Tanya, Mrs Robinson
Model: Tanya Drouginska. Photo: Mrs Robinson Management

Are bare foundations enough for older skin? – asks beauty journalist Vicci Bentley. Skin now has to look ‘polished’, ‘buffed’, ‘sparkling’ – undressed to reveal your inner glow. That’s if you have one, of course. For most of us with a few decades under our belt, skin and radiance rarely exist in the same sentence, unless that vitality comes courtesy of a tube. Most new foundations are designed to be ‘weightless’, while light diffusing pigments have the radiance bit covered.

Great news for foundation phobes, who hate a heavy look and feel. But here’s the rub. However pleasantly gauzy the finish, these flimsy tints can’t hide splodges, dark circles, tired furrows – all the real skin stuff we’d rather didn’t show through. In my book, the secret of truly polished skin is a damned good concealer. So I’ve been experimenting.

Chanel Vitalumiere Powder Foundation and brush

I’ll say this upfront – I loathe fluid foundations. In my mid-sixties, I still have a centre panel that glows, but not in a good way and no matter how matte a base promises to be on the box, my face still looks sweaty and by the end of the day, deltas have pooled in my wrinkles. Powder bases are my thing, and for some time now I’ve buffed on Chanel’s excellent Vitalumière Loose Powder Foundation, £55 with its handy kabuki brush. It’s easy to build and surprisingly covering – a touch of mica gives that all-important subtle, ‘second skin’ glow that never looks heavy, yet stays the course. I’ve also found that touching extra on with a sponge-tip hides broken veins, spots and dark circles. Can you rival that?

Chanel healthy glow
Chanel Healthy Glow

This year, Chanel launched Healthy Glow Foundation, £36 into its equally fab Les Beiges range (the Healthy Glow Sheer Powder in No.10, £39 brightens subtly and beautifully). It’s light-textured, settles to matte and has a fresh but chic outdoorsy look that evens your skin-tone without hiding it. At the press launch, I was encouraged to apply it with Chanel’s 2-in-1 Foundation and Powder Brush, £38, whose firm, blunt bristles look as if they’ve been cut off half way down. Total revelation! Makes fluids a cinch to control and gives a smoother finish than fingers ever could.

Chanel 2-in-1 brush_XLARGE
Chanel buff brush

Something else I never thought I’d like but secretly wanted to (it’s so clever!) is Clinique’s Chubby In the Nude Foundation Stick, £23. Massaged on with Clinique’s new Buff Brush, £23, this twist-up stick foundation is silky, not greasy, easy to build and doubles as a pretty decent concealer.

Clinique Chubby in the Nude Foundation Stick 2
Clinique Chubby

Which brings me to the hardcore stuff. I still love Estée Lauder’s Double Wear Stay In Place Concealer, £22 because It does what it says on the tube. But recently I’ve been seriously impressed by a couple of HD-grade cover-ups. Former US TV news anchor Jamie Kern Lima’s collaboration with plastic surgeons gives us IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye Full Coverage Waterproof Anti-Aging Concealer, £26 (QVC) which comes with its own Heavenly Luxe Dual Airbrush Concealer Brush. Despite the waffly names, it’s deadly serious on flushes and even age spots. (The similarly wordy Bye Bye Pores Poreless Finish Airbrush Powder with Heavenly Luxe Airbrush Powder Brush, £29 makes short work of shine, too).


Meanwhile, Make Up Forever Ultra HD Concealer, £20 blurs shadows and wrinkles beautifully. Glowing testimonials from me, then….


55 thoughts on “Back to base: the best foundations for older skin

  1. Thanks a million.
    I used an expensive cream powder foundation recently and watched my skin crumple into wrinkles.
    Useful stuff here. You have a new pal.

  2. I think you better add more specific tags like foundation for skin over 40/50 or something like that.. I doubt women actually put “ageless beauty” in Google when searching for this:) enjoy all your posts BTW:) sorry if my comment looks tactless.

  3. Vicci is never in her mid -60s?!!! Have to say, that Chanel brush is amazing for buffing in foundation. Life-changer! Would love some tips on how to deal with ‘number elevens’, those pesky deep between-the-brow furrows. I don’t mind wrinkles but I don’t want to look angry!

    1. I may be incorrect, but if I see ‘elevens’ (didnt hear the term till you described it) creeping in on my face (and have noticed it for the last 10 years), I will massage them with my middle fingers at night or occasionally during the day by placing my middle finger on the centre of my forehead/on the 11s and in one long stroke push away along my brow a few times. IMO these appear when I have been furrowing my brow a lot (often due to bad eyes or something), and also occasionally stretching my face (ie arch eyebrows/surprised look) if you have been using screens a lot…… the creases are still there but not embedded

    2. I have had pretty serious “11”s for years. Apparently my RBF has had far-reaching effects, and I also frown while I’m sleeping, for some reason. Still pondering Botox, but in the meantime, I use “Frownies”. This is a product that has been around for decades; it’s a box of brown paper adhesive stickers, which you stick on the creases at bedtime. When I wake up, my creases are gone! Unfortunately, I start frowning immediately & they come back. But I do feel that the Frownies keep things from getting worse, plus they are inexpensive and completely non-invasive.

  4. It is from a line not remotely designed for older skin, but Glossier’s ‘Stretch Concealer’ used as foundation is currently rocking my world. I apply a thin coat with a Kabuki brush, adding more where I need it. It melts into my skin and doesn’t ever settle into lines. When I need REAL coverage, Jane Iredale’s Glow Time Full coverage is amazing, and can be buffed out to quite a thin finish in places where I don’t need such heavy coverage. I’m not a fan of the Chanel Les Beiges foundation (though it gets rave reviews, so I’m in the minority) but you REALLY have me intrigued on the Chanel powder foundation… I do love a big of mica to mimic glow! I’m definitely going to try that. I’m obsessed with skincare and foundation. If that looks good, the rest doesn’t matter.

  5. I hate how foundation looks on older women period. No matter what it settles into all the wrong places and looks fake. Even your model above. I’m with Cindy Joseph who says as we age it’s time to just wear our faces. I now just wear mascara, cream blush and a not in your face lipstick shade. I am blessed with pretty good although wrinkled and jowly skin. Not a lot of spots etc. but I will say I have seen some pretty good transformations from Rodan and Fields skin care. I don’t use it but my sister-in-law and cousin do with great results. Acne scars and age spots very less noticeable for both of them. So maybe the money should be spent on excellent skin care rather than stuff to hide behind. I don’t know.

    1. Lordy, Bobbie, I’m with you. The model in the photo above is clearly a beautiful woman, but my first thought was “shame about all that slap” – seriously, does anyone want to look like that other than for some magazine editorial? It seems to me that foundation adds years to the face, no matter how skillfully applied.

  6. This is a great article, but can you also do one sometime on lipsticks that don’t (ABSOLUTELY DON’T) bleed on older lips. I’ve tried countless ones and they all bleed which means I never wear lipstick which is a shame.

    1. Try also a clear lip liner that goes outside the lip to resist the bleeding. I use Lipstick Queen’s version and once it’s on I can wear whatever lipstick I like.

  7. I think the method of application is just as important as the product. Get a top quality brush, use a minimal amount of product, and BLEND!
    For my 50 year old skin, EL Double Wear Light does the trick nicely, applied with a Real Techniques Expert Face brush.

    I would love to try the Chanel though, have heard good things about it.

    1. PS- I think the model looks great. Nothing looks fake, cakey, or overdone, she looks awake, alive and vibrant. She looks like she could take on any task set before her with aplomb. What I don’t like is when older women use makeup to try and look younger. Look the best you can in the skin you are in and embrace your age.

      Another hint for those women who don’t like the heavy feel of foundation- mix it with a drop of moisturizer or primer to sheer it out .

  8. I agree with Bobbie .I don’t like a made up look on any age .Loathe that airbrushed skin plus tattood on eyebrows on the young…they look like dervishes . I also don’t like that look on the model , very ageing IMO.
    My fix is a bit of Teint Ecleat on my one age spot and dark circles , then Les Meteorites Pearls powder lightly over moisturiser , then Bobbie Brown blusher in Slopes . Dead easy and leaves my 11s on clear display , I’m quite happy with them !

  9. Love reading all of these great suggestions! I am right there inbetween leaving well enough alone or finding a subtle foundation to even my skin tone. I have been using Nerium for two months as a night cream and I am seeing a cleaner looking skin tone and I think a lessening of cross hatch type lines. For me the all time best concealer is mixing Kevin Aucoin’s pot concealer (very thick) with a luminizer (his is great or currently using one from Charlotte Tilbury Magic something). I stay away from blush altogether with my olive complexion. I use that same concealer all over my lips and then apply my lipstick (liquid mattes or Mac) and sometimes waterproof lip liner from Make up Forever (creamy type liner in a lighter color). For foundation, I find Charlotte Tilbury’s too thick, but if I add some light moisturizer and blend it seems to work pretty well. I do like Chanel powder and think I will pull it out again, especially in the summer. And one more good face foundation is Trish McCevoy’s spf 30 tinted moisturizer, very light and stays on for a long time with minimal coverage but good sun protection. (I live in California). I also keep SPF 30 Clarins tinted moisturizer in the red tube around because the color is perfect and you can’t see it on my skin. That is for”everyday”. To get that “glow” aka Oscars awards, I use Charlotte Tilbury’s dual pallette with a highlighter and a bronzer…….and I agree that less is more as we age. Lighter is better than darker in choosing colors. Botox and fillers are the only thing that have helped my “11’s” and I do that about every six months or so. I have a great gal in Napa if anyone needs a referral. Love this site and have sent it to all of my “ageless” friends!

  10. I swear by Clinique CC cream – it looks totally natural and stays on all day. Doesn’t settle into wrinkles either (I’m 59 so have a few!) Also has SPF30. I like Clinique’s tinted moisturiser too but the CC cream has better coverage, although I don’t have any dark spots (yet…). It’s a holy grail product for me – always have a spare in case they discontinue it!

  11. You’ve just got to go with what works for your skin re foundation. I’ve given up two things though ….Lipstick and eyeliners. Instead it’s lipgloss and powder applied with a brush. Totally liberating. And cheaper.

  12. I think the model looks very stiff and old-fashioned, I would hate to look like that. I don’t think you should use foundation all over the face, looks unnatural. There are many brilliant primers on the market now to start with which ‘blur’ blemishes and age spots. YSL does a lovely one, but even Olay has an inexpensive one that does the trick. I use primer first , then J + G BB cream all over to to start, only touch up with foundation Guerlain Lingerie de Peau under eyes, around nose and chin. Don’t forget marvellous Touche Eclat – an oldie but goldie, really helps lift around the eye area, around lip-line and nose to lip lines. I’m 65, I get lots of compliements on my skin.

  13. “I hate how foundation looks on older women period. No matter what it settles into all the wrong places and looks fake”

    I disagree; it’s not the foundation that’s jarring on the model; it’s the false eyelashes and scarlet red lipstick.
    Most older women need some coverage; I like Cover Girl & Olay’s Simply Ageless cream foundation.
    It’s easy to dab on just a little with a dampish sponge.

    1. Hi I bought this after watching that video too but find it too wet looking even though I have quite dry skin , do you powder over , if I do you loose the dewy effect I was after

  14. I am 62 and haven’t worn foundation for 40 years. I don’t have great skin, but people know what to expect when they see me. I’m not perfect, but they’ve never seen me “covered up” so I don’t and can’t look “worse” without make up. Yes, but I wear mascara and a little eye liner, as one’s eyes tend to recede with age. Would I love to go out looking as if I have perfect skin?
    Sure, but the price isn’t worth it for me. I agree with Bobbie, that foundation on older women seems to look caked on and highlight wrinkles!

  15. Like Marie, I too saw the Lisa Eldridge video for mature skin and adopted Bobbi Brown’s Tinted Moistirizing Balm. It’s fantastic.

  16. I’ve never had any luck in my FAB years with foundation, however expensive. I’m lucky that I’ve inherited my granny’s good-skin-gene and have few wrinkles at 73 – just a bit of droop. I find Clarin’s Beauty Flash Balm brilliant at giving a bit of lift and glow, I don’ t use it every day; just when I want a special boost. On top I use Garnier’s BB cream. It’s cheap as chips and just gives a nice glow without any of that ‘settled in the cracks’ look. A bit of blusher and a bright lippie and I’m good to go. Teeth still good so I smile a lot. The worst thing about growing older is the change in my eyes – once my best feature and now have droopy lids, thinning eyebrows and sparse lashes. Still, I can see with them so count blessings! And I wear my Jacqui O sunglasses a lot!

  17. Have to say…..this model is fabulous looking but looks SCAREY!!! Less is definitely more as we get older. Few people suit/need a full pate. Personally I cover the bits that need it with foundation, usually from samples that all the cosmetic houses are very happy to supply. Good diet & lots of water….better things to spend my hard earned cash on !!!

  18. I have never liked a heavy foundation look. I want to look fresh as possible and after a lot of experimenting have come up with using tinted moisturizer by Laura Mercier. You can get a lumina one that give you a gentle glow too. My problem I have found is anything powdery especially with Mica tends to cause blemishes. I am still frustrated that in my fifties I NOW get blemishes if I’m not careful! So I agree that skincare is very important, especially now my pores are larger, which I hate. So I steam, use Aveda deep clean wipes and moisturize.
    I’m also now experimenting with how and what eye lines to use and do, that do not look too heavy but help define your eyes more.
    Besides using Laura Mercier products I’ve just recently discovered the wonderful Charlotte Tilbury ‘s products. I am a Brit living in the USA and you can now order easily to the USA. I ordered some of her stuff and it was delivered in two days! I haven’t tried her new magic foundation but her lipstick and liner are fantastic…… p.s I use YSL Eclat but I need something that conceals more without looking too heavy. Any ideas?

  19. It’s so interesting to read all the comments here.. on both sides of the issue with respect to coverage versus bare-age.. so to speak. I stopped wearing foundation last year at age 59 because it did all the things the ladies above mentioned. And I switched to Laura Mercier tinted moisturiser with SPF. It works much better, has surprisingly good coverage,. Then I use a foundation brush to add a bit in places where I have rosacea,and add a touch of Bobbi Brown concealer under my eyes. But the best thing I’ve found is Laura Mercier highlighter powder. Wow brushed lightly on tops of cheekbones, and down the bridge of my nose, that stuff makes me look and feel great. I can’t believe the difference it makes! But really.. good skin care and great moisturisers are key for me. My skin looks better now than it did in my forties… 11’s be damned. Well except for the 11’s, elevenses, that means it’s time for tea and a bikki, mid-morning:)

  20. Like Sue, I started using a tinted moisturizer. It looks natural and feels good on my skin. I think as we get older, less is more in terms of make up. Mascara is a must and a tinted lip balm or lipstick.

  21. I think the model looks very chic and metropolitan. Perfect for NYC, Paris, or London…. And for those special evenings out. Unfortunately, I would get stares looking that way on a daily basis in my small town in the midwest. I have always been a make-up addict and have tried just about everything on the market. I prefer a natural look…. But of course, it takes work. As for foundations, I definitely need one due to rosacea and tiny spider veins. Powders always look cakey on my skin, but I do think it depends on your skin type. A good primer is essential for allowing liquid foundation to go on more sheer and even, and keeping it from settling into lines. I prefer Smashbox Photo primer and Lancôme Teint Idole foundation with Lancôme EFFACERNES – Waterproof Protective Undereye Concealer. FACE makes a lovely sheer cream blush and I highlight cheekbones, chest, and under brows with Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector. In summer, I lightly powder just my nose with NARS light reflecting loose setting powder. My favorite lipstick is a very natural lip color and ultra creamy by MAC, Lustre in Syrup. I have also discovered that with age I am losing eyelashes. So on special occasions I wear very natural looking false lashes made by Eylure. More important than make up, of course, is skin care. I love the Dr. Brandt line.

  22. I wanted to add that it’s crucial to pick a foundation that matches your skin color. Because I do that, I can skip foundation under my eyes and on my forehead where makeup could highlight lines.
    I use foundation on my nose (including under the nose and above the lips) on my cheeks and chin.
    It’s looks fresh, natural and pretty-I think.

  23. Skin after 35 years of age can vary so much from person to person. I think the best way to go is to use a product like Max Faxtor pan stick; it can be applied quite heavily in some areas then blended right out in others. I find brush application of powders onto the skin with wrinkles and creases can be unflattering as the brush can stretch out he wrinkles and creases more and then simply supply more of a crevice for the powders and foundations to settle in. Less foundation and more concealing in different areas as needed is my preferred way to go for a look that will stay in tact longer. Powder only the nose and areas that a mostly wrinkle free. Choose a lip colour that is flattering to the face as a whole and take into account the condition and colour of teeth. As we age, teeth look best with a lipstick that helps the teeth look whiter. Bright red lipstick might look good for a moment but unless one wants to be constantly checking one’s look and “touching up”, consider the use of a tint that supplies very natural looking colour and then add a little shine or extra moisture in the middle of the bottom lip.
    As we get older it is more important to look groomed than ‘made up’. Keep well hydrated, minimal alcohol, daily exercise and fresh air, good diet and feeling interested/connected to the interesting aspects of life contribute more to a youthful look than any amount of make up on the planet.

  24. Because of my job I can’t go completely bared faced at this time. Though I have few wrinkles thanks to lifelong oily/ acne prone skin, my skin tone is getting splotchy and, as I lose collagen and my face is beginning to sag a bit, the few acne scars that once were hardly noticeable are now becoming more pronounced. So a good dewy but non-greasy and light reflecting foundation is a must for me. I’ve been through them all and Estee Lauder Double Wear buffed in with a brush, then topped with a dusting of Hourglass Ambient powder gives what I think is a smooth and natural finish.

  25. I am surprised by the number of women who think it’s ok to judge the appearance of the woman in your blog. How quickly we judge, yet cast scorn when women are judged by others on their appearance. It’s only an editorial on foundation – a new product and method to try. How about a celebration that the woman looks happy and gorgeous.

  26. I absolutely love the way the model looks – elegant, stylish and sophisticated. While it’s true that good skincare is really important and the right brush makes a huge difference, the right foundation makes anyone look better. Suqqu Original Cream Foundation seems expensive until you consider that a jar lasts more than a year and it looks like great skin.

  27. Absolutely loved this post- and the replies, so much useful advice.Recently visited a large store and tried to buy a concealer had little help or advice and came home, poorer with wrong colour and the wrong texture- Aargh!

  28. Laura Mercier is fabulous for sheer-long lasting colour, especially on more nature skin. The finishing powder holds off shine all day without ‘settling’. I use Laura Mercier primer under the spf tint, or on its own when running around (casual). This line isn’t sold everywhere but in the larger department stores trained staff have very useful technique and product recommendations. Ask about the ‘tight eye’ liner inside the upper lash – great for opening the eyes up and for staying put.

  29. Wow, I think the model is astonishingly glamorous and gorgeous. I can’t believe that anyone finds fault with her appearance at all, but that’s the Internet for you.

  30. I had the dreaded elevens that Disneyrollergirl mentions! I am 62, and although I have always been against Botox , it has had a really good effect! I had one light session 3-4 months ago and it has softened the lines, so I can highly recommend it! At the same time, I had my laughter lines (crows feet) done, and have felt ‘refreshed’. I am a bruiser, and did have a bruise between my eyebrows for about a week, but that can be disguised and is well worth the effects. I can highly recommend it – go for it if it makes you feel better; I myself was feeling a bit sorry for myself at the time, dare I say it – OLD – I was widowed 2 years ago and the men my age seem so ELDERLY!! Do I have to consider much younger men??

  31. I love being inspired and also starting from scratch, from time to time! I have giraffe lgs in place of the 11’s. and also seek a soft, creamy , “nonsparkley” complexion and eyes!

  32. I would love foundation suggestions for those of us who can’t afford such pricey makeup. As for the makeup on the model, obviously she had to be done up for the photo but I would love to see her in more natural makeup. I’m sure it would be stunning as she is a beautiful woman.

  33. I think this model looks lovely. This looks like a special occasion look to me. I bet she is beautiful with out make up too. It might not be everyone’s ideal look, but some of the comments are kinda snarky and troll like. This is a blog post about foundation, of course the model is gonna have make up on! And Jane, some one above mentioned Clinique CC cream, you might want to try it. Definitely not as expensive. I think once your skin matures it’s really hard to make drugstore brands look natural. If you like make up, splurge a little on the foundation.

  34. Great article! I love how the model looks because she isn’t letting her age define her style. It’s not a look many older women wear, so good on her or the MUA for challenging our thinking. Sadly over the last 20 years I’ve completely gone off makeup but now, as i am getting older, I’m curious to go out and try some new products. It’s also nice to be mature & in such a good mental place – makeup is more about art for me than trying to hide what I am. Well that’s what is bringing me back to it, I’m excited to try new things and just play around. I like the idea of using it to love myself and give back to me. Let’s hope I find some looks I will actually wear out the door!! We can wear our style at any age and those wrinkles, as my mum says, are our character so if they show through it’s ok. X.

  35. I’m 66 and I usually don’t wear foundation. A little eyeliner, some mascara and pink lipstick. But I think this model looks fabulous. She’s chic and she’s made up for what I would say would be a special day or event. The eyeliner and lipstick really jump out but she’s making a statement. This is a confident woman. As far as Cindy Joseph. I’ve tried her products. I don’t like them. The first day I wore them I was told I looked tired. Her concept is great but not everything works the same for everyone and much of what makes an older woman look great is the nutrition she supplies her body with. Works better than any skin care line.

    1. I’m 64 and like you, I don’t tend to wear much more than mascara, but, I feel that as we age, we need a bit of help to look our best.
      I have discovered Look Fabulous Forever, a range designed for older women by an older woman and I think its fabulous. There are tutorials which help with any particular areas you are concerned about and what I particularly like about it is that it shows a natural, finished look – none of this heavy eyeliner and conspicuous made up look! Its all on line, so go to the website and have a browse.

  36. I am new to this blog, and in love with it btw. I don’t know if anyone will see this comment on a year old post, but here goes! In my mid-thirties, a colleague of mine of the same age and I both starting developing significant lines between the eyes on the forehead. And I still had acne! I had always assumed that I would have at least one year of good skin in-between acne and wrinkles, so I was not chuffed, to say the least. I started working on the acne with a 10 percent glycolic acid solution, which had just “come out” at the time as an acne treatment product. Low and behold, my lines disappeared, along with my acne. I have continued to use products with this formula ever since (although less often these days) and at almost 64, my between the eye lines are less noticeable than they were in my mid 30s. Whereas my former colleague has very deep impressions between the eyes. (She had other skin issues that precluded using such products.) That is not to say I don’t look my age in other ways (grey skin, some discolouration, sagging, dark and puffy under eye circles, etc.) but other than the sagging-related wrinkles, not so wrinkly. These products do not address wrinkling through the traditional ways, plumping and moisturizing, but by forcing more frequent skin renewal. Definitely not for everyone (or organic!) but can be effective for some.

  37. I love the models look, she rocks it, some people just cant, she does! LOVE THE LIPSTICK! Don’t hate her because she’s beautiful…

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