When Gloria Swanson uttered, “I’m ready for my close-up” in 1950’s Sunset Boulevard, she couldn’t have foreseen just how detail-discerning cameras would someday become. The latest HD-worthy foundations bring perfect-looking skin into focus.
In attempts to create the illusion of flawless skin, women throughout history have employed great ingenuity: Roman ladies masked imperfections with chalk; Renaissance royalty used an insalubrious paste of white lead. Foundation as we know it wasn’t born until the 1930s, when renowned Hollywood beautifier Max Factor discovered that the greasepaint he had used to bestow pearly perfection to the skin of film stars in the black-and-white era looked too heavy in Technicolor. He developed and mass-marketed a compact cream foundation called Pan-Cake, which quickly became a fixture on women’s vanities far beyond the borders of Tinseltown. Just as changes in entertainment technology necessitated the creation of more naturally hued varieties of face paint back then, the recent advent of high-definition TV has given makeup a shake-up once again. It’s no longer enough for a foundation to make skin look smooth and blemish-free: Now the makeup itself—even when it’s being looked at this close—has to be invisible.
“When a film or television show is shot or aired in HD, every line, pimple, and broken capillary on an actor’s face pops out, and if they have oily skin, they shine like beacons,” says makeup artist Debbie Zoller, who created the award-winning retro looks for Mad Men. To address these issues, a slew of new foundations emerged—including Make Up For Ever High Definition Foundation, Revlon PhotoReady, and Cargo blu_ray—that could, as Zoller says, “give sheer coverage while also reducing the appearance of redness and shine.” Such lightweight studio-suited formulas have become a career-saving must for those whose faces fill our living room TV screens, and they play just as well in the real world as they do on The Real World. “Many women who work under fluorescent lights or energy-saving bulbs look more natural when using foundations developed for HD,” Zoller says. And for those of us who spend an inordinate amount of time detagging greasy-looking Facebook photos, camera-friendly makeup is like manna from heaven.
Regardless of whether one’s chosen application mode is mechanical or manual, techniques that makeup artists have developed for HD can be the key to achieving daylight-perfect skin at home. According to Clarins makeup artist Pati Dubroff, “You see texture much more clearly in HD, which is why the old pan-cake makeup doesn’t work. You have to even out the tone but do it in veils. To get the HD effect in life, you want impeccable coverage, but it has to be created with sheer layers of foundation so you don’t overdo it. Warm it up in your hands so that your skin will accept it, and you’ll get a warm, smooth, alive look. You should also make sure that skin is well exfoliated and that you don’t overpowder. I like to just cut the shine in the T-zone by using a mattifying cream both under and over foundation.”
Makeup artist Pat McGrath, CoverGirl creative design director, who buffed models’ skin to glowy gorgeousness using CoverGirl’s new NatureLuxe backstage at the spring 2011 Calvin Klein, Bottega Veneta, and Versace shows, believes there are several reasons why foundation is experiencing a revival after the minimal, tinted-moisturizer-loving ’90s. “We finally have makeup that feels weightless and looks fresh but still leaves the skin looking even, polished, and pretty. And now that foundation has so many other benefits—moisturizers, antioxidants, SPF, et cetera—it’s a multipurpose way to look great and to address skin issues at the same time.”
While there are iterations infused with skin-improving ingredients that target everything from brown spots to rosacea, there’s a benefit to wearing any type of pigmented cover-up: It provides a protective barrier against sun and environmental aggressors. “When I see women in their fifties or older who have minimal sun damage but who weren’t vigilant about sun protection, I often find that they wore foundation on a regular basis,” says derm Francesca Fusco, MD. So if creating the illusion of perfect skin isn’t enough, foundation might actually help you achieve the real thing.