Fashion & Beauty

Foundation Perfection

August 20, 2023



By Valerie Monroe

For nearly 16 years Valerie Monroe was the beauty director at O, The Oprah Magazine, where she wrote the popular “Ask Val” column. She now splits her time between Manhattan and Tokyo.

If you’re interested in feeling happier about your appearance—especially as you age—you might like reading what she has to say about it. For more of her philosophical and practical advice, subscribe for free to How Not to F*ck Up Your Face at

Can’t get enough Valerie Monroe? There’s more at

I DON’T OFTEN write about makeup—probably because I don’t often wear it. Actually, since I left O, The Oprah Magazine, and once we slid into the vast sinkhole of the pandemic, I developed a “F*ck it all!” attitude toward makeup in general. With the exception of mascara and eyeliner, makeup is basically the last thing on my mind (right before stilettos). But a loyal reader—loyal to foundation, that is—needed help.

“Ask Val” answers your urgent questions, Vol. 42.

Q: What are some good foundation options for aging skin? Mine is quite dry, and foundation has a tendency to sit in my pores, which makes me feel like I’m wearing a freaking neon sign that says, “I’m getting old!” I’m aiming to even-out my complexion and diminish age spots and other signs of sun damage.

A: First of all, I just threw on a neon sign that says, “Congratulations, winner! You’re getting old!” But I understand why you’d like to diminish the clues suggesting you’ve spent a significant amount of time orbiting our star minus sunscreen and a hat.

You’re right that one of the best—by which I mean easiest and least expensive—ways to have a more even-looking complexion is to wear foundation. Makeup, after all, has always been worn not only for decorative purposes, but also to trick potential partners into believing we’re quality breeding material. Skin clarity, evenness of tone, and a slight blush are all cues of youth and good health, and consequently a good choice of mate (in case you’re interested). I’ve mentioned several studies (like this one and this one) that demonstrate that the facial skin age of women is influenced not only by the appearance of lines and wrinkles, but also by unevenness, discoloration, and a decrease in light reflection (how light bounces off the skin). Researchers have found that both men and women are remarkably sensitive to even small changes in skin-color distribution. The happier news: When discoloration is removed, faces are judged to be more attractive. So . . .

Making its grand entrance down the cosmetics aisle, please put your hands together for: Primer! It seems primer, dear reader, is what may be missing from your makeup routine. How do I know? I asked one of the most widely known (and loveliest) makeup artists of all time, Pati Dubroff.

“One of the best routes to even tone is to use a blurring or matte primer before applying foundation,” Pati says. “It acts as a barrier to the foundation seeping into pores and fine lines.” And why wouldn’t iconic makeup artist Laura Geller completely agree, as she sells an excellent primer that moisturizes and, like all good primers, ensures that foundation stays put without emphasizing wrinkles. As for choosing a foundation, Pati advises, “For mature skin, I like to use a buildable liquid or creamy formula.” Drier formulas can accentuate any kind of texture on the skin—and not in a good way. Laura, chiming in in case you happen to love a powder, adds that her powder foundation, which starts out as a cream before it’s magically baked into powder form, is more hydrating than pressed powders.

Pati offers a couple of bonus hints for good measure: Avoid a primer promising radiance, as that radiance is likely delivered as sparkle, which . . . need we say more? And Pati loves a little extra moisture tapped lightly with the fingertips on the cheekbones—no swiping!—on top of foundation.

There you go! By the way, your neon sign is on the fritz. It now seems to say, “I’m g . . . old!” Yes, yes you are.


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One thought on “Foundation Perfection

  1. Nancy G says:

    There are also a number of tinted moisturizers on Ulta, Sephora and Bluemercury shelves, many with SPF. Ilia actually markets theirs as sunscreen. And there’s good for your skin stuff in most of them. Find one that makes you look and feel good. Maybe try one of these and just concealer where necessary? Also, I cannot praise the benefits of IPL (intense pulsed light) treatments enough. Gets rid of dark spots and really clears up the blotchiness we’ve all created on our faces from too much sun (Iodine and baby oil, anyone?). I’ve pretty much dispensed with anything other than blush over my moisturizer with SPF 45 for years.

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