Is foundation really dead? Here's what you need to know about the 'new rules' of makeup.

Last week, there was an article written by the New York Times that claimed full-coverage foundation is dead. In fact, foundation in general. Six feet under. Gone but never forgotten.

According to NYT, the passing of the beloved full-coverage foundation has been a long time coming.

The article spoke about how we're living in a new era of acceptance and inclusivity - and the days of heavy makeup and concealing our skin's texture is officially over.

Apparently the shift comes down to several things. Most notably, the skin positivity movement and the normalisation of real texture and skin concerns.

Watch: Here's what wearing 100 layers of foundation looks like. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

In 2022, we embrace acne. We celebrate texture. We use real skin as a means of expression.

This has also ushered in an evolution of foundation as we once knew it, with brands releasing a wider selection of alternative products - skin-loving formulas that negate the need for high-coverage.

From tinted moisturisers and serums to concealing sticks and water tints - the market is literally *bursting* with a new species of hybrid formulas that prioritise the 'your skin but better' approach to coverage. 


They're lightweight. Sheer. Dewy. Minimalistic. Easy to wear.

They offer a hint of coverage, while still allowing your skin to appear authentically 'you'. The type of formulas that embrace freckles, imperfections, dark spots and texture rather than trying to cover it up.

Think about some of the more recent non-foundation launches, such as Chanel Les Beiges Water Fresh Tint, $110 - an ultra-light formula composed of 75 per cent water.

There's also Rose Inc Skin Enhance Luminous Tinted Serum, $73 - another hydrating skincare formula made with microencapsulated pigments that offer sheer coverage amongst other skin-loving benefits.

One of the OG's is the popular Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint, $72. This was one of the first non-foundations in the arena in 2020. It heroes ingredients such as niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to help smooth and plump the skin's texture, along with providing a hint of dewy coverage.

Image: Chanel/Mecca/Mamamia


You also have other popular anti-coverage newbies like Ultra Violette Dream Screen SPF50 Tinted Veil, $65, Clinique Even Better Serum Foundation, $66, and Kosas’ Tinted Face Oil, $63.

In recent times, we've also noticed the birth of new categories, like foundation balms.

The KVD Good Apple Foundation Balm was one of the first on the scene - arriving in 2021. A creamy foundation with the lightweight coverage of a tinted moisturiser, it was an instant hit and immediately sold out.

Image: KVD Beauty/The Iconic/Clinique/Mamamia


Then you have Jones Beauty What the Foundation - created by legendary makeup artist Bobbi Brown. The product dropped in April this year and instantly went viral for its unique formula that has to be mixed prior to application.

The anti-foundation shift is not just reflective of the plethora of new launches on the market - but the shift in makeup application techniques, too.

Euphoria makeup artist Donni Davy told the New York Times she uses watered-down foundation (or foundation mixed with moisturiser or highlighter) on set, insisting that images show the actor's pores, texture and bumps. 

"It’s been my personal preference for a long time," Davy told NYT. "Also, a lot of these directors nowadays, at least the ones I've worked with, want the real skin texture. They actually hate foundation."


On Tiktok, some of the biggest viral beauty hacks are all centred around how to 'water down' your foundation and make the texture lighter and more hydrating, for barely-there coverage.

Take the popular 'foundation in water' hack, for example. It involves squirting your foundation into a cup of water and applying it to your face to add dewiness (sidenote: it's a technique we wouldn't recommend, having tried it with messy results.)

Off the back of the popularity of these viral foundation hacks, the evolution of foundation formulas and the way in which we wear makeup, it's impossible not to mention the role of the pandemic in all of this. 

During COVID, foundations sales plummeted. We went from wearing a 'full' face of makeup every day to suddenly going, for the most part, barefaced. Makeup become less of a priority.

We started embracing serums and learning about the ingredients we can use to target our main concerns. Beauty became centred around skin health and self-care, and it ultimately shifted the gears of how we're now approaching makeup today.

As we're coming out of the pandemic, it seems we're finding a happy medium.

There's been a resurgence of beauty trends - between the Y2k movement and obsession with all things '90s, people officially care about makeup again. 


We're having fun. Experimenting. Reinventing our own aesthetic. 

But is full-coverage foundation part of this new aesthetic?

As I said to Leigh Campbell on the You Beauty podcast - on a personal level, I get it. 

Full-coverage foundation doesn't feel 'me' anymore.

The types of formulas I wear today (and how I apply them) are vastly different to what I was doing 10 years ago. 

For example, I used to wear a high coverage MAC Cosmetics Studio Liquid Foundation. With a MAC Cosmetics Studio Fix Powder Foundation over the top. It was thick. Heavy. But, that full coverage look was just the 'done' thing.

Back then, I followed a bunch of YouTubers and religiously watched makeup tutorials that were all about packing on that super full-coverage foundation look - contouring, strobing, baking, the whole show.

A 'skin-like' finish wasn't really the 'in' thing. I'd never heard of a 'no makeup' makeup look. Hadn't touched cream products. Skincare and makeup hybrids weren't an option.

But the thing is, 2022 is a very different world to 2010.

Listen: The New York Times article has sparked debate after claiming 'foundation is dead'. It's a bold claim and Erin's going to unpack why you shouldn't chuck yours in the bin just yet. Post continues below.

With beauty movements like the 'clean girl' aesthetic, makeup has veered into a very different lane. 


Inspired by celebrities such as Hailey Bieber, Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner, the #cleangirlmakeup look is comprised of smooth and glowing skin, flushed cheeks, full brows and glossy lips. 

Think, 'less is more'. 

While it looks good on paper, arguably, it's made makeup even more unattainable.

Scroll through the #cleangirlmakeup hashtag on TikTok or Instagram and you'll come across clips of people with perfect, polished, effortless, model-off-duty skin. 

Notably, there's a clear absence of 'real' skin texture - pimples, pores, acne, marks, bumps...

When people with skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and hyperpigmentation are already struggling with stigma and self-confidence, the 'clean girl' movement can be viewed as just another makeup trend that promotes trends and products that aren't accessible to most people.

Because not everyone has clear, pore-less skin. Not everyone is Hailey Bieber.

In saying that, there's a handful of skin-positive influencers who have adapted the 'clean' makeup look to their skin type, proving the trend isn't just for those with 'perfect' skin.

As Leigh Campbell said on the podcast, "The good thing is on social media there's been more real skin and more real makeup application."

"Back in the day with the YouTubers, we all went out and did full coverage everything - but we weren't seeing the true reality because of the lighting and all that stuff. Whereas now you are seeing more and more real makeup and real texture."


Ultimately, it's a reminder of how often beauty standards have shifted shape over the years. Also, how important it is to stick with what suits you and what makes you feel great. After all, that's what beauty should be all about, right?

And if that means wearing full-coverage foundation, you do you.

Because while there's a push behind skin positivity and acceptance of real texture and real conditions, that doesn't mean there aren't still people struggling with significant stigma and self-esteem around their skin. Not everyone is there yet. 

For some, the thought of simply ditching foundation just because it's not 'in' anymore, is a frightening prospect.

The good news? It doesn't look like that'll happen anytime soon.

As Leigh said, "Estee Lauder's Double Wear Foundation ($65) is still the highest selling premium foundation - and that's a full-coverage matte. It's very velvety and beautiful, but I don't think we should say full-coverage foundation is out the window."

If you'd like to hear more from Erin, follow her on Instagram.

What are your thoughts? We want to hear them! Drop them in the comment section below.

Feature image: Instagram; @haileybieber/@esteelauderanz

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