If you've picked up a foundation at your local beauty megastore lately, chances are, it went through the "selfie test" before landing in your hands. Back in September, the New York Times reported that during the product development phase, many brands put their foundation formulas under the lens of both an iPhone and an Android camera to see if they delivered on those #instaperfect promises. I was somewhat surprised, though not entirely since selfies kind of dominate the internet these days, and completely fascinated. Naturally, I decided to conduct a selfie test of my own. I grabbed five new foundations, spent a week trying a different one out each day, and snapped a selfie under the same light settings to see if the formulas lived up to their claims.
Of course, I had to set some ground rules first. Since the test focused solely on foundation, I wasn't going to allow myself to apply any concealer or powder prior to taking the picture. Also, no photo retouching, FaceTune-ing, or Perfect 365-ing BECAUSE THAT IS CHEATING. My application method was the same with each product; I did my skincare routine as usual, skipped the primer, used my fingers to blend on the formula, then buffed everything out with a wet BeautyBlender sponge.
That being said, taking selfies is actually really hard, and after all of this, I'm pretty convinced that hell is a room wallpapered with every single rejected selfie you've ever taken. Lighting is obviously a key element, but no one tells you what you're supposed to do with your face, and I debated whether or not to actually hold the foundation in the photo. But like, what would Kim Kardashian do, right? She'd hold that bottle high and mighty, and would probably work that fish gape pose to boot. Obviously I don't have that pose figured out in the slightest, but as far as foundations that look good sans filter go, I've got that on lock. Keep scrolling to see how each of the five fared.
1. Make Up for Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation
Shade: Beige Nude
Pumps used: 2
Considering that Make Up For Ever's original HD foundation is pretty much my heart and soul, I had very high expectations for the second edition, which was reformulated over the summer. Because all phones launched this year will feature a camera that uses 4K technology, the brand reworked the OG version with coated pigments designed to be undetectable under the super high-def lens. Out of all the foundations, Make Up For Ever's was the one that stayed matte all day, but still looked like it was my own skin. Plus, if the updated formula can stand up to the discriminating gaze of whoever is lurking on Instagram (HEY GIRL!!! I SEE YOU), then I am completely and totally here for it.
2. Laura Mercier Silk Creme Oil-Free Photo Edition Foundation
Shade: Sand Beige
Pumps used: One very small dollop—a little goes a long way
Bad hair day, great foundation. I liked how little of it I needed to cover my entire face, so one bottle will last you forever. It's a pretty full-coverage formula, so if you prefer a thinner consistency, I'd recommend using a damp BeautyBlender for application. The color I chose ran on the warm side, so while it's a bit too tan for my sun-deprived skin in the middle of winter, it'll probably be getting regular rotation in my makeup bag come summer. If you tend to get shiny throughout the day like I do, opt for the oil-free formula, but drier skin types will want to use the moisturizing version.
3. Physicians Formula InstaReady BB Cream
Pumps used: One dime-sized dollop, I had a bit of excess I wiped away
Though this product is technically a BB cream, it covers in all the right places as a foundation would, but still allows your natural complexion to peek through. The formula uses light-reflecting pigments and color correctors to blur over pores and imperfections, and it's pretty hydrating, so you don't have to go too hard on the moisturizer beforehand. I did find that later in the day, it creased a bit around my laugh lines—they're actually called "nasolabial folds" but I like to refer to them as "the bane of my existance"—but you can easily buff that out without disrupting the rest of your face. Side note: The InstaReady Filter Trio Powder ($15; ulta.com) is seriously the best powder on the planet and I use it every day, this experiment aside, to set my entire face.
4. Charlotte Tilbury Magic Foundation
Shade: 5 Medium
Pumps used: 2
Everyone sort of worships at the altar of Charlotte Tilbury, and I completely get the hype—I want literally every product in her lineup in my possession like, yesterday. Her new Magic Foundation, no surprise here, is pretty great, though it was a little too matte and full-coverage for my taste. That being said, it looks fantastic in photos and the lasting ability of the foundation is insanely good. I didn't have to touch up with powder over the course of the day, and I have this weird shiny spot on my nose (which may or may not even exist in the first place, I don't know, I'm crazy) that never showed itself while I was wearing it.
5. Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation
Shade: No. 22 Rose
Pumps used: 2
Completely cringe-worthy, trying-too-hard picture, but this foundation was probably my favorite of the bunch. Chanel's Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation, which launches in May, claims to deliver a finish that looks just like your own natural skin, except way more glowy and flawless. The winter weather had me breaking out this week, but all signs of that were undetectable in the photo, and when I went to dinner with my friend Rochelle that night, she even complimented how good my skin was looking. I kind of thought it was a lie at first because I'm terribly insecure about my face (and you know, life in general) when I'm breaking out like I'm 15 again, but even by the end of the day, the foundation still held a radiant finish that looked just airbrushed enough—like a Valencia filter, if you will.
$60; chanel.com in May.