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.
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.
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
, makeup artist and national director of creative artistry for Armani Beauty.
Lotus Youth Preserve Eye Cream, $43, available at
— PAID — Sunday Riley's brand-new foundation provides a lightweight, satin-matte finish that will stay put all day — even through sweaty workouts and stifling city humidity. TLDR: Oily skin is no match for this natural-looking formula.
The Influencer Clean Long Wear Foundation,
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.
Goat Milk De-Puffing Eye Balm, $38, available at
Most artists start with a soothing toner or mask (makeup artist
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.
Rosewater Balancing Mist,
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.
Facial Spray With Aloe, Herb and Rose Water, $7, available at
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.
Priming Moisturizer, $25, available at
Rethink Your Primer
Just because it's called primer doesn't mean you should smear it all over your face. Makeup artist
(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."
Photo Finish Foundation Primer,
Even on the sweatiest of days, this African whitewood- and oleanolic acid-packed lotion holds up — with or without your favorite base.
Pore & Shine Control Primer, $36, available at
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
helpful in the sweaty summer months.
Poreless Mattifying Primer, $32, available at
This mattifying primer is exactly what acne-prone skin needs to ensure a long-lasting makeup look.
Mattifying Primer With Anti-Acne Treatment, $38, available at
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.
Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer,
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.
Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circle Treatment Concealer, $8.99, available at
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.
Stretch Concealer, $18, available at
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.
On-The-Go Bronzer and Illuminator, $45, available at
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.
Dew the Hoola Soft Matte Liquid Bronzer, $28, available at
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).
Coconut Water Cheek Gelee,
Makeup artists like Quinn and
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.
Cheek Stain, $30, available at
Another great cream blush option is from Glossier. "I love mixing the Cloud Paint in Dusk [a tawny pink] with any other shade in the range," makeup artist
Katie Jane Hughes
tells us. "It tones the shade down. I buff it on with a duo-fibre brush and go in with a tiny bit of Haze [a richer berry] onto the center of the models' cheeks."
Cloud Paint, $18, available at
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."
The Original, $20, available at
Get Dewy With It
If you’re low on patience and want that end-of-day glow
, 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.
Grape Water, $22, available at
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.
Glow Getter Mist, $28, available
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
La Roche Posay
Thermal Spring Water, $12.99, available at
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.
Maestro Fusion Makeup Octinoxate Sunscreen SPF 15,
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,
And if you're terrified of powders, remember this: "The less foundation you have on, the less obvious the powder will look," says Stern.
Translucent Pressed Powder, $32, available at
This fan favorite powder is available in Medium Deep for the chocolate crowd.
Translucent Loose Setting Powder, $38, available at
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