How to Apply Foundation

Makeup foundation on a brush
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The right foundation will even out your skin tone and give you the appearance of flawless skin. But you have to do it right, otherwise, you risk looking like a clown. Here are my best tips on how to properly apply foundation. 

The Worst Foundation Mistake We've All Made

The biggest mistake we women make is choosing the wrong foundation shade. When choosing a foundation, you want it to perfectly match your skin tone.

You may need different shades in winter and in summer when your skin is naturally a bit darker. 

To pick the perfect foundation, you should try before you buy. Head to Sephora or a department store and ask for help, or at least buy from a drugstore that has a great return policy. 

Choosing the Perfect Foundation

Another mistake women make is to use the same foundation their entire lifetime. As our skin changes, so should our formula. What worked in your oily, pimply teens is not going to work in your parched 50s. 

There are so many types of foundations that it can be mind-boggling. From sheers to minerals to tinted moisturizers, you have many options. Decide if you need heavy coverage or lighter coverage and go from there. Learn more in this comprehensive article, Types of Makeup Foundations.

Your Tool of Choice

Despite what you've read or heard, there is no perfect foundation tool. Choose what works best for you.

Makeup artists swear by foundation brushes to apply the product. They soak up less foundation and blend flawlessly. Other women prefer to use their fingers or a foundation sponge (I love sponges). Sponges and brushes will give you a more even application, whereas your finger helps to warm up the foundation, making it super glide-able.

You can even apply foundation with a gym sock. No, I'm not kidding. YouTube beauty vlogger Mayra Touch tried it and swears she got airbrushed results. Hmmmm.....

Moisturize First, or Apply Foundation Primer

All foundations will go on more smoothly if the skin is well-hydrated. You can choose a moisturizing sunscreen, moisturizer or primer that's perfect for your skin type. Let the moisturizer, sunscreen or primer soak in for about a minute before you move on to the foundation. 

Foundation primer creates the smoothest surface for foundation. You can choose an oil-free primer if you have oily skin. (Some makeup artists believe it's a crime not to prime). I recommend Laura Mercier primers. Buy her oil-free one and her hydrating primer. Read more about primer in What is a Foundation Primer? And Do I Need it?

For pre-foundation moisturizer, I recommend Embryolisse Concentrated Lait Cream, which makeup artist Lisa Eldridge uses. It's light and soaks in beautifully without leaving any heavy residue. 

Concealer and Foundation Go Hand-in-Hand 

Concealer and foundation go hand-in-hand. While foundation is meant to even out your skin tone, concealer is meant to conceal your biggest flaws, such as under-eye circles or blemishes.

While there's no beauty rule as to which should come first, the foundation or the concealer, makeup artist Bobbi Brown suggests using concealer before foundation because you won't use as much foundation if you conceal problem spots first. Other makeup artists apply concealer first, so it's really up to you. 

To apply, dab dots of concealer on any dark spots, such as under and around the eye and along the nose. Tap the concealer into place (never rub) or you can use a concealer brush to apply, tapping in at the end. Read more about concealer application in How to Properly Apply Concealer.

How to Blend Foundation Into Skin

Here are my step-by-step instructions:

  1. Place a dime-sized amount of foundation in your palm and dot the foundation using your tool of choice on any red spots or uneven areas of your skin. These are usually on the chin, along or on the nose, under the eyes and the corners of the mouth. Do not cover the entire face, your goal is to achieve an even skin tone.
  1. Moving from the inside of your face outward, blend the foundation into the skin. 
  2. Blend at the hairline and jawline to avoid the mask look.
  3. Finish off the look with any of the following if you choose: powder, blush, bronzer, and highlighter.

Skip the Powder, Try Blotting Papers

If you have oily skin, consider carrying blotting papers for any oils that creep up over the day. Packing on the powder as the day wears on isn't good for skin. I find that paper napkins work well in a pinch. 

Too Much Foundation? How to Fix It

If you've overdone your foundation, you don't have to start over. Put a dime-sized amount of moisturizer on a foundation brush and work the brush over your face. If you don't have a foundation brush, your fingers should do. Another trick is to separate a two-ply tissue, placing one ply on your face and moving it around to pick up the excess.