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Beauty Basics: A Good Foundation

Getting less sleep may be par for the course when you're raising small children, but the sallow, blotchy skin that can follow doesn't have to be. The solution? Foundation.

Today's foundations are natural looking, easy to use, and can erase problems like dry or oily skin and an uneven tone. They can also conceal blemishes and scars and give skin a smoother finish. New formulas with antioxidants, salicylic acid, and sun protection can help prevent future damage and keep skin in top form.

There are formulas and colors to match every complexion. Keep these points in mind when shopping:

Skin Type

OILY SKIN

Look for liquid or powder foundations labeled oil control, oil free (like Bobbi Brown Essentials Oil-Free Foundation), or noncomedogenic (won't clog pores and cause breakouts). Long-lasting formulas can also control oil.

DRY SKIN

Creamier formulas  -- liquids or creams  -- packed with emollients like glycerine are best for rehydrating parched skin. One pick: L'Oreal Visible Lift Line Minimizing Makeup.

Coverage Choices

FULL

If you have discoloration or prefer a porcelain finish, a cream, liquid, or stick in medium to full coverage is for you. Good bets: Max Factor Pan-Stik Ultra-Creamy Makeup, or new Photochrome Compact Makeup from Prescriptives (color that adjusts to different types of light and a great compact make it worth the $35 expense).

SHEER

If you have relatively even tone and just want to add a subtle glow, try an ultra-sheer foundation like Revlon New Complexion Even Out Makeup SPF 20.

SPOT

Look natural and cover trouble areas: Apply foundation only where you need it (medium- to full-coverage creams or sticks work best for this), blend edges well with your fingertip or a sponge, and lightly dust face with powder to set.

Color

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY

The advantage of pricier department store brands is that you can try them on in the store first. If you buy at a drug or discount store and the color or formula isn't right for you, you may be able to take it back. Find out the store's return policy for cosmetics before you buy to avoid costly mistakes.

PERFECT PICKS

For the best match, blend a small amount of foundation onto your cheek  -- not on your neck or hand. The right color will "disappear" into your skin, says New York-based creator of the Bobbi Brown Essentials makeup line and mother of three, Bobbi Brown.

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