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Makeup Bases for the Makeupless

By Amalah

Hi Amy!
I’ve been sitting here trying to think of a just brilliant opening line to catch your eye and entice you to answer my question…but whatever, I give up. I couldn’t think of anything scintillating enough. ooo, but “scintillating”, that is a good word. 🙂
My question! I am getting married in September and have 100% accepted the fact that I will basically have to re-do my make-up a few times throughout the day. Once after seeing myself for the first time, once after seeing my dad see me for the first time, once after flipping out that “ohmygosh the ceremony is in an hour!!”, once after the ceremony….you get the picture 🙂 (I don’t really think i’ll be re-doing my make-up that much…I’m not that ridiculous…maybe just a really thorough touch up after the ceremony, before pictures).
Anyways, wow…evidently i’m a rambler. I’ve got Clinique products (eye shadow, bronzer, mascara, eye liner, and lip gloss) and love them all. What i’m looking for is a good base that is not a foundation weight. I only ever wear eye makeup and don’t think my wedding day would be a good day to change that, necessarily 🙂 What should I get? Your last column about the crying and blotchiness is what got me thinking. I had been assuming just a moisturizer, but could there be something better? Should I get a green tint concealer from Clinique?
Basically, what is a good wedding day base that will keep my make-up in place (on my eyelids, too) as well as possible.
Even if this doesn’t get posted/answered, I absolutely love your column and have saved a couple of your responses to my favorites because they were so helpful 🙂
Thanks for taking time to read this! 🙂

Well, “a good base” could be a whole slew of different things, depending on your skin and the circumstances of your day. Are you prone to shine? Dryness? Will you be inside with a ton of flash photography or outside in 90-degree melt-your-makeup weather? (I know we sure do get days like that even in September.) Do you want just a touch of color for your face or are you confident to face the day and the photos completely fresh-faced and natural?
First, do NOT get a green-tinted concealer unless you plan to wear some kind of flesh-toned powder/foundation/tinted moisturizer over it. If you just apply green-tinted concealer to red splotchy skin…you’re going to end up with green spots on top of red splotchy skin. You’ve got to blend any type of color-correcting product in with another product that’s properly matched to your skin tone.
If your skin is oily or prone to shine, I’d add a silicon-based primer to your line-up. Smashbox Photo Finish or, if you’ve got pores to conceal, Dr. Brandt Pores No More. Clinique makes something that I BELIEVE is pretty similar (the Pore Minimizer T-Zone Shine Control), but since Clinique still refuses to disclose its ingredient lists (seriously, Clinique, knock this off) I don’t know if it’s got the magic dimethicone ingredient that keeps makeup in place while giving your skin a smooth, matte and shine-free feeling. Dimethicone-based primers are long-lasting and very light feeling, but will hold any makeup you apply over them with a grip of death. I don’t usually recommend them for people who don’t wear foundation, but for a wedding day I think they’re an excellent option, even on their own.
Smashbox has also come out with what is basically a solid version of their primer in a wee little compact for touch-ups throughout the day. I’ve tried it, and honestly think it’s a toss-up between regular ol’ blotting papers and the pricey compact, except that I suppose the compact has a little more dignity if you’d rather not leave dozens of oil-soaked sheets in your wake all day. But from a price tag AND extra-crap-on-your-face standpoint, the blotting sheets win for me, but I’m generally leery of putting stuff on TOP of foundation throughout the day. If I was not wearing foundation, I think I’d love this product more.
If your skin is dry or even just normal, you’ll probably be just fine with a moisturizer — maybe try a tinted one if you worry about splotches and want at least a little bit of coverage. Provided you aren’t going to spend the day sweating or oozing oil out your pores, you probably won’t need anything else to hold your bronzer in place.
As for your eyes, you’ll want a good shadow primer to keep things from getting crack and shiny after a few hours. I’ve used and enjoyed all of the following: Benefit’s F.Y.Eye, Benefit’s Boi-ing and Urban Decay’s Primer Potion. I’ve listed them from the most heavy-duty to the lightest — F.Y.Eye is serious stuff and can take some getting used to, because it goes on almost like a thick, dry paste and is easy to over-apply. Get it right, however, and your eyeshadow will keep that just-applied look for hours and hours. The Primer Potion is lightweight and easy to use, but I think I do have to ding it a few points in terms of effectiveness.
As for what to what to pack in your bag (or I guess…your maid-of-honor’s bag) for post-emotion touch-ups, I’d definitely include some face powder. Pick something translucent if you don’t want to add color. Keep plenty of tissues handy and if you do opt to go with a primer for shine control, consider bringing it along. (Step One: blot eye makeup damage with wet and dry tissues, Step Two: moisturize any tear-stained areas, Step Three: touch up shiny or blotchy areas with primer (optional, really), Step Four: lightly refresh face with pressed powder. (No loose powder, since you just KNOW it’ll end up all over your dress when your hands shake or someone bumps you.)
Again, I wouldn’t bother with concealer unless you plan to reapply a tinted moisturizer or a non-translucent powder. I think it would look too obvious. (I won’t bother with concealer unless I can top it off with my liquid foundation, but I suppose I could just be concealer-application-challenged.) If possible, play around with all the different shadow primers ahead of time in order to find the one that works best for you and your makeup. Deliberately mess up your eye makeup and practice trying to repair it. Snap photos of yourself in similar light to see if you’ve got forehead shine and read this Smackdown column for tips about how to improve your makeup for photos. You DON’T want to be reapplying layers of makeup and powder anymore than is absolutely necessary (see: bad, bad photos), so aim to find products that keep what makeup you do wear solidly in place for the long haul.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • elle

    May 30, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Clinique may not list ingredients on their website, but they certainly disclose them on the packaging and/or containers (depending on the size). At least, they do in the UK and European Union, where it’s a legal obligation. I personally don’t use the pore minimizer range, or any primer for that matter, so can’t answer the question right now. But next time I’m shopping I’ll look out for dimethicone on the ingredients list — or maybe another Euro-reader could check for you.
    And now I know why I *should* wear primer, at least on special occasions!

  • April

    May 30, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Stila’s tinted moisturizer is really great if you’re looking for a light non-foundation option.

  • kalisah

    May 30, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I’ve worked on a lot of photo shoots and have learned to be very careful about makeup.
    I have been on photoshoots for a makeup that due to it’s (lack of) pigmentation, has to be applied OVER THE TOP OF MAC BASE.
    Have you ever seen a photo of someone who uses corn starch for face powder? They don’t look white in person, but b/c there’s no color pigment in cornstarch, it reflects the light of the flash and makes a person look like a ghost.
    There is base and powder makeup in the store that will do the same thing. For truth in advertising, the makeup artist applied the advertised product (which does not photograph well) over something reliable, like MAC.
    Which is all just to say, heed Amy’s advice and take some test shots before the big day!!

  • NGS

    May 30, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    I just got married LAST SATURDAY and I am going to say that the best $100 I spent was on a professional doing my makeup. No touch ups necessary, except for additional gloss and a dusting of powder now and again (a girl gets dewy when the dancing gets hot!). My makeup was done at 2 in the afternoon and we didn’t leave the reception until almost 11 at night.
    Honestly, even if you usually just wear shadow, mascara, and gloss during your regular daily life, this is money well spent. Explain your preferences to the esthetician and he or she will find a look that suits you and your comfort level, but will prevent you from having to recheck your makeup a million times throughout the day. Tell them you don’t want heavy foundation, eyeliner, or whatever and they’ll work with you.
    I did a trial run beforehand with the makeup and found that it didn’t make me break out and it was really, really, really nice to know that a professional was doing it.
    PLUS, if you go to a reliable esthetician, they will know exactly what looks good in photos. You can ask to see their portfolios if it makes you feel better. I haven’t seen our professional shots yet, obviously, but my makeup looks fantastic in the snapshots I’ve seen. Much better than I could have ever done.
    Sorry for the long comment, but I think you can save yourself from much angst by leaving this to those who know best!

  • Cheryl

    May 30, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    I kind of agree with NGS. Avoiding putting tons of crap on your face in every day life is one thing, but I cringe at the thought of you not wearing foundation on your wedding day. And if it’s not something you do regularly you probably won’t feel very comfortable doing it on such an important day. If I were you I would just splurge on a pro and let them know your style and that you are concerned about touch-ups. That said, I was the only bridesmaid to do my own makeup for two weddings last summer, and I have to say, my makeup looked just as good and lasted just as well, as those who had theirs done. There are photos of me in the hotel room at like 2am and while I was clearly drunk and had danced my fancy hairdo all to hell, my makeup still looks completely fresh. For everyday I just use L’Oreal’s mineral foundation, but for a special event, I am in love with Make-Up Forever’s Mat Velvet foundation. It’s pricey, but a little goes a long way and it has SERIOUS perfecting and staying power. And here’s a sneaky tip…you can ask for samples at Sephora and they’ll give you more than enough to get you through a run-through and wedding day application. And I definitely don’t think it’s a foundation you need to use with a separate primer.

  • Kristen

    May 30, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Oh my word, I just did a double take! That’s my question! Holy cow, I feel like I’ve just had a brush with a celebrity! Thank you so much for answering!! 🙂
    The wedding is in Grand Haven, MI on Sept. 27th. So a chance for super warm…but i’d imagine that it won’t be too awfully humid. Everything but the reception is outdoors (ceremony, photos).
    I have a very mild combination skin that is mostly just normal. I get kinda shiny in humidity and struggle with pretty obvious dryness in the winter, but both fairly simple fixes. I also get some mild redness on either corner of my mouth under my lip. I’m told that it could be an allergic reaction to the toothpaste i’m using…but doubt that because i’ve had it since highschool and have used plenty of different toothpastes since then.
    I would have never thought about practicing with how different lighting effects a snapshot! Thank you for that suggestion! I’m so excited about the eye primer. I think i’m going to give the Benefit F.Y.Eye a shot. One of my bridesmaids worked in a salon and is great with make-up, so i’m definitely going to trust her to help me with applying it correctly. I love the idea of the Smashbox primer. I do have a question going off of that, if I can be so selfish as to ask ANOTHER question…I was looking at the travel sizes at, and they only have the apricot shade and the green concealer shade. Do those require a foundation over top? From everything everyone is saying, it sounds like foundations are light enough these days that they won’t be as god-awful as the stage makeup I had to wear when I was in dance. ICK! So i’m definitely ok with going outside of what I know.
    Thank you for the suggestions in the comments too! 🙂 I’m definitely going to talk to my salon about possibly doing my makeup.
    Ok, i’ve monopolized enough of your time. Holy cow, thank you SO MUCH for answering my question!!! eeee! i’m excited 🙂

  • Misti

    May 31, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    What she needs is something called Model in a Bottle. That stuff sets your make-up better than ANYTHING ELSE OUT THERE.
    I just went to a wedding in East Texas (read: most humid place on earth) and it drizzled during the outside ceremony. I sweat like a race horse and my makeup always ends up on my neck. Two spritzs of MiaB and I didn’t touch up ONCE while every other woman there was reaching for their powder several times during the day.
    Seriously. Best stuff ever!!

  • Suzy Q

    May 31, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Congrats, NGS and Kristen!
    Kristen, the Smashbox primer that looks apricot does NOT go on your face looking that color. It goes on clear, promise!
    Also, I am the Casper whose question Amalah linked to re: photographs. Lighting is CRUCIAL to good photos. Most bad photos of me have been taken with harsh in-your-face lights.
    However, I about fell out of my chair when I read kalisah’s comment about corn starch powders reflecting light. I have been using corn starch based loose powder over my makeup for years. Maybe that’s the culprit. Finally, an answer!

  • Daisy Duke

    June 1, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    I would throw out there that for a really light foundation that is known for covering up red (rosacea sufferers swear by it!) is Laura Mercier mineral powder foundation. I love it becuase it is very light i.e. you can see me underneath it, but it covers up shine & redness beautifully. I love LM for all things “face” related as her whole makeup line is done with the idea of showing off flawless skin. Some of my friends also enjoy her creamy foundations- but I love the mineral powder one.

  • Lisa

    June 2, 2008 at 9:33 am

    I have freckles that I love, so I rarely use foundation. However, since I have combination skin, I like to use primers to keep the oil slicks at bay. I LOVE the Clinique Pore Minimizer, but found it kind of hard to get even without using a ton. So I put the Smashbox primer on the back of my hand, blend it with the pore minimizer and apply it. It blends beautifully without looking heavy or feeling awkward. Because it’s the photo finish, it still looks natural in pictures, but no shine.