Makeup tips: Foundation

Foundation is the most important step in makeup—mess it up and the rest of your makeup won’t hold. But it’s also where women have the most trouble. If you can’t seem to get your foundation right, read this quick guide to help you with the basics.
Makeup tips: Foundation

Does your makeup tend to stick, run, or blot as you go through your day? Chances are you’re committing the classic makeup mistake: using the wrong foundation, or if you’re a real makeup newbie, not even wearing any.

Foundation is to makeup what primer is to wall painting. It sets a clean canvas for the rest of your makeup, so they all blend together in a uniform background. Most experts agree that it’s the most important step in makeup. Without foundation, applying the rest of your makeup is like painting a dirty, splintered wall.

Unfortunately, this is where most women slip. If you start off with the wrong shade or texture, not even the best liner or eye shadow can make up for it. So how do you get your foundation right? This quick guide shows you how.

Choosing a texture

Foundation comes in three main forms: liquid, cream, and powder compact. Liquid foundations are designed for normal skin and create a smooth, natural look. They work best on tans and dark shades. Foundation creams usually come with moisturizers and are best suited for dry skin. They are also easier to apply in dots, so they’re great for covering up scars and dark spots.

The most common form is the compact or three-in-one foundation. This one comes in a compact case and is applied with a sponge or towel. It comes in a wide range of shades and gives off a matte finish, making it perfect for oily skin. It also works well if you’re using loose or shimmery makeup.

Choosing a shade

When choosing a shade, the only rule is to match your skin tone as closely as possible. Don’t cheat by going a few shades lighter or darker to get the tone you want, unless you have enough foundation to cover all of your exposed skin. To test for shade, rub a bit onto your skin—choose a patch that most closely matches your face color—and look for one that blends right in. Your wrist and arms are usually a bad match; try your neck or jaw line. Go for a slightly darker shade in the summer, as your skin will naturally tan. Note that you may need more than one layer to get your desired shade.

Moisturizing and concealing

Before applying your foundation, wash your face with soap and water and wipe dry with a clean towel. Apply a moisturizer suited to your skin (it usually indicates skin type on the label) and let it set for a few minutes. You may have to wait longer if you have very dry skin. Make sure there’s completely no moisturizer left on the surface, or your foundation and the rest of your makeup will slide off. Ten minutes should be enough.

Next, apply concealer to blemishes such as scars, pimples, and the dark circles under your eyes. Again, use a shade that disappears right into your skin, but is slightly lighter than your foundation. Apply just enough to cover the blemishes, but don’t layer it too thick or it will bulge under your foundation.

Applying your foundation

Use a cosmetic sponge to apply foundation. Don’t use your fingertips—they tend to be uneven and may mix oil into the makeup. Moisten the sponge with clean water—just a sprinkle should be enough—and dab onto the foundation before applying. The water will help spread it around easier and achieve a smoother finish. Make sure to cover everything up to your jaw line, ears and hairline. You can use your fingertips for the edges. Rub in a uniform direction towards the neck area, so that it doesn’t form a line around your face.

Blending can be tricky, but it’s the most important thing when applying foundation. The nose, hair line, and jaw line are particularly difficult, so pay extra attention to these areas. Be sure to do it in clear, natural light, so you can be sure it’ll look fine in any lighting.

Setting the foundation

If your foundation isn’t the day-long kind, you may want to set it with powder to make sure it stays on. Simply brush it with light powder in a shade as close to the foundation as possible. This will make your foundation last longer and prevent oil from seeping through. If you do get oily during the day, just blot it out and reapply the powder. This also works when you’re using loose eye shadow—just dust it lightly with powder to seal it in.