The $13 Foundation in Every Makeup Artist’s Backstage Kit
So obviously, I had to try it.
As someone who has spent years as a makeup artist and plenty of time backstage at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, I can confirm that even top-models deal with skin issues. Plenty get pimples, and have acne scarring and pigmentation, just like us. Plus, skin reactions and conditions like peri-oral dermatitis are a hazard in a job that involves having many products applied, scrubbed off, and reapplied every day.
For campaigns and glossy mag shoots, these imperfections are blurred out with Photoshop (although the skin positivity movement is seeing some beauty brands ditch this practice or dial it back). But the runway is a live environment, so makeup artists need to ensure their models look their best.
For this reason, I’m always curious to see the products makeup artists use backstage, and this fashion week, I saw a newbie. The Ordinary Serum Foundation ($13). I first noted the small transparent bottle backstage at Gari Bigeni (also spotted: Pat McGrath, Chantecaille and Nars). I soon started seeing it everywhere.
At Beare Park, The Ordinary was a sponsor for the show, so serum foundation was used on every model. I asked key artist, Isabella Schimid, why I’d been seeing this $13 product everywhere. “It gives the most natural finish,” Schimid said. “It’s easy to build, so if there’s skin that needs a little coverage, we just add more.” Most importantly for working MUAs, the range includes 21 shades and a multitude of undertones so there’s something for every model.
Understandably, I had to try this product.
The Ordinary sent me a few shades to try — newly redheaded, I mixed 1.1N with 1.0N. Backstage, most makeup artists will mix foundations to find a perfect shade; indeed, it’s one of the biggest differences in getting your makeup done professionally. Most non-professionals don’t have the budget or the time to buy multiple shades to find what mixes best.
With The Ordinary Serum Foundation, finding your professional makeup-artist-level perfect match will cost you $26. The bottle is small and comes in soft plastic packaging, which is good because the formula is very liquid. While glass is more recyclable, I can tell you from experience that if you smash a serum foundation on your bathroom tiles, you’ll be cleaning it for weeks.
At Beare Park, I saw MUAs using the Real Techniques Setting Brush ($18), to apply foundation. Using eyeshadow, concealer and setting brushes to apply foundation was another tip I picked up backstage. It gives you far more control over where you apply the product, and where you build. I happened to have multiples of that brush because it’s great for powder, blush and highlighter. So I dotted the Serum Foundation all over and patted it in.
The immediate coverage applied minimally was medium. My pores were blurred, my skin was brighter, and discolouration and texture were corrected. I went back in on my pigmentation, areas of redness and under-eyes to build to a medium-full.
I can absolutely see why makeup artists love this foundation. It has a true-skin texture but dries down to a transfer-free finish. When I built it up, it didn’t lose its believable skin-like appearance. I applied it over Ultra Violette, Queen Screen SPF 50+ Luminising Sun Serum ($47) probably the dewiest product in my skincare rotation. It sat beautifully, without pilling, separating or oxidising.
I would apply this foundation with a brush, as with any serum product. Mainly, they’re just a bit messy. I would say a five-cent piece covered my face and neck. The product is pigmented, so go slow.
Whenever I wear Queen Screen, I set my foundation with a powder — it’s a VERY dewy sunscreen, and I prefer a matte t-zone. But with a less emollient base, I do think you could skip the powder. I also skipped concealer because I wanted to lean into the natural finish.
The Ordinary Serum Foundation ($13) is a brilliant product at an exceptional price. I will continue to use it in my regular rotation, right alongside my far pricier favourites