"I want to be attractive," writes a reader, "but I don't want to wear all that gunk, the foundation and stuff." "I don't want to feel exploited," writes another, "like I'm being conned into using it." "Do I have to wear foundation to be attractive?"

The answer is a resounding, "NO!" You don't have to wear "all that gunk" or foundation to be more attractive.Too many women have the idea they must wear the full range of makeup, including foundation, to be attractive. Continually bombarded by the media, sales clerks, friends and sometimes family, women in our society are conditioned almost from birth to wear foundation base makeup.

Many women are surprised to learn that foundation base is not essential. Some exclaim, "Oh, what a relief. I never did like the way it feels. I'll never wear it again." Others chime in, "I can't be bothered putting foundation all over my face. For one thing, it gets in the way, on my clothes and even on others."

You can spend the time and money, if you have it and if you want to, but you don't have to. You can choose to wear foundation once in a while, on weekdays, on weekends only or not at all.

Many men believe that foundation-free, natural looking skin is infinitely more attractive and desirable than an artificial film of makeup coating the face. They openly resent it getting on their clothes or on their face!

Makeup artist George Masters admits he advises few women to wear foundation makeup. Save it for those in the public eye or under the critical eye of the camera. Even then, models are cautious about using foundation after work hours and use it sparingly or not at all.

- Foundation base makeup is intended to create the illusion of flawlessly beautiful skin.

- Foundation evens out general skin coloration, creating a more uniform color. It is meant to improve coloration, not to actually change skin color.

- Foundation can be used to camouflage blemishes, birthmarks and other highly colored areas.

- Foundation is now sold as a shield or guard to protect skin from the environment - to reduce the effects of air pollution, bacteria, grit and grime, wind, cold and sun.

- Foundation augments the use of moisturizer in helping prevent dryness over long periods of time.

- Several foundation formulas now contain PABA, a chemical used in sunscreen, to protect against ultraviolet rays of the sun.

- Foundation provides a velvety smooth base allowing additional makeup colors to glide smoothly and evenly over it. Since the skin, by itself, has no adhesive properties, foundation gives shadows and blush something to hold onto, to adhere for a reasonable length of time. Keep in mind, however, that moisturizer and powder will accomplish the same job, and perhaps more attractively.

Poorly selected or applied, foundation can make you look absolutely awful, like a mask, and ruin your whole facial appearance. For many women, it may not even improve skin color or texture. That it does is more a matter of opinion than proven fact.

If you have clear, lovely skin that does not need smoothing, evening out, etc., you certainly do not need to wear a foundation. If you prefer no foundation, you can protect your skin by keeping it clean and wearing a light moisturizer. If you choose to wear foundation, develop a sensible approach to the products. Learn how to select it wisely and apply it skillfully.