How do you know when you’ve nailed foundation application? When someone comments on how great your skin looks. Of course, some women love a full-coverage look (to each their own), and a little more makeup can work wonders in photos, but it’s actually much harder to nail the everyday no-makeup makeup look. Trust us, we hear it time and again from the world’s biggest makeup artists. And the secret isn’t just in the color-matching; oh no, there’s a bit more to it than that.
Luckily we’ve called on two expert makeup artists, Fred Letailleur, national artist for YSL Beauty, and Hannah Martin, senior pro artist at Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, to break it down for you. From finding the right texture for your skin type to smoothing over pores (a skill you may have thought only Facetune had nailed), this is how to fake flawless skin every day.
First things first: You need to find your perfect color match. Sure, you can try the color on your jawline—the shade that looks invisible in daylight will be the best match, so head outside to have a closer look—but if you’re heading to a counter with a makeup expert to hand, get them to apply the foundation all over.
“Colour-matching on your hand, neck or even a tiny swatch on your jawline won’t give an accurate idea of how it’s going to look, as hands and necks are often a different tone to the face,” explains Martin. What’s more, “Tide lines on the jawline is a sign of a too-extreme color mismatch,” says Letailleur. If you do want to warm up your complexion, it’s always better to do this with a dusting of bronzer rather than your foundation.
The Right Texture and Tools
While color-matching is imperative, texture is key too, and it’s very much dependent on your skin type. Drier skin types will benefit from a liquid or cream, whereas normal skin types can opt for liquid, cream or powder, depending on your preference. If you have oily skin, you may think powders will help mattify, but the mix of powder and sebum can lead to caking; a lightweight liquid with a fine dusting of powder on the T-zone is best.
Of course, it does depend on personal preference and the finish you’re after too. “The best way to apply a liquid foundation is with a short, dense brush,” explains Letailleur. “Use it in circular movements for a light-to-medium coverage, loading the brush according to how much coverage you prefer, or dab with the flat of the brush to build the coverage or cover troublesome areas.”
Creamy textures tend to offer more coverage and can be trickier to blend for a no-makeup makeup result. Letailleur recommends using a Beautyblender to apply and then following up with a YSL Polishing Brush ($57) to perfect the result.
Finally, powder foundation offers a medium coverage too, and according to Letailleur can “smooth out open pores and mattify excess radiance.” If you’re using a setting powder to take down unwanted shine, Letailleur advises you proceed with caution: “Powder should be only used lightly over the center of the skin to keep the result natural, as it is the main culprit for heavy-looking foundations or caking.” Powder can exacerbate the look of fine lines or skin dryness too, so tweak your application according to the seasons. “Apply it more lightly in the winter and more heavily in the summer,” he advises.
Now seems like a good point to talk about baking, the technique of applying a thick layer of loose powder and letting it set for 10 minutes before brushing off the excess. “Let’s be honest; it is a great trend that sets the foundation. However, it also dries up and suffocates the skin in the process, which enhances fine lines. So if you have youthful skin and want to look flawless, by all means, go for it. However, it can lead to a loss of control of the final result and feel heavy on the skin. It’s great for a night out, but day to day, nope.”
How often do you actually look at your whole face before you apply your foundation? “Often we only need full coverage in certain areas, not all over,” says Martin. “I suggest, for the most natural look, that you apply your foundation where necessary, and then zero in on blemishes with a concealer. This will ensure you get the coverage you need but avoids you overloading your skin with makeup or covering any good areas unnecessarily.”
A Smooth Finish
To trick everyone into thinking your foundation is actually your skin, you need a smooth finish. “If your foundation is looking streaky, it’s usually one of two things: either your skin wasn’t hydrated enough before you applied it so it’s dragging, or your foundation brush is in need of a clean,” explains Martin. Who knew? *Reaches for brush cleaner.*
“If you struggle with large open pores, you’ll benefit from prepping under your makeup with a primer,” she says. Try Benefit’s The Porefessional ($32) it blurs the look of pores, smoothes the skin and helps to control excess oil. Martin also advises really buffing your foundation into troublesome areas like around the nose with a small brush. “This works the makeup into the skin, rather than letting it sit on top and possibly exacerbate the look of texture.”
Bring Your New "Skin" to Life
Once you have applied your foundation, step back and take a look both from afar and then close up. If the application feels a little heavy, Martin advises “gently patting your skin with your naturally warm fingertips to help blend the foundation further and melt the makeup into the skin making it look more natural. This will help you avoid that cakey look.”
If you have overdone it and a pat, pat, pat hasn’t worked, Letailleur suggests “misting the face with a little water spray. This will bring back new life to an over-powdered or made-up skin.”
Your Foundation Kit
Okay, so now that you know what you’re doing, here are our favorite full-coverage foundations of all time.