Wearing foundation sounds easy. After all, it’s just a simple base, right? Sure, until you really think about it. You’re supposed to apply your foundation so that it makes your skin look perfect, yet it’s also supposed to look so natural that nobody can tell you’re wearing foundation at all. This is tricky because chances are good that you may be wearing the wrong foundation.
But what’s even more difficult than finding the right foundation is learning to apply it properly. Some people give up, either resigning themselves to foundation’s pitfalls or opt for a lighter tinted moisturizer. But if you know what you’re doing, you can definitely apply your foundation in a way that’s going to look natural and gorgeous all day. And your friends and co-workers are going to think your skin just naturally looks that even and luminous.
1. If you can, use a liquid instead of a cream or a powder
Elle reports one of the easiest ways to get a flawless and natural application of foundation is to choose a liquid formula instead of a cream or a powder. Celebrity makeup artist Jenn Streicher tells the publication liquid foundation is buildable and looks more natural than other formulas. Plus, liquid foundation “mimics the texture of actual skin.”
As pointed out by Paula’s Choice, liquid foundations come in a variety of finishes. You can pick a matte finish or go with a moisturizing foundation. You can even choose an anti-aging or serum foundation, which means everybody can find a liquid foundation that works for them.
2. Always prep your skin properly
After you’ve chosen the right foundation, Streicher says it’s critical to prepare your skin before applying. If you have rough, dry patches, you’ll need to address them with a chemical exfoliant, and then add moisturizer while your skin is still damp. Then, you should let the moisturizer sink in for a few minutes before you apply your foundation.
If you’re concerned about large pores or oiliness, on the other hand, you might want to apply primer. Streicher says it isn’t necessary for everyday wear, but it can help in addressing those concerns.
3. Then prep some more
Cat Quinn reports for Refinery29 that carefully preparing your skin is an important step in getting a natural-looking foundation application. So, whatever you’re currently doing to prep your skin before foundation, think about adding more steps to your routine. “Backstage, skin can be a 20–30 minute process then the makeup is two minutes,” Tim Quinn, makeup artist and national director of creative artistry for Armani Beauty, told the publication.
Some steps to consider to make your skin look great and take foundation smoothly? Consider starting with a hydrating toner, then massaging in whatever oil, serum, or cream will best address your skin’s needs. And make sure that your skin is adequately hydrated.
4. Cocktail multiple primers
Streicher isn’t the only makeup artist to note you probably don’t want to smear one primer over your entire face. Quinn learned makeup artist Daniel Chinchilla recommends using multiple formulas to get the right mix of benefits, even if you think your skin is oily all over. He recommends smoothing on an oil-controlling primer just in the T-zone, and using a silicone-based primer on the rest of your face. In the piece, Chinchilla said, “Most people who have oily skin really have some form of combination skin. And if you put a matte primer over a dry area, it will take away the moisture and make it look cakey.”
5. Customize your foundation to get the right shade
Another tip from Streicher? You should custom-blend your foundation to get exactly the right shade. “Skin tends to be darker in the summer and lighter in the winter, and this method lets you tweak your color year-round,” Streicher explained.
So how should you try out the technique? Buy two foundation shades: one that’s lighter than your skin tone and one that’s darker. Then put a few drops of each one on the back of your hand. Mix them together, and test out the blend on your jawline. You’ll know you’ve found the right combination when the color blends in seamlessly.
6. Use the right tools
Streicher recommends applying your foundation in good light — either natural daylight in front of a window, or in front of bright white bulbs in your bathroom. Perhaps just as important is using the right tools to apply your foundation. She recommends using your fingers to dot foundation on the areas where you need more coverage, and then spread the product to the rest of your face. Then, Streicher recommends tapping a damp sponge, such as the beautyblender, all over your face to even out the coverage. Also, run it under your chin and around your neck.
7. Don’t apply too much foundation
Refinery29 reports most women apply way too much foundation. If you can buy a foundation with a dropper rather than a pump, that may be a good way to avoid over-dispensing product and eventually wasting it.
Start by applying just a few drops of foundation in the areas where you need coverage. And even if you don’t like using a beautyblender, make sure your tool of choice is damp. A damp sponge or brush won’t soak up product, and you’ll get a much more natural finish than if you apply a heavy layer all over.
8. Apply concealer after foundation
If you apply your concealer before your foundation, you’ll either end up using too much, or you’ll just blend it off when you apply your foundation. So, Streicher advises applying your concealer after your foundation. She recommends choosing a creamy, hydrating formula to cover dark circles, and opting for a thicker and drier formula to cover blemishes.
You should know that other artists make an argument for applying concealer before foundation, since you don’t want to overcompensate by using too much foundation, either. Experiment to figure out which way works for you and the specific products you use.
9. Consider applying blush before foundation
While we’re on the topic of putting your products in order, it’s also worth mentioning some artists who spoke to Refinery29 recommend putting on blush before foundation. The idea, Quinn explains, is that “applying blush before foundation will give your skin a natural-looking flush (like it’s actually coming from within your skin and not just sitting on top of your foundation).” Just be sure you’re using a cream blush. Applying a powder under a liquid is never a good idea.
10. Set your look with powder
If you don’t have oily skin, you might not think you have to set your foundation with powder. But if you want your makeup to last all day, then you should definitely finish your look with powder. Streicher recommends dipping a clean makeup puff in a loose translucent powder, folding the puff in half, and rubbing the sides together until the powder is absorbed. Then, tap off any excess and lightly roll the puff over your skin to set your foundation. Or, if you find yourself prone to over-applying a loose powder, opt for a pressed one instead.
11. Know how to fix your mistakes
Sometimes, you’ll apply too much foundation. It can happen to anyone! The important thing is to know how to fix it. Refinery29 says the easiest way to counteract the mask-like effect of overdone foundation is just to apply some moisturizer. Dip a large powder brush into a basic moisturizer, then sweep it over the skin in the same way you might apply powder. It really is a quick a fix.