this serum foundation contains the hyaluronic acid and vitamin E ingredients of its more expensive equivalents. It does what it says on the bottle, namely delivering “radiant glow, healthy-looking skin”. Very lightweight, it lets skin breathe and is as easy and quick to apply as moisturiser. Available in eight shades.
Estée Lauder futurist hydra rescue SPF45
Blending skincare and make-up, this is a wonderfully moisturising formula with chia seed extract. Plumping, illuminating and very flattering, we loved this one for its silky feel and light yet full coverage.
It smoothed over large pores and fine lines. We also rated the high SPF and the packaging which sits “upside down” so the pump is at the bottom letting you make the most of every last drop. Available in 20 shades.
Clarins everlasting youth fluid SPF15
Promising everlasting youth is a big claim, but this hydrating, plumping and smoothing fluid won us over. With extracts of chicory and red jania for brightness, we found it added radiance without shine and made skin look better without looking overly made-up.
Refreshingly light on the skin, it lets skin breathe and the whole experience is enhanced by its pleasant fragrance. Available in 24 shades.
IT cosmetics your skin but better CC+ cream SPF50
With something of a cult following, this CC+ Cream (colour correcting) claims to be seven products in one: moisturiser, SPF, primer, foundation, brightening CC cream, hydrating anti-ageing serum and dark spot concealer.
On first use, the consistency seemed rather thick but once applied it smoothes on evenly to a natural dewy finish. It makes a lot of big claims but lives up to them and has become our skin saviour on days when we need a boost. Available in 12 shades. It also comes in illumination and oil-free matte versions.
Bare Minerals complexion rescue tinted hydrating gel cream SPF 30
Although, arguably, this is not technically a foundation, we felt it deserved inclusion because we love the way it makes skin just look “better”. As an alternative to putting on full foundation, this lightweight gel can be applied quickly and effortlessly before nipping out to the shops.
Super-hydrating, it contains skincare benefits including marine botanicals and mineral electrolytes which impart a healthy-looking, dewy glow. Available in 17 shades.
L’Oréal Paris age perfect anti-ageing radiant foundation
Designed to give the appearance of a firmer, brighter complexion with medium to full coverage, this foundation impressed with its staying power and comfort on the skin. It has quite a watery consistency, improved by giving the bottle a good shake before use.
We found it paid to spend time blending it in with a foundation brush to get the best finish. It adds luminosity without being glittery or overly dewy and it smooths imperfections beautifully.
The verdict: Foundations for mature skin
Bobbi Brown intensive skin serum foundation won out for combining a quality skincare boost with really flattering coverage. We also loved Shiseido synchro skin self-refreshing foundation for the way it harnesses the latest in beauty technology to improve the appearance of skin.
Boutique Serum Foundation gets a special mention for delivering a really decent product for no more than the price of a couple of coffees.
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