When it comes to creating flawless complexions that look like they were blessed by a choir of heavenly angels, nobody knows more than celebrity makeup artists. They can get creative with a cat-eye, or craft a killer oxblood lip, but the foundation (pun intended) for it all is perfect, natural-looking skin.
With the help of their holy-grail foundation (and a few insider tricks), these seasoned makeup artists are able to mask redness, conceal blemishes, smooth uneven texture, and induce glow where there once was none—and all without skin looking overly “done.” Which is why we asked six top makeup artists to reveal their all-time favorite foundation. These are the foundations they cannot work without, that have changed their game, and flatter a variety of skin tones.
Makeup Artist: Carl Ray
Clients: First Lady Michelle Obama, Natalie Portman, Claire Danes
Favorite Foundation and Application Tip: “One of my favorite foundations that can always be found in my kit is Make Up For Ever HD Invisible Cover Foundation ($43). It's oil-free and has a medium to full coverage. The formula covers all your skins imperfections, while remaining invisible on screen and in real life. It comes in 26 shades that are easy to mix and match to make the perfect shade for any skin type. I use a blender sponge for a flawless finish, and always use a moisturizer and a face primer before applying foundation.”
Makeup Artist: Kate Lee
Clients: Keira Knightley, Anne Hathaway, Rooney Mara
Favorite Foundation and Application Tip: “Chanel Vitalumière Aqua Ultra-Light Skin Perfecting Sunscreen Makeup SPF 15 ($47) is my cannot-live-without product for life. The formulation is so light and luminous, and it’s easy to use. This foundation just looks like a more perfect version of your own skin. You can apply with your fingertips, but the most flawless way to apply is to place dabs of foundation in the larger areas of the face, starting with cheeks, then forehead and chin, and then take a Beauty Blender ($20) dampened with Chanel Hydra Beauty Essence Mist ($90) and gently blend till the product is invisible. You are left with a radiant complexion, and a little protection from harmful UV rays.”
Makeup Artist: Beau Nelson
Clients: Nicole Richie, Kristen Stewart, Nina Dobrev
Favorite Foundation and Application Tip: "I’ve tried many foundations over the years and the 2 I ALWAYS have in my kit are Armani Luminous Silk ($64) and Cinema Secrets creme foundation ($24). Luminous Silk is a staple in my kit because it gives even buildable coverage that looks like real skin, but can also be stippled on for more complete coverage If needed.
Cinema Secrets creme foundation is a pro secret that not a lot of consumers have discovered. I use it on a rounded fluffy brush medium blush brush in small circular motions, building thin layers which gives me an airbrushed effect and allows me to choose which areas to cover more. It’s also amazing for using more than one time of foundation which I often do on anyone medium skin tone or darker because it melds so well on the skin and blends so easily that it’s undetectable.
All that being said I am very much anticipating the new Pat McGrath foundation which I’ve heard is going to be game changing!"
Makeup Artist: Tamah
Clients: Alexa Chung, Allison Williams, Elisabeth Moss
Favorite Foundation and Application Tip: "My holy grail foundations are the Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Moisture Foundation ($62), and the Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation ($62)," Tamah told us back in 2015. "When it comes to foundation Koh Gen Do can do no wrong! I have never met a foundation that enhances skin as perfectly as these gems. Not only do I use them on my clients, I use them on myself. Both are luminous without being shiny, and have enough pigment to conceal without blanketing the skin in makeup. I usually don't need to use any additional concealer when I use these—they do it all! They’re also great if you want to just spot conceal—they’re great alone under the eyes, around the nose, etc. The Moisture formula is a bit creamier in consistency, while the Aqua is more of a traditional liquid formula. I usually apply them with a soft brush, but they are easily applied with fingers or a sponge as well. A little goes a long way, so start small; a mini squeeze or one or two pumps usually do the trick."
However, now, while Koh Gen Do is still her top pick, she goes for a bit broader of a range: "I love the Surratt foundation ($65), I have rediscovered my love for the Armani line and love the Charlotte Tilbury as well. My drug store pick is the L’Oréal Pro-Glow."
Makeup Artist: Nick Barose
Clients: Lupita Nyong'o, Uzo Aduba, Lena Dunham
Favorite Foundation and Application Tip: “The look of the new Lancôme Miracle Cushion Foundation is really natural and easy to apply; it gives good buildable coverage that can be really sheer, or you can layer for medium coverage. The cushion compact makes it easy to travel with, and you can use it to do spot coverage. It's perfect to carry around in your bag, easy to use, and not messy. It also comes in a range of shades from fair to deep dark. After applying moisturizer and letting it set, I apply the foundation with the sponge puff that comes with it, gently padding it starting from the center of the face and blending outwards."
Makeup Artist: Quinn Murphy
Clients: Lily Aldridge, Kate Upton, Nicola Peltz
Favorite Foundation and Application Tip: In 2015, Quinn told us: "My go to favorite foundation is Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ($62). To date, I have not found a prettier, smoother, and more realistic foundation than this. Also it has the best shade range, and the shades cover a large range of skin tones, so most people can find an exact match. The foundation is sheer and dries down to a glowing, slightly matte skin-like texture. It is easily blendable on the skin. I like to play with the coverage. For women who only need a tiny bit of unification on the skin, I will add a drop of a dry face oil (Nuxe Multi-Usage Dry Oil, $29 or Tarte Maracuja Oil, $46) to sheet it out. For those needing a bit more coverage, the formula is buildable and mixes well with other fuller coverage foundations."
We caught up with him again to see if this remains true. "I still love it," he told us. "And I also love Koh Gen Do aqua foundation for people who want sheer coverage. It has a natural glowy finish and photographs so beautifully."
Makeup Artist: Melissa Rogers
Clients: Jessica Michel, Stellaire Collection
Favorite Foundation and Application Tip: "As an artist, I generally tend to go towards tinted moisturizers and use concealers to cover areas that need a little more attention. I like to see skin rather than a face full of heavy, caked on makeup. However, there are times when it is necessary to use something heavier. Perhaps the skin needs more coverage or the lighting is too harsh. Having said that here is my fave:
1. Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer ($47)—I love them all as they are oil free, illuminating, and the new natural skin perfector. I have used them for years and it has consistently been my first choice. Packaged in a tube, they offer a wide range of shades to suit most skin types with an SPF of 30. It has enough coverage to even out skin tone while leaving it dewy and glowing. It also never cakes and stays on for hours. I either apply it with a brush, beauty blender or fingertips. One of my secret tricks (not anymore) is after I’ve applied the tinted moisturizer, I then dab the illuminating one on top of cheek bones, temples, chin and brow bone as an added boost of light catching highlight to help radiate.
2. Chanel CC Cream ($55)—If I want a little extra coverage but still a nice luminous glow, these little tubes are wonderful. It's not quite a tinted moisturizer and not as heavy as foundation and it stays on throughout the day. They have a variety of tones that also smell lovely and have SPF 50."
Makeup Artist: Timothy MacKay
Clients: Andrea Boehlke, Nastia Liukin, Makho Ndlovu
Favorite Foundation and Application Tip: "My favorite foundation is the Dior Backstage Foundation ($40)! I love it because it looks gorgeous on video, in photos, and in person! It comes in 40 waterproof shades that aren’t just yellow or pink, they have some olive, neutral, beige, and more. For a face and body foundation I love that it’s not too watery. It gives beautiful coverage that’s beautiful and has a natural finish. It gives a subtle glow that never looks greasy or too wet. It’s fantastic!"