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The best foundations, as chosen by Sali

This is the fifth part of my series for Harvey Nichols, who’ve asked me to judge the very best in foundations sold in-store and online at harevynichols.com. After weeks of testing luxe bases for all skin types and ages, and across all formula categories, this is the last in my final selection of five phenomenal foundations. Next week I’ll announce my overall winner from all of the shortlisted products. Here’s the last pick in the running.

Hourglass Vanish Seamless Stick Foundation (shortlisted), £42

Stick foundation is, in my view, the easiest to get wrong. Get it right and it can be wonderful – melty, dewy, versatile, long lasting, convenient to carry and easy to apply. Mess it up and you have a dry, thick, unblendable and unnatural looking base. And so my first instinct when Hourglass launched Vanish Seamless Foundation last year was one of surprise. It’s rare that we see new stick bases at all, and even rarer to see them heralded as such an important launch for an established brand. It seemed high risk, but I was intrigued to see why Hourglass thought they had something so special on their hands.

Their confidence and hype was, in my view, entirely founded. Vanish Seamless Stick Foundation is an absolute triumph and proof positive that there’s no more versatile a base than a solid stick. The extremely concentrated formula (packing in around twice the pigment of a traditional base) is sold as both a full coverage foundation and a creamy opaque concealer in one, and certainly delivers on both. As a full coverage foundation (effectively covering any discolouration, including dark patches of melasma or rosacea), it can be buffed onto the face with damp sponge or close-fibred brush (there is a dedicated Vanish brush for sale separately. I can vouch that it’s lovely, but your existing favourite will do just as well). For use as concealer, one can either pat on with fingertips or buff onto dark circles and blemishes with a domed concealer brush. But there is yet more to recommend it.

Firstly, the packing is a dream especially if, like me, you’re constantly on the move. Sleek, compact and non-spill able, its triangular tube can’t roll off shaky train tables or busy desks. The foundation stick inside is pyramid-shaped too. This offers extremely precise application under eyes, around the nose and in the contour lines, where the solid formula means you can switch shades to shadow and highlight without them mixing and melding into one. But the superior texture is, for me, the biggest part of Vanish’s appeal. It warms quickly to body temperature, spreading over skin silkily and thinly (no cakey panstick here), with plenty of blending time before it sets to a weightless powder finish that lasts all day (at least 12 hours). There’s no greasiness, no streaking, no collecting around the nose or eyes. It can be diluted as heavily as one likes with either a damper sponge or by mixing the foundation with moisturiser. Genuinely, I can get an extremely natural, casual weekend coverage from this opaque foundation, then layer up to a flawless full coverage for evening wear. It glides over primer and SPF without any bumping or peeling.

Finally, I must talk about colour. Because I tip my hat to Hourglass for providing such an excellent selection and breadth of racially inclusive skintones in the Vanish stick. I wear Bisque, a yellow-toned light beige, but whatever your complexion, a shade exists for you in this much larger than average 26-colour lineup. The pigment, though extremely dense, has good clarity, offering darker skins an ashiness-free finish. The super pale are well catered for too, and all undertones are addressed. This is how all brands should approach foundation – with innovative formula, convenient use, long lasting wear and equal opportunities shading. Hourglass took an old style foundation and made it more modern than even I could imagine. It glides seamlessly over my face and into my top five.

Next Monday: My winning foundation. Do check out the results in other categories via the social channels of my fellow judges, including dear friend of SHB, makeup artist Mary Greenwell. Just search for the #HNHolyGrail hashtag on Twitter or Instagram for more posts, or click here.

The SHB promise: We will always choose commercial partners with integrity and great care. We will never, ever say we love something when we don’t. No exceptions, ever.

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  • Emily Strange

    I’ve got this one, and it is fabulous, as you say. It’s very creamy and not at all heavy.
    I’m still going to try one of the others, once I get to a ‘stockist near me’. ie London

  • Zara Karaduman

    I agree with everything Sali said. I’m already onto my second stick of this – as someone with oily / combination skin I find it great and long lasting! And so convenient for touch ups during the day!

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