Pageant Beauty Basics: Picking the Perfect Pageant Foundation


Picking the perfect pageant foundation is so very important when it comes to ending up with a flawless pageant-day look. Whether you are a makeup master or a cosmetic rookie – there is one thing that all pageant girls must learn how to master: the art of stage makeup. While there are many different elements that go into great stage makeup that I can (and will) discuss later, today we are going to focus on the basics of foundation and what to look for when picking one out.

My first piece of advice is to be prepared to make an investment in great foundation. Your foundation doesn’t need to be wildly expensive but since this will literally be the base to the rest of your makeup, you need it to be high quality. If you are going to “splurge” on any single item in your makeup arsenal – a high-quality foundation should be it. There is a difference between the quality of a high-end foundation and a drugstore brand foundation and is definitely worth the price difference.

In addition to price, there are five other factors you should consider when picking the perfect pageant foundation: color, formula, coverage, finish and type.

Pageant Foundation – Color

Focus on picking a foundation color that is as close to perfect match as you can get. There is nothing worse than seeing a beautiful girl wearing a foundation color that is either two shades too dark or too light for her skin tone. Not only does this look unnatural but it will also result in an awkward “mask” type look that will be very distracting in both interview and on stage. When it comes to matching your skin tone – go to a makeup counter or find a makeup associate where you can try on the various colors. Again, while drug store brands may generally be cheaper, it is very difficult to match your skin color perfectly without actually trying the product on your skin. By going to a makeup counter or directly to a consultant, they will be able to swatch out different colors on your cheek directly to see which color looks better. And even though two foundation colors may look similar side by side, once they are on your skin they can look wildly different. For stage makeup I have found lots of success with MAC makeup. Not only do they carry foundations and other products that are often used for stage, they also have a wide range of foundation colors that make finding the perfect match dramatically easier.

Pageant Foundation – Formula

The next thing you are going to want to consider is the formula of the foundation. There are a few different formulas for foundations and depending on your skin each formula will do different things. Common formula types are oil-free, moisturizing, long-wear, oil-absorbing, hydrating, moisturizing, etc. For example, if you are a teen with oily skin – you are going to want to look for oil-free or oil-absorbing and stay far far away from anything hydrating or moisturizing. A Mrs contestant on the other hand may want to look for a hydrating or moisturizing foundation that will help combat drier skin types.

Pageant Foundation – Coverage

There are five categories that foundations will generally fall into when talking about coverage: sheer, light, medium, full and build-able  For pageant and stage makeup you are going to want nothing less that medium coverage depending on your skin condition and what type of pageant you are competing in. Build-able coverage is great because you can use it in all portions of the competition from interview to evening gown. A build-able coverage is just that – build-able. You can start with a single layer for lighter coverage or add to it for more of a medium or full coverage look.

Pageant Foundation – Finish

There are four different types of finishes that you will encounter when selecting a foundation: satin, matte, luminous, and natural. For stage makeup you are going to only want matte foundation because a luminous or satin foundation will make you look too shiny or oily and a natural finish will look non-existent from stage. For interview you can consider a satin or even natural foundation if you have great skin but matte works great for this area of competition as well.

Pageant Foundation -Type

Finally there are a number of different types or forms that your foundation can come in. The eight most popular or commonly known foundations are stick, creme, liquid, powder, mouse, creme to powder, tinted moisturizer and mineral powder. But for pageant makeup – only 5 of those should really be an option:

  • Stick: This is basically a creme foundation but neatly packaged into a stick. This type of foundation will give you the most coverage but if you have clear skin with little hyper pigmentation it may be too heavy. It also can be dry at times so if you have very dry or dehydrated skin it can feel uncomfortable.
  • Creme: This creamy and smooth formula is generally best for dry or normal skin types. It generally will give medium to full coverage while still looking pretty natural depending on how it is applied.
  • Liquid: Liquid foundation is one of the most common types and is easy to find in formulas for every skin tone and condition be it very oily or very dry. Liquid foundation is also readily available in a variety of coverages which makes it a go-to type for many pageant girls.
  • Creme to powder: This type of foundation is basically a hybrid – it starts off as a creme foundation but then sets (or dries) with a powder-like finish. This is a great alternative to creme for teens or women with oily skin because it helps to absorb some of the oil and cut down on shine. Creme-to-powder foundations generally come in medium to full coverage ranges so it is easy to find one that is pageant-ready!
  • Powder: Powder foundation is another great option for pageant girls with oily or acne-prone skin. It is also extremely versatile and can be used either dry or wet. If used wet, it can be applied with a damp sponge to give a more creme type finish with a medium/build-able coverage. If used dry, with a large powder brush, it will give a light coverage but is also great used for touch-ups or as an additional layer of coverage (as needed) on top of a liquid or creme foundation.
  • Becca

    I have a very neutral skin tone. I am fair but warm colors are too pink and cool too yellow! Is there a higher end brand that carries a neutral shade? I use clinique for everyday but it has an SPF which makes me shiny on stage.

    • Hey Becca,
      Clinique is a great everyday makeup brand but you’re right – for on stage, Clinique’s formula and coverage aren’t your best option. For color-matching with a higher-end brand, I generally look for lines that have a wide selection of colors to choose from to increase my chances of finding a foundation that is my perfect match. In my experience, Makeup Forever has great foundations with a wide range of colors and many shades that are quite neutral. You can find their Airbrush foundation (one of my faves) at any Sephora store or online at (I would head to the store if you can though, just to make sure the color is right.)

      Another one of my favorite brands for pageant makeup is MAC cosmetics. Their products are not as expensive as MakeUp Forever and they have one of the largest selections of foundations in all types of formulas, coverage and shades. I would suggest going by a MAC counter or store and having someone color match you. If finding the perfect shade still proves tough, you might have to mix a NC (warm) and NW (cool) foundation together to get your match just right.

      With both brands (and any other higher end makeup) feel free to ask the associates for samples of the foundations in different colors & formulas so you can take them home, wear them out and see which works best for you!

      Does that make sense?

      • Becca

        Yes it does! Thanks for the advice

  • Britney Robinson

    Can you use hd foundation or is that too luminous?

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