Foundation is the base of our makeup. That’s why it’s called foundation, after all. And if the base isn’t perfect, then the rest of our makeup will reap the consequences. A lot of us don’t realise that we are applying foundation incorrectly. But don’t worry, we have just the guide on how to apply foundation – from preparing your face to setting the look!
What are the common mistakes when applying foundation?
There are three common mistakes a lot of us make when applying foundation: applying too much, starting too close to the hairline, and colour-matching to the neck.
Applying too much: “It’s better to start with a smaller amount and build up as needed,” says Aleksandra Pinneri, Pro Makeup Artist & Educator. “This approach helps you achieve a natural, skin-like texture instead of a mask-like appearance. Remember, only specific areas may need colour correction; concentrating extra coverage there minimises the chances of the product moving or creasing.
Starting the application too close to the hairline: “Instead, begin at the centre of your face and blend outwards. This technique helps you avoid that dreaded foundation line along the hairline and jaw, making the makeup look seamlessly blended and natural.”
Colour matching to the neck: “The neck is often in shadow and not a good indicator for your true tone,” says Aleksandra. “Whilst your face often wears SPF or a hat, so that’s not ideal either. The pro move? Match your foundation to your chest. This area is usually more exposed and gives a better idea of your natural colouring. By doing this, you’ll achieve a seamless blend that looks fab in photos, saving you from the dreaded orange or pink face mishap.”
How to choose the correct foundation for our skin
There are three things we have to keep in mind when choosing a foundation: the colour, the coverage, and the finish.
Like we said, the secret to colour matching is using our chests!
“To find your perfect match, take a small amount of foundation and apply it to your upper chest area, also known as the décolletage,” says Aleksandra. “Gently pat it in, and once it’s blended, check for any colour discrepancy. If you see a distinct ring around it or if the foundation appears either more orange or pink compared to the surrounding skin, that’s not your shade. The ideal foundation should blend seamlessly, making your face and chest look like they’re the same fabulous colour.”
Should we be opting for light, medium, or full? It all depends on what you want to get out of your foundation.
“If you’re looking to cover acne or scarring, a full-coverage option is your go-to for evening out texture,” Aleksandra says. “For an uneven complexion marked by various shades or tones—like redness, bluish undertones, or ashiness—a medium coverage foundation works wonders, especially when combined with targeted colour correcting in specific areas. “If you’re blessed with fairly good skin and are just looking for a little ‘oomph,’ light foundations, BB creams, or CC creams with light-reflecting particles or SPF are your best bet. Pair them with a colour-correcting concealer where needed, and you’ll achieve that radiant, fresh-faced look. Because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love flaunting beautiful skin?”
Finally, what finish? Dewy, matte, or sheer? The rule of thumb, according to the makeup artist, is that when we age – we should avoid a matte formula. It highlights texture and enhances dryness, which can have an ageing effect.
“A dewy, fresh finish gives your skin a youthful, vibrant glow and is especially forgiving on fine lines—remember, less is more when it comes to product settling into those creases,” says Aleksandra. “On the flip side, if you’re rocking that smooth, tight skin, the sky’s the limit! Your choice ultimately depends on the look you’re going for and how long you need it to last. A dewy finish might require a touch-up here and there but the radiant result is so worth it. As for matte finishes, when set with powder, they have incredible staying power and are making a big comeback—now trendily referred to as ‘cloud skin’ which is velvet like finish.”
How to prep our skin before applying foundation
Before we start blending, it’s important our skin is adequately prepped so we get the most out of our foundation!
“Step one: start with a squeaky-clean canvas,” Aleksandra says. “Grab some micellar water and gently wipe away any oils, especially around those eyes. But before you even get there, make sure you’ve double cleansed—first to kiss that makeup goodbye, and second to actually clean your skin. Now, don’t forget to exfoliate, especially in the T-zone. Trust me, it makes all the difference in how smoothly your foundation applies; it’s like turning your face into the perfect canvas.
“Next up: Primer, your new BFF. Whether you’re after longevity, a glow-up, or just smoother skin, primer is the key. Think of it as the Spanx for your face. Once it’s on, everything else just glides on top, just like how that little black dress effortlessly skims over your Spanx. The right primer ensures your foundation won’t be grippy or hard to blend out, but instead will blend in like a dream.”
What tool is best to apply foundation?
Brush, sponge, or fingers? There’s been a lot of debate. Aleksandra cuts straight to the chase.
“Using just your fingers won’t cut it for a long-lasting, flawless look,” she says. “Why? Because they glide over the skin without really working the product in. While fingers are fab for skincare and primers, and a good facial massage for that collagen boost, brushes and sponges take the cake for hygiene and importantly, blend-ability.”
Cosmetologist and leading makeup artist Claudia Fabiani agrees, adding that: “if you use your fingers, your own temperature will dilute the consistency of the foundation.”
OK, so that leaves sponges and brushes. The correct tool? Honestly, it’s up to personal preference. Brushes give even coverage without being as wasteful as sponges, says Aleksandra. But sponges are ideal for the T-zone, where we tend to have more texture and enlarged pores.
How to apply foundation
So, now we know how to choose a foundation, how to prep our face, and what tools to use, how do we actually apply foundation? Here are the steps:
“Primer is Prime: Start by laying down the perfect base tailored to your skin’s needs,” says Aleksandra. “Got oily skin? Zone in on those areas with an oil-control primer. Dry patches? Add some illuminating moisture to avoid cakey, textured spots. This sets the stage for your foundation to perform at its best.”
“Foundation Matchmaking: Once your primer is on point, it’s time to pick your foundation. Focus on matching the colour to your skin tone and choosing the type based on your coverage needs and age. Whether it’s sheer, medium, or full coverage, let your skin type and lifestyle dictate your choice.”
“Dot and Blend: Apply four dots of foundation on your nose, cheeks, and forehead. Blend outward and upward against gravity. Make sure you blend into your hairline and under your jaw to avoid those dreaded demarcation lines. Next, grab a beauty blender and stipple extra coverage where needed, like in the T-zone or areas with larger pores.”
“Colour Correction: Now it’s time for your colour corrector. Use a smaller brush to tap and blend the product into targeted areas. Think under-eyes for blue undertones, or around the nose and cheeks if redness or rosacea is your nemesis.”
“Setting the Makeup: Once your base is flawless, set it with a translucent powder in areas that tend to move—like around the eyes, mouth, and nose. Go for a light, possibly light-reflecting powder to maintain that fresh skin look.”
“Powder Foundation Prep: If you’re going the powder route, skin prep is even more crucial. Texture shows up most with powder products, so make sure your skin is well hydrated and exfoliated.”
“Powder Application: Use a beauty sponge for fuller coverage, or a big fluffy brush for a lighter finish. Some powders even allow damp application for extra coverage, giving you more options to play around with.”
How to set our skin after applying foundation
Now that our application is done, it’s time to ensure out foundation stays on for as long as we require. Here’s how to set the look:
“Choose Your Powder Wisely: It’s all about matching the powder to your foundation finish and skin’s needs,” she says. “For a matte, full-coverage look that won’t quit, go for something heavy-duty like MAC Cosmetics Studio Fix powders. They lock in that base like a pro.”
“Glow Up: If you’re chasing that dewy, luminous look, grab a lighting powder. Use a big fluffy brush like the C531 Crown Brush and dust it lightly over your face or a more matte one like Laura Mercier’s Translucent Loose Setting Powder just on those spots that tend to get shiny.”
“Bright Eyes: For under the eyes, opt for a colour-correcting or brightening powder. Use a smaller fluffy brush to lightly press and dust the area under the eyes. The aim is to set your concealer without making it look like you’re baking a cake under there to avoid creasing.”
“Spray for the Day: Last but not least, a setting spray is your final touch for staying power. Look at the first ingredient to understand what it’s going to do for you. If it’s aqua (water), you’re adding some lovely hydration to the mix. On the flip side, if one of the first ingredients is alcohol (Isopropyl Alcohol), you’re locking in that look for the long haul.”
Now that we know how to apply foundation, here are some of the best ones to try!
- Fenty Beauty, Eaze Drop Blurring Skin Tint Foundation, $53
- Estée Lauder, Double Wear Stay-In-Place SPF Foundation, $74
- Giorgio Armani, Luminous Silk Foundation, $105
- Clinique, Even Better Makeup SPF, $56
- Lancôme, Teint Idole Ultra Wear 24H Foundation, $75
- Yves Saint Laurent, Touche Eclat Le Teint, $98