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How to Apply Foundation: 6 Steps For a Perfect Application Every Time

21 Sep 2022

Subtly glowy or vibrant and full of color—whatever your beauty vibe, foundation is a makeup bag staple. It helps give your skin a smoother, more even appearance and provides an even base for the rest of your makeup. But, that’s only if you’re applying it properly and using the right shade (and coverage) for your skin.

If you need help figuring out how to apply foundation for a smooth, natural-looking finish, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we’ll break down the six steps you should follow for a flawless-looking base, plus offer our top tips for helping foundation stay put (and smudge-free) all day. We’ll also clue you in on some of our fave foundation formulas for different skin types. Get ready to dive into the ultimate NYX Professional Makeup guide on applying foundation for beginners.

What Is The Best Way To Apply Foundation?

A good foundation application takes a little bit of prep work, as well as the right technique. Learn the best way to apply foundation for a gorgeous, your-skin-but-better finish, ahead.

Step 1: Clean Your Face

First things first: Before applying makeup, clean skin is a must (there’s no point in putting your makeup products on top of a layer of oil and dirt—they won’t stick as well). Use your favorite cleanser to wash your face, then moisturize to help keep your skin smooth and hydrated. If it’s daytime, sunscreen is essential, as well. Wait until all of your skincare products are fully absorbed, and your skin is dry to the touch before starting on your base makeup.

Step 2: Prep Your Skin

Next up is makeup primer. The ideal formula can help provide grip, so your foundation stays in place, while also helping to address your skin concerns (like fine lines or large pores). At NYX Professional Makeup, we have several different makeup primers to choose from, including hydrating formulas for dry skin, mattifying formulas for oily skin, and radiance-boosting primers to give your skin a long-lasting glow. If you’re unsure which primer is right for you, our article Prime Time: How To Pick The Right Makeup Primer can help you find your match.

Step 3: Dab Foundation Onto Skin

Once you’ve applied your primer, you can go ahead and start on your foundation. There are plenty of different techniques you can follow (a quick YouTube search for “how to put on foundation” will show you that), but we recommend simply dabbing the product on with your fingers, a makeup sponge, or a foundation brush, like Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Foundation Brush. Start at the center of your face—that’s where you tend to need the most coverage.

As for which foundation to use, we have several options for different skin types and concerns. For a foundation that looks like your skin (but better), try Total Control Pro Drop Foundation. It boasts a vegan formula with a buildable, natural-looking finish that leaves your skin looking hydrated. The lightweight foundation is available in 30 shades which can be adjusted to perfectly match your skin with the coordinating Total Control Pro Drop Foundation Hue Shifters. (Learn how to use Hue Shifters in our video, here.) If you have drier skin, we recommend pairing it with a hydrating primer.

For those with oilier skin types, powder foundations and mattifying liquid formulas, like Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Full Coverage Foundation, can help keep shine under control. The creamy, blendable formula provides long-lasting coverage and leaves the skin looking matte for up to 24 hours. Plus, the non-comedogenic foundation comes in 45 diverse shades to flatter an array of skin tones, and it’s suitable for all skin types, including oily skin and sensitive skin.

Pro Tip: If shine is still a concern even after using a mattifying foundation, try topping off your foundation with Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Mattifying Powder. It absorbs excess oil and provides sheer coverage for a lightweight, non-ashy finish that lasts all day long.

Step 4: Blend, Blend, Blend

One of the most common mistakes makeup newbies make when applying foundation is failing to blend it properly. You want to blend the formula not just onto your face but also out toward your hairline and down your neck for a seamless, undetectable finish. You can do this with a foundation brush or a damp makeup sponge—choose whichever tool you feel most comfortable with.

Pro Tip: When using a makeup sponge, aim to dab (rather than rub) the sponge onto your skin—rubbing will just move the foundation around while dabbing will help press it into your skin for a streak-free application.

Step 5: Apply Concealer As Needed

When you have imperfections that need a bit more coverage than your foundation provides, reach for concealer. A full-coverage concealer can help brighten dark circles, neutralize redness, and camouflage blemishes, without giving your skin a cakey finish. As with foundation, you’ll want to choose a concealer that works with your skin type and concerns. Apply a small dab to areas that need additional coverage, and blend with a damp makeup sponge or a concealer brush.

Step 6: Top Off With Setting Powder

Finally, to help set your foundation in place, lightly dust a setting powder, like our Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Setting Powder, over your face. The lightweight, loose powder absorbs evil and leaves behind a smooth matte finish.

Why Can’t I Get My Foundation To Look Flawless?

If you’re following all of the above steps and still can’t get your foundation to look picture-perfect, don’t stress—there’s probably an easy solution. Here, discover four foundation faux pas beginners often make (and, most importantly, how to avoid making the same mistakes).

You’re Applying Too Much

With foundation, less is more: Piling it on can just leave your skin looking cakey or flat (not the vibe). We recommend applying a thin layer of foundation and blending it out for a natural, soft effect. You can add more product to problem areas as needed for extra coverage.

You Get Foundation In Your Hairline

It’s true that you want to blend your foundation to your hairline for an undetectable finish, but it’s important not to get it in your hair—not only can foundation be annoying to get out of your strands, but it’ll also make your makeup application look a bit messy. That’s why, as we mentioned earlier, we recommend starting your application in the center of your face and buffing outward. By the time you get to your hairline, there will be very little product left on the brush or sponge, and you’ll be less likely to get makeup in your hair.

You’re Using The Wrong Formula For Your Skin Type

Foundation is supposed to look like your natural skin—and if you’re not using the right formula for your skin type, chances are your base makeup won’t look as good as it could. We mentioned our favorite formulas earlier, and you can discover which one is your match with our Foundation Finder. The four-question quiz will help you find your perfect foundation shade and finish in one minute or less.

You Skipped Setting Spray

If you find that your foundation applies beautifully but looks less than stellar after a few hours, you’re probably in need of setting spray. Used at the end of your makeup routine, setting spray helps lock your makeup in place, prevents it from smudging or transferring, and keeps your skin looking fresh. Some formulas provide additional benefits (like hydrating or mattifying the skin), too. After finishing your makeup, spritz on setting spray to keep your perfectly-applied makeup from slipping or sliding away.

Next: Why Setting Sprays Really Work


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