When it comes to foundation, there's a lot to consider. With hundreds of different formulas for a dewy, matte, or satin finish—plus increasingly inclusive shade ranges—there are lots of decisions to be made just to choose the right one.
But even once you've selected your perfect shade and formula, there's still plenty of room for error when it comes to application, setting your foundation, and achieving an evenly-blended finish. Foundation "mistakes" are common, and fortunately they're fairly simple to course-correct. So ahead, makeup artists share the most common foundation mistakes they see among clients, and what they recommend doing instead.
Face and Neck Don't Match
Telltale tide marks are one of the biggest foundation giveaways. The key is to color-match your base shade with expert precision. "The trick to color matching is to always use the three-stripe trick," says Ffion Davies, regional makeup artist for YSL. "Stripe a shade lighter than your complexion, what you think would be the perfect match and one shade warmer along your jawline to determine the perfect match which should blend seamlessly to your neck."
"My tip here is to not match foundation to your face but to your neck. Remember, if you are choosing a shade warmer, don't forget to bronze your neck, chest, and ears to avoid telltale signs."
The primer you choose is key also. "Use a primer that has blurring properties such as Nars Pore & Shine Control Primer ($36). The extracts in this product will instantly blur, tighten, and smooth pores. If you want a quick fix, Nars Instant Line and Pore Perfector ($28) is great and can be worn under or over makeup," says Anna Priadka, founder of the makeup brand Makeup54.
Skipping Setting Powder
Finally, Laura Geller, founder of Laura Geller New York, reveals you can blur pores to perfection using powder. "Use a setting powder like Laura Geller New York Matte Maker Oil Blotting Powder ($46), which not only sets makeup but is also oil-absorbing and diminishes the appearance of pores."
You can use setting powder in a few different ways, by setting the entire face, or by just focusing on specific areas—like your t-zone or in other areas where makeup might fade throughout the day.
Using the Wrong Formula for Your Skin Type
We consider skin type when it comes to skincare, but what about foundation? For a flawless-looking finish, match your foundation pick to your skin's needs. "If you have dry, dehydrated skin, consider using a liquid," explains Geller. "Normal skin type? You can use any foundation, but if you are prone to oily skin, steer toward powders," she adds.
Depending on what you're concealing—a blemish, pigmentation, or dark circles—you need to adopt a different strategy so your concealer blends seamlessly. "When covering a blemish, it must be the same shade as your foundation, which, if you chose the correct shade, should be the same as your skin; otherwise you'll be highlighting a pimple! The texture should be dry so that it doesn't move through the day," explains Goss.
Color correcting can be an integral part of the foundation process, and involves using a color (like green) that cancels out redness. "If you suffer from pigmentation such as psoriasis, acne, or rosacea, I would recommend using a color corrector instead of concealer before foundation application," suggests Davies. "This will give a much smoother finish than concealer and is much more effective in terms of camouflage. Choose green for red pigmentation and apricot for dark blemishes, such as under-eye areas or sun damage."
Treating Your Under-Eyes Like the Rest of Your Face
When concealing under the eyes, Olivia Chantecaille, creative director at Chantecaille, says, "I typically use one that is a shade lighter than my foundation, because the under eye area has thinner skin and less color than my cheek below. It ends up looking perfectly harmonious."
Visible Brush Marks
Brush marks, especially when using a flat foundation brush, can easily happen, but they're also easy to avoid. "If your brush is leaving brush marks, A) the brush is poor quality, or B) you're not setting the makeup properly with power, so when you go to apply blusher, for example, the brush with the blusher is moving the foundation underneath. Setting is key," explains Goss.
But once brush marks occur, don't worry; you can easily blend them away. "A great way to erase brush marks is by finishing with a kabuki brush in a gentle circular motion. It blends everything in for a completely natural-looking no-makeup effect," recommends Chantecaille.
Visible Foundation in the Hairline
Unless you give your hairline a good inspection before applying your foundation, it's easy to miss. "Around the hairline is always the telltale sign that you're wearing makeup," says Davies. "My top tip is to avoid taking foundation too close toward this area and simply warm up the hairline using a natural bronzer with a fluffy eyeshadow brush, such as the Bobbi Brown Eye Blender Brush ($44)."
Using Too Much Product
"First things first: Less is more! Most foundations on the market these days describe themselves as buildable, and the clue is in the 'build.' Start with a very fine lightweight layer all over the complexion. The size of one pump is usually plenty, and then in a 'stippling' motion, build coverage where it's needed. This is typically in the center of the face, and then I blend outward," explains Davies.
"Another main culprit for the 'cakey look' is powder. I often witness ladies applying a thick pressed powder straight onto wet foundation, which causes the foundation to patch and look cakey. Instead, I recommend an ultra-lightweight, loose, transparent powder applied after about 30 seconds to set everything in place."
Goss recommends using a Beautyblender ($20). "The more you blend and press, the more real the skin will look," he explains. "And keep in mind that the more moisturizer you use, the more powder you can use without getting a cakey effect. However, the opposite is true if you're using a primer. Use less powder, as primer tends to grab."