How to Make Foundation Look Natural Every Time, According to Top Makeup Artists

model natural skin

Lorenzo Palizzolo / Contributor / Getty Images

It's funny—our bathroom vanities and office desks are sprawled with makeup products, our purses practically serve as a catchall for every rogue lipstick and balm there ever was, and yet we're fully on board with the natural-makeup movement. We wouldn't consider ourselves walking contradictions, though. No, we can still play and test out different colors and products while having a light hand and knowing how and where to apply for a less-is-more kind of look.

Arguably the most important aspect of natural makeup is foundation application. If your base looks too caked-on, the quest for a natural, fresh look will fall flat. The key is to still be able to see your skin without a thick layer (or, okay two) of foundation hiding your beautiful complexion. To make sure we get this step right every time, we turned to some top makeup artists for their feedback.

Ahead, top makeup artists share their genius tips on how to make foundation look natural.

Prep Your Skin With Hydration

Water Velvet Cream
Seiso JBeauty Water Velvet Cream $65.00

Dry skin and foundation is like oil and water—they just don't mix well. Rather, celebrity makeup artist Tina Turnbow stresses the importance of maintaining proper skin hydration prior to painting on a layer of foundation. "Make sure that you have no dry patches as it can make the skin rough, and foundation will not go on as smoothly," she explains. This can be achieved with a cream that's thick enough to hydrate but thin enough to look good underneath foundation, like this hyaluronic acid-infused pick from Seiso JBeauty.

Use a Variety of Primers

Secure Skin Gripping Serum Primer
LYS Beauty Secure Skin Gripping Serum Primer $20.00

You've heard of multi-masking, but according to makeup artist Kirin Bhatty, the same logic can be applied to primers. "I use layers of different primers for different parts of the face so that when I'm using foundation and concealers, it's more of a spot treatment versus creating an entirely new base for the face," explains Bhatty. For example, if you're looking to cut down shine on the forehead, nose, and chin, a mattifying primer like this one from LYS Beauty can be used on these areas. If you're struggling with enlarged pores, a blurring primer on those areas will do the trick.

Thin Out Foundation With a Moisturizer

Kate Somerville Goat Milk Moisturizing Cream $70.00

Bhatty likes to use moisturizer to make her own bespoke foundation—the moisturizer essentially thins out the foundation formula to get the most natural coverage. "The best way to do this is to add a drop or two of your foundation to your moisturizer," she says. "This will turn your foundation into a tinted moisturizer and bring the coverage down to a more natural finish." She recommends Kate Somerville's Goat Milk Cream for this, as it's "super gentle and hydrating without being too oily, which can cause your foundation to separate."

Boost Your Glow with Liquid Highlighter

Fluid Sheer Glow Enhancer Highlighter
Armani Beauty Fluid Sheer Glow Enhancer Highlighter $38.00

If dewy skin is the game, liquid highlighter is the name. "Adding a drop of liquid highlighter is always a great way to make foundation look more dewy and bright," says Bhatty. Try Armani fluid sheers—they're illuminating without being glittery (aka the perfect base for foundation).

Liquid highlighters don't have to be mixed in with your foundation to reap their dewy benefits. If you'd rather highlight certain points of the skin, lightly tap the product onto the desired areas and push it in with a beauty sponge.

Spot Conceal With Foundation

Hydromaniac Glowy Tinted Hydrator Foundation
Urban Decay Cosmetics Hydromaniac Glowy Tinted Hydrator Foundation $29.00

When it comes down to it, if your skin doesn't require allover coverage, try applying it only in the areas that need it most for the most natural coverage. Says makeup artist Suzy Gerstein, "Only apply foundation where needed—you usually need less product than you think." A liquid product with a thin consistency (like this one from Urban Decay) would work best for this trick—just use a beauty sponge to blend out the edges.

Know Your Skin Type

Pretty Natural Hydrating Foundation
Essence Pretty Natural Hydrating Foundation $7.00

Perhaps one of the most obvious (yet important) part of foundation-picking is opting for one that suits your specific skin type. Gerstein recommends a a moisturizing formula if you have dry skin (cue this one from Essence) and a matte finish formula if your skin skews oily. Also, product type matters—if you're oily, you can get away with using a foundation balm whereas dryer skin types may be better suited with a more liquidy consistency.

Find Your Correct Color Match

Of course, having a foundation that's darker than your neck or too light for your natural skin tone is a dead giveaway that you're wearing foundation. To avoid this, try these tips from Kristine Cruz, senior makeup artist at Antonio Prieto Salon: "Our skin has undertones of cool or warm. If you have pink undertones, you are on the cool side, and if you have golden undertones, you're on the warm side." Still stuck? Cruz recommends choosing three foundations closest to your skin tone and applying a sample of each on your jaw down to your neck. Whichever one appears invisible is your match.

Skip the Contour

Glow Time Blush Stick
Jane Iredale Glow Time Blush Stick $38.00

Contouring your face with sculpting products is good for glam makeup days, but if you're looking to acheive a more natural look, makeup artist Aidan Keogh says to skip the step altogether. Instead, he recommends opting for blush luminators and highlighters, and tapping onto the high planes and a touch down the center of the nose for an instant glow-and-go. This glowing blush stick from Jane Iredale boasts a creamy formula that's great for brightening up skin throughout the day.

Blot, Don't Dust

Japanese Blotting Papers
Tatcha Japanese Blotting Papers $12.00

To hide shine, skip dusting on loose powder and instead reach for the blotting papers. Says Gerstein, "Instead of overzealously powdering, which can lead to an unnatural-looking appearance, I like to press a Tatcha Beauty Paper over where I've applied foundation to soak up any excess oil and set the product in place." Not only does this step cut shine, but it leaves behind a flattering glow, too.

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