Applying foundation is an acquired skill. There are so many small little missteps that can lead to cakey, patchy or otherwise poorly applied foundation. Makeup artist and product development manager of Crunchi Cosmetics Kristen Fortier says a myriad of factors “can make or break how your foundation applies and looks on the skin.” We heard from makeup artists about the biggest mistakes you’re likely making when applying foundation.
Using the wrong shade
Cofounder of NUDESTIX, Taylor Frankel, says one of the biggest mistakes she sees when it comes to foundation is people selecting the wrong shade. Be sure to get shade matched by an expert or test a few shades in stores before committing. “When someone uses the wrong shade of foundation, their skill level has to be elevated to make it look natural,” says CEO of Beautyblender and celebrity makeup artist Rea Ann Silva, otherwise it won’t look right.
Not prepping correctly
“The right prep is key and can change the entire application. Making sure you moisturize and prime will be a game changer in the application process,” says global beauty director and head of artistry for Stila Cosmetics, Charlie Riddle. He suggests looking for a product like One Step Correct ($36) that hydrates, color corrects and evens out skin tone, so you’ll end up needing less coverage.
“When looking for a primer, you need to consider what performance and benefits you are looking for to meet your specific needs. With any primer, always look for one that will create a beautiful even base for makeup application and help your products stay in place,” says Fortier. She recommends Smart Primer ($50). “It meets not only all the performance needs but also has a variety of skin-nourishing ingredients to hydrate the skin and provide a youthful, natural glow.”
Using the wrong applicator
Frankel says applying foundation with the wrong tool can alter the finish or coverage of the product. Test brushes, blenders and other tools to see which suits your skin best.
Not having a good skin-care routine
You need a good canvas for your foundation, so be sure you’re diligent about maintaining a solid skin-care routine. “Your skin-care routine doesn’t have to be extensive, it just needs to be consistent, and most importantly, it needs to be right for your individual skin type,” says Fortier.
Using the wrong amount of coverage
When picking foundation, there’s a wide range of coverage from light to full. If you’re having trouble finding a good color match, Riddle suggests going with a light-medium coverage which is more adaptable to skin than full coverage.
Not selecting a formula based on your skin type
“It is so important to select a foundation that is best suited for your skin type and age,” says Frankel. For example, “if you have oily skin, select a foundation with a demi-matte finish, while dry skin types should opt for a hydrating, glowing finish.”
Silva notes that if you have oily skin “the formulation of the foundation is important because you don’t want to look greasy. If you’re already oily and you want a shiny finish, you still will want coverage, but you don’t want to look wet.” On the other hand, “If you have dry skin and want a radiant finish, you need to make sure you’re using a formulation that is going to give you enough long-wearing moisture.” For a radiant finish, she recommends Always On Radiant Skin Tint ($29).
Using foundation as concealer
We’ve all been there, layering on foundation in hopes to cover a blemish, but Fortier says this isn’t advisable. “I recommend spot concealing any blemishes instead of packing on any additional foundation,” says Fortier. This will keep the skin looking and feeling light and fresh and will help avoid creating a ‘cakey’ heavy look.”
Not knowing how to apply foundation
There are a handful of ways you can apply foundation, so do a bit of trial and error of what works best for your skin. To start, Fortier recommends “putting the foundation on the back of the hand and then applying it with a dense round foundation brush like No. 1 Flat Top Brush ($46). Start by applying the foundation by stippling or pressing it into the skin and then using gentle circular motions to create an even, airbrushed finish,” suggests Fortier. She recommends starting with less foundation and adding as needed.