I wear makeup almost daily and these are the best 15 primers and foundations I've ever used

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Afika Jadezweni wearing the M.A.C Studio Fix foundation. (Photographer: Sebabatso Mosamo)
Afika Jadezweni wearing the M.A.C Studio Fix foundation. (Photographer: Sebabatso Mosamo)
  • With the festive season approaching, we'll be leaving the house a little more. For many, this will revive the appetite for makeup.
  • Talks of inclusivity in the beauty industry have also meant that more brands have expanded their foundation shade ranges - a crowd-pleaser in a country like South Africa where black and POC are a majority.
  • As someone who's tried a basket load of foundation and wears it frequently, these are my top primer and foundation picks, including the likes of Estée Lauder, Chanel, Revlon, Urban Decay, and Esse. 

So of course, foundation shopping is now a tad bit less tedious and frustrating. But which brands should new shoppers try out?

As a beauty editor, you can't help but try everything at least once. From never-tried-before skin creams to new eyeshadow shades - when it lands on your desk (or doorstep), your first instinct is to swatch or spritz.

Sometimes, all the testing introduces you to a product (or five) that feels like it was made for you, you stick with it, and replenish it every time it runs out.

This is a tale of my relationship with foundations. I wear foundation almost daily, so I've fallen in love with several options along the way.

You're probably thinking; "Wait, what? You've been wearing foundation during a... pandemic?!" 

But fret not, I have a very rigorous skincare routine that I'd like to believe grants me some leeway to dip my fingers in the joys of cosmetic mud ever so often. I must also add the disclaimer that I've only recently returned to my old habit of wearing foundation almost daily.

Before Level 2, I would play around with makeup on the odd occasion to take self-timed pictures in my lounge. 

READ MORE: Would the proven safety of face shields over cloth masks allow you to enjoy wearing makeup again? 

Of course, there was a lull in makeup sales this year as we all reconsidered our approaches to beauty. With trendy masks substituting bold shades of lipstick, many took to punctuating their eyes more. However, this year, I learnt to put my eyeliner down more often.

But now that the sun's out, so is my entire makeup kit (my masks have seen it all).

I've used several foundations and primers before (and during) the pandemic, and these are the top recommendations I have from my years of beauty counter ogling and hauling.

But first, prime your skin: 

Primping and Priming 

Beautiful pattern from clear bottles with hyaluron
Image: Getty 

REN  

Perfect Canvas Silicone Free Skin Finishing Serum, R1075 at Woolworths beauty counters 

top foundation recommendations

Urban Decay

Optical Illusion complexion primer, R475 from Urban Decay 

top foundations and primers

Elizabeth Arden 

Elizabeth Arden Flawless Start Instant Perfecting Primer – R425.00 

top foundations to try

Filorga Time Flash

Express smoothing active primer, R481.50 on AbsoluteSkin 

top foundation recommendations

Nuxe 

5-in-1 Multi-Perfection Smoothing Primer, R450 at Woolworths beauty counters 

top foundation recommendations

Revlon 

Revlon PhotoReady Prime Plus Skincare Primer Collection RSP R219.95 

top foundation recommendations

READ MORE: Backstage with Lucia Pica - How Chanel's head of beauty achieved this season's must-try makeup looks   

Fond of Foundation 

top foundations to try
Image supplied by Revlon 

Revlon PhotoReady Candid Natural Finish Foundation

I'm new to Revlon foundation, and I must say, their PhotoReady Candid Natural Finish foundation really has it all in the name - the finish! I really enjoy the matte finish of this product, but it does oxidise, so be certain when you've picked your shade.

top foundations to try

RSP R149.99 at Dis-Chem, Clicks, and Foschini stores.

Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Lift and Firm Makeup SPF15 

Alright, so I'm yet to give this one a try, but it comes highly recommended by my fellow beauty peers. With added SPF, it seems fitting for the summer season.

top foundations to try

RSP R595.00 at Elizabeth Arden stockists. 

Chanel Les Beiges

Chanel notes that this foundation range casually enhances skin and adorns it with minimal sophistication. Skin breathes freely and feels as light as air. Each season, the LES BEIGES line expands to embrace the great outdoors all year long. Again, summer season ready. If you're a no-makeup-makeup trend enthusiast, this one's for you, as this foundation mimics the sensation of bare skin with a natural, radiant finish.  

Currently on my wishlist at the price of R1045 at Woolworths.

top foundations to try


Avon True Power Stay

Avon's True Power Stay foundation is for all skin types and budgets. I often complain that I have the oiliest skin in South Africa, so I do often lean towards mattifying foundations when I can, and this is my go-to for socially-distanced days at the office. 

R189 from Avon

top foundations to try

READ MORE: Rosalía is the latest M.A.Ctivist in support of HIV/AIDS, introducing a shade of red M.A.C lipstick

M.A.C Studio Fix fluid  

So I'm no stranger to this foundation, as I used it in my early 20s. I've recently started using it again, and I remembered why it was always my go-to - I'm a sucker for its full coverage because in pictures, it doesn't succumb to the flash. It makes parting ways with R530 worth it.

It's no wonder this foundation is listed under M.A.C's bestsellers.

The Studio Fix range is now available in 67 shades. Find your shade here

Urban Decay All Nighter 

By now you might have gathered I have an affinity for full coverage foundation. Urban Decay's All Nighter foundation goes beyond the call of duty with its full coverage option.  

It's been a little over a year since I last used it, but when Urban Decay describes this liquid foundation as "the ultimate foundation for a flawless-looking complexion that won’t quit" - I have to agree. 

Available in 24 shades at R550 on Urban Decay online 

beauty editors top foundation picks

Esse Probiotic Foundation

Because this foundation's coverage is medium, it's ideal for a soft glam look when you have special occasions to attend and people to schmooze. I also appreciate how dewy and creamy the finish is - it really compliments already glowing skin. 

Although I had a full face of makeup on in the picture above, I didn't feel like my face was carrying the weight of it and I'd like to think that's because this Esse foundation is light and therefore doesn't suffocate the pores. 

Oh, and the the certified SPF30 sun protection factor is no doubt a welcome benefit. If you need anymore convincing, this vegan product is also concerned with sensitive skin, hence it is fragrance free and uses mild preservatives and rapidly biodegradable emulsifiers.

R595 on Faithful to Nature 

top foundation recommendations

Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup SPF 10

This one makes for an "I got it from my mama" moment. As a student, I used to 'gift myself' her leftover Estée Lauder bottles of foundation. You know, almost empty but definitely able to go the distance. 

I've since been able to buy my own stash. 

Again, for a matte finish and that smooth canvas effect (no creasing, caking, or glazed doghnut-ing), I'll always give this foundation five stars. 

Get yours for R655 online from Estée Lauder.  

READ MORE: U.S. celeb makeup artist Sir John on his latest collab with WBeauty made exclusively for SA women 

Clarins Everlasting Foundation

My face met this foundation for the first time when I did a festive season campaign for W24 with Clarins, creating a Christmas lunch look, complete with my signature red lip.  

It's the lightest foundation I've ever used - you even forget you're wearing foundation and start hugging people wearing white shirts. It's also buildable so you can up the ante on it for a full dramatic look if you wish. 

And of course, we love a foundation with SPF. 

Shop it for R540 at Woolworths 

Clarins foundation

All images and additional information provided by featured brands.

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