Foundation is one of the trickiest makeup products to use properly. While it can give you flawless skin that makes you look younger and less tired, applying it incorrectly can have the exact opposite effect. So try to avoid these common mistakes — your foundation (and face!) will thank you.
1. Choosing the wrong foundation.
Before buying a foundation, it’s important to determine which type your skin actually needs. Have an oily complexion? It’s important to use a noncomedogenic (i.e. pore-clogging) and oil-absorbing formula like Lancome Teint Idole Ultra Long Wear Foundation ($47, sephora.com). If you have sensitive skin, look for mineral-based formulas that are free of dyes, fragrances and preservatives that could be irritating, like BareMinerals BareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation ($30, ulta.com). If your skin is dry, pick a creamy, moisturizing foundation that keeps your face hydrated, like Revlon ColorStay Makeup ($9, amazon.com).
2. Picking a shade that doesn’t match your skin.
A too-light foundation washes you out and can even make you look a little sick, while a too-dark foundation can seem like an egregious self-tanning error. Avoid using a foundation that’s the wrong shade for you by testing colors on your jawline, nose and cheeks — not the back of your hand or wrist, which are unlikely to be the same color as your face. The proper shade should disappear into your skin. Then, head out into the daylight to see how it looks away from the harsh lights of the department store. If it’s still invisible, you’ve found the right foundation for you.
3. Skipping primer.
When you’re in a hurry, it can be tempting to skip primer. But it’s actually one of the biggest keys to getting a smooth, long-lasting finish for your makeup overall. If you’re worried about your foundation creasing, a silicone-based makeup primer like Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Primer ($32, sephora.com) can smooth out your skin.
4. And not setting your makeup.
In addition to using primer, another important step to maintaining your look all day long is setting your makeup. One of the quickest ways to do this is by spritzing on a makeup setting spray. The two our Beauty Lab like the most: Make Up For Ever Mist & Fix ($30, sephora.com) and Urban Decay All Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray ($32, ulta.com).
5. Applying foundation before your moisturizer is dry.
Always give your moisturizer (and thus, setting spray and primer) time to absorb into your skin before applying foundation. Otherwise, you can end up with a streaky mess.
6. Applying too much foundation.
Achieving an even complexion is wonderful, but overloading your entire face with layer after layer of foundation is not the way to do it. Rather than looking perfect, your skin will look cakey and fake. If you’re dealing with a glaring blemish, gently buff away flakes with a clean, damp washcloth. Apply a spot treatment like Kiehl’s Blue Herbal Spot Treatment ($18, sephora.com) to your zit, then smooth on your moisturizer. Dot on a bit of stick concealer like Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof 12-Hour Concealer ($25, sephora.com) with your ring finger, then blend and go. Voilà — no caking at all.
7. Applying it with your fingers.
Do this, and you’re likely to get blotchy, streaky results. Plus, touching your skin with your fingers all the time can do more harm than good. Instead, use a damp makeup sponge like the EcoTools Total Perfecting Blender ($6, ulta.com) or foundation brush to apply your foundation. Bonus: This allows you to use less foundation for each application, as a little goes a longer way when water is added. If you’re utilizing a brush, apply the foundation onto your skin in circular motions, then blend as needed. For an even complexion, apply it all over your face, including your lids, on your undereye area, and around your nostrils.
8. Not blending down your neck.
If you’re applying full-face foundation, be sure to blend down your neck, as it tends to be a little lighter than your face. As mentioned earlier, use a sponge or a foundation brush like the BlendSmart Foundation Brush ($26, sephora.com) to smooth your foundation onto your face first, then from the jawline down your neck.
9. Using a formula that ages you.
One of the big reasons women use foundation is to maintain a youthful appearance, but picking the wrong formula can actually exaggerate the signs of aging. Powder foundation can look cakey and dry out your skin, making it a poor choice for anybody, whether they’re concerned about aging or not. Then there are creamy formulas, which seem like a great idea since they’re smooth and offer a lot of coverage, but due to their high pigmentation, can actually wind up appearing cakey after your skin absorbs the product’s moisture. Overall, the best picks for anti-aging purposes are hydrating and satin-finish liquid foundations, like Estee Lauder Perfectionist Youth-Infusing Makeup ($48, nordstrom.com). Search for a version containing moisturizing glycerin or hyaluronic acid to keep your skin looking plump and supple rather than dry and dull.
10. Using concealer before applying your foundation.
Applying your under-eye concealer first can make you use more foundation than you would otherwise need. Instead, use a small, pointy brush to apply a lightweight concealer to your under-eye area (as well as any other discolorations or blemishes) after your foundation application, then blend.