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 you’re doin’ it wrong (and sorry, but you probably are)… read on:
Foundation mistake #1: 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 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. Some of the ones with shimmer in them can even make your pores look larger—horrifying!
Instead, here are a few liquid foundation recommendations that I swear by…
This is my day to day go-to and the one I reach for the most:
This is an oil-free option that also offers plenty of coverage with a light texture:
It’s even better paired worn on top of their SPF 15 primer.
This next one makeup artists go crazy for—when I used to work on staff in magazines, it would always mysteriously disappear when we brought a bottle on set.
Obviously, it photographs beautifully and the texture is to die for.
Foundation mistake #2: Testing your foundation on your jaw
Yes, everybody tells you to do this but I have some breaking news: 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, 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.
Foundation mistake #3: 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 150 percent 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.
If you’re looking for oil control, this is the most mattifying primer I’ve ever tried, EVER:
I’ve also had good luck with this Cover FX one, which also has anti-acne benefits:
And then here’s the Hourglass one I was talking about above:
It feels real slippery when you put it on, but don’t fret—it makes foundation go over top like a dream, and helps it last for hours. Love that it has built-in SPF.
Finally, this one from Urban Decay is a classic:
It’s light, dries down quickly and helps minimize the appearance of pores. Not ideal for dry skin, though.
PS: I know everyone raves about this primer, but I just don’t get the hype. Your mileage may vary, though.
Foundation mistake #4: Applying 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 or a gentle baby shampoo.
If you can spend a little more, this Bobbi Brown brush will never fail you:
Foundation mistake #5: 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…)
Foundation mistake #6: Putting concealer 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 have the heart to tell her that she had it in the wrong order.)
Honestly though—what’s the point of applying concealer if you’re just going to blend it all away by putting foundation on top? 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!
Here are a few of my top concealer picks…
I’ve been using this product for years:
My shade (Light) is a perfect match to my skin tone, and it’s got a creamy, easy-to-blend texture with good, high coverage (and anti-wrinkle benefits!).
These next two are similar in texture and colour to theBalm, except they’re made from natural ingredients, including coconut oil. I’ve gone through a couple of these Nvey Ecos in my lifetime:
And then lately, I’ve been into the RMS Beauty version—which is very similar ingredients-wise, but maybe a touch creamier:
Finally, there is a reason this concealer is a cult beauty classic that makeup artists swear by.
It’s pricey but totally worth it for the incredible texture, high coverage and seamless finish.
Foundation mistake #7: 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 colourless 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.
I recommend this powder, which was one of the originals and still one of the best. :
It sets your makeup really well without looking or feeling like you’ve got anything on your skin.
This is another option that to me feels pretty much the same as the MUFE:
Just make sure you blend well, unlike Nicole Kidman:
Okay, that particular incident may have been because HD powders show up white under flash photography, but even so… the point is that the look you want is dewy, not powdery. 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, go for a domed, fluffy eyeshadow 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.
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Have your say
Do you wear foundation?
Were you doing some things “wrong?”
Do you have any other foundation or skin-perfecting tips to share?