15 Makeup Tips for Perfect Foundation

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Foundation has the biggest effect on your overall appearance but it’s one of the trickiest makeup products to use effectively. While it can transform your face and give you the appearance of flawless, younger looking skin, applying it incorrectly can have the exact opposite effect.

To get a great looking base you need to use the right type of foundation, the right color with the right finish for your skin type, and the right application techniques.

Foundation is a makeup product where it pays to invest in higher end brands. These typically have the best lightweight formulations that will allow you to achieve a natural look, while cheaper brands tend to still use the more old fashioned ingredients that create an unmistakable, caked in foundation look.

1. Choose The Right Color

Foundation isn’t for changing the color of your skin. If you have pasty white winter skin, use a self tanner to generate some color, don’t try to get a summer glow with a darker shade of foundation.

If you go too dark, there will be a marked contrast between the color of your face and the natural skin tone of your neck.

On the other hand, a shade that is too light will create a washed out, sickly look.

To choose the right shade, you need to look for one that closely matches your natural facial skin tone. It’s no good swiping a swatch of color onto your wrist or the back of your hand. To find the best match, go foundation shopping with a foundation-free face and test products on your face.

Check the colors on your jawline, your cheeks and your nose. The right shade should be undetectable on your skin. Then just to make doubly certain that it’s a match, go outside and check the color in natural daylight. The lights in the store can really distort the color.

If it still looks invisible, then you’ve found your color.

You can check out several shades at once by applying swipes of similar shades along your jawline and cheeks and then judging which one is the closest match.

Finally apply a little of the color to your neck and see how well it matches. Finding a color that matches the skin tone on your face and that is also a good match for your neck will give you a very natural look.

Adjust Your Foundation With The Seasons

You’ll need different shades to match your skin’s color as it changes from winter to summer. You can either buy completely new products, or you can get color adjusting drops to allow you to alter the shade of your regular foundation.

2. Use A Foundation Shade With The Right Undertones For Your Skin

Use A Foundation Shade With The Right Undertones For Your Skin

In addition to choosing the right shade for your skin, you need to get the undertones right too. The wrong undertones can make you look washed out even if the shade is a good color match. There are three categories for undertones: warm, cool, and neutral.

  • If your skin has warm undertones, your skin will appear peachy, yellow, or golden.
  • If your skin has cool undertones, your skin will have a pink, red, or bluish tone.
  • If your skin is neutral, then you have a mix of warm and cool tones.

There are easy ways to figure out your natural undertones.

  • If you look better in gold jewelry, and white clothing enhances your skin, then have warm undertones.
  • If you look better in silver jewelry and white clothing washes you out, then you have cool undertones.
  • If you look great in either, then you have neutral undertones.

You can also look at the veins in your wrist. If they have a blue or have a purple tinge to them, then you have cool undertones. If they have a more greenish color, then you have warm undertones.

3. Choose The Right Type Of Cover

There are three general types of coverage: sheer, medium, and full. For the most natural look always chose the least amount of cover for your needs. Its pays to have a range of products to handle different situations. On days when your skin is looking frightful, with blotches and breakouts, go for more complete cover and on days where you just need a little evening-out of your skin tone, choose a more sheer cover.

Matte Liquid Foundations

Matte finish liquid foundations suit normal to oily skin types. They’ll help to hold back excess shine and are a good choice for covering blemish prone skin. These liquids have a lightweight texture and finish. They’re easy to blend and you can build up cover on areas that need extra help.

A matte finish liquid can also help your foundation to last in humid climates, so it’s a good option when summer rolls around.

Foundations with a matte finish aren’t the best choice for dry skins or mature skins as they can exaggerate wrinkles.

Matte finishes are also difficult to blend once they’ve set, which makes correcting any mistakes almost impossible without causing extra streaking.

Moisturizing Liquid Foundations

These provide light to medium coverage that still gives a very a natural look. Quality brands will hydrate the skin without making it look or feel greasy. Their satin or satin/matte finish works well on normal to slightly dry skin.

This type of foundation isn’t a good choice for combination or oily skin types because the moisturizing finish can make oily areas worse.

Pressed Powder or Loose Powder Foundations

Powders are very versatile and are suitable for normal, slightly oily or slightly dry skin types. These foundations provide an easy and fast way to get a smooth finish and have a lightweight feel. The pressed versions are portable and easy to apply on the go, and some have a slight luminescence which adds a lovely glow.

Powders don’t suit very oily skin types because the foundations can slip into pores and look clumpy. There is also the problem of the color of the foundation changing when the pigments in the powder mix with excess oil in the skin and oxidize.

They also aren’t recommended for very dry skin as the powder can absorb too much of your skin’s moisture and make skin drier.

If you need to build your coverage, then powder foundations can look heavy and unnatural.

Cream-to-Powder Compact Foundations

These blend quickly and easily and set to a semi-matte or powdery finish. They come with a wide range of cover, from light and sheer, to maximum coverage. They provide a good finish on normal to slightly dry, or slightly oily skin, and are perfect for touching up on the go.

If your skin is very oily, then you should stay away from cream-to-powder foundations because the powder finish isn’t strong enough to keep excess oil in check.

They aren’t recommended for very dry skin either because the finish will exaggerate dry areas, even when you’ve moisturized well beforehand.

Depending on the formula, they can be a little heavy and look more obvious than other types of foundation.

Stick Foundations

Generally sticks offer medium to full coverage and are handy for on the go touch ups.

Some stick foundations have a waxy texture that gives a heavy look and they can lead to clogged pores and make breakouts worse.

They aren’t the easiest formulation to blend and if the finish is too creamy, stick foundation will crease around the eyes.

Tinted Moisturizers (and BB Creams)

These often combine moisturizing, sun protection and a hint of natural color all in one handy product. They’re great if you don’t need much cover and are more forgiving if the color isn’t an exact match for your skin.

Tinted moisturizer won’t provide enough cover if you have obvious imperfections that need hiding.

Quick guide for your skin type

  • If you tend to break out, always use a water-based, oil-free foundation that won’t clog your pores.
  • If you have drier skin, try an oil-based formula with a creamy, moisturizing finish that keeps your skin hydrated.
  • If you have sensitive skin, oil-based products can be too heavy and irritating, so choose water-based foundations. Look for mineral-based formulas that are free of irritating fragrances, dyes and preservatives.
  • If you have mature skin choose a hydrating liquid foundation with a satin-finish. Versions containing glycerin or hyaluronic acid will help to plump up your skin and keep it supple.

You can determine whether a product is oil-based or water-based by checking the ingredient label.

If it’s water-based, it will list water as the first ingredient and will sometimes be labeled oil-free.

 4. Prep Your Skin

Before you apply your foundation, make sure that your skin is clean and well moisturized. After you’ve moisturized wait 5 minutes to let the moisturizer fully sink in, that way it won’t affect your foundation. If you’ve been too heavy handed with moisturizer and it’s still evident on your skin after 5 minutes, take a tissue and gently blot the excess away.

Use a Q-tip to remove the excess moisturizer that tends to settle in the creases around your mouth and eyes.

Removing excess moisturizer will help your foundation to stay put and it will prevent streaks. Don’t be tempted to skip the moisturizer though. Properly hydrated skin will allow your foundation to glide on smoothly.

After moisturizer comes primer. Primer is the key to getting a flawless and long lasting look. Primer can minimize the appearance of enlarged pores, and a silicone based primer can smooth out your skin and stop your makeup from collecting in the creases.

If you have oily skin, use primer on your T-zone to prevent your foundation from mixing with your skin oil and breaking down.

 5. Apply Foundation In Natural Light

Foundation that looks perfect under a fluorescent light will look totally wrong once you’re out in daylight. Makeup should always be applied with the best natural light source possible. If your bathroom doesn’t have a window or only has a tiny window, then gather up your cosmetics and find a spot near a bright window where you can apply your makeup in good light.

If you have to get out of the house early while it’s still dark out,  then invest in some full spectrum daylight light bulbs to help you to get your makeup right. This way you’ll get your shading right and are less likely to leave areas incorrectly blended.

 6. Apply Your Base Products In The Correct Order

Use color correcting concealers first. That means the greens to hide red spots and blemishes, yellows to even out skin tone, and the yellows and peach tones to correct dark under eye circles.

Next apply your foundation, and then follow up with your skin toned concealer to give extra cover where it’s needed.

The foundation will help to prevent the thicker concealer from creasing and when you apply it over foundation, you use less, which gives a better look overall.

7. Use A Brush To Apply Then A Sponge To Blend

It’s tempting to use your fingers to smooth on foundation, and to rub it around and blend it in, but using your fingers will never give you a professional finish. The extra oils from your skin and the warmth from your fingertips can leave you with thinned out, uneven cover. Using the correct tools can make an enormous difference and will give you a natural finish.

Flat Foundation Brush – These brushes create a smooth finish. Look for a flat brush with nylon bristles. Natural hairs are nice but they soak up too much product. You can end up with too much makeup on the brush which makes it harder to work with.

Buffing Brush – A buffing brush looks like the dense brush that you use with mineral makeup. These brushes are very forgiving for the inexperienced user and make it easy to achieve a perfect “airbrushed” finish.

Fine Textured Cosmetic Sponge – A damp sponge gives a medium-cover, flawless finish. It has to be damp though and not wet. Squeeze out as much moisture as you can, then blot the sponge on a towel. Apply foundation to your skin with the sponge using a rolling motion, don’t swipe it across your skin. Roll and press, to get even coverage.

In addition to using a sponge to apply your foundation you can also use one as the final step in the blending process when you apply foundation with a brush.

 8. Apply Your Foundation With Downward Strokes

To avoid drawing attention to any “peach fuzz” on your face, apply your foundation with downward strokes. If you swipe it on any which way, that light hair will become fluffed up and will be more noticeable. Additionally, if the undersides of the hairs get coated, then the foundation will have the effect of deepening the very slight shadow cast by the hairs.

 9. Less Is More

For light cover, only apply foundation to areas that need it, like your T-zone and any red areas, then blend into your skin.

When you want to use foundation on your entire face, start in the center of your face with your nose, forehead and chin, which is where skin color is the most uneven and blend outwards. This will ensure that you don’t have a thick layer round the edges of your face, which is harder to blend naturally into your neck.

Don’t forget to add a little cover to your ears if they’re looking a touch red, and if you’re wearing a low cut top, pat a tiny amount of foundation onto your chest and blend it well, to prevent having a flawless face but a less than perfect décolletage.

 10. Foundation Will Help To Fix Your Eye Makeup And Lipcolor

Foundation Will Help To Fix Your Eye Makeup And Lipcolor

Sweep a light cover of foundation over your eyelids and your lips to provide a stable base that will hold your makeup in place for longer.

If you aren’t wearing eye makeup, foundation will conceal any of the redness and discoloration that tends to show through thinner eyelid skin. You’ll look perkier without that draining darker skin on show.

 11. If You Want To Change Your Matte Finish

If your budget doesn’t stretch quite far enough to allow you to have a multitude of high quality products at your disposal, you can make a matte foundation pull double duty on the days when you would like a lighter, more dewy finish.

Use a fine textured makeup sponge and add a couple of drops of a non greasy facial oil. Then lightly press over your foundation.

 12. Contour Your Face With Foundation

To add depth and highlights to your face, you don’t need to use special contouring products.

Use a foundation that’s one to two shades darker to create some depth, and one that’s one shade lighter to highlight the center portion of your face and underneath your cheekbones.

13. Set It With Powder

Once upon a time a quick flick over with powder would ruin the look of dewy foundation, and make it look dull and cakey. Even translucent powders were too heavy. Thankfully makeup technology has advanced, and today’s translucent powders, set your foundation and have light reflecting particles that help your skin to glow.

Use a soft powder brush and dust translucent powder over your T-zone. Gently tap off the excess powder then sweep the powder over the areas that tend to be shiny:

  • In between the eyebrows and across the forehead.
  • Along the bridge of the nose and around the sides.
  • Under the eyes.
  • On the chin.

If using powder really doesn’t appeal to you, then you can use a foundation setting spray.

A good way to minimize any shine that shows through as the day progresses, is to use blotting papers. These will remove the oil and moisture (without lifting your foundation away) and restore your makeups appearance, without the need to layer on extra product which can look cakey.

14. Protect Your Foundation from Falling Eye Makeup

Once you have your flawless base in place, hold a tissue lightly against your under eye area when you apply powder eyeshadow. This will stop little specks from drifting down and ruining your finish when you try to dab them away.

15. Throw Out Old Products

Every time that you take the cap off a liquid, the product in the bottle or tube dries out a little. The same goes for creams.

Every time that you dip a brush (with oils from your skin) into a powder, you cake the product a tiny bit, and those oils will oxidize over time and alter the shade and composition of the powder.

Once your products have passed their prime, it will be that much harder to get a great finish. Replacing your products regularly will ensure that they can work their miracles on your skin.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.