Nailing your foundation is key to pulling off any makeup look, yet this first essential step can be the trickiest of all to master. So we asked Sandy Linter, celebrity makeup artist at New York City’s Rita Hazan Salon and Lancôme beauty expert, where we most often go wrong, as well as how to make it right. Here, five ways you may be messing up:
1. Matching Color Exactly
“Many women get color matched right to skin tone and are unhappy with the results, since it can end up looking too washed out,” says Linter. In these cases, going for a bit warmer of a tone (one that has yellow or golden undertones)—especially if you’re very pale or have aging skin concerns—can actually look more natural and flattering. Topping with a warm shade of blush will also help with tone correction here. If you’re tan or deeper toned, stay away from pinkish hues that can look obvious on skin in natural light.
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2. Concealing with Heavy Coverage
Whether it’s discoloration, blemishes, or fine lines that you want to cover, heaping on heavy foundation will actually draw attention to the difference in skin texture. “Foundation is really meant to enhance what you have or to moderately even out your complexion,” says Linter. Instead, use primers and highlighters to improve the look of discoloration and fine lines, and spot-blend concealer on blemishes instead of caking on the cover-up all over.
3. Using the Wrong Consistency
Whatever kind you use, foundation should seamlessly blend into skin when you apply it, says Linter. That way, you get coverage without heaviness, and the finish appears natural. For dry types, powder formulations can settle into pores and lines, while liquids can look too wet on oily skin. Linter finds that creamy textures often hit the right note of providing flattering coverage with a natural finish on most. This takes some experimentation to find out what looks best on your skin type. (Read our guides to the best foundations for dry skin and the best foundations for oily skin.)
4. Thinking Foundation Looks Aging
“Foundation has a bad rap because it’s been used incorrectly by so many, but don’t be afraid to wear it,” says Linter. The right formula evens out aging issues, like discoloration and pore size, to actually make you appear younger. Plus, other cosmetic helpers you apply—like blush, bronzer, and concealer—can blotch up and appear obvious without a good foundation as a base. The trick is to find a formula that applies smoothly and doesn’t settle into lines and pores.
5. Applying Everything, Everywhere
The sure way to look like you’re wearing makeup is to apply a blanket of foundation and powder to the face and to over-conceal. Linter recommends working on foundation as needed, and then going into specific areas, like the under-eye and blemishes, with concealer. Blending with the warmth of your finger marries concealer more naturally into skin. Finish with powder only in the center of the face, where it’s truly needed; overdoing it can kill your whole look.
The bottom line: Finding the right foundation shade and formula is key. And remember, less is always more. Follow these tips, and you’re guaranteed to look flawless!