Foundation Week, Day 2: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


Today, the second installment in Molly Young’s foundation-exploration series. In case you missed it (or for a quick refresher), check out yesterday's post, "Your Epidermis is Showing," in which our intrepid reporter asks what foundation’s all about, anyway, who’s wearing it, and how to avoid looking like Tom Hanks in The Polar Express.

Now, the results of my foundation survey and trials:

The incentives were not lining up for Kat Von D Lock-It Tattoo Foundation. First, I had to ask a PR rep whether the stuff was for tattoos or for my face, because the name is confusing. (Answer: face, but Kat puts it on her tattoos sometimes.) Second, the packaging. Oy! It’s a phallic cylinder decked in black roses and faux-silver, like some kind of classy sex toy that Vince Neil would buy for a girlfriend. But don't be fooled—the formula is demure and odorless. It killed my red splotches and stayed put all day. This one fits into the “polished/well-groomed” category of foundations, not the “sheer/effortless” category—in other words, it’s on the heavy side—so bear that in mind. And for god’s sake, hide the bottle.

Dior's Diorskin Forever serves full foundation duties with SPF 25 protection. I prefer to keep sunscreen and foundation separate, but next time I’m packing for a work trip and need to consolidate, this will go in the bag. (A commenter on yesterday's post asked—very astutely— about the order in which to apply products. This is a good question. I go from transparent to opaque: moisturizer, then sunscreen, then foundation.)

Diorskin Airflash is an airbrush-style foundation that projectiles at your face by way of an aerosol pump, eliminating the need for sponges, brushes, and grimy fingertips. (More on this below.)

Most foundations sit on top of the skin a minute or two before soaking in. This is at the root of my theory about why so many women are averse to foundation. It looks weird at first—you have to give it a minute! If you do not want to give it a minute, however, Koh Gen Do Moisture Foundation solves your problem. It takes beautifully to skin; your face will drink it up. This one is superior in many other ways, too: plentiful coverage with a dewy finish and very little scent. Plus, it comes in a little red tube, like oil paint. Fun.

CoverGirl & Olay 2-in-1 Tone Rehab smells lightly of flowers and sunscreen. It's what you imagined beautiful adult women smelled like when you were seven years old. The "2-in-1" in the name refers to a mixture of foundation and "serum," which is lovely because everyone loves serum.

Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra smells like a baby’s head.

Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation and Nars Sheer Glow Foundation have no smell whatsoever.

Nars' color names are abstract to a degree that is clearly insane but admirably creative. My favorites are "Punjab" and "Syracuse."

Sorry, but Givenchy Photo'Perfexion made my face look upholstered. For the same price ($48), you could buy two-years-worth of Kiehl’s Lip Balm or 1.7 bottles of Campari, or a week’s worth of breakfasts at Balthazar, tip included, any of which would be a better deal.


No foundation rundown would be complete without a look at this fascinating technology. Let’s discuss.

Airbrush-style foundations, like Diorskin Airflash, run counter to human instinct in several ways. One, we’re not programmed to fire propulsive agents at our faces. Two, we’re also not programmed to coat ourselves in “extremely flammable” (their words!) solutions. If you dislike these ideas, avoid airbrush-style foundations. If not, please join me and Joe Biden for a merry frolic through the clouds of spot-concealing mists!

Diorskin Airflash is marketed as a simpler version of the air-jet wands that give news anchors and politicians that poreless, HD look. It costs $62 and shoots liquidly from an aerosol can, like hairspray. It’s also recommended for legs, though I’m not prepared to accept that we live in a world where leg foundation is a thing. The Dior website explains that it’s “as easy as 1-2-3!”, which is important because I can’t count past three.

Anyhow, I was very excited about this can of foundation.

As per the instructions, I shook well and swept the foundation across my face in a continuous Z-shaped motion, then opened my eyes. Result: radiant even-tonedness. I gave another quick sweep across the cheeks to eliminate ruddiness—and that was it. The mist felt like nothing. My skin resembled a peach. The whole process took ten seconds, which knocked two minutes off my usual foundation-applying time. With the spare minute, I googled “Kristen McMenamy hair.” Mmm, good.

I’m surprised by how much I like this stuff. In an industry (beauty) where perfect results tend to be time-consuming, Airflash is both flawless and instant, like a magic trick. Naturally, there are downsides: it only comes in seven shades, so it will not work for more than a medium-sized slice of the demographic pie. Also, $62. Oof.

Three questions to consider:

Does it finish dewy?
No. It goes on dewy but finishes matte.

Can I take it on a plane?
Yes. I called the TSA.

Will it turn my eyelashes pale?
Yes. It will turn your eyelashes into a snowy fringe. Apply mascara post-spraying, unless you want to look like an ethereal Slavic child.

I said: magic.

Molly Young

Check back tomorrow for the dramatic conclusion of Foundation Week: Skyping Your Way to the Perfect Shade. If you're looking for more Molly, read her Top Shelf and follow her on Twitter @magicmolly.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Allie

    I am incredibly intrigued by the Dior Airflash. With my current job, I get a ton of free swag so I haven't had to buy any makeup or skincare products for about 2 years. This might just be worth paying for... (thank god for a 25% discount!)

    • Heather Smith

      I sing Airflash praises to anyone who will listen -- used it in my wedding, and it photographs BEAUTIFULLY (which is hard.....I find, even without SPF, I end up with "flashback" in photos). That said: I found the "airbrush" process too messy -- no bathroom wall or counter was safe from orange-ish over-spray. SO -- I blast it onto a flat-topped foundation brush or onto the back of my hand and apply with a sponge -- same finish, it lasts most of the day, and it looks LOVELY. :) Conviced? Go buy!

  • Raquel

    Could you give us a run-down of all the products you tried, so we know what your selection was? I'm curious if you tried Dermablend's foundation and what you thought of it?

    • caitlin willard

      i love dermablend's smooth indulgence foundation with spf 20. it is a medium coverage foundation and dries down pretty matte. i prefer to mix it with sunscreen to make it a bit more sheer though :)

  • 4jsc

    Airflash sounds interesting. How did you get it off your brows? Was there actually no need to buff? And finally, did you try applying by spraying some on a buffing brush? If so, how did the finish compare?
    ps. Love your writing style.

    • Molly Young

      I just sort of licked my finger and rubbed it off my brows! And, there was no need to buff. When I sprayed it on a buffing brush, it was exactly like applying a silky powder.

  • Sara

    Thanks for this great review. I hate foundations. :( I prefer BB creams over foundations, but they are almost the same as foundations. Japanese makeup and skin care is so superior, so no wonder Koh Gen Do is your best foundation. I own it as well, but wear it rarely since I prefer BB creams (again, Japanese and Korean).

    • win

      which BB creams do you use?

  • Janine

    I love Dior Airflash. Even though there aren't many shades, the color really blends so well, you can't even tell. I bought a few cans when I travelled to Aruba last year. The $ is much less :) but I first heard about Airflash in an interview with model, Chrissy Tiegen. I apply as she does: Damp blender sponge, then apply. Love.

  • Esther MK

    I beg to disagree on the Givenchy one! I tried a few at Sephora and chose this one with the help of a sales assistant. This was the only range that had a colour for a pale skin like mine, and the result is just super natural but even: my skin, only better. And the pump thing is just enough for my face + neck.

    • Aimee Williams

      100% agree. It's one of the best pale foundations I've found that looks like my skin, but (like you said) better. Givenchy works better for me than Armani luminous silk (which is great too).

      • Sara Scott

        I need to chime in on this one, too. Givenchy is my HG foundation. I am really pale and have dry skin. It's amazing.

        • Amy

          Quite relieved to hear this-I just picked it up. I thought it looked amazing in the store and hoped I wasn't just fooling myself. I really love the Givenchy Mattisme too--it lasts on my skin forever.

  • Jill

    This is a great and hilarious post. I am so NOT trying the Dior Airflash but I loved reading about it. Thanks for the review, Molly!

  • stephkornblum

    You should try By Terry Cover Expert foundation. It has changed my life. It's pricey but so worth it!

  • Elizabeth Van Der Stroom

    Dear ITG, which foundation is best for breakout prone skin, as well as combination skin. I would love to find a great foundation but am scared to try anything. Would you still go with the Koh Gen Do or something else?

    • Molly Young

      I have the same kind of skin! I really liked Koh Gen Do and also Prescriptives. Both are gentle but effective. (Clinique was the worst for my skin.) Also, a cool/magical thing about Prescriptives is that they will do a custom blend for you for free...a post on that is coming tomorrow! x

      • mickharper

        Thanks Molly Young!

      • Giselle

        Hi Molly, I am here in Australia and heard Prescriptives was discontinued as a brand - this was my favourite foundations since I too can only use oil free foundations.
        Do you know where I could get the prescriptives make up?

        Thanks you

      • pamb

        I thought Prescriptives had been discontinued? They were well known for their custom blend foundation and concealer, that's not a new thing for them.

    • Giselle

      I find I have to watch out for oil based foundations and most importantly anything with the 'talc' ingredient - this is what gives good coverage in makeup but for our type of skin it doesn't allow it to breathe therefore causing more breakouts.

  • Nomadic D.

    So fun to read through the list, but I can't believe my favorites aren't on there! I used to be totally addicted to both Armani's Luminous Silk Foundation and their Face Fabric - and then a combination of the two:

    But then I discovered the Burberry Sheer Luminous Fluid and it was love at first try. That stuff is amazing.

    Also was hoping you'd talk a bit about the Armani Maestro, I tried it for the first time a few days ago and was totally blown away by the texture and naturalness of the coverage, but it does have alcohol pretty high on the list of ingredients so I'm wary...

    Anyway, I know there's no way you could cover everything, but I just thought I'd throw my two cents in!

    • Couteau @VintageObserver

      Yeah, I also wanted to hear about that new Armani foundation.

    • Cristina

      I second that. Everyone has been raving about Maestro.

    • Laura

      The Armani Maestro is AMAZING. After using it I don't think I could ever go back to another foundation.

    • Maryk

      Thanks for sharing that the "maestro" contains alcohol ... In one sentence you packed more useful information than in a three- part series.

      • Nomadic D.


    • AKM

      ugh, I hated Maestro. It picked up uneven texture & dry flakes that I didn't even know I had. Also not sure about the raves for the product, it seems to be a very polarising product, a love or hate scenario. For me it was not worth the hassle & the cost. The KGD Moisture foundation, on the other hand, if you can get a match, is absolutely magic. And genius if you travel a lot - a small red tube of photoshop.

    • flushed

      I love it. Does anyone here know how the SPF runs under camera flash? I wear foundation for special occasions (big dinners, dates, parties, clubbing etc) which is why I prefer them without foundation because the camera flash gives me a white cast (if I need SPF, I'll wear it in the morning, under my tinted moisturizer). I haven't seen what this foundation looks like under the camera flash, do you guys know?

  • Paola

    Did you try By Terry? their sheer expert foundation is AMAZING! super light and covers "just enough", it just makes you look like you have fresh skin. In the summer I use their tinted moisturizer. I love their stuff.

  • kneelbeforetigers

    " some kind of classy sex toy that Vince Neil would buy for a girlfriend." I DIED. Laughing so hard right now...

    But ladies, let me tell you, Kat Von D products are not to be ignored. Her eyeliner stays put ALL DAY and is inky and smooth, and she makes a killer black liner and mascara. I was totally off-put when a friend hipped me to her products while we were at Sephora, but I have to say, I am pleased I bought them.

  • Kelsey

    I'm fine with pale eyelashes, I always wear mascara. What about eyebrows?

  • Rachel

    I once found a matching NARS foundation called "Siberia." Uh yeah creative...

    • Molly Young

      Their "Santa Fe" shade is the color of a tortilla :)

  • Laura

    Molly I am in love with you and your writing

  • Ava

    Please mark my RSVP as "yes" to frolicking with you and Joe Biden (my spirit animal!) through the clouds of spot-concealing mists.

    [This is my way of saying thank you for this equal parts informative and hilarious article.]

  • Peanut

    I will be joining Molly and Mr. Biden for a merry frolic. Probably tomorrow.

  • J. Chun

    I skip wearing foundation whenever I can because I feel like it allows my skin to 'breathe' -- don't know if this is a good idea in NYC because of 'ambient filth'**-- but it has gotten to the point that now I actively try to excuse myself of foundation duty whenever I can; I'll watch the Sopranos or answer emails all day and then run out for errands just as the stores close and the sun sets. Based on my very scientific study with a test pool of one, it's week 2 and I've seen a visible improvement in my skin. Does anyone else do this?

    ** To back this up: when I was working at Shiseido's Tokyo office, the in-house makeup artist there advised me to always wearing foundation because it creates a nice barrier/layer that blocks out pollution. I can only imagine that this is 1,000% more relevant to those suffering Beijing's smog right now.

  • kim m.

    love this post, but i would love to see if you could do something similar for women of color/different ethnicities and one with drugstore brands. my go-to has been chanel mat luminere (discontinued) and armani luminous silk, but recently i've started using revlon colorstay whipped creme makeup and i love the finish and it doesn't turn my face into an oil slick by lunch.

  • Belle Inteligente

    The Airflash product sounds amazing, will try to find it here in Spain although I´ve never heard of it before, let´s see. Maybe a bit pricy, too. Did you ever try any 100% natural or vegan foundations? Would love to read about that!


  • Mouthful of Style

    Makeup in general and especially foundation has heavy brand loyalty amongst customers and is one of the most repeat purchases. See more beauty insights in my new post here:

  • pamb

    I cannot join in on the Kiehl's Lip Balm love. It's Vaseline, people! Expensive Vaseline in a tube without an applicator, so you have to make sure your hands are clean before using it. There is also no SPF. Somebody please explain the love, because I don't get it.

    • Matyk

      ...and it tastes terrible! I got one as a gift but woul never purchase it!

  • Jane S

    By Terry? Chanel Vita-Lumiere Aqua? Bourgois Healthy Mix Serum foundation? Real Techniques incredible face brushes? More, please!

  • leetal tusia

    fantastic article! love your sense of humor. more articles like this please!

  • Ami S.

    I cannot agree with this list simply for the negative, totally unsubstantiated remark about Givenchy's Photo'Perfexion. It is one of my favorites of all time and very few others compare to it. I have oily, acne-prone, problem skin and this foundation gives me incredibly beautiful, long-wearing coverage without looking mask-like.

  • HAM

    I find this fascinating! I am currently based in Europe where women wear a lot less makeup in general, and I've found myself adjusting accordingly, to daily use of a tinted primer that just evens everything out slightly & gives me a peaches & cream complexion. Hyperpigmentation is covered by a liquid concealer. When I wear foundation here I feel artificial whereas in the US it seems a mandatory to strive for PERFECT skin (if that makes sense). Having said that, some amazing foundations include Ellis Faas (joy!), Bourjois Healthy Mix (why is this not available in the US?!?) and Armani Luminous Silk. Adore all 3, though not for every day.

  • outfitofthefdayblog

    You are my writing guru. i could read your writing all day everyday, and I do...

  • claire b.

    My favorite foundation ever is dior airflash!!! i totally agree with everything Molly said!!

  • claire b

    have you ever tried the sephora brand "airbrush" foundation? curious to see how that compares to dior airflash!!

  • Alice

    The Dior Airflash is getting discontinued. I was unable to get it at my Dior counter last week :(

  • Loni Carter

    As someone who considers beauty blogs and YouTube tutorials her part time job I have to say that I am obsessed with this blog! So informative, well done and entertaining!!

  • SKos


  • FordMiss

    About the hair spray, I had it and use it time to time. I just want to add something, maybe I'm not applying the right way but I tried several different times, in the beginning my hair was always getting a bit of the foundation no matter how careful I was... so sometime I even put on a bathing cap so I avoid the hair lol

  • katherine.parkes

    would love best and worst for different skintypes! x

  • Behind the Mirror

    Great Posts on Foundation! I completely agree, when friends say "I don't wear foundation" it implies they don't need it. I have found I do need it especially as I have gotten older. I love Dior Skin Airflash and swear buy it!!!!

    Find my thoughts on the obsession in my blog post Young at Heart.

  • makeitwork

    Love your writing style Molly!
    Though, how do you avoid getting the spray in your hair around your face? Do you blend the foundation?

  • Lily KG

    Really fun post guys, and very informative... I was wondering whether the Diorskin Airflash might sometimes end up in your hair/on you clothes with the whole spraying thing?
    Lily KG

  • Charlie

    This is actually really helpful thank you!

  • Lilly

    Did you try any Chanel? I love the chanel foundations and cover ups because they seem to go on any skin - my mum uses the same stuff as I do and she's almost 60!

  • Jennifer Scott

    "It’s also recommended for legs, though I’m not prepared to accept that we live in a world where leg foundation is a thing. The Dior website explains that it’s “as easy as 1-2-3!”, which is important because I can’t count past three." Literally the best two sentences ever. This makes me want to try the Airflash before I repurchase Nude.
    Thank you :)
    Jenni xo

  • Margo

    I have a question I hope you or someone on here will be able to help me with. My brother's wedding is coming up in June and his fiance chose one shoulder dresses for us to wear, meaning my back will be showing. This wouldn't be an issue, except for the fact that I have some terrible scars leftover from "bacne." I'm pretty pale, and the scars are very obvious. What kind of makeup can I use to cover the marks? I'm looking for something that is super long lasting (It's going to be a long day, and I plan on dancing the night away!) that hides them completely, but also subtle enough so it isn't obvious I'm wearing makeup on my back. Any and all suggestions and tips are welcome! Thanks =)

    • miuette

      Start now by washing your skin on your back with olive soap and every
      evening (or day - if you shower in the morning), before sleeping,
      moisturize jojoba oil into your back skin. It may be tricky if you cant
      get anyone to help you do it...but the results will be wow.woo.Amazing!!
      You can purchase jojoba oil from a health food store - if its organic,
      even better. You will find that it will treat your back scars and make
      your skin super soft. It actually provides it with essential fatty acids
      which heals the scarring. This has worked for previous clients of
      mine. The olive oil soap is also helpful, as i gather that your skin is
      dry/sensitive and you would need something that will balance this. If
      you start now within weeks you will see improvements and a noticeable
      difference by 2 months. That way come summer time for the wedding your
      back will look healthy, soft and healed and you shouldn't have any
      problems. Best wishes + Bonne chance mademoiselle! M.

  • Bella
  • claire

    As a person with naturally blonde eyelashes I can say that looking like an ethereal slavic child isn't all it's cracked up to be. Actually I'm lucky if I start the day looking like a human.

  • Haley

    I tried the Kat Von D foundation and while it provides the best coverage, it's so hard to find a colour that matches my skin (I've heard I'm not the only one with this problem). I decided to try Diorskin Nude .. nope. Awful foundation.

    I don't understand why it's so hard to find a foundation that offers full coverage while also controlling oil but still moisturizing.

    I HATE searching for a new foundation. I'm about to blow my brains out.


  • Haley

    Is there a Chanel foundation that offers full coverage? From what I've seen, it's all light to medium coverage.


Koh Gen Do
Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Moisture Foundation
CoverGirl & Olay
CoverGirl & Olay Tone Rehab 2-in-1 Foundation Nude Beige
Kat Von D
Kat Von D Lock-It Tattoo Foundation Light 48
Koh Gen Do
Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation – OC1
Kiehl's Since 1851
Kiehl's Since 1851 Lip Balm
NARS Sheer Glow Foundation
Lancome Teint Idole Ultra 24H Wear & Comfort Retouch Free Divine Perfection Makeup SPF 15
Diorskin Forever Fluid Flawless Perfection Fusion Wear Makeup SPF 25