There’s foundation. And then there’s Sweet Jesus, your skin looks amazing. The difference between the two: a makeup artist is usually responsible for the latter. (Think of all those times you had your makeup done for a wedding or a big event…and how awesome your skin looked.) To figure out how to apply our base better, we reached out to some of the best makeup artists in the business (including the one and only Laura Mercier and every It-girl’s go-to guy, Hung Vanngo), to find out everything we could about putting on foundation, including how to pick out your perfect shade, what tools to use to avoid streaks and splotches, how to cover fine lines and large zits, and why you might be wearing too much foundation. Below, the best makeup artist tips to get you from start to flawless finish.
Pick Out the Right Shade and Formula.
“When you’re buying a new foundation, test a few shades in natural light, then squint. The color that disappears when you squint is your match.” — Nick Barose
“You don’t want your face darker than your neck — test shades around your jawline, or dust bronzer on your neck to even everything out.” — Jillian Dempsey
“Buy a foundation in two shades: one for imperfections and a lighter shade to highlight your chin, cheekbones, and the bridge of your nose. — AJ Crimson
“If you can’t find a perfect shade__, buy one that’s slightly darker than your skin and one that’s slightly lighter, then fine-tune the color yourself.” — Lora Arellano
” For photo ops, use a primer and a sheer matte foundation. Luminous formulas look shiny in pictures.” — Nick Barose, Lupita Nyong’o’s go-to makeup artist
“Most oil-free foundations oxidize — turn yellow or orange — on oily skin throughout the day, so test them for a few hours before you buy one.” — Laura Mercier
Arm Yourself With the Right Tools.
“Look for rounded foundation brushes with synthetic hairs — they’re usually labeled powder brushes, but they’re the best for blending.” — Arellano
“Small, fluffy synthetic brushes are fantastic for blending concealer over redness and imperfections on the chin, forehead, and nostrils” — Linda Cantello
“Mist a fluffy brush with facial spray, and press it over your makeup — foundation, blush, bronzer, highlighter — to make everything look more like skin.” — Arellano
“Buff, buff, buff foundation into the skin — quickly, like a whirlwind — with a brush. It ensures the coverage won’t look heavy-handed.” — Vincent Oquendo
“Put on foundation, and then press it into your skin with a damp sponge until it’s seamlessly blended.”— Patrick Ta
Or Just Use Your Hands.
“I like to apply foundation with my hands to help warm it up, press it into the skin and into the contours of the skin. I usually go in outward, circular motions. Then, I fine-tune any additional blending with a clean foundation brush.” — Joseph Carrillo, who’s worked with Alexa Chung, Portia Doubleday, and Lily Rabe
“Use the natural warmth that emanates from your fingers to help diffuse the product, taking special care to blend well on the chin and jawline, as well as down the nose. Here is where Beautyblender (or any great blending sponge) is your best friend, as it really pushes the product into the skin and erases any ‘makeup-y’ texture — a telltale sign of badly applied foundation.” — Suzy Gerstein, who’s worked with St. Vincent and Camilla Belle
“I love starting with a sheer, lightweight foundation, blending it all over, and massaging into my face with my fingertips. This way, all the product is being blended into your skin and not being eaten up by your sponge or brush. This should give you a smooth veil of coverage, eliminating any redness or unevenness.” —Joey Camasta, director of makeup artistry at Ready to Wear Beauty
The Secret is in the Prep.
“To achieve a glowy look, start with your skin-care routine. I like to use a face oilbefore I prime the skin, and then I follow with foundation.” —Matin, who’s worked with Claire Danes, Lena Dunham, and Tracee Ellis Ross
” Prepping skin gives you gorgeous, dewy foundation. Use face oil mixed with moisturizer on your cheekbones, chin, and the peak of your forehead.” — Patrick Ta
“Mix water into foundation right before application. It adds moisture without any excess oil and makes the skin look even more radiant.” —Rebecca Restrepo, who’s worked with Mandy Moore, America Ferrara, and Emily Blunt
“Add foundation to your moisturizer if you want a lighter application, and in winter when your skin is really dry, I like to add a little bit of a superlight face oil to foundation, so I get coverage and hydrate my skin.” —Fabiola, who’s worked with Hilary Swank, Katie Holmes, and Jennifer Garner
“Unless you have dry or mature skin, I recommend distributing day cream more on the cheek area than in the T-zone to avoid unwanted mid-day shine post-foundation application.” —Ma
“If you’ve got dry patches, press a small piece of Scotch tape over the area before you do your makeup. It’ll remove skin that’s ready to slough off.” — Robin Black of Beauty is Boring
“Use an eye shadow primer on wrinkles to prevent creasing and create an even canvas for makeup.”— Hung Vanngo
“When skin has a raised or bumpy texture, use primer and a creamy foundation. It’ll be just thick enough to smooth over the unevenness.” — Mary Phillips
You Might be Using Too Much Foundation…
“It’s very French to let your skin show through your foundation. After you’ve put yours on, press a tissue on top to remove excess.”— Mercier
“Don’t erase your skin.__ Foundation is meant to give you a cleaner palette, and then you can dab concealer on top where you need more coverage.” — Black
“Your main focus should be using foundation more so on spots where [more coverage is] needed, like around the nose and eyes. Then, blend by dabbing (not rubbing!) with a Beautyblender to make your foundation one with your skin.” —Azra Red, who works with Honey Artists
“By applying five dots of foundation—one each on your cheeks, forehead, chin, and neck—and distributing outward in circular motions using a foundation brush will give you a flawless result.” —Ermahn Ospina, who’s worked with Sarah Michelle Gellar, Carla Gugino, and Rosario Dawson
“Apply foundation sparingly — and only to the parts of the skin that need to be evened out. This way, you have some barer areas of the complexion, which gives the overall look a more natural finish.” —Molly R. Stern, who’s worked with celebrities including Reese Witherspoon, Lily Collins, and Mandy Moore
“For subtle dimension, apply foundation where you need it, then tap concealer on the bridge and tip of your nose, center of your forehead, chin, and Cupid’s bow. — Ta
” To avoid creasing, put foundation on smooth, unlined areas first, like your cheeks. Blend from there, skipping crow’s-feet and smile lines.” — Mercier
…And Forgetting About Concealers.__
“Cover redness or acne with foundation, then concealer. Use a brush on pimples — fingers push makeup aside instead of covering the top of a blemish.” — Mercier
“On sun spots, use a concealer that’s a shade lighter than your skin with peach or gold undertones; top it with a pressed-powder foundation.” — Mally Roncal
“A lot of people have redness and imperfections around their lip line. Cover them with a little concealer.” — Cantello
“Although, don’t use undereye concealers__ on the rest of your face. Most have light-reflecting pigments that call attention to spots like, “Hello! Here I am!” — Cantello
Add the Perfect Finish.
“I always contour because a solid base often looks flat. Using a foundation about three shades darker than your usual formula as a contour helps refine, resculpt, add warmth, and define. I like to warm up the hairline, temples, and under the natural contour of the cheekbones with this darker shade. ” — Carrillo
“You can set foundation without caking on powder. Separate a two-ply tissue, place half over your skin, then dust loose powder on top.” — Crimson
If You Really Want to Glow….
“After applying foundation, spray a skin-soothing mist onto the large, flat side of a damp Beautyblender and press it into your skin all over to diffuse the look of ‘makeup’ and give you a very natural, hydrated complexion.” —Michael Anthony, who’s worked with Allison Williams, Tinashe, and Rita Ora
” Mix foundation with a few drops of a shimmering gel highlighter to create an allover, yet still natural-looking, glow.” —Vanngo
“Finish by tapping a hyaluronic acid serum over foundation on your cheekbones and temples for a natural-looking glow.” — Black
Rethink Your Touch-Ups.
“Instead of using setting powder for shine control touch-ups throughout the day, use blotting papers to avoid looking like you have too much makeup on.” —Min Min Ma, who’s worked with Zosia Mamet, Grimes, and Mia Wasikowska
“Rather than reapplying in the afternoon, try freshening up makeup throughout the day with a spritz of toner—I use Allies of Skin Molecular Saviour Toner Mist. This reactivates the pigments in foundation and leaves the skin feeling hydrated, fresh, and glowing—not to mention making foundation look fresh.” —Aidan Keogh, who is part of Honey Artists
“Keep the shine down the center of your nose and on the apples of your cheeks when brushing on setting powder or using blotting papers so skin still looks like [actual] skin.” — Gerstein
“When touching up, use a foundation brush to swirl moisturizer over your skin before adding more foundation.” — Phillips
“Pimples work their way through foundation one way or another. Touch up with concealer and a brush (layering on foundation gets cakey).”— Mercier