Foundation. Many of us can’t live without it, some of us can’t stand it and others are still just trying to figure out how to make it last all day. Foundation sales increased by 7 percent in the beauty industry between 2016 and 2017, in 2020 the bestselling foundation CoverGirl Plus Olay Simply Ageless had a sales value of $58.6 million. Now that more brands are offering shades for a wider range of skin tones (though much work still needs to be done), women are eager to nail a flawless foundation finish.
While choosing the right formula and shade are key, other factors are just as important when trying to achieve (and maintain) a cake-free finish. Below, two celebrity makeup artists guide you through the best foundation application practices, so you can pull off a perfect base and even avoid that annoying midday reapply.
When it comes to flawless foundation application, both makeup artists stress the importance of prep work. “Prepping your skin before applying foundation is the key to a flawless finish — if you love on your skin, it will thank you by cooperating,” explains Meredith Baraf, a celebrity makeup artist with Bernstein & Andriulli in New York City. “Exfoliate if necessary, as the foundation will blend more seamlessly without dead skin in the way.”
Prepping your skin before applying foundation is the key to a flawless finish.
Natalia Thomas, a celebrity makeup artist in New York City, agrees and suggests those suffering from acne use peel pads pre-foundation application. “My secret weapon for myself and clients suffering from breakouts and flaky skin is the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel Pads ($88),” she says. “They help to release the bond of dead skin cells to living ones and increase cell turnover as well as disinfecting any bacteria that may be trapped in your pores — they are great as skin prep for makeup.”
After exfoliating, tone with something simple, then use the skincare products appropriate for your specific skin type. “I usually follow a two- to four-step process, where I first apply a serum and use the ReFa Carat Face Roller ($220) all over the face,” says Baraf. “Next, we moisturize, and then for those with normal to dry skin, I finish by pressing a small amount of oil to the skin. Right now, I’m obsessed with black seed oil.” Black cumin seed oil, an ingredient found in the Sunday Riley U.F.O Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil ($80), works wonders in treating and preventing acne, too.
Thomas is also a fan of using oils as a base moisturizer for her clients. “I prefer using oils to prep skin because they provide a gentle barrier from makeup, which helps to keep it from clogging your pores,” she says. When applying oils onto your face, be sure to massage them into the skin and give them time to absorb to ensure that they are nourishing rather than just laying on top of the dermis.
Meet Your Match
Finding your perfect foundation depends on multiple items, including your skin type, skin tone and type of finish you prefer. “It really depends on your skin and the climate you live in, as well as the finish you prefer, but generally a liquid set with translucent powder is the longest-lasting,” says Thomas. “The powder helps lock in your foundation and provides a bit more longevity,” Baraf adds that since everyone’s skin chemistry is different, using trial and error to find your perfect match is sometimes an inevitable reality.
According to Thomas, finding your perfect foundation match will be impossible if you are not treating your skin properly. “It is important to note that how you treat your skin underneath your foundation will help or hurt the longevity of your makeup,” she says. “If you have oily skin and are using soapy detergent-based washes and following with toners that strip your natural oils and then not moisturizing, you are in reality making your skin create more sebum to compensate for the oils you have stripped away, which will eventually make your foundation slip off.”
When trying to color match, Baraf suggests looking at your face, neck and chest to really see your undertone and color. “Make sure you are mak[ing] an informed decision based on the whole picture,” she says. Your cheeks might be rosy at the moment, but you still have a golden undertone. “Once you decide if you have more golden or cool undertones, choose three colors that you think might work and do a Goldilocks test — use the jawline as your test spot to swatch them and see which of the three connects the most seamlessly into the big picture.”
Consider the different seasons when choosing a color. “We are so many different shades throughout the year, so my best advice is to get one for winter and one for summer and mix them between seasons,” says Thomas. “I always tell clients to match their foundation to their décolletage because when you apply it you should be going all the way down your neck, creating one cohesive shade.”
If you have drier skin, or if colder weather makes your face flakier, Thomas suggests avoiding powder. “I recommend to any clients with drier skin to skip powder altogether…because it only intensifies the texture of dry skin,” she says.
Apply With the Right Tools
There are multiple tools you can use to apply foundation. “Your (clean) hands are your best tools for applying [liquid] foundation,” says Thomas. “The warmth helps to melt it onto the skin and create a more natural application.”
Thomas also loves the Original Beautyblender ($20) if you are opting for a more natural finish. “Always make sure your [Beautyblender] is moist and clean before use — sometimes I even use rosewater to moisten the sponge because it is the same pH as your skin and adds a bit more moisture back into your application,” she says. “Hold the sponge and lightly press and roll on the parts of the face that need a bit more blending and moisture.”
If you prefer full-coverage, Thomas suggests adding a blending foundation brush to your arsenal. “If you prefer fuller coverage, use a brush because the heat and natural oils on your fingers will break down the foundation and not provide the coverage you prefer,” she says.
When applying any foundation, Thomas stresses the importance of remembering the neck. “The neck is always lighter than the face and décolletage because your head shades your neck from the sun, so be sure to blend downward so you don’t look like you are wearing a foundation mask,” she says.
When asked about their favorite formulas, both makeup artists gush over their foundation front runners. “My absolute favorite these days is the Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish: Sublime Perfection Foundation ($68) followed by her Skin Fetish: Sublime Perfection Setting Powder ($55),” says Thomas. “For a natural finish, I love Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint ($26) followed by their Wowder Setting Powder ($22).” For her “full coverage babes,” Thomas recommends Marc Jacobs Beauty Re(marc)able Full Cover Foundation Concentrate ($56) followed by Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder ($39), which “gives a really silky, luxurious finish.”
Baraf recommends a few others to try out, too. “My fave longest wearing foundations include Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay In Place Makeup ($43), Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick ($46), Dior Backstage Face and Body Foundation ($40), Surratt Dew Drop Foundation ($75) and Wander Beauty Wanderlust Powder Foundation ($40).”
Setting Powders and Sprays
In terms of loose powders to help set your foundation, Thomas loves the Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder For Under Eyes ($28), as well as the Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder ($39) to set “hot spots” on the face, “which are any areas of the face that translate as ‘greasy’ on camera (like around the nose, across the forehead and on the chin),” says Thomas.
Thomas also loves the Urban Decay All-Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray ($33) is a great setting spray, as is the Skindinavia The Makeup Finishing Spray ($29). She highly recommends the latter for humid climates “as it is not only going to keep your makeup on longer, but it also provides a waterproof barrier and [prevents] skin from heating up and melting your makeup.”
Baraf uses settings sprays to reopen the skin a bit after applying setting powder. Some of her favorites are Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist ($48) and Change by Celeste Randall Hydra Cell Booster ($45). Baraf also loves the Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte’s Genius Under Eye & Face Magic Setting Powder ($45) and Airbrush Flawless Finish Setting Powder ($45) for a long-wearing and flawless finish, as well as the Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder ($46) and Koh Gen Do Face Powder In Jar ($58).
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