Applied correctly, foundation evens out skin tone and smooths over imperfections, giving you the appearance of naturally even, fresh skin. Applied incorrectly, your foundation can look cakey and mask-like. So what’s the right way to apply foundation, and how do you apply foundation properly onto different skin types?
Should You Apply Foundation on Bare Skin?
The truth is, you should never apply foundation onto bare skin. Applying foundation directly onto the skin allows makeup to get into your pores and potentially block them. It can also create uneven coverage as the foundation may slide over oily spots, build up on dry patches, and settle into lines and creases on your face.
The first step in properly applying foundation requires preparing the skin by cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing.
Give your moisturizer 5-15 minutes to absorb, and then evaluate your skin. Depending on your skin and foundation type, you may need a primer, a color corrector, a spot concealer, a serum, blotting paper, or some other preparation before applying your foundation. Use your preparation routine to create evenly hydrated skin and smooth out uneven texture before applying your foundation.
What Type of Foundation Are You Using?
The right way to apply foundation depends on what type of foundation you are using. Here is a quick overview of the main types of foundations and the ways they are applied.
Liquid foundations are usually water-based but can be oil-based. They are the most popular and familiar types of foundations and come in various options, including a wide variety of shades and tones and matte or dewy finishes. Liquid foundations are often the best choice for dry or aging skin because they tend to be hydrating.
Methods of Application
Hands and fingers, brush, sponge or blender, airbrush
Cream and cream-to-powder foundations typically give heavier coverage, with a thicker application that stays where it’s put. Many cream foundations are hydrating, and they are an excellent choice as a base beneath contouring.
Methods of Application
Fingers, sponge, or blender
Powder foundations are usually pressed, while setting powders are typically loose. Powder foundations are generally based on talc powder, which gives more coverage, or mineral powders, which are lighter on the skin. Powder foundations are often preferred for oily skin and for people who want lighter, more natural coverage in daily wear makeup.
Methods of Application
Brush, sponge, or blender
While there are also stick, serum, and cushion-type foundations, most people opt for the above three types, so we’ll focus on applying these foundations correctly.
Applying Foundation with Fingers
Applying foundation with your hands and fingers is the classic method. It requires no additional tools, is fast and easy, and makes layering and spot concealing simple. In addition, using your fingers is the best way to apply foundations that blend best when they are warmed slightly. Here’s how to apply makeup with your hands and fingers:
- Clean your hands. Your hands must be clean, so you don’t transfer dirt and oils from your fingers to your clean face. If you have long nails, clean under them. Wash your hands and dry them with a clean towel.
- Don’t pull on the skin. When applying foundation with your fingers, the motion should be a gentle patting or pressing motion. Don’t smear, rub, or tug on the skin, especially the delicate skin around the eyes.
- Add some foundation to the back of your hand. Using the back of your hand allows the makeup to slightly warm before applying it to your face.
- Use your finger to dab foundation in dots over your face. Then, gently use a fingertip to transfer makeup from the back of your hand to your face.
- Pat and blend out the spots of foundation. Using a patting motion with your fingertips, blend the dots of foundation out to form an even layer over your face.
Applying Foundation with a Brush
Brushes are a great way to get even foundation coverage quickly, and they are gentle on the skin. While brushes are the best way to apply powder foundation, they can also be used with liquid foundation, and residual makeup on the brush can help make blending easier. However, brushes should usually not be used with cream foundation because the thicker formula tends to streak. To apply foundation with a brush:
- Wash your brushes regularly. While we tend to think of brushes as more sanitary than hands, brushes must be washed regularly to get more even coverage and avoid breakouts.
- Use the right size brush. A medium-sized foundation brush is best for liquid foundation. It should be small enough to easily access tighter areas around the nose and eyes but large enough to make the application faster. A larger brush or kabuki brush is better for powder foundation because it applies foundation more quickly and blends easily.
- Dot on liquid foundation. Using your brush, gently dot liquid foundation onto your face, and use the brush to blend.
- Brush on powder foundation. Tap your brush into the makeup and tap it again to remove excess and distribute foundation evenly on the brush surface. Then, using a gentle circular motion, buff powder foundation into the face.
Applying Foundation with a Blender
A sponge or beauty blender is a better alternative to applying makeup with your fingers, and it can be used with liquid, powder, or cream foundation. Sponges tend to create more even coverage with better building and blending and create a look that can last all day. To apply foundation with a sponge:
- Use a clean sponge or blender. Sponges and blenders tend to ‘drink’ up a lot of makeup, so they need to be cleaned after every use.
- Wet the sponge before use. Use clean running water and wet the sponge, squeeze out excess water, wet it again, and squeeze it again. Wet it a final time and then gently squeeze or press out as much water as you can. Using a damp sponge creates a more even application and prevents the sponge from absorbing as much foundation.
- Dab and blend. Using the round side of the sponge, dab foundation onto your face, and then gently blend outward.