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I Tried ‘Underpainting’ — A No-Foundation Makeup Trick

Welcome to Beauty In A Tik, where each week we put TikTok's viral beauty hacks and innovative trends to the test.
When I downloaded TikTok, I quickly realized all I didn't know about beauty. Sure, the app's influencers and makeup artists serve up some questionable hacks, like using lube instead of foundation primer (would not recommend), or lining your lips with semi-permanent brow gel (I failed so badly, it has to be seen to be believed). But more often than not, I come across a tip that convinces me I could switch things up.
Not long ago, it was the 'model complexion' tip, which involves strategically placing dots of concealer to cover blemishes and dark circles, lending more of a uniform complexion. The result was so natural, it taught me that applying foundation all over sometimes accentuates the things you're keen on covering up — particularly if it's quite thick. Then there was the Douyin blush hack: skillfully drawing blush in V-shapes around the face to create a youthful glow. It earned my skin so many compliments.
This week it's all about 'underpainting', a technique recently popularized on TikTok, thanks to celebrity makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes. Before I get into the nitty gritty, this hack might be smart, but it isn't entirely new in the makeup world. Professional makeup artists have kept it up their sleeves for years. But it's brand-new to me — someone who typically wears lots of layers of foundation — not to mention many of Hughes' very-impressed followers.

What Is 'Underpainting'?

So what exactly is underpainting? "It means putting your blush and your contour and all of the other things under your foundation," Hughes told her 131.5k followers. "I'm going to start with bronzer," said Hughes, reaching for Rose Inc. Solar Infusion Soft-Focus Cream Bronzer. "We're putting all these things beneath the foundation," she added. "When you think about it, when you do have a little bit of color in your face from the sun, it's normally on your bare, naked skin."
Hughes continued: "You're going to do the same thing with blush. In the same vein, blush is something that comes from being flushed for whatever reason." It might look a little interesting until you're complete, she said, but trust the process. Hughes blended in the bronzer and blush with separate fluffy brushes (one for the blush and one for the bronzer) and then applied teeny-tiny dots of concealer in places where these products didn't go: down the center of the nose, underneath the eyes, in the center of the chin, and the inner corners of the eyes. Then, she blended the concealer using a small fluffy brush.
"I just tried this, just now, and I'm so happy. My skin has never looked more naturally flawless, and I don't have layers of makeup! 🥰" wrote one of Hughes' followers, while another said: "Been doing this since the first time I saw you post a video and it's legit my fave way to apply my makeup 👌🏽."
So how exactly does this method make the skin look so beautifully glowy and natural? An artist in the comments explained it perfectly: "As an oil painter [...] this is a technique we use because light moves through the top layer, and then bounces off the lower [...] giving a beautiful depth of colour, and a really nice dynamic complexion while staying soft 🥰🥰."

I Tried It

If TikTok's makeup pros and even artists think underpainting is legit, it probably is. But this is Beauty In A Tik and it's all about putting things to the test IRL, particularly on skin which isn't absolutely flawless. Thanks to a wonder serum (L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Clinical Pure 12% Vitamin C + E + Salicylic Acid Serum) and a cleansing tip bestowed on me by a top dermatologist, my hormonal breakouts are clearing up. But I'm left with red and brown skin staining as those angry clusters slowly fade. Would the little dots of concealer be enough to tuck the hyperpigmentation away but not completely erase any color in my skin?
Like Hughes, I love using Rose Inc. bronzer and my shade is Parrot Kay. Right now, I'm also into Westman Atelier Baby Cheeks Blush Stick in Petal. Though it's seriously luxe and the pigment is unrivaled, it isn't the cheapest cream blush out there. If you have less to spend, try Pixi Beauty On-The-Glow Blush (TikTok viral for a reason), or Revolution Fast Base Blush Stick, which is a bargain and lasts really well, even on oily skin.
Using Jones Road The Skin Brush, I painted a stripe of bronzer into the hollows of my cheeks and slicked some color on points where the sun would hit naturally, like my hairline, chin, and then my jawline to etch in some definition. Cream blush sticks are much easier than powder to apply so I imprinted Baby Cheeks onto the apples of my cheeks and also my temples to create a lift. I'd recommend using a dense stippling brush to blend both the blush and bronzer into your skin. If you don't have two separate brushes, simply clean your brush with a sanitizing spray (I like Cinema Secrets Sanitizing Spray) in between.
@jacquelinekilikita If you’re weaning yourself off foundation, try underpainting! Inspiration: @katiejanehughes #underpainting #makeup #makeuphacks #beautyinatik #blush #bronzer #concealer ♬ Lo-Fi Aesthetic - DreamHeaven Lo-Fi
The type of concealer you use depends on the coverage you're after. To blanket my hyperpigmentation a little better, I went for MAC Studio Fix 24-Hour Smooth Wear Concealer, which is slightly more pigmented than others I'm currently testing from the likes of Charlotte Tilbury and Pat McGrath Labs.
I made like Hughes and applied the concealer sparingly. The whole point of underpainting is to give your skin a boost, rather than to cover it up entirely. Again, if you're going to use the same brush as before, make sure it's free from any remnants of bronzer and blush to avoid transferring the color all over your face.

The Verdict

When I was done I realized that I could still see my skin through the concealer, but I was happy with the coverage. My makeup looked much more natural than it does when I use foundation, which I find erases your contours and makes skin appear very flat. What's more, unlike heavy or medium coverage foundation, this didn't emphasize my pores or skin texture. This is all thanks to the minimal amount of concealer used. Often, the more base makeup you apply, the more obvious skin gripes are to the naked eye.
I often get ready under dingy bathroom light and come to realize that I've overdone it on the blush when I step outside. With underpainting, that doesn't happen. The blended concealer provides a very subtle veil over bold blush and bronzer shades, muting them ever so slightly and making the colors appear as though they're coming from within your skin. The subtle flush and believable glow is what I love most about this technique. Not to mention that it cuts my makeup routine by about 10 minutes.
As Hughes said, underpainting is nothing new to most industry professionals. But I'm certainly glad they're sharing their tricks of the trade. How else would I be able to achieve makeup this beautiful?
This story was originally published on Refinery29UK.
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