I think we’ve all got a bit of a love-hate relationship with foundation. From the early days when we were all literally caked in the stuff and leaving suspect prints on our shirt collars, to now when we’re all trying to act like we’re not wearing any, finding the perfect base is tough. What’s tougher still is when even after diligent swatching, patch-testing and taking a few (dozen) selfies to check, your brand-spanking new foundation starts to look a bit orange.
Sound familiar? If your foundation seems to discolour throughout the day, something called ‘oxidation’ could be to blame. ‘Oxidation is what happens when anything from skin, food or cosmetics comes in contact with air.’, Paula Begoun, skincare expert and founder of Paula’s Choice, told us. You know when you cut an apple open and it goes brown? That same discolouration process can happen to your foundation. But don’t worry, you don’t need to (and definitely shouldn’t) squeeze lemon juice all over your face to make things right. Paula let us in on some tips…
What is oxidation?
Oxidation is basically a chemical reaction between your makeup and the air. For as much as we all say we want our skin to be able to ‘breathe’, cosmetics aren’t necessarily always formulated to get along with the air. When oxidation happens, it can cause the pigments in foundation to go a little funky - hence the 4pm Fanta face. But basically everything oxidises - we just don’t always notice it. ‘How quickly oxidation happens depends on the material. An apple you cut open can brown in less than an hour of air exposure, but it’s not always that quick.’ Ready for a GCSE Chemistry refresher? ‘The nitty-gritty is that when a material comes in contact with oxygen, the oxygen molecule steals an electron from the molecules in the material it interacts with, which causes it to degrade.’, Paula explained.
How can we tell if our foundation is oxidising?
The biggest tell-tale sign is your foundation looking brassy, orange or flat as the day goes on. If you apply it in the morning and it’s the right shade, but come the afternoon it looks kind of stale, it could be oxidation. Check first of all that it’s not just the light - indoor light can be deceptive, so make sure to give yourself a once-over in natural light in the AM. If it’s right then, but changes later, it could be oxidised. But oxidation isn’t the only chemical reaction to think about - Paula added, ‘A colour that goes on subtle when you first apply it can mix with the oil in your skin, or the moisturiser you’ve applied before, and slowly become more noticeable.’ If you’ve got a shape-shifting foundation, you could always try experimenting with a different moisturiser to see if that does the trick.
Is oxidation more common the longer you’ve had a product?
Keeping makeup around indefinitely isn’t always a hot idea. For one, it can breed all kinds of nasties, but also, it stops looking as flawless as when you first snapped it up. Paula told us, ‘The longer you keep a foundation, the more likely it will oxidise. Over time the oxidation can affect the colour even in the tube, but it happens over a long period of time. Usually, it’ll be noticeable after six months to a year.’ So if you’ve desperately been eking out the last bits of slightly prehistoric foundation, this is an excuse to treat yourself to a new one.
How can we stop foundation oxidising?
Paula said in order to keep it looking fresh, it all comes down to the ingredients: ‘If your foundation is stabilised with antioxidants, it’s much less likely to oxidise.’ You’ve almost definitely heard of antioxidants before - the slippery things are everywhere at the moment, whether it’s a serum or a new super-berry. Antioxidants fight ‘free radicals’ (essentially environmental damage and pollution) and they’re also what will stop your foundation from getting into the oxidation process in the first place.
But don’t worry - you don’t have to spend mega-bucks on a designer foundation to avoid oxidation. In fact, we rate Bourjois’s Healthy Mix Serum (£9.99), EX1 Cosmetics Liquid Inivisiwear Foundation (£12.50) and Maybelline’s Fit Me Foundation (£7.99) for being oxidation-free - and they’re all under £15.
As for Paula’s faves (and the woman KNOWS foundation): 'I have long been a fan of my Paula’s Choice Barely There Sheer Matte Tint SPF 30 (£20.00) —my go-to for daytime sun protection with light coverage. For more coverage, I like Make Up For Ever’s Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation (£29.00). Those seeking fuller coverage and long wear should check out Estee Lauder’s Double Wear Makeup (£30.00).' We’ll add NARS Velvet Matte Skin Tint (£30.00) and Bobbi Brown’s Stick Foundation (£29.50) - which comes in an impressive 31 shades - onto that list for anyone who’s up for splashing a little more cash, too.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Foundations For Mature Skin