The best WFH makeup bases – and how to apply them

Zoom culture and mask wearing has changed our what we need from makeup.

Around this time of year many brands launch new base products, from tints to foundations – but in 2021, the focus is on sheerer and lighter products.

Full coverage isn’t required when most people are seeing you with a grainy laptop’s camera and you’re only going out to do the weekly food shop (with your face half covered by a mask).

So it makes sense that the beauty market is catering to our pandemic-driven needs – those being that we want to look refreshed with minimal effort.

With these new products being lighter in their coverage, you don’t need to go in with lots of tools to apply them. Most work well with fingers.

Another thing to keep in mind is that foundation doesn’t need to be applied all over the face, rather you can pinpoint certain places and diffuse outwards.

Far less product will reach the ends of your face, giving a skin-like finish. That way you don’t need to cover every part of your skin but you still have the overall effect of your complexion appearing polished.

We’ve rounded up some of the best new drops (plus MUA tips on how to apply them) along with a few long-standing makeup heroes to make shopping for a new base product easier.

One thing to note when it comes to shade ranges: the sheerer the product, the more skin tones one shade will cater to. This is because more of your real skin will show through.

Milk Makeup Sunshine Skin Tint

Get it for £39 from Selfridges.

This launch has been hotly anticipated for some time owing to the fact that it was already available in the US and beauty insiders have been bringing this tint back in their luggage for well over a year.

What’s even better is that the product packaging recently got an upgrade after consumers were complaining the click mechanism failed – so it’s arrived in the UK at precisely the right time.

Milk Makeup’s founders created the product after spending years mixing oils with various foundations to create tints that had skincare benefits to boot.

Enter Sunshine Skin Tint which Sara Wren, Milk’s Global Studio Artist, says: ‘Not only does it protect with an SPF 30, it hydrates with a ton of oils (like mandarin, avocado, jojoba, olive oils and olive-derived squalane).

‘I recommend blending with my fingers for a natural finish.’

Coverage can be built if you go in for second layer, but due to the smaller amount of tint that you get in this product versus the standard foundation size (which is our only criticism), we think it’s best used in one layer to make the tube go further.

Urban Decay Hydromaniac Tinted Glow Foundation

Get it for £29 from Urban Decay.

As far as tinted moisturises go, this one has an impressive level of coverage.

It’s still natural appearing and on the sheerer side, but it offers more pigment than most other tinted bases on the market.

The finish is definitely glow-giving and it feels hydrating on the skin, so dry skin types will love this. It also doesn’t fully set down, so keep this in mind if you’re prone to touching your face.

Urban Decay’s Global Artist, Danielle Roberts, says: ‘It has amazing skincare ingredients including Kombucha filtrate and marula oil giving you that fresh, glowy look.

‘I love to apply it using the Urban Decay Optical Blurring Brush to buff seamlessly to achieve an even coverage – you can wear it sheer or build it up for medium coverage.’

It also blends nicely with fingers.

Marc Jacobs Extra Shot Caffeine Concealer and Foundation

Get it for £40 from Marc Jacobs.

Keeping with the trend of makeup being effortless (cue multi-tasking), we’ve enjoyed testing this two-in-one product.

Of all the products here, this is most pigmented – likely because concealers tend to have more pigment due to their need to cover a precise, focused area.

That being said, we think this sits better on the skin when applied as a foundation rather than just under the eyes to conceal dark circles.

It gives a ‘real’ looking finish to the skin, in that it’s not overly glowy or matte. Most skin types will be able to work with this.

Gilbert Soliz, Global Makeup Artist for Marc Jacobs Beauty, says you should begin by dotting it onto areas of concern, then use a brush to blend into skin. 

If you want to build the coverage in particular areas, perhaps to cover a blemish, Gilbert says: ‘Apply a small dot then let it sit for 60 seconds before blending – this will allow the formula to begin setting, making it stiffer and thicker. 

‘When it comes to complexion, one of the easiest ways to trick the eye is to brighten the center of the face.

‘Try selecting a concealer in a shade lighter then your skin tone. My top pick for this is Extra Shot.

‘This formula is jam packed with “good for you” ingredients like caffeine. Dot under the eyes, forehead & bridge of nose then blend out for an instant fresh face.’

MAC Studio Fix Tech Cream-To-Powder Foundation

Get it for £30 from Harvey Nichols.

MAC’s latest drop comes in 42 shades – though it’s not surprising as the brand has a long history of being inclusive – and comes in a handy compact.

Sure, we’re not on-the-go right now but it makes application quick and without mess – perfect for that five minute makeup hurriedly applied before a Zoom meeting.

Upon first application, there’s a slight cooling affect and it dries down to a soft matte finish as the cream-to-powder name suggests. Due to this, we think normal to oily skins will get on with this best.

Carly Utting, National Artist at MAC Cosmetics, says you should go in with a patting motion, rather than blending in big strokes.

She says: ‘Using a MAC 170s brush, in a patting motion, apply to the areas you are most concerned about first as this may be enough for you to appear more evenly balanced, but if not apply all over.

‘The creamy, natural to medium formula delivers instant hydration with the addition of hyaluronic acid and a super high percentage of water.’

Givenchy Prisme Libre Foundation

Get it for £40 from Feel Unique.

This latest drop from Givenchy has 90% skincare ingredients in the base formula, making it good for those who worry about the effect makeup has on their skin.

Keep in mind, skin-caring makeup is no substitute for a skincare routine.

What we love about this is how it manages to fully set down on the face while still imparting a natural radiance to the skin.

Neil Young, the brand’s MUA ambassador, spoke exclusively to about the launch, advising that it’s best applied with fingers and rubbed in like a moisturiser.

We can attest to that – it really does feel like applying a cream and doesn’t need much time to get blended out.

That method will give you more coverage, so to knock it back a little he recommends a flat synthetic brush.

Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint

Get it for £20 from Glossier.

Of all the options here, Glossier’s iconic tint is the sheerest.

Rather than offer coverage, it gives the skin a sheen not too dissimilar to the sheen on an egg shell – not too much, just enough to brighten the face.

A second layer can be applied for a little more smoothing of the complexion, but keep in mind this is very minimal in terms of pigmentation.

It’s quick to apply with fingers (using a brush or sponge will swallow up the runny consistency) and it’s a good one mix into other products if you want to sheer them out or change their finish.

We like that shade one is the darkest in this line – most brands work from light to dark.

NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30

Get it for £31 from Cult Beauty.

This cult status tinted moisturiser has been on the market for years – and there’s a reason it still reigns supreme.

Like the Urban Decay one, it offers light coverage to the complexion while appearing soft and illuminating.

This one feels less oil intensive than the Urban Decay however, which could appeal more to more skin types.

Vita Liberata Beauty Blur Skin Tone Optimizer

Get it for £29.95 from Feel Unique.

Skin Tone Optimizer is the right name for this – rather hide or cover skin, it simply enhances your natural tone for a smooth and lit-from-within canvas.

Due to this, it applies well with fingers and doesn’t need to be worked into the skin for too long.

It’s the kind of product you can apply in a parked car without a good mirror (as one of our team did), making it a great option for gentle base makeup.

It’s also been on the market for a while, but there’s something unique about the finish this gives to the skin that we haven’t seen in newer launches.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops

Sign up to the wait list on Cult Beauty.

If you don’t want to wear makeup but still want something to lift the skin in the form of a glow, Glow Recipe’s niacinamide drops do just that.

They’ve become a bit of a cult buy on the Instagram beauty scene and because of that currently are sold out – though you can follow our link to sign up for when they soon restock.

Niacinamide is a great ingredient for all skin types – it controls excess sebum levels (to curb oil) and strengthens the skin barrier (helping prevent dry skin conditions like eczema).

Apply this all over the face as part of your skincare routine, or dot it onto the high points of the face to attract the light there.

It even works applied over sheer makeup.

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