It Took 2 $9 Foundations to Make Issa Rae's Skin Glow to the Gods at the Emmys

Updated 09/18/18

The second celebrity makeup artist Joanna Simkin finishes Issa Rae's makeup for the 2018 Emmys, she calls me on the phone to spill every detail. "I'm in a crazy hotel lobby right now," she says. "It's nuts in here. Cara Delevingne just walked by and mooned someone."

As much as I would love to hear more about Simkin's Delevingne derrière sighting, we're on the phone for one reason: to get the 411 on the badass television star's red carpet makeup. Since Insecure premiered on HBO in 2016, Rae has established herself as a complexion icon; every time she walks the red carpet, the internet collectively flips out over her impossibly flawless skin. "Obviously, we know her skin is the centerpiece of her beauty," Simkin says over the phone.

To make Rae's skin look as stunning as ever, Simkin used a very specific and clever combination of three face makeup products—and best of all, they all cost $10 or less. Keep reading to get the deets.

Issa Rae
John Shearer/Getty

"I wanted a long-wear look, but I really wanted it to glow," Simkin tells me. (Rae is consistently all about the glow, never wearing makeup that's all matte.) Simkin used CoverGirl TruBlend Matte Foundation ($9), which gives that long-wearing, matte-but-not-overly-matte appearance.

CoverGirl TruBlend Matte Foundation $9
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To get the most natural-looking, flawless finish, Simkin reveals a technique she typically keeps to herself: She used two foundations on Rae's face, not just one. "Women with darker skin should know there are multiple tones to their face, so they should go in knowing they'll need more than one color," she says. "I think a lot of the time people feel intimidating about buying two. But understanding your undertones and multi-tones is really important."

Simkin finds that it's flattering on almost everyone to use a warm-toned foundation as a highlight in the center of the face, where the skin is naturally a bit lighter. "Women of color have natural dimension—darker on the outside of the face, lighter on the inside. Which is what the whole contour craze aims to create. Women of color have that naturally," she says.

Equally, almost everyone should choose a cooler tone for the outside of the face. "That's what's going to give you dimension that blends seamlessly. Your face is going to pick up light where it needs to with a warm highlight and absorb light where it needs to with the cool tones on the outer edges of the face. It's gonna blend together and make you glow," says Simkin, adding, "The awesome thing about drugstore shopping is, well, you can say, lemme buy four colors because it's a great price point."

CoverGirl TruBlend Super Stunner Palette $10
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On Rae, Simkin applied CoverGirl's TruBlend Matte Foundation in the shade D80 on the outside of the face and D60 on the center of the face.

Then, to make sure Rae really glowed to the gods, Simkin cleverly used a powder highlighter to set the actress's face before going in with traditional setting powder. "My favorite tactic is setting the highpoints of her face before doing any kind of setting powder with highlight powder from the Super Stunner palette in Glowing Up ($10). I put that directly on the damp foundations: on her cheekbones, brow bones, Cupid's bow, bridge of her nose, etc.," says Simkin.

CoverGirl Jewels TruNaked Dazed Palette $13
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She finished the look with a Cinderella-blue eye shadow to match the color of Rae's Vera Wang dress. (For this, she blended a bright peacock blue shade from the CoverGirl Jewels TruNaked Dazed Palette, $13, with the icy center shade from the CoverGirl Super Stunner Palette in It's Lit, $10.)

The result? A red carpet makeup look the internet will surely be flipping out over all night.

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