Foundation (cosmetics)


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Foundation is a liquid or powder makeup applied to the face to create an even, uniform color to the complexion, cover flaws, and sometimes, change the natural skin tone. Some foundations also function as a moisturizer, sunscreen, astringent or base layer for more complex cosmetics. Foundation applied to the body is generally referred to as "body painting" or "body makeup".

The use of cosmetics to enhance complexion reaches back into antiquity. "Face painting" is mentioned in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 23:40). Ancient Egyptians used foundation. In 2000 BC, ancient Greek women applied white lead powder and chalk to lighten their skin. It was considered fashionable for Greek women to have a pale complexion. Roman women also favored a pale complexion. Wealthy Romans favored white lead paste, which could lead to disfigurements and death. Men also wore makeup to lighten their skin tone; using white lead powder, chalk, and creams. The cream was made from animal fat, starch, and tin oxide. The fat was rendered from animal carcasses and heated to remove the color. The tin oxide was made out of heating tin metal in the open air. The animal fat provided a smooth texture, while the tin oxide provided color to the cream.

Throughout the Middle Ages in Europe, it was considered fashionable for women to have pale skin, due to the association of tanned skin with outdoor work, and therefore the association of pale skin affluence. In the 6th century, women would often bleed themselves to achieve a pale complexion. During the Italian Renaissance, many women applied water-soluble lead paint to their faces. Throughout the 17th century and the Elizabeth Era, women wore ceruse, a lethal mixture of vinegar and white lead. They also applied egg whites to their faces to create a shiny complexion. Many men and women died from wearing lead-based makeup.

In the 18th century, Louis XV made it fashionable for men to wear lead-based makeup. Theatrical actors wore heavy white bases.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, Victorian women wore little or no makeup. Queen Victoria abhorred makeup and deemed that it was only appropriate for prostitutes and loose women to wear it. It was only acceptable for actors or actresses to wear makeup. In the late 19th century, women would apply a whitening mixture made out of zinc oxide, mercury, lead, nitrate of silver, and acids. Some women stayed out of the sun, ate chalk, and drank iodine to achieve whiteness.

In the Edwardian era, women wore a base and did not bleach their skin as they did in previous centuries.

Modern foundation can trace its roots to Carl Baudin of the Leipziger Stadt theatre in Germany. He is the inventor of grease paint. He wanted to conceal the joint between his wig and forehead, so he developed a flesh-colored paste made of zinc white, ochre, and vermillion in lard. This formulation was so popular with other actors that Baudin began producing it commercially, and, as such, gave birth to the first theatrical makeup.

This would be the standard for theatrical makeup until 1914 when artist Max Factor created Flexible Greasepaint that was more reflective of the lighting on movie sets. Although makeup would evolve dramatically from Baudin's invention, theatrical makeup is, to this day, not too far removed from the original blend of fats and pigment.

The first commercially available foundation was Max Factor's Pan-Cake. Originally developed for use in film, actresses were so taken with the results that Max Factor was overwhelmed with demand for the product for their personal use. The breakthrough in his formula was the first "foundation powder in one"; traditionally, an actor was made up with an oil/emollient-based makeup, which was then set with powder to reduce the reflection and ensure it would not fade or smudge. Pan-cake used talc rather than oil or wax - as the base, and, applied directly to the skin with a wet, it offered enough coverage (it could be layered without cracking on the skin) to eliminate the need for a foundation underneath. This was considered significantly more lightweight and natural-looking on the skin than the standard method, hence people's eagerness to wear the item in public. Although foundation makeup was widely available and used within the film industry, the use of cosmetics, in general, was still somewhat disreputable, and no one had tried to market foundation (although lipstick, blush, and nail polish were popular for daily use) as an everyday item. Factor had the product patented in 1937, and, despite the economic turmoil of the era, Pan-Cake became one of the most successful cosmetic launches of all time. By 1940, it was estimated that one in three North American women owned and wore Pan-Cake. As of February 2009, Procter and Gamble, the brand's current owner, confirmed that the original formula that Factor developed and used himself, is still sold today.

Modern Formulations

Color may be identified by a name, number, letter, or any combination of the three. However, unlike the Pantone or Munsell systems used in the art and fashion industries, commercial cosmetic product names are not standardized. If a makeup artist requests a "Medium Beige" foundation, the result can vary drastically from brand to brand, and sometimes, within one brand across different formulas. Cosmetic companies can also edit and adjust their formulations at any time, resulting in the "Medium Biege" foundation a consumer has been wearing for years becoming slightly different shade or color without prior notice.

Color Classification
Cosmetic companies classify their foundations Warm, Neutral, Olive or Cool based on matching the skin tone of the wearer. A handful of professional lines, such as William Turttle, Ben Nye, Visiora, M.A.C, and even Max Factor, do opposite, naming their shades based on "cancelling out" the wearer's natural skin tone so they do not become excessively warm/cool-toned in the applied areas. In other words, with some professional lines, warm skin would choose a cool foundation, and cool skin would wear a warm foundation. The difference in naming is not attributed to different definitions of warm and cool on the color wheel.

Although most artists differ over the significance of selecting an exact match to the wearer's skin tone, intentionally using a mismatch can achieve the desired result. An excessively red complexion can be minimized by using a neutral (meaning neither yellow nor pink) beige toned foundation. A sallow or pallid complexion can be brightened with a rose to red tint, mature skin that has lost its color and appears pale and dull can be brightened with a tint of clear pink, and olive or "ashy" skin can be brightened with a shot of peach. A crucial point in selecting a foundation shade is to recognize that the appearance of the shade in the container may not accurately gauge the color impact on the skin - a foundation that appears very yellow in the bottle may apply much less yellow, or not appear yellow at all. Trying the color on in stores like Ulta or Sephora is usually the best way to find an accurate match.

Shade Range
Another issue that can arise when searching for a foundation shade is an inability to find a shade that suits the wearer. This may be because the prospective user cannot tell the undertone of their skin, but it can also be from available products not being light or dark enough to properly match the user's skin tone. Some examples of brands that have wide shade ranges are Fenty Beauty, Bobbi Brown, Hourglass, Maybelline, Nars, and Makeup Forever. When switching from brand to brand, consumers must be mindful of similar shade names for different colors since the cosmetic industry does not use the Munsell color system. It has been noted that cosmetics brands like Tarte, Beauty Blender, Yves Saint Laurent, and It cosmetics have limited shade ranges - often making it difficult for individuals with dark skin tones to find a proper match. Time magazine recognize Fenty Beauty's foundation range "made for women of all skin colors and undertones", featuring 40 shades, for addressing these issues by putting it on their 25 Best Inventions of 2017 list. The use of color corrector products can also help to reduce discoloration.

Coverage refers to the opacity of the makeup, or how much it will conceal on the skin.

  • Sheer is the most transparent and contains the least amount of pigment. It will not hide discolorations on the skin but it can minimize the contract between the discoloration and the rest of the skin tone. Although pigment technology has evolved dramatically since 2004, the traditional protocol for sheer foundations called for the pigment to comprise 8-13% of the finished formula.
  • Light can cover unevenness and slight blotchiness but is not opaque enough to cover freckles. It contains 13-18% pigment.
  • Medium coverage can when setting with a tinted (instead of translucent) powder, cover freckles, discolorations, blotchiness, and red marks left by pimples. It contains 18-23% pigment.
  • Full coverage is very opaque and used to cover birthmarks, vitiligo, hyperpigmentation, and scars. It is sometimes referred to as "corrective" or "camouflage" makeup. In general, it contains up to 35% pigment, though professional brands, designed for use on stage, can contain up to 50% pigment.

Application Tools
There are various tools that can be used to apply foundation including your fingers, a sponge, and several varieties of foundation brushes, each providing a different finish. Before applying foundation always start with clean and moisturized skin. Dry and flaky skin patches will often be highlighted when base makeup is applied so users should exfoliate their skin first if necessary.

  • Fingers: Using one's fingers can be useful for creating a natural look. The natural body heat given off by fingers helps the foundation to melt into the skin and makes it easy to blend in a sheer layer of makeup. However, using fingers isn't recommended for applying a full coverage foundation as it will create a streaky and uneven appearance.
  • Sponge: Using a sponge to apply foundation is best for creating a look with sheer to medium coverage. A triangular sponge is good for blending in liquid foundation and concealer, whilst a rounded sponge is best for powder foundations, though either can be used for these purposes. To use, wet a clean sponge with water first. The moisture will prevent the sponge from absorbing the makeup and will help to more evenly distribute the product over the skin - but make sure to squeeze out excess water. Sponges with pointed tips are best utilized for a seamless blending of the under-eye area and wide, round sponges should be washed and dried thoroughly after every use. 
  • Brush: For liquid foundation, a brush with a synthetic bristle is recommended as the brush won't soak up much of the liquid. Alternatively, a natural bristle which is more porous works best for powder foundations and other powder face products. A densely bristled brush is best for applying foundation as it is less likely to leave streaky brush marks. As with all tools used to apply makeup to the face, brushes should be soft and gentle, as anything too stiff will scratch and irritate the skin. 
  • Airbrush: Liquid foundation is applied with an air stream. The airbrush mixes the foundation with a controllable stream of compressed air. It adheares to the skin as millions of tiny droplets of foundation. This technique can create an even, sheer appearance to the skin that, if applied properly, can appear natural and non-heavy or "cakey". Airbrush makeup application is also frequently used in special effects makeup. Note that if the liquid foundation is applied via airbrush too heavily, additional blending with a brush or sponge may be required.

The formula refers to the ingredients blended together, and how the makeup is formulated.

  • Oil and emollient-based Foundations
  • Oil-based shakers
  • Alcohol-based Foundations
  • Powder-based
  • Mineral makeup
  • Water-based
  • Silicone-based



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