I like to think I have my makeup application down to a science. I know to apply concealer after foundation and that eyeshadow comes before mascara, but some mornings, no matter how long I've spent, there are times when my makeup just doesn't sit right.
You've probably been there, too. But rather than blaming it on your tools (why does brand-new mascara transfer so much product you have to wipe off the brush?) or the fact that you were half-asleep when you applied it at 7 a.m. on Monday morning, it might be worth taking your technique into consideration — in particular, the step before makeup. For most of us, prepping skin with moisturizers, serums, and primers is pretty much second nature, but according to Max Factor makeup artist Caroline Barnes, a quickie facial massage might be the one thing your routine is missing.
Not long ago, I went to a makeup master class led by the renowned MUA, and after five minutes of prodding and pummeling my cheeks pre-makeup, I discovered the foundation, blush, and highlighter I applied afterwards had never looked better. And I wasn't alone: The beauty editors and influencers around me noticed it, too. Our cheeks were a little perkier, our skin had a pretty, natural flush to it, and our makeup lasted a hell of a lot longer than usual. So what's the deal with facial massage?
"Facial massage is so important in stimulating the skin," says Barnes, who learned her massage techniques from facial expert Annee de Mamiel. "Your own hands are pretty magical. By stimulating the circulation in the skin, you create a natural erythema — you know, after a walk in the cold or an exercise class, you get that glow, that flush," she tells me. "You’re also working with your lymph nodes, pulling all the stagnant energy and water away from your skin, and this reduces puffiness. The more you move and activate your skin, the more malleable and brighter it becomes."
Start with a facial oil. "Firstly, rub the oil into your hands and really emulsify it," says Barnes. "To begin, place your middle and forefinger to the backs of your ears and use the pressure of your fingers to drain by pulling all the way down to the sides of your neck. Focusing on the lymph nodes really helps remove any puffiness from the skin and boosts circulation."
It pays to pay special attention to your jaw, too. "Take your hands into prayer position and place your thumbs underneath your jaw so that your chin is sitting in the cup of your thumb and index finger," says Barnes. "Move your thumbs all the way across your jawline to the bottom of your ears. You might feel that it’s a bit crunchy, but that’s the tension in your muscles. A lot of us hold a lot of tension in our faces, especially our jaw, and this is a good release. Take hold of your jaw, really feel and push your skin to take the pressure out."
"Eyes are also important," Barnes says. "It's all in the pressure — you want to use your ring finger. Paint circles around your eyes pushing as hard as you can around the orbital area. Always start in the tear duct and follow all the way around — do this 10 times. You’ll be surprised how hard you can push. It won't damage the skin. Instead, it encourages drainage and makes your skin feel alive."
If you're prone to acne, you might not want to slather your skin in any old oil right off the bat. But Barnes recommends trying Votary's Blemish Rescue Oil, which contains salicylic acid to exfoliate and bring down inflammation. Of course, if you want to avoid facial oils altogether, or simply don't have the time in the morning, you can employ your usual cleanser and practice the technique on wet skin while you wash your face. Using your go-to moisturizer or serum will work just fine, too.
So what's the best way to apply your foundation after a facial massage? With your hands, of course. "Your fingers are warmer than a brush, which helps with connectivity and blending the product into the skin," Barnes says. "Secondly, your fingers can manipulate the products into all the nooks and crannies of your face, which a brush can't do. It's also much quicker and it makes the finish much more natural. That said, if you have downy hairs, a brush might be better at perfecting, and that's because it helps lift the product. After using your fingers, you can always go over with a soft brush for an even more flawless finish."
And to complement your skin's natural flush after your facial massage, Barnes suggests tapping on your highlighter before your foundation, as it'll make your skin look more like, well, skin. And that's always the goal, isn't it?