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How to Apply Foundation Like a G'Damn Pro

Cosmopolitan logo Cosmopolitan 11/02/2019 Brooke Shunatona
a person taking a selfie: Try these foundation application steps and tips to create an even complexion, conceal dark circles, hide zits, and more. © Raydene Salinas Hansen Try these foundation application steps and tips to create an even complexion, conceal dark circles, hide zits, and more.

Here's the annoying thing about foundation: When it's expertly applied, it can turn your face into a perfectly even, bright, smooth-looking pearl. But when it’s applied, uh, not so well, it has the potential to highlight fine lines you didn’t know existed, make your skin look flaky and oily, and leave you with a chalky-looking mask. Fun!

Unfortunately for me, but luckily for you, I have experienced both the bad and the good sides of foundation. Which means I've now got a lifetime of tips and tricks that will revolutionize your makeup routine, so you'll never deal with another patchy, shiny, heavy mess again.

Step 1: Prep Your Skin

Single smiling woman in towel applying cream to face while holding blank yellow container Single smiling woman in towel applying cream to face while holding blank yellow container

Don't skip this step. Let me repeat that: Do not skip this step. Makeup has the tendency to settle into creases and crevices of dry skin, so if your face isn't properly cleansed and moisturized first, you can forget having seamless foundation.

After cleansing with a gentle face wash, massage a lightweight moisturizer over your face, (along with any other skincare products you usually use in the morning), then wait a full 15 minutes for everything to sink in before proceeding to your makeup.

top view beauty cream with green leaves and wet background beauty and wellness top view beauty cream with green leaves and wet background beauty and wellness

Step 2: Choose Your Formula

I could write a thesis on how to difficult it is to find your perfect foundation shade (it takes a lot of trial and error...and bad photos), but for the sake of your sanity, I’ll keep it brief:

The Coverage

beauty woman portrait with fresh natural skin, beauty and spa concept beauty woman portrait with fresh natural skin, beauty and spa concept

Most foundations fall somewhere between sheer, medium, and full coverage. If you love your freckles, choose a formula that says "sheer" or "hydrating" or "lightweight." If you want to even out your skin tone a little, look for a medium-coverage formula, which might say "semi-matte" or "satin" finish. And if you have blemishes, redness, or hyper-pigmentation that you'd prefer to cover (or, if you just love a full-face beat), go with the formula that has more coverage, which will usually say "full-coverage" or "matte."

The Shade

Beauty Cosmetics. Attractive Young Woman With Clean Soft Skin And Fresh Professional Makeup. Closeup Beautiful Sexy Girl With Liquid Tonal Cream, Foundation Stripes On Face. Skin Care. High Resolution Beauty Cosmetics. Attractive Young Woman With Clean Soft Skin And Fresh Professional Makeup. Closeup Beautiful Sexy Girl With Liquid Tonal Cream, Foundation Stripes On Face. Skin Care. High Resolution

Now that you know your coverage and finish, you can finally match your shade. I’ve tried every trick on the internet, here-undertones, neck swatches, you name it-but the best way that I’ve found is to, well, simply put it all over your face like you would in real life, then look at it under different lighting. Natural light from the sun is the most accurate and unforgiving, so if it looks good outside, you’ve most likely found your match.

Obviously, this requires you to get a sample of foundation, first. Sephora and department stores will give you little pots of foundation to take home and sample before you buy, and most drugstores-although it's not exactly fun-will allow you to return opened makeup products with a receipt...and a very apologetic look.

Step 3: Apply and Blend

Cosmetic foundation cream and powder with brush on white background Cosmetic foundation cream and powder with brush on white background

How you apply your foundation is up to you, but if you want the absolute best, Photoshop-level finish, most makeup artists would agree that Beautyblenders (or any good makeup sponge) are the way to go. Why? Because brush bristles tend to leave little streaks and lines on your face, and your fingers/hands are unable to buff, blend, or distribute foundation in a way that looks natural.

So once you've got your sponge (make sure to get it damp with water, first, or it doesn't work as well), dab a few drops of foundation over the main points of your face (forehead, cheeks, and chin) with your finger. Then, with stippling-not dragging or rubbing-motions, quickly tap the sponge over the dots, blending the foundation out toward your hairline and jaw to diffuse the color. Keep tapping under your chin and jaw to seamlessly blend the foundation's edges.

young woman applying a liquid foundation on her face with her fingers young woman applying a liquid foundation on her face with her fingers

Foundations, as a rule, aren’t designed to cover zits, so don't worry if they're still visible after you're done blending. Just dab concealer over the areas that need a bit more coverage, wait a few minutes to let it set, then blend the concealer in with your sponge.

Step 4: Set It

© copyright 2018 Irina Marwan

You don’t need to set your whole face with powder to make your foundation last. With a big fluffy brush and a loose setting powder (make sure to tap off the excess, first), gently swirl the powder over just the areas that tend to get extra shiny and oily, like your T-zone. And don't worry-if you accidentally apply too much powder and look a little chalky, spritz your skin with a face mist or fixing spray to melt the powder into your skin for a natural finish.

And you're done! Your face might look flat and dimensionless at this point, but that's the goal of foundation: to even everything out. Now that your base is properly set, you can move on to the bronzing, contouring, and highlighting-you know, the fun parts-and watch your whole look come together.

Video: Simple Smokey Eye & Rosy Lip - using drugstore makeup (Harper's Bazaar)

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