Foundation is one of THE most integral, versatile products in our makeup bag – especially if you’re a cake face like us – but it’s also one of the easiest to go wrong with. You want to achieve incredible skin, not great foundation!
We’ve spent more time than we could possibly count playing around with different formulas (yes, it’s fun), mixing and matching products to achieve that flawless final look, and we’ve learned a lot along the way. Here are our ride-or-die foundation hacks that never let us down.
1. For flawless skin: Prep is key
Flawless makeup starts with a good skincare regime. Start with thoroughly cleansed skin. Then, after toning, prep your skin with a hydrating essence to add a surge of moisture (find our go-to essences here), and a soothing moisturizer. The better hydrated your skin is, the less likely your makeup will end up looking cakey.
2. To find the right foundation: Always read the label
You’d never buy a skincare product without checking it was suitable for your skin type, would you? Well, the same goes for your foundation. It’s worth checking to see if your skin type isn’t listed; a hydrating formula is perfect for dry skin but might not last well on oily skin. Also remember that oil-free foundations often oxidize (turn yellow or orange) on oily skin throughout the day, so always ask for a tester before you buy.
Also note that if a foundation has SPF, it’ll most likely contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide, which can cause flashback, aka when your foundation gives you a white cast in photos. Either avoid using foundations with SPF at nighttime or set your foundation with a tinted loose powder to eliminate flashback.
3. For the ultimate shade match: Buy two foundations
If you can’t find the perfect shade, buy a foundation that’s one shade lighter than your skin tone and one that’s slightly darker, then combine the two. While we know this is a more expensive option, there are some amazing drugstore foundations out there, so it doesn’t have to be. Plus, it’s great for the change in seasons, when you need to go lighter or darker.
4. For the perfect shade: Figure out your undertone
Finding the right undertone is key to shade matching like a pro-MUA. There are three undertones: warm, cool and neutral. To figure out your undertone, look at the veins on the inside of your wrist; if they’re green, you have a warm undertone (the yellow in your skin acts as a filter and makes your blue veins look green), and if they look blue, you have a cool undertone. Neutral undertones will see a combo of green and blue veins. For more tips on finding your undertone, read this post.
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5. For even coverage: Use a primer
A primer is essential; it’ll help your makeup stay put all day long and blur out any imperfections for a more seamless finish. Plus, many primers contain beauty-boosting ingredients, essential oils, and vitamins that’ll give your skin a serious boost and a hit of hydration. There are so many different primers now, so you can find a product for your preferred finish. Find out more helpful tips for finding the perfect primer for your skin type here.
6. For dewy skin: Use a damp beauty blender
Dewy skin is majorly trending right now, and we’re high key here for it. The easiest way to get fresh, glowing skin is by using a damp makeup sponge to apply your foundation. This hack is great as it works with all foundations – even full coverage! Just soak your sponge in water and squeeze out any excess before you apply your foundation.
Tip: If you have freckles on your nose and cheeks, you can bounce a clean part of your makeup sponge over the tops of your cheekbones and the bridge of your nose, which will pick up more product and allow your freckles to peek through.
7. For a full-coverage finish: Use the stippling technique
Stippling is when you use a light tapping motion to apply your foundation, pressing the product into your skin for maximum coverage. You can use a stippling brush or a blender; whatever you choose, avoid dragging your applicator as this can cause your foundation to look streaky.
Tip: Spritz your brush or blender with a little setting spray to keep your look on lockdown all day.
8. For extra coverage without the cake: Use concealer
If you want lots of coverage, it can be tempting to empty half the bottle of foundation and smother it on your face, but please don’t! Instead, find a good full-coverage foundation and concealer. One layer of a true full-coverage foundation should be enough, and then use concealer to target any areas that still need coverage. Check out our top 7 full-coverage foundations here.
Tip: Celeb MUA for beauties like Mary J Blige, Tyra Banks, and Jordan Dunn, Sam Fine recommends “After applying foundation, separate a two-ply tissue and use one ply to blot any excess oil to achieve a more skin-like finish.”
9. For lighter coverage: Mix in a hydrator
For a dewier, more natural finish, mix your foundation with a drop of moisturizer or hydrating primer: this will dilute the concentration and provide your skin with a hit of hydration. Simply combine equal parts foundation and moisturizer and apply. Or, for a more luminous finish, mix your foundation with a couple of drops of face oil, then apply with your hands to achieve ‘yoga skin,’ aka skin that’s so radiant, it looks fresh outta yoga class.
10. For cream foundations: Melt them!
If you’re not working with a liquid foundation, celeb MUA Sam Fine suggests using a “blow dryer to make crème foundations more malleable, blendable and move across the skin with ease.” Honestly, this works like a dream, especially with stick foundations.
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11. For luminous skin: Add a glow enhancer
Mixing your foundation with a glow enhancer will instantly give your skin a luminous finish, without leaving it looking greasy. We’re obsessed with the Physicians Formula Spotlight Illuminating Primer, $12, as the pearl pigments are universally flattering. Charlotte Tilbury’s Hollywood Flawless Filter, $44, is also amazing, Charlotte told us “I’ve used this on so many of my celebrity friends to give them a gorgeous, flawless filter before all the cameras on the red carpet.”
Tip: If you’re attending an event with lots of photo opportunities, avoid a glowing look and opt for a matte finish foundation, as the cameras are more likely to make your skin look oily than glowy.
12. For a natural finish: Apply with your hands
If you want a more natural, skin-like finish, apply with your hands; the heat of your hands, combined with the movement will ensure it doesn’t look cakey. First, warm the product in your hands, then apply using outward circular motions. You can either gently pat and blend with your fingers or fine-tune with a damp makeup sponge: paying particular attention to the jawline.
13. The pro tip: Keep your moisturizer damp
A big no-no in celebrity makeup artist Sir John‘s beauty book is letting your moisturizer dry before applying foundation. Beyonce’s glam guru’s signature move is “making foundation look like second skin,” so when you apply yours, make sure it’s on skin that’s a little damp from moisturizer still. “This helps with the blending process, and if you don’t do this then the foundation just sits on top of the skin,” he explains. Sir John swears by the L’Oréal Paris Hydra Genius Daily Liquid Care Moisturizers, $18 (for dry or oily skin), to plump, then L’Oréal Paris Infallible Fresh Wear foundation, $15. “This combo gives you a flawless look with no cakiness,” he adds.
14. For brush application: Work outwards
Start by applying the foundation at the center of your face, where redness and blemishes are more common, working outwards to avoid streaks and visible brush strokes. For blendability, we use a rounded brush with synthetic hairs. We love the Morphe M439 Deluxe Buffer Brush, $15 – it’s iconic for a reason!
15. For long-lasting foundation: Powder the T-zone
To ensure your foundation stays in place all day, set it with a powder, like our Easy Bake Loose Baking & Setting Powder, $34. Although, only apply a light dusting of powder to your T-zone (along your forehead, the bridge of your nose, and your chin) as these are the areas that tend to get oily. If you have oily skin, we recommend setting all over, and you can try using a powder like the Mario Badescu Special Healing Powder, $12, which contains sulfur, kaolin clay, and zinc to balance and absorb oil throughout the day.
16. For 24 hr foundation: Bella Hadid’s weird setting hack
The weird water-setting technique called Jamsu (which means submerge) involves covering your freshly caked face in translucent powder and dunking your face in cold water. The idea is that it sets your makeup and gives you a completely airbrushed matte finish, and when Bella Hadid told us about it, we had to try it! To see what happened when we tried Jamsu, check out this video.
17. For a dewy finish: Spritz with a water mist
Celebrity makeup artist Tobi Henney (who works with Barbara Palvin and Ashley Graham) recommends finishing with a mist to give your foundation a skin-like finish. “Spritz on a few light sprays, then lightly buff the skin product with any type of duo fiber or buffing brush to instantly de-cake,” she says.
18. For touch-ups: Don’t add more foundation
To touch up throughout the day, don’t pile on more foundation as this can look cakey. First, soak up any excess oil using blotting paper and then address your pimples using a small brush and some concealer. A quick spritz of toner will also help reset your look as it’ll reactivate the pigments while leaving the skin looking fresh and hydrated. Blot powder on top where necessary.
19. The number one rule: Don’t forget your neck
Nothing gives you away like a line at your jawline! If you don’t want to continue your foundation all the way down your neck, continue it underneath your chin and dust bronzer on your neck instead.
Let us know your fave foundation hack in the comments below.