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How to Choose the Best Foundation for Your Skin

Ep 23: Dermatologist Tips on How to Choose the Best Foundation

Dr. TWL: Hi guys, this is Dr Teo Wan Lin, and welcome to my podcast Dermatologist Talks: Science of Beauty. Today we’re gonna chat about one of our must have items in our makeup bag, foundation or base makeup. We’re also going to talk about some types of foundation popularised by K- beauty: BB creams, CC creams, as well as the cushion foundation technology. 

Chelsea: I’m excited to hear more about this! I’ve always had an interest in makeup, but I also have sensitive skin. So, I’ve always been wary about applying too much base makeup that may irritate the skin. I’m sure that many of our listeners have also felt the same way.

What is the difference between all these different types of base makeup? 

Dr. TWL: The difference between types of base makeup has really got to do with the history as well as the terminology of these products. Foundation is the most basic base coverage that we are familiar with. It is for skin tone and coverage for concealing imperfections, as well as evening out differences in your skin tone.

BB cream

BB cream was developed to infuse certain skincare benefits into foundations, and was made popular by K- beauty trends. It aims to heal your skin and moisturise, in addition to being able to cover your blemishes. These include sun protection factor, antioxidants for skin healing and anti ageing benefits. 

CC Cream

CC cream is akin to a sister product of BB creams, and it stands for colour correcting. It usually contains additional active ingredients that may help to give an extra glow, including skincare makeup ingredients.

Cushion technology

Cushions, on the other hand, is a type of patented technology. It allows the application of makeup in conjunction with a novel makeup pad that you attach to the compact foundation. It’s certainly very convenient, and helps to ensure a more even natural finish. It allows for application on the go. This is as opposed to traditional foundations which may need to be pumped out and require a separate applicator such as brushes or makeup sponges. 

But realistically speaking, for personal makeup, I feel that for cushion technology, it may be acceptable for hygiene purposes. But in the setting of a makeup artist who is involved in professional shoots and may need to use the same product for many different models, it probably makes sense to use a formula that is pumped out and separate applicators for the different individuals.

The COSMECEUTICAL BLENDER SOFSMOOTH AIRBRUSH FINISH is engineered with ultrafine microfibrillar surface for efficient pickup and dispersion of pigments for smooth airbrush finish with minimal product waste.

Chelsea: Thanks for breaking that down, I’ve always been slightly confused about what the difference was between all of those. Moving on, we’re used to paying more attention to the ingredients in our skincare. But, the ingredients in our makeup matter just as much, since they’re going to be on our face for long periods of the day. 

What are the ingredients we should look for in our base makeup?

Dr. TWL: I think in today’s world of foundations, base makeup, BB cream, cc creams, it’s really common to find skincare ingredients infused in the product. These include antioxidants, moisturisers. For example, sodium hyaluronate, known commonly as hyaluronic acid. These are quite commonly found in BB and CC creams, because it does not add a significant difference to the texture of the foundations. It is also cosmetically quite appealing as opposed to heavier cream moisturiser formulas. Additionally, we also certainly find a lot of foundation products which are marketed as having SPF protection as well. Now as to whether this would replace your need for wearing a sunscreen. I feel that it really depends on you know the product and the brand research.

You have heard of a Korean brand recently that was called out for actually stating a product’s SPF as higher than what it really was when it was tested independently by a website in a laboratory and not found to have the SPF 50, which it was purportedly marketed to have. So in terms of brand research and credibility, I think it’s important for the consumer to be discerning. I personally prefer to play it safe. I would use a product that is dedicated for sun protection, and then on top of that, the base makeup.

The SunProtector is formulated for humid climates. It is a broad-spectrum sunscreen that also regenerates and soothes sensitive skin. Designed with unique pigments blended to be almost invisible under make-up.

Chelsea: Ah I see, so it’s better to have sun protection and base makeup as separate steps.

When it comes to mixing skincare products, can we use different brands of sunscreen and base makeup? 

Now, it’s important to know that certain brands do not mix well with each other. A lot of sunscreens I find are not cosmetically very acceptable. Because, it forms either white cast because of the physical blockers – titanium and zinc oxide that’s present. They also cause an effect known as pilling. That’s when you find that your cream and makeup starts to come off in flakes, which is not very pleasant at all. So I think that it really depends on which products you are layering together as well. However, the basic thing is you do need a sun protection product.

With the advent of COVID and the pandemic requiring everybody to wear fabric face mask, I actually rely on UPF factor face masks. These were what I invented as a concept for textile cosmeceuticals in terms of a sun protection textile, as opposed to wearing sunblock under the mask. This is because of the occlusive effects of sunscreen as well.


THE CUIONS™ ANTI-AGEING + ANTI-ACNE COPPER SILK FACE MASK is sweat/water/splash resistant (suitable for pre/post sports), anti-ageing (copper ions stimulate collagen production/reduce wrinkles), anti-microbial (prevents mask acne/anti-odour), and UV-protective (certified UPF 50+ protection for melasma/pigmentation)

The ZINCOOL™ ANTI-INFLAMMATORY + OIL CONTROL MASK has anti-inflammatory, bactericidal and sebum control functions to treat maskne, and offers benefits for individuals who have facial eczema or are acne prone. It is also self cleaning, and incorporates superior skin cooling, creating a highly breathable skin microenvironment with super evaporation coefficient. 

Chelsea: On the flip side, the wrong ingredients can clog pores, or even cause irritation.

What are the ingredients we should avoid in our makeup?

Dr. TWL: There are some ingredients that you should avoid in makeup, specifically bismuth oxychloride, or  BMO for short. This is a common filler ingredient that you’ll find in a lot of base makeup. Including what’s marketed as mineral makeup for sensitive skin. It’s a very cheap filler and it gives a cosmetically appealing pearlescent finish. However, it can be very irritating for your skin, causing sensitivity. This really accounts for why some individuals report having the sensation of cut glass when they use certain cosmetics.

Chelsea: That’s really good to know!

Can you give us some tips in general for what we should keep in mind when choosing our base makeup? 

Dr. TWL: It is important to first identify if there is an underlying dermatological condition. If you are suffering from acne, rosacea, redness, sensitive eczema type skin and you’re trying to use a base makeup to cover up these imperfections, then it’s a bad idea. Because, no matter how well formulated the makeup base is, if your condition is active, applying layers of foundation or makeup can cause skin irritation. Additionally, it’s also a form of culture media for bacteria to grow on the surface of your skin. So you have to get your condition diagnosed and treated by an accredited dermatologist, rather than trying to conceal it under the guise of it just being a cosmetic concern. Because, these are not cosmetic concerns.

However, if you have otherwise healthy skin and just you’re just looking to conceal uneven skin tone or previous acne scars, then I feel that looking for a brand that works with dermatologists is important in ensuring that the product is well tolerated by individuals who have problematic skin.

Choosing the correct shade

The other thing of course is to choose the correct shade. It’s really important to note that that is probably the critical factor in terms of how well the foundation goes onto your skin – because everyone has a unique skin tone. A lot of brands have a limited range of foundation colours. Even professional makeup artists tend to mix their own foundations to get the perfect shade. So a brand that offers customised foundation colours can be better than one that is just having a fixed shade formula. The Celltalk CC cream that we offer in our practice is perfectly customised to your unique skin tone in a personalised consultation with a colour technician.

The CellTalk Cosmeceutical CC Cream is clinically active featuring 7 power anti-oxidant ingredients in a formula that soothes and anti-ages sensitive skin while covering pigmentation and blemishes.

Chelsea: For those with oily skin, a common problem is they find that their foundation or base makeup is creasing or melting by noon. Leaving them with a messy and sticky look.

What are some makeup products that we can use for oily skin?

Dr. TWL: The zinc oxide loose powder is formulated for individuals with seborrheic skin, and this includes individuals who have acne. In a tropical climate like Singapore, individuals who suffer from seborrhea will find their condition getting worse because of the ambient humidity. The other issue of course, is that the oiliness or the grease on one’s face can be cosmetically quite disturbing. Especially if the weather is hot, and you have makeup on. So the zinc oxide powder is a form of skincare makeup that helps to regulate oil production. At the same time, we do know that zinc does treat acne to a certain extent, because of its anti inflammatory properties. So as an adjunct, the skincare and makeup component here is very relevant.

The ANTI-ACNE ZINC OXIDE LOOSE POWDER has anti-microbial and oil regulating properties. It also helps to absorb excess moisture for those who suffer from hyperhidrosis (excess sweating).

Chelsea: With the no makeup-makeup look becoming a beauty staple, there’s been a huge demand for cosmetics that can make your skin look effortlessly flawless yet natural.

Can you tell us more about skincare makeup? What does it truly entail?

Dr. TWL: It’s interesting to note that lots of brands are saying that they have skincare makeup which includes ingredients that are beneficial for skin. But the key thing here is the product really has to function as makeup. Makeup has to conceal imperfections and of course, enhance your complexion. So I think the issue here is with coverage. And we really cannot neglect the fact that even with proper dermatological treatment, a lot of individuals with these underlying skin conditions in the process of them getting better will need concealing.  So before calling your product a skincare makeup product, you have to really ensure that it meets the needs of your consumers in the form of really performing the function of colour correction, evening your skin tone, and also coverage.

Chelsea: When it comes to foundation, it can be so difficult figuring out which shade, finish or coverage levels is suited for us.

Can you give us some tips on how to choose the right shade of foundation? 

Dr. TWL: There are two things to consider here: whether the colour actually matches your true skin colour. It’s also important to understand that it’s not just a shade, but there are different underlying skin tones across the range of human complexions. Some individuals may have pinkish undertone others are more yellowish sort of undertone. So people with warm or cool complexions in theory, could have the same shade of the foundation, but then there are different undertones which should be corrected separately.

The other consideration of course is the formula as with any skincare product, and in this case, makeup products. If you’re prone to sensitivity or you have had allergies before then it’s important to do a patch test. A simple patch test you can perform is either on your forearm or under your chin. Leave on the product you’re testing overnight. If you don’t get irritation, redness, flaking sensitivity or stinging sensation, then it is likely safe for you to use.

Well that’s it for this week’s episode on Dermatologist Talks: Science of Beauty. You can follow Dr. Teo on instagram @drteowanlin where she posts updates on the latest podcast episodes, and remember to subscribe for the latest podcast updates.