Have you ever been all dressed up for a night out, bit o’ skin on show, done up to the nines, feeling fab… only to find Facebook peppered with photos like THIS the next day?
Oh no, the dreaded GHOST FACE! And all because of a sneaky, cheeky little ingredient that’s found in almost all skin makeup; titanium dioxide. Sounds evil and poisonous, but in fact titanium dioxide is one of the most effective absorbers/refractors of skin damaging UVA/UVB rays from the sun. As most makeup, moisturiser and face powders have a Sun Protection Factor in them these days, it’s almost certainly on your face right now as you read this.
Titanium dioxide also happens to be the most commonly used white pigment in the world, because it’s the whitest thing there is.
It’s in everything. Milk. Paper. Toothpaste. Ink. The lines around the edge of the tennis court. Sunscreen. And like I said, almost certainly in your foundation; definitely if it’s got an SPF in it.
And it’s how you can end up with the white-face-brown-body effect; the bright light of the flash is picked up and reflected by it, potentially leading to this:
You have to go looking for them, but there are foundations that don’t contain an SPF and/or titanium dioxide. For foundation for flash photography, Revlon Colourstay and L’Oreal True Match are decent ‘high street/drug store’ ones, or Make Up Forever (a bit pricier). MAC Face & Body foundation is one that’s recommended by a lot of makeup artists for use in flash photography. For anyone wishing to recreate my natural sun-kissed glow, I used Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse in Cocoa.
It also depends a bit on your skin type; while an oily finish will make skin look shiny ergo paler under flash, one that’s too matte can be ashy and ageing. But in the interests of avoiding the ghost-face thing, look for a matte rather than shimmery finish.
If you’re just working with what you’ve already got, have a look at the ingredients in your foundation; titanium dioxide is usually listed as one of the last ingredients. So if you know that it’s there, and you know you’re going to be flash-photographed, you can do something about it.
It’s not just fake tan that can give the unwanted contrast; even if you’re just naturally olive skinned and wearing makeup that looks like a perfect match in the mirror, the flash can still pick it up. To give an even all-over colour in flash photographs, just mix a bit of your foundation into a body lotion (or use a moisturiser with SPF) and apply liberally all over your chest/shoulders/neck/arms/wherever there’s bare skin near your face.
If you use any kind of setting/finishing powder over your foundation, this can be a culprit too! An even WORSE culprit, in fact, as powders don’t often label themselves as SPF, but usually they do have titanium dioxide in them. So you’ve really got to go looking to see if it’s there. I’m still searching for the perfect powder but I think MAC Blot Powder is pretty damn close – and it comes in a lot of shades so you can get the perfect match. And hopefully avoid this:
More on the perils of finishing powders here.
So now you know!
Oh god this had better wash off…