It’s okay, I was too. And it appears that even after 5+ years in the business, countless interviews with makeup artists and product formulators, and a personal product rotation that rivals any outpost of Sephora, YES, yes it is possible to teach a beauty editor a few new tricks.
Arguably, foundation—or more accurately, the entire art of perfecting your skin with makeup—is the hardest element of the application process. Let’s face it: filling in your brows or swiping on mascara is not rocket science. But it takes a special effort (both in shade and product selection, along with technique) to make your skin look both natural AND flawless.
So if you think UR DOIN IT RONG (and sorry, but you probably are)… read on:
1. You’re using a powder foundation.
I know, I know—I used to be a massive Bare Minerals fan too. And yes, mineral makeup IS supposedly better for your skin (non-comedogenic, naturally anti-bacterial and with built-in sunscreen).
The problem is that powder foundations don’t give you the best finish. The look right now is very, very natural and a little bit dewy (see the Versace S/S ’11 show if you need a reference) and the best way to get said look is with a liquid foundation. Powders are drying, tend to cake and can even accentuate wrinkles because they settle into the creases. Janine from Beautygeeks also maintains that Bare Minerals also makes your pores look larger—horrifying!
Check out this post for some liquid foundation recommendations (don’t forget to read the comments for reader recos too). If you’re set on mineral makeup I would definitely recommend the very excellent Living Nature brand, which is a liquid.
2. To find your shade, you tested your foundation on your jaw.
Yes, everybody tells you to do this but I have some breaking news (from CoverGirl makeup artist Greg Wencel): you should actually test your foundation in three spots: underneath the eyes, on/around the nose and at the cheek/jawline. Do it all on one side of your face so you can compare with the no-makeup side.
The perfect shade should pretty much disappear into your skin—but if in doubt, follow David Goveia’s advice and go slightly darker, not lighter. A slightly darker shade covers flaws A LOT better and will warm up your skin tone. Remember, nobody wants to pull an Eagle (light face, dark body) like Emily Blunt.
Quick heads-up: I was just in NYC for the launch of two new liquid foundations, one matte and one luminizing, from Mary Kay. They’ll be available in January so more news on that in a bit…. but lest you think ordering from Mary Kay is a bit ick, I urge you to think again. When it comes to foundation, it’s actually a pretty incredible selling point that one of their reps will actually come to your home/workplace etc. and help you find your perfect match in person.
3. You’re not using primer underneath your foundation.
In which case, welcome to the blog. You obviously must be new around here because I feel like we talk about primers All. The. Time.
Most people look 148% better with primer—really, they do—because it helps your foundation glide on smoother and stay put longer. (As in: it will be much less likely to slip n’ slide around your face, or start to crease.) They’re making REALLY clever ones lately that can also soften the appearance of wrinkles, control shine or boost radiance.
4. You apply your foundation with your fingers or a sponge.
Guilty as charged! I’m a longtime finger user, even though I have probably 10 different foundation brushes… but I plan to change.
The reason foundation brushes are superior is because they use far, far less product and are also ACE at blending—and that means a smoother, more natural, less cakey application. Sponges are okaaaay (I’ve been trialling the BeautyBlender lately and it’s quite nice) but the problem is that they waste a lot of product. Plus, they tend to be better at dabbing on areas where you need more coverage instead of creating a smooth, even application.
When looking for a foundation brush, make sure it’s synthetic, not animal hair (you should never use animal hair with liquids). And it’s a pain in the bum, but you also have to wash it regularly with either a makeup brush cleaner (I think Beauty So Clean, available at The Bay, makes one) or a gentle baby shampoo.
Probably the best quality and well-priced brushes I’ve come across are from EcoTools, which you can buy at Walmart of all places:
5. You’re applying foundation All. Over. Your. Face.
So not necessary, doll. The purpose of foundation is not, in fact, to cover up every square inch of your face—it’s really only supposed to be used on the areas where you need it. Think: the redness around your nose/chin, the darkness underneath your eyes, the random rogue blemishes that you’ve been fighting by night but need to conceal by day.
Blend everything really well using your aforementioned foundation brush, and if you’ve selected the right shade, it should look seamless. (If you need more coverage, we’re talking about concealer next…)
6. You put your concealer on under, not over, your foundation.
Okay, this one is bad. Very, very bad. But I will forgive you if you didn’t know better because there are people out there—in fact, I interviewed one on Friday—who are perpetuating this myth. (Since she was, er, representing a company that MAKES foundation, I didn’t quite know how to tell her that she had it all wrong.)
Honestly though—what is the point of applying concealer if you’re just going to blend it all away by putting foundation on top? It boggles my mind. So remember: foundation first, then concealer. Go in with a brush to dab it (a cream, not liquid) on top only where you need it. Then blend!
My concealer pick, by the way, is Nvey Eco Organic Erase:
7. You’re setting your foundation with tinted powder and a big, fluffy brush.
I wrote about the perils of tinted powder earlier this year, and I’ll still stand by them. If you want to “set” your foundation, I strongly, strongly advise that you invest in a translucent powder, which not only works for every single skin tone in existence, but will also prevent that horrendous cakey texture from messing up your otherwise bang-on makeup application. Two product recos here.
Just make sure you blend well, unlike Nicole Kidman…
UPDATE: Okay, that particular incident may have been because HD powders show up white under flash photography, but even so, the next point still stands…
The look right now, as I said, is dewy, so I would only apply your powder in the areas where you tend to get shiny: the forehead and maybe the chin. And contrary to received beauty wisdom, don’t use a big, fluffy brush to apply because you’re going to deposit waaaaay too much product. Instead, Mr. Wencel suggests that you go for a domed, fluffy shadow brush.
And if you need to touch up during the day, please invest in some handy oil-blotting papers. Get the kind that aren’t coated with powder though, or you’re just going to end up back at square one.
So there you have it. So now, let’s discuss:
Do you wear foundation?
Were you doing some things “wrong?”
Do you have any other foundation or skin-perfecting tips to share?