The whole point of foundation is to make skin look so completely flawless and natural that no one suspects you’re wearing anything at all. But any makeup artist will tell you foundation is actually one of the trickiest products to master. So how can you crush it like a pro? First, choose a liquid formula, which “is buildable, looks more natural than a cream or powder, and mimics the texture of actual skin,” says celebrity makeup artist Jenn Streicher, who has worked with the likes of Lily James and Emily Blunt. Then crib these clever tips:
1. Prep your skin. Rough, dry patches are foundation’s number-one nemesis—they make application uneven and flaky, no matter how dewy or hydrating your makeup is, says Streicher. To smooth out skin, start by exfoliating with a chemical exfoliator (gritty scrubs can be too harsh), and then slather on moisturizer while your skin is still damp; let it sink in for few minutes before laying down foundation. Primer isn’t necessary for everyday wear, Streicher says, but it can be helpful if you’re trying to combat a specific skin concern like large pores or oiliness.
2. Custom-blend the right shade. We know, it’s a lot to ask. But it’s the trick to ensuring an exact match every time. “Skin tends to be darker in the summer and lighter in the winter, and this method lets you tweak your color year-round,” Streicher says. Get two foundation shades—one lighter and one darker than your natural skin tone—and put a few drops of each on the back of your hand. Mix them together before swiping the combo on your jawline to test. If it blends in seamlessly, apply it all over. If not, play with different ratios of color until you get it just right.
3. Find good light. In other words, get thee to a window. “Natural daylight gives the most accurate impression of how your makeup will look in real life,” Streicher explains. If that’s not an option, try installing bright white light bulbs in your bathroom for the closest approximation of outdoor lighting (avoid warm yellow and cold fluorescent lights at all costs).
4. Use your fingers. Nothing beats them for fast, streak-free coverage, Streicher says. “There’s more leeway with liquid formulas since they’re more sheer and forgiving.” But don’t pile product on haphazardly: Start by dotting foundation on the areas where you need more coverage, like in the T-zone or cheeks, and then spread whatever’s left over the rest of your face.
5. Diffuse with sponge. To get a truly airbrushed finish, apply foundation with your fingers and then tap a damp Beautyblender all over your face to even things out, Streicher suggests: “It blurs hard lines and picks up excess product so foundation never looks cakey.” Also important: running the sponge under your chin and down your neck. For an even glowier look, spritz your sponge with a facial mist that has a touch of oil, such as Caudalie Beauty Elixir.
6. Pat on concealer afterward. You’ll use a lot less than if you put it on before foundation, Streicher says. Her golden rule for perfect concealer: Choose the right texture for the job. Use a creamy, hydrating formula on dark circles (so the cover-up won’t settle into fine lines) and opt for something thicker and drier to cover a pimple—that way it won’t slip off throughout the day.
7. Set it with powder. No, you can’t skip this step. “It’s key for getting foundation to last all day,” Streicher says. Dip a clean makeup puff in loose translucent powder like Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder, fold the puff in half, and rub its sides together until the powder is completely absorbed. Tap off any excess before lightly rolling (swiping will smear foundation) the puff over your skin to seal it all in.