Applying foundation is one of those aspects of makeup that seem to intimidate even the most seasoned makeup fanatics. When applied correctly, foundation gives the impression of flawless and soft skin and it never looks like you are wearing any foundation at all. However, apply too much and you will look like you are wearing a cakey mask, apply too little and it can appear patchy and show skin blemishes.
Applying foundation is not easy, and foundations are not a one-size-fits-all makeup product. Your skin type, color, and complexion will influence which type will work best for you. That is why we want to walk you through the most common types of foundations, how to apply them, and give you some tips and tricks so you can master the art of applying foundation well, and in no time.
Table Of Contents
- 1 Prepping Your Skin For Foundation
- 2 How To Apply Liquid Foundation With A Brush
- 3 How To Apply Liquid Foundation With A Sponge
- 4 How To Apply Powder Foundation
- 5 How To Apply Airbrush Foundation
- 6 To Prime Or Not To Prime
- 7 Conclusion
Prepping Your Skin For Foundation
What we know as foundation is actually an umbrella term for many different products that provide coverage and, as the name suggests, lay a foundation for the rest of your makeup. Since most of the time our skin isn’t completely perfect, the purpose of applying foundation is to create an even base layer, hiding dark spots, pimples or blemishes and evening out its texture.
Since foundation is the first makeup product that goes onto your face, and we tend to apply it to our entire face (as opposed to eyeshadow or lipstick), prepping your skin before applying it is key not only for creating the perfect canvas for your makeup, but also to prevent any breakouts.
The good news is that prepping your skin for makeup is something that you can easily incorporate in your daily routine and it is likely that you are already doing some prepping without even thinking about it. Here are some steps you can take to prep your face for makeup every day, and some steps you should take just before applying foundation.
You already know it: you should wash your face every day. Washing your face is crucial for keeping a healthy skin inside and out. Our faces are one of the few parts of our bodies that are completely naked all the time, meaning that all the dirt, dust, and grime that flies around the air will most likely land on your face.
Imagine lathering a fresh layer of makeup on top of all that debris and dead skin cells – trapping it in your pores. Not only does it sound very unpleasant, but it also allows bacteria to flourish and prevents products such as moisturizer from penetrating the skin and doing what they are supposed to do.
To make sure you are properly cleansing your skin, choose a facial cleaner specially designed for your skin type (dry, oily or combination) and that is not loaded with harsh chemicals, especially if you have sensitive skin. If you want to create an optimal canvas for your foundation, wash your face in the morning right before applying makeup, and at night after you remove it.
Exfoliating helps you remove dead skin cells and other debris that washing alone will not remove, helping you even out your skin texture and making applying foundation much more seamless. While you should not exfoliate every day, taking the time to scrub your face gently once or twice a week will do wonders for your complexion and you will notice the change in no time.
We like using a cleansing brush such as the Clarisonic Mia which is gentle enough to use every day with the soft bristles and lets you adjust the speed depending on how deep of a cleanse you are looking for. If you want a non-electronic option, look for an exfoliator that suited for either your specific type of skin or for all skin types.
When it comes to exfoliating, there is too much of a good thing. Over-exfoliating can make your face breakout, cause you dryness and irritation, and can even cause your skin to create more oil than usual.
Even if you don’t exfoliate every day, you should moisturize every day. Keeping your face hydrated not only ensures that you will not have dry or flaky skin while applying your foundation, but it will also maintain your skin young and healthy throughout the years.
Your foundation is not a moisturizer, and it can actually be a very drying product. So even if it feels redundant, you should always apply moisturizer before applying your foundation to ensure your skin is prepared and protected for your makeup.
To ensure that your skin will absorb the moisturizer and take advantage of its properties, apply it after washing your face while it is still a little damp and then apply your foundation.
How To Apply Liquid Foundation With A Brush
There are at least five different types of brushes just for applying foundation, all of different shapes and sizes that are meant to be used depending on the type of foundation and finish you are looking for.
Because owning five different brushes just for applying foundation can be a little overwhelming we have broken down each one of them, explaining what they are for, when to use them, and most importantly, how to use them.
If you are one of the many people who doesn’t have windows in their bathrooms; always remember to check your foundation in natural light to make sure you are walking out of the house with the correct shade and that your foundation is blended correctly!
Named after traditional Japanese theaters where the actors wore heavy makeup applied with special brushes, a kabuki brush is a rounded brush used for applying foundation and setting powder. These brushes tend to be very short and chunky with a full set of soft bristles that helps you apply a smooth and even foundation layer. Kabuki brushes are sold almost everywhere cosmetics are sold, and it is very likely that you already own one even if you didn’t know it by name.
To apply liquid foundation with a kabuki brush, squeeze one or two pumps of your favorite liquid foundation on the back of your non-dominant hand (makeup experts claim that your body heat helps liquid foundation spread easier). Gently dab the brush in a little foundation and begin buffing the brush with circular motions. While some like to use sweeping motions, using a circular motion is better for avoiding visible brush strokes. Continue dabbing the brush in the foundation and applying it to your face until you reach your desired coverage.
Duo Fiber Brush
A duo fiber brush, also called a stippling brush, is a long, slightly narrow brush with two sets of bristles; natural black fibers near the bottom of the brush, and fine white synthetic fibers at the top. The purpose of a stippling brush is to give you a soft, “airbrushed” look by creating tiny dots of foundation on your face similarly to what happens when you spray airbrush foundation (this is called stippling).
Stippling is a great technique for covering up imperfections such as discolorations, marks, and blemishes, and it is actually a technique painters use to add texture and hide imperfections. To get started with your stippling brush, squirt a little foundation on the back of your hand and lightly dip the brush making sure only the top fibers are being lightly coated with foundation. Gently dot the brush on your face (don’t apply any pressure) until you have achieved your desired level of coverage.
Stippling is not meant to be blended; if you swipe your face with the brush you will be undoing all the tiny dots you created, and the effect will be lost.
Flat Top Brush
If you want maximum coverage in a pinch, a flat top brush may be for you. Flat top brushes, as the name suggest, have a flat or squared top made from dense bristles and help you achieve high coverage very fast.
Contrary to stippling brushes, blending is essential when it comes to a flat top brush; because the bristles are so densely packed, these brushes tend to hold in much more product than other brushes, and your finished look can end up looking cakey and streaky if you don’t blend it.
To apply foundation with a flat top brush place a few drops directly on top of the brush; this will ensure that the liquid foundation is staying on the top part of the brush and not seeping deep down into the bristles. Work your brush in a downwards, circular motion to avoid creating an uneven and texturized look. When you are done applying foundation, don’t forget to blend with a sponge.
Angled brushes are one of the most sought-after brushes for applying foundation because they allow you to do your face with more precision, particularly on hard to reach places such as the creases on the nose and under your eyes.
Apply your foundation from your nose outwards (the T zone is the area on your face that tends to need a little more coverage than the rest), using soft sweeping movements and continue blending as you go. Since the bristles on angled brushes tend to be a little stiffer than other brushes such as the kabuki, circular motions will not work.
Some angled brushes can also look like a triangle (angled on both sides and pointy on the top), these are also great for getting into all those hard to reach nooks and crannies that otherwise would end up without coverage.
While not technically a foundation brush, a concealer brush is an important part of the foundation routine. Sometimes, applying just foundation is not enough; there is always that annoying blemish that decides to show up the day of an important event, or perhaps you tossed and turned all night and woke up with bags under your eyes that make you look tired.
That is when concealer comes to play; a concealer is a makeup product that is designed for covering specific undesired features such as spots, pimples, or dark circles under your eyes. A concealer tends to be thicker and more pigmented than regular foundation, which is why you never wear concealer all over your face.
Concealer is applied before foundation so the foundation can act as a color and texture corrector. To apply concealer use a brush with soft but tight bristles that don’t move around too much. Dab a small amount of product and lightly dot on the problem area until covered. Choosing a concealer brush with a pointy or raised tip will help you cover small and hard to reach places.
Other Benefits Of Applying Foundation With A Brush
Regardless of the type of brush you choose, applying foundation with a brush instead of your fingers allows you to have much more control of the look and finish you will achieve. Brushes are also more hygienic than using your finger; assuming that your brushes are clean, you will not be transferring any of the dirt or oils that are always on our fingers from being in contact with everything we touch all day.
How To Apply Liquid Foundation With A Sponge
Makeup sponges are today’s tool of choice for many beauty gurus and makeup aficionados and you can find them in many different shapes, sizes, and colors, all with different purposes. A makeup sponge is, as the name suggests, a sponge that is used for applying, blending, and correcting everything from foundation to eyeshadow.
Makeup sponges have been around forever; you probably remember those white and pointy sponges that were meant to be used only once and thrown away and some people used them for quickly touching up or blending concealer.
However, in 2007 with the release of the Beauty Blender makeup sponges changed forever and became an instant staple in almost everybody’s makeup bags. Changing its shape from a pointy triangle to an egg-shaped sponge and increasing its lifespan from single-use to a couple of months, has made this new type of makeup sponge one of the best tools out there for applying foundation today.
Applying foundation with a makeup sponge is relatively easy if you avoid a few common mistakes that will make your makeup look cakey and overdone. Here are some classic makeup sponge mistakes and how to fix them:
Using A Dry Sponge
If you have never used a makeup sponge before, damping it before applying foundation might sound a little weird; why would you want to thin out the product before applying it to your face? But the truth is that dabbing a dry sponge directly in the liquid foundation will do more harm than good.
When you wet your makeup sponge (and squeeze it to remove excess water), it saturates the inside of the sponge with water preventing precious product from seeping in and going to waste. Another good reason for preventing foundation from seeping inside the sponge is to reduce the risk of developing bacteria and mold on the inside. Since many types of bacteria thrive in dark and wet environments, it is better to avoid foundation from getting too deep into your sponge.
The only instance where using a dry sponge is actually a good idea is when you have used too much product and want to fix it; sweep your sponge in areas where you want to soften the color or soak up foundation build up.
Not Washing Your Sponge
It sounds like a no-brainer, but it is actually very easy to forget that makeup tools need to be washed and cleaned not only to make them last longer, but also to avoid any mold or bacteria from growing. A dirty sponge can also leave residues on your foundation, making your makeup look less than perfect.
Even if you religiously wash your sponge every time you use it they are not meant to last forever. Replace your makeup sponge every three months, and more often if it has started to smell or discolor, to ensure you are getting the best look possible on every makeup application and keeping your skin healthy.
Sweeping Instead Of Blotting
It is not necessary to drag your sponge across your face when you are applying foundation; when you sweep the sponge instead of pressing it lightly on your skin, you end up needing to do much more blending and you will probably have to use much more foundation.
Instead, dip the sponge in a little foundation and dab it on your face, applying a little bit of pressure to make sure you are not leaving any streaks behind. Typical makeup sponges designed for applying foundation are egg or teardrop shaped, with one pointy end and one rounded end.
To get the most out of your sponge while applying foundation, use the rounded end to cover bigger surfaces such as the cheeks, forehead, and neck, and use the pointy end to apply your foundation in places such as the eyelids, the creases of your nose, etc.
Only Wetting Your Sponge Once
Now that we have covered the importance of dampening your sponge before applying foundation, it is also important to mention that you should keep it damp throughout the whole application process.
As you do your face, particularly if you take a long time in one specific area, your sponge will dry out. This means that if you began in one side of your face with a damp sponge and you finish on the other side with a dry one, the coverage will not be the same and your foundation will look uneven. Keep a glass of water nearby to dampen your sponge or run it under the faucet when it starts feeling dry for an even an easy application.
How To Apply Powder Foundation
Powder foundation is one of those polarizing makeup products that people either love or hate. Those who love it claim that pressed powder allows for an easier and quicker application and that it doesn’t require the amount of patience or skill that liquid or airbrush foundation does.
Those who are not fans of powder foundation feel like no matter how well you blend it, that you always end up with a cakey look that never really settles into your skin. But as with anything else regarding makeup, to use or not to use powder foundation depends on the type of look you are going for and your skin type.
Powder foundations are great for achieving a completely shine-free matte look that can look great for a formal event or if you are planning to have your picture taken (sometimes flashes can make us look too shiny and professional lights can make us sweaty and oily).
However, since powder foundations can be a little drying, those with already dry or flaky skin should steer away from this type of foundation because it tends to deposit in the creases of your skin, accentuating wrinkles and fine lines.
If you have dry skin but absolutely love powder foundation, try moisturizing and applying a layer of liquid foundation before applying powder foundation. This will ensure you start with hydrated skin and provide you with an even canvas for a smoother application.
To apply powder foundation, start with a clean and moisturized face. Contrary to popular belief, applying powder foundation with a makeup brush is actually not ideal since they can’t be pressed hard enough for the product to actually stay on your face, making you cake up more powder and end up with an uneven finish. Instead, opt for a makeup sponge (most powders already come with a sponge applicator), and begin sweeping the product outwards starting on the place that needs the most coverage.
One of the benefits of using powder foundation is that you can seamlessly retouch it throughout the day with just a few gentle dabs and your makeup will look as good as new. If you need to retouch your foundation, remember to use oil removing blotting paper to avoid uneven coverage.
It is a good idea to use a setting spray after powder foundation to help it set into your skin and avoid the dreaded cakey look.
How To Apply Airbrush Foundation
Until very recently, airbrush makeup was professional makeup artists’ best-kept secret for achieving flawless makeup, but that is beginning to change. Airbrush makeup is a great tool for achieving even, uniform makeup that no brush or sponge will provide in half the time it would take you to correctly apply your foundation with another tool.
One of the benefits of airbrush foundation is that you can control the amount of product you are applying. So depending on the coverage you are looking for, you can build up or combine different types or shades of foundation to achieve your perfect look.
An airbrush makeup machine, as the name suggests, uses compressed air to gently spray foundation on your face through a specially-designed hose. This system allows the foundation to spread evenly across your face without requiring additional blending or wiping.
Applying airbrush foundation is fairly simple and once you have the technique down after practicing a few times, you will be able to do your makeup in a short time. However, you should always start with a clean and moisturized face to get the most out of your airbrush tool. Use the tips we mentioned above to ensure a smooth face before applying foundation.
To apply airbrush foundation, you should first decide the shade that is most appropriate for your skin. When shopping for a new foundation it is very common that we test the color on the back of your hand, but in reality, our hands receive a completely different sun exposure than your face does. To find your perfect color match, test the foundation on your neck or jaw, which tend to have the closest color shade as your face.
Because airbrush foundation is thinner than regular foundation, you can’t use your favorite liquid foundation to fill up your airbrush machine. While there are some tutorials you can follow for converting regular foundation into airbrush foundation, we recommend you get a foundation specially made for airbrushing to get the most out of your machine.
After you have found your perfect foundation color, it is time to apply to apply it with your airbrush tool. Begin by filling your airbrush machine following the manufacturer’s instructions. All machines vary a bit, but you usually only need a few drops of foundation for airbrush makeup. Once your machine is filled and ready to go, begin spraying holding the stylus 5 to 7 inches away from your face to ensure even coverage.
Begin at the middle of your face and move outwards towards your hairline pressing gently on the trigger to avoid spraying too much at once. It is better to build up coverage as needed than to apply too much and have to wipe off the excess foundation and waste product. You will feel a light mist and your face will feel slightly damp while you are applying it; wait a few seconds between layers to ensure proper absorption. Continue spraying making circular motions all over your face, neck, and décolletage.
One of the most important things to keep in mind while applying foundations with an airbrush tool is to keep the stylus in constant movement to avoid patchy areas. If you hold the stylus at one place for too long but neglect other areas, you will see thicker or darker spots that won’t blend in with the rest of your face. However, if you want to cover something in particular like a pimple or a dark spot, hold the device close to your face (1 or 2 inches away) and pull the trigger gently but quickly on the same spot until you have achieved your desired coverage.
With airbrush makeup, a little goes a long way, so if this is your first time applying airbrush foundation, you can practice on a piece of paper to see how the coverage and thickness vary depending on the distance at which you hold the device. If you don’t want to use up your product, you can also practice with water to get a feel of our thin or thick the product will feel on your face at different distances. Click here to see our favorite home airbrush makeup kits.
You can even apply other makeup products such as blush, bronzer, and even eyeshadow and lipstick with an airbrush tool. Just remember to flush through and clean your machine after each makeup product to avoid spraying any unwanted colors when you move on to another area.
To Prime Or Not To Prime
With so many new makeup products coming out every day, it can be difficult to discern which ones you really need and which ones you don’t, and for many people, primer is at the top of the list of that debate. If you have never heard about face primer before (there are also lip primers, eyeshadow primers, and lash primers), it is a super silky and soft cream that is supposed to act as the first layer between your face and your makeup.
Face primers have been around for a while, but new formulas promise to give you an “airbrushed” look. They claim to even out your skin tone, minimize the appearance of pores, unify your skin’s texture, and help your makeup stay put longer. However, primers also have a bad rap for causing breakouts and aggravating acne, making many people write off all kinds of primers forever.
It is a common misconception that people with oily or acne-prone skin should avoid primers, and while it is true that some primers do contain ingredients that can clog your pores (and therefore cause breakouts), many other makeup products contain those same ingredients.
If you have acne-prone skin, it is crucial that you wash and exfoliate your skin often to avoid any breakouts. Hard-to-remove makeup products such as powders can deposit into your pores and clog them, so consider investing in a cleaning brush and getting a facial once a month.
So Are Face Primers Really Necessary?
It depends. Primers are great for helping your foundation last longer, but many foundations already have ingredients that make them last for many hours. If you don’t see your makeup beginning to fade after a few hours and you don’t have trouble with it lasting through the day, then a face primer might not be totally necessary.
On the other hand, if your makeup only seems to last an hour or if you are planning to go straight from work to a dinner or an event and don’t have time to retouch your makeup, you should absolutely add a layer of primer before applying your foundation.
Another benefit of primers is that they can serve many purposes. For example, a color correcting primer will not only even out your skin’s texture and prepare your makeup for an all-nighter; it’s green, lavender, and orange tones will neutralize redness, reduce the appearance of dark and age spots, and cover eye bags.
How To Apply Primer
If you want to add a face primer first, you should decide what you want to get out of the product. As we mentioned before, there are color-correcting primers that will help even out the undertones of your skin, but there are many other types of primers for different needs. Some popular dual-purpose face primers include anti-aging (you can buy La Roche-Posay Anthelios Anti-Aging Primer from Amazon here), pore reducing, moisturizing, and illuminating (you can buy L’Oreal Luminous Face Primer from Amazon here).
After you have chosen the perfect face primer for your needs, clean and moisturize your face as you would before applying foundation. Apply a thin layer of primer with your fingers just as you apply your favorite moisturizer. Wait a few minutes for the primer to completely dry out before applying foundation.
As you can see, there are as many types of foundations as there are techniques for applying it. Whether you have some problem areas that you’d like to cover up, or you have flawless skin, applying foundation is an excellent way to get your skin looking even and alive if you are going to apply makeup.
One of the most important things to remember before applying foundation is to always begin with a clean face to ensure that your makeup will look flawless and reduce your risk of breaking out.
We hope you found this guide for applying foundation useful. Let us know in the comments what is your favorite technique for applying your foundation and which techniques are you excited to try next!