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Underpainting: What You Need to Know About This Viral Makeup Trick

Is Underpainting the Secret to Natural-Looking Makeup?

19 Dec 2023

If you’ve been on the beauty side of TikTok lately, you’ve probably heard mention of underpainting. This makeup trend involves applying foundation as the final step of your base makeup routine, after contour, blush, and concealer. And, despite the technique’s newfound popularity on social media, it’s not a fleeting fad: In fact, underpainting has been a well-kept secret amongst makeup artists for years. Here, we’ll explain why it’s a technique worth trying. Plus, learn how to underpaint with our underpainting makeup tutorial, designed to help you achieve a smooth, natural-looking finish.

Benefits of Underpainting Makeup

Traditionally, you’d apply your makeup primer, then foundation, then layer on the other components of your base makeup (such as concealer, blush, and contour). The underpainting makeup technique reverses that process almost entirely, so foundation goes on last. There are a few benefits to this method. For one, it produces a much more natural-looking finish. The colors of your blush, contour, and anything else you use peek through your foundation rather than sit on top of it, making it appear as though you’re not wearing much makeup at all. It’s like your skin but enhanced.

Another benefit of underpainting is that the application process is generally faster. When you apply foundation first, every additional layer of makeup needs to be blended out to ensure there are no harsh lines. With underpainting, however, you can blend everything all in one go before applying your foundation. This cuts down on time—a major bonus on busy mornings.

Ultimately, underpainting is a great technique if you’re after a softer, more natural (but still sculpted) base. Keep reading to learn more about the ins and outs of makeup underpainting.

What Do You Need to Underpaint?

The products you’ll need to underpaint generally won’t look too different from what you’d normally use. For a standard underpainting makeup look, you’ll want to have the following:

  • Makeup primer
  • Contour
  • Blush
  • Concealer
  • Foundation
  • Setting spray
  • Makeup brushes or sponges

There are, however, a few things to keep in mind when you try the underpainting makeup technique. First, you’ll want all of your products to be the same (or, at the very least, similar) type of formula—for example, if you’re using a liquid foundation, you’ll want to stick with liquid or cream blush, bronzer, concealer, and contour. The reason for this is simple: It’ll make your application smoother and more even. Avoid applying liquid makeup on top of powder makeup, as it could end up looking patchy and uneven.

Secondly, when choosing your foundation, opt for a buildable or medium-coverage option, such as our Bare With Me Blur Tint Foundation. The less opaque your foundation is, the more your underpainted makeup will be able to show through (which, of course, is the goal). If you want a more vibrant end result, pick the most pigmented blush and contour you can find.

How to Underpaint Makeup: A Step-by-Step Guide

Underpainting generally involves around six steps: prepping your skin, contouring, adding blush, concealing, blending, and finally, layering on foundation. We also recommend setting your base with setting spray to help ensure your look lasts. Ahead, learn how to complete each step for your underpainted makeup look.

Step 1: Prep Your Skin

No matter which order you’re applying your products in, proper skin prep is a must. We recommend kicking off your routine with Face Freezie Cooling Primer + Moisturizer—one of our favorite skincare-makeup hybrids. The 10-in-1 formula preps, evens, smooths, minimizes pores, tightens, hydrates, sculpts, softens, calms, and revitalizes skin. Just apply the moisturizer to clean, dry skin, and then you’re ready to start underpainting.

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Step 2: Contour and Sculpt

Next, carve out your features with the Wonder Stick Contour and Highlighter Stick. Use the darker shade in the duo to draw lines on either temple, beneath both cheekbones, and just underneath your jaw. Don’t blend anything yet—that part will come later. For an in-depth guide to contour placement, check out our article Contouring 101: How to Contour Like an Absolute Pro—it lays it all out.

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Step 3: Add Blush

A pop of color on the cheeks is the key to a great natural makeup look. We suggest using a cream blush, like Wonder Stick Blush, to add pigment to the apples of your cheeks (and maybe just a dot across the tip of your nose). This dual-ended blush stick can also be used in place of contour, if you’re after a more flushed—but still sculpted—end result. As with the contour, hold off on blending for now.

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Step 4: Color Correct and Conceal

If you have any imperfections you’d like to conceal—dark circles, pimples, dark spots—now is the time to do so. Use one of the color-correcting Pro Fix Sticks shades to neutralize any discoloration (if needed), or apply one of the skin shades to add coverage anywhere you need it. If you’re not familiar with color correcting or how it works, we break it all down in our article Color Correcting Is the Makeup Artist Secret You Need to Know.

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Step 5: Blend Your Underpainting Makeup

Before applying your foundation, you’ll want to blend all your underpainted makeup out. A lot of tools can work for this step, but we find a damp makeup sponge provides the most natural-looking results. Aim to blend your concealer first, before your contour or blush, to ensure it remains bright and true-to-tone.

Step 6: Layer On Foundation

The next-to-last step in your underpainting makeup routine is foundation. Squeeze a bit of your Bare With Me Blur Tint Foundation onto the back of your hand, then dab your blending sponge or brush into the formula. Starting at the center of your face and working outward, begin dabbing the product on to add coverage where you want it most. If you’d like more coverage, you can apply a second layer of foundation—just take care to dab with your sponge or brush rather than rub, as rubbing can disrupt the makeup you already applied.

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Step 7: Set It

When you spend valuable time perfecting your makeup look, you want to make sure it lasts. Set your finished look in place with a generous misting of your favorite setting spray. Any long-lasting formula works, but to really lean into the natural finish, we love the Plump Finish Setting Spray. It helps extend makeup wear for up to 24 hours and leaves your skin looking moisturized and healthy.

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Next: How to Rock an Ultra-Glossy Makeup Look.

Try our underpainting makeup tutorial and share it on social! Don’t forget to tag us @nyxcosmetics.


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