Makeup » How to Apply Foundation: The Best Methods

How to Apply Foundation: The Best Methods

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You could be using the best, most expensive foundation, but if your application technique isn’t on point, you might find yourself struggling to get that even, smooth, natural-looking coverage. There are so many different ways to rock foundation, so it’s important to stay up to date with all of the techniques.

Whether you’re all about that powdery matte finish, the ethereal dewy look, or a satin finish that’s somewhere in between, I’ve got you covered with this foundation makeup guide. Learn how to apply foundation for that perfect base (and keep it perfect all day long), along with some additional tips and tricks (and my favorite foundation makeup hacks!). So what are you waiting for? Read on to get that flawless coverage!

In this article:

The Basic Application Method

Depending on the type of foundation I’m using and my mood, I’ll find myself alternating between different types of applicators, and I can honestly say I don’t have a favorite. You can play around by applying foundations with sponges, brushes, and even your fingers, until you find the method that works best for you!

No matter how you choose to apply foundations, always make sure to prep well.

  • Start with cleansed, moisturized, and sun-protected skin. Foundations simply do not look good on skin that isn’t well-hydrated.
  • An optional step, especially if you have uneven skin texture or problems keeping your foundations lasting long, is to smooth a drop of primer all over the face. Wait at least 5 minutes between applying makeup primer and moisturizer, and another 5 minutes between applying primer and foundation.
  • Some guides will suggest you begin by applying concealer. Unless you’re using a color-correcting concealer or powder foundation, I think it’s much better to apply foundation first, and then follow it up with concealer.
  • You’ll often find foundation covers more than enough, and that you will use less concealer. I’m at a point where I hardly ever use concealer, because I am so happy with the coverage my foundation provides.
  • For all the different cream or liquid foundation applications, especially if you have oily or combination skin, once you are happy with how your foundation looks, make sure to set it with a powder, to keep it lasting longer and looking less shiny.

How to Apply Liquid or Cream Foundations with a Sponge or Beauty Blender

Beauty blenders and similar drop-shaped sponges give what is probably the most beautiful finish to almost any liquid or cream foundation, and are perfect for anyone looking for fuller coverage. Rectangular makeup sponges can be used in the same way, but there is something about the structure of drop-shaped sponges that gives a really even, smooth coverage.

  • To begin, get your sponge damp with water. Squeeze it to remove the excess. This will prevent your sponge from absorbing foundation, while alse keeping your skin looking dewy and hydrated.
  • Dip your sponge into a bit of foundation, and with a dabbing motion tap it unto the face. This will give you a really comprehensive coverage with very little need for blending.

You’ll be surprised how easy it is to apply foundations with beauty blenders and the like!

How to Apply Liquid or Cream Foundations with a Flat Brush

This method of applying foundation can give all types of coverage, and will make you feel like a true artist. It is my go-to when using all types of foundations, from the more fluid foundations to even the creamiest ones.

  • Dip your brush into your foundation of choice, making sure it is covered lightly.
  • In downward motions, going specifically along the direction of hair growth on your face, brush the foundation onto the skin until your whole face is covered.
  • On the forehead, it is best to apply sideways, starting from the center.
  • Once your whole face is covered lightly, blend any visible streaks with your (clean!) fingers or a sponge.
  • If any areas of the face require additional coverage, go back in with the same brush, but instead of brushing extra foundation on, tap it into the skin instead.

How to Apply Liquid Foundations with a Duo Fiber Stippling Brush

Stippling brushes are a super popular way of applying liquid foundation – they give thin, natural coverage, and cause very little streaking. They have flat, circular ends and are often made of a blend of two different kinds of fibers.

MAC’s #187 Duo Fiber Face Brush is a classic stippling brush choice (you can find it at Nordstrom). For the most natural coverage, this is the technique I prefer:

  • Dip the brush into the liquid foundation, being careful to get very little product on the brush.
  • Dot the brush over your face, getting product on the cheeks, chin, nose, and along the forehead.
  • Then, with downward, circular motions, blend the foundation outwards so you get your whole face covered with a streak-free, dreamy layer of product.

If you are working with a self-setting, water-based foundation, it is better to work on the face in sections – apply it to one cheek and blend, then the chin, then the nose, then the forehead. Once your whole face is covered in a thin layer of product, you can load up your brush with more product and go back to the areas that need extra coverage.

To deposit the product, tap it into the skin in a stippling motion – this will give you more coverage that will still look natural.

Foundation Makeup Tips and Hacks

How to Apply Liquid or Cream Foundations with Fingers

I find my favorite way to apply cream and cream-to-powder foundations is with my fingers. This method is the fastest and least streaky one whenever my foundation is not too runny.

  • Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before starting!
  • If you are using your hands, take a pea-sized amount of foundation, and rub it between the pads of your fingers.
  • In downward motions, smooth the product onto your face, beginning from the center of your face and working your way outwards. I find this is the fastest method – you quickly cover the whole face with a thin layer of product, which the heat of your fingers helps keep fluid.

If more coverage is necessary, either repeat the process, or concentrate only on the areas that need more coverage. Apply a bit more foundation to one finger, and with a tapping motion, apply that foundation to the areas that need better coverage.

How to Apply Powder Foundations with Brush for Lighter Coverage

With powder-based foundations you can have a lot of control over how light or how heavy your foundation looks, although remember you will never have as full a coverage as you will achieve with liquid foundation + powder.

  • Start by tapping a bit of powder foundation out into the jar’s cap, or on top of a tissue.
  • Dip a flat topped brush into the powder, swirl it around to fully cover the brush, and then tap off the excess product.
  • With small, circular, downward motions, begin brushing the powder onto your face.
  • Once your whole face is covered, buff away any excess powder with a clean brush.
  • Using a smaller brush and a tapping motion, stipple additional powder foundation to the areas of your face that need more coverage.

Makeup Tips for Keeping Your Foundation on All Day Long

  • As mentioned previously, make sure to set your foundations (especially liquid and cream-based foundations) with a face powder. My personal favorite is the Laura Mercier Invisible Loose Setting Powder, which is available at Sephora. The key is not to brush the product unto the skin, but instead to apply the powder with a flat-topped kabuki style brush, and a tapping motion. By pressing the powder into the skin you make sure that everything really stays put.
  • While powder will be enough for most, an extra setting step is to use a finishing spray, like Urban Decay’s All Nighter Setting Spray, which can be purchased at Sephora. A few spritzes is all it takes to give your makeup maximum hold.
How To Apply Foundation Right

Foundation Makeup Hacks

  • If you want to sheer out and lighten the coverage of your foundation, blend it with a colorless base. Use a water-based moisturizer to sheer out a water-based foundation, or a silicone-primer for a silicone-based foundation.
  • Foundation can act like a magic makeup eraser! A bit of foundation on a Q-tip can help you fix anything from wonky lip line edges to a not adequately sharp eyeliner wing.
  • If you bought a foundation only to discover that it doesn’t seem to match your skin tone… well, return it! But if that’s not an option, adjust its color instead! This technique also works if your skin tone changes throughout the seasons.
  • You can adjust for lightness or darkness with a product like the NXY Pro Foundation Mixer from Ulta, while a color-correcting concealer, like one of the Lancome Teint Idole Color Correctors available through Sephora, will do the trick for adjusting a mismatched undertone. Simply blend the two products right before applying to the skin!
  • Moisturizer, primer, a lighter color of foundation or concealer can also be used to lighten your foundation color, while bronzer, blush, concealer, a darker color of foundation or tinted moisturizer can help you darken the wrongly chosen foundation.
  • You can use foundations to achieve a Kardashian-esque highlight and contour look. Use a foundation 3-4 shades darker than your skin tone to contour, a shade 3-4 shades lighter to highlight, and the foundation that matches your skin can help you blend!
  • If you happen to run out of eye primer, don’t worry! Your liquid or cream foundation can help extend the wear of your shadow almost as well! A thin swipe of foundation across the eyelid before you apply eyeshadow is all it’ll take.

What are your foundation secrets? Share your thoughts with us!

Photos via @negin_mirsalehi, Instagram