The perfect foundation

So you don your satin cone-bra Gaultier overalls, scoop your hair in a Wolff and Descourtis for Liberty’s scarf, and then, um, dig a hole?

You’re right. Not that kind of foundation. Although the architectural and the cosmetic varieties do share common dangers – slippage, subsidence, cracks – and teenaged girls across the world do tend to approach the application of their daily slap with the zeal, and accuracy, of a concrete mixer. However, beyond age sixteen, most of us – excepting American news anchors, air hostesses and beauty counter reps, who favour glossy, sandstone-hued, impermeably statuesque façades – live in terror of painting an inch thick, and highlighting our wattle with overenthusiastic daub. We want barely-legal-bare-faced-skipping-through-a-golden-cloud-of-dew, and we’ll pay top dollar to get it.

But it’s difficult to be rational about foundation. It’s the smell of your mother’s face. The feel of your best friend’s cheek. The soft, fragrant waft of powder at the bottom of your grandmother’s handbag. We get seduced by names – warm glow, summer sand – and textures. Once it evolved past its arsenic and Pan Cake roots, foundation got seriously sensual. It can be as unctuously creamy as a dollop of Jersey double, as waxily sliding as the crust on a honeycomb, as ethereally filmy as the caster sugar on a macaroon. You know that irritating woman, blocking the Selfridges aisle, methodically smearing little smudges of D&G’s overpriced finest on the back of her hand just for the joy of the smear? That’s me.

So when I went for a trial of Bare Minerals, loose powder mineral make-up “so pure you can sleep in it”, I got excited as soon as I watched the girl lay out her priestly cornucopia of implements and pots. The brand injunction to “swirl, tap and buff” was repeated like some sacred mantra throughout the multi-step ritual (fingers – vitamin primer, big brush – foundation as concealer, big brush – foundation as foundation, medium brush -highlighter, medium brush – blusher, virgin sacrifice, very big brush – mineral veil). Ease and speed and one-blob-does-alls are touted as the foundation holy grails, but I’m an old-fashioned broad. I like enamel crucibles and silver lids and goat hair brushes and anything that makes my morning face-time akin to a tea ceremony. In that still, sweet post-waking limbo, I like to evoke the feminine pleasures of a well-stocked armoire, not the brusque efficiency of an armoury.

Oh, and Oprah-esque testimonials and shrieking straplines aside, Bare Minerals actually works. It is the only foundation that can reliably make me barely-legal-bare-faced-skipping-through-a-golden-cloud-of-dew-alike, even if the hidden truth is a mess of morning-after-the-martinis-before-purple-eyes, yellow weals and red nose.

Perfect. Now where’s my spade?