How To Make Foundation Look Like Skin

Luminous, dewy, bronzy, matte, semi-matte — as much as we love those adjectives, we really just want our foundation to make our skin look like, well, skin (minus the redness, acne scars, fine lines, and sun spots, natch). And while foundation can sometimes do a really good job of this, other times, not so much. Pigments settle into fine lines. Powders cake over blemishes. Textures clash. Shades don't match. That foundation that you applied to make your skin look better, actually ends up making it look a lot worse.

No longer.

We tapped top makeup pros for their tips on applying the most natural-looking foundation possible. Click ahead for a no-makeup makeup masterclass — and never curse out your pigments again.

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Prep, Prep, & Then Prep Some More
You know how you typically slap on some moisturizer, maybe a primer, and get straight to work with the tinted stuff? Yeah, makeup artists never do that. "Backstage, skin can be a 20-30 minute process then the makeup is two minutes," says Tim Quinn, makeup artist and national director of creative artistry for Armani Beauty.

Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Eye Cream, $43, available at Sephora.
Heavy eye creams can make your undereye area feel — and look — greasy. Oily skin types will prefer a de-puffing formula like this one that comes in stick form, so you never go overboard.

Kate Somerville Goat Milk De-Puffing Eye Balm, $38, available at Kate Somerville.
Most artists start with a soothing toner or mask (makeup artist Molly Stern loves Jurlique's Rosewater Mist), then they massage in oils, serums, face creams, and eye creams in small, circular motions — waiting a few minutes between each step to allow them to settle. "If you don't have proper hydration in the skin and you go to put on foundation, that's when your skin freaks out," says Quinn.
Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Mist, $35.00 Buy
There's nothing like a patch of redness to mess up your makeup. This soothing mist settles skin in seconds and leaves your complexion hydrated and refreshed.

Mario Badescu Facial Spray With Aloe, Herb and Rose Water, $7, available at Ulta Beauty.
Dehydrated skin will suck up any moisture in the product and leave a finish that looks fake and obvious, Stern adds. If you have oily skin, continue with your regular routine, but don't skimp on that massage, which boosts circulation and makes the skin look brighter.

This priming moisturizer won't replace your go-to base, but it will let you layer up on hydration.

Glossier Priming Moisturizer, $25, available at Glossier.
Rethink Your Primer
Just because it's called primer doesn't mean you should smear it all over your face. Makeup artist Daniel Chinchilla (who works with Ariana Grande) recommends cocktailing formulas — smooth on an oil-controlling primer in the T-zone and a silicone-based one for the rest of the face. (He loves using Smashbox Photo Finish Primer and CoverFx Mattifying Primer.) "Most people who have oily skin really have some form of combination skin," says Chinchilla. "And if you put a matte primer over a dry area, it will take away the moisture and make it look cakey."
Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer, $36.99 Buy
Even on the sweatiest of days, this African whitewood- and oleanolic acid-packed lotion holds up — with or without your favorite base.

Nars Pore & Shine Control Primer, $36, available at Sephora.
This silicone-based primer is a great pre-foundation product because it conceals pores and mattifies the skin, creating a soft canvas for a smooth foundation application. As a long-wear primer, it also works to keep oily skin at bay for hours, so there’s no need for a mid-day touch up— which can be super helpful in the sweaty summer months.

Tarte Poreless Mattifying Primer, $32, available at Sephora.
This mattifying primer is exactly what acne-prone skin needs to ensure a long-lasting makeup look.

Cover FX Mattifying Primer With Anti-Acne Treatment, $38, available at Sephora.
Conceal Before Foundation
If you start slapping on foundation without concealing blemishes or undereye circles first, you're going to overcompensate and end up using way too much product — and it will show. Instead, take care of them with a lightweight concealer first. Then, assess how much foundation you need from there.
Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer, $28.00 Buy
This lightweight concealer might be marketed as a dark circle eraser — and it does that, too — but it also works to cancel out inflammation, sallow skin, and any dark spots. Tap it on before your foundation and blend out for an airbrushed effect.

Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circle Treatment Concealer, $8.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
This Glossier pick's a great no-makup makeup concealer. The potted formula is meant to be warmed on application with your ring finger; when you dab it on your undereye area, you get a bright, completely blended finish.

Glossier Stretch Concealer, $18, available at Glossier.
Add Depth
If you want to fool everyone into thinking you're not wearing makeup and just have naturally great skin, this is for you. Suck in your cheeks and swipe the darker shade across the indentation, then blend out and tap the highlighter above. Done.

Wander Beauty On-The-Go Bronzer and Illuminator, $45, available at Sephora.
If you want a fresh, believable glow, this buildable cream from Benefit is up for the job. The only downside is the cool pigment works best on fair to medium skin tones, but we're holding out for a wider range of shades to come soon.

Benefit Cosmetics Dew the Hoola Soft Matte Liquid Bronzer, $28, available at Sephora.
This cream formula comes in three hues — one for blushing, highlighting, and bronzing — so you can customize your flush.

The Body Shop Honey Bronze Highlighting Dome, $16, available at The Body Shop.
Blush First, Too
It sounds crazy, but applying blush before foundation will give your skin a natural-looking flush (like it's actually coming from within your skin and not just sitting on top of your foundation).
Josie Maran Coconut Water Cheek Gelee, $22.00 Buy
Makeup artists like Quinn and Dick Page use this trick all the time backstage at fashion shows. Just be sure to only use cream formulas — layering a powder blush under a liquid foundation is a recipe for disaster, warns Quinn.

Tarte Cheek Stain, $30, available at Sephora.
Go Drop By Drop
The majority of women use way too much foundation, says Quinn. If you can, buy a foundation with a dropper rather than a pump — as one pump typically over-dispenses product (and you'll feel guilty wasting it). Blend a few small drops from the center of the face outward with a damp Beautyblender or a damp (yes, damp) foundation brush. "That keeps it from soaking up the product and makes it look more natural, not like you tried to cover something," says Quinn. And resist the urge to lay down a full foundation. Just apply it in the areas you need it, says Quinn. "It's meant to perfect, not to mask."

Beautyblender The Original, $20, available at Sephora.
Get Dewy With It
If you’re low on patience and want that end-of-day glow now, try spraying your makeup brush, or Beautyblender, with a thermal water. The Caudalíe Grape Water uniquely does the trick of packing in hydration before the makeup process begins. The ingredients will increase moisture the moment you dab on your base. And don't worry, if you forget to keep this handy while prepping, you can always spray it on after you've finished your makeup as a soothing setting spray.

Caudalíe Grape Water, $22, available at Sephora.
This refreshing mist is all you need for a quick pick-me-up after you set your makeup. The best part? It leaves behind a radiant glow that last hours.

Wander Beauty Glow Getter Mist, $28, available Sephora.
Sensitive skin? Stick to rose or thermal water, which will help to set makeup in the morning, then invigorate it in the evening. Plus, this formula just may help you balance your skin, too...

La Roche Posay Thermal Spring Water, $12.99, available at Target.
Choose Wisely
When it comes to choosing a formula, most artists agreed that liquids tend to look the most natural. Choose one that is medium to light-coverage and buildable (rather than a full-coverage one which has a tendency to look thick). Avoid anything that's overly luminous or overly matte. "Everyone is obsessed with matte but it makes the skin look really dry," says Chinchilla.
Giorgio Armani Maestro Fusion Makeup Octinoxate Sunscreen SPF 15, $64.00 Buy
Take It Down
If you overdo it (it happens!), try this tip from Quinn: "I lightly dip a big powder brush in a plain moisturizer and sweep it over the skin — the same way you would apply powder," he says. "That takes the foundation down a bit and adds a subtle illuminating effect."
Set Your Work
Now that you're finished, set the areas that are prone to slide (like your T-zone) with a light dusting of translucent powder. Stern recommends using a pressed one, as you're more likely to over-apply messy loose formulas.
Make Up For Ever HD Pressed Powder, $36.00 Buy
And if you're terrified of powders, remember this: "The less foundation you have on, the less obvious the powder will look," says Stern.

Shiseido Translucent Pressed Powder, $32, available at Sephora.
This fan favorite powder is available in Medium Deep for the chocolate crowd.

Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder, $38, available at Sephora.
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