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Beauty: budget foundation

I have a classic abusive relationship with cheap foundation. I keep rolling again, hoping that this time it really has changed and become everything I’ve always wanted, only to find the same old problems remain. Very often, high-street foundations are either thin and chalky or thick and paste-like, and they’re frequently too pink, too dry, too streaky. And yet I keep searching, because, while a posh base is almost always superior, it’s bloody expensive by any standards, especially given that you can easily bomb through a whole bottle in as little as eight weeks.

I can’t see why it’s so hard to make reliably great foundations for less than monthly gym membership – much as I know where my own priorities lie. That said, there are a few bargain bases that represent an exception to the rule. No7’s foundations are, I think, the best on the high street overall: the dewy, moist, soft-looking Instant Radiance (£12.50) is my favourite if you can find your shade in the pink-biased range, but Essentially Natural (£9.95) is also very lovely for a more casual, weekendy look. When it comes to shade range, though, L’Oréal Paris’ True Match (£7.99) is the most inclusive: the new and much-improved formula blends silkily and evenly without the floury finish of many high-street bases, and has reasonable staying power.

If you like the coverage of a proper foundation, but are permanently aware of the heavier sensation on your skin, then you may love Maybelline’s new Dream Flawless Nude Foundation (£8.99; for white skin only, irritatingly). I was very impressed by such a thin liquid’s ability to give comfy, lasting, uniform colour, though the drippy pump drove me crackers (and, in such a miserly 20ml bottle, you don’t have product to waste). An older product, but one always worthy of commendation, is Bourjois Healthy Mix Foundation (£9.99). This has a lovely, spreadable texture that, while not quite moist enough for dry types, seems to settle very nicely on combination skins. I apply any of the above using one of two methods: I either stroke on with fingertips, then buff off excess with a duo-fibre face brush (try Mac or Real Techniques); or I bounce the foundation on to my skin with a damp Barely Cosmetics soft definer sponge (£9.99) – this is especially brilliant if you have dark patches of melasma or sun damage.

  • This article was amended on 3 October 2015 to correct an editing error in the final paragraph that referred to ‘melanoma’ instead of ‘melasma’.

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