How To Apply Foundation Like A Celebrity Makeup Artist
With new product brands, launches, and categories popping up every day, beauty can be a bit overwhelming. Back to Basics, our new rudimentary beauty series, serves as your crash course on the science behind some of the best formulations in the game.
Foundation has its name for a reason. This complexion-perfecting makeup staple sets the tone for everything that does (or does not) follow. One of the reasons it can be a challenge, however, is because the goal is to make it look like you did nothing at all — that is to say: I-woke-up-like-this, dewy, clear skin. We spoke to some of our favorite makeup artists to gather a few technique tips, application hacks, and pro-beloved tool recommendations to help you apply foundation like a celebrity makeup artist does.
We only include products that have been independently selected by The Zoe Report’s editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
How To Apply Foundation: Prep Your Skin
No matter what type of skin you have, it’s essential to start with a hydrated base. “If you want an even foundation application, skin prep is essential,” celebrity makeup artist Renée Loiz tells TZR. "I start by first pressing a moisturizer into the skin for maximum hydration.”
Oftentimes, makeup artists note that a good moisturizer does double duty on hydrating and priming the skin for foundation. Mann is a fan of the cult-classic Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream. "Sometimes I use a primer," she says, "it just really depends on the condition of the skin, and if it needs a little bit of an extra barrier — but most the time, the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream works as both a moisturizer and primer for me."
To keep skin prepped for makeup, Loiz also recommends using a scrub or detoxifying mask once or twice a week to remove dead skin cells and keep pores clear.
How To Apply Foundation: Address Problem Areas On Their Own
Tim Quinn, Armani Beauty celebrity face designer, recommends spot-treating problem areas before applying foundation to the rest of the face. “I find it best to do a little concealing around the under-eyes and any areas that need attention first before applying foundation,” he says, noting that “sometimes the corrections allow you to see that the rest of the skin doesn’t need as much coverage.”
How To Apply Foundation: Start From The Center
One thing all of the makeup artists we spoke to agree on? Always start application at the center of the face. “I start at the center of the face with the heaviest application (which is still very light), and begin feathering out the product as I get to the outer edges of the face,” celebrity makeup artist Katey Denno says.
How To Apply Foundation: Get Your Tools Right
When it comes to thin and sheer foundations, Denno says the texture is far more flexible. You can pick your poison — fingers, brush, blender — “any will work to easily apply,” she says. However, she notes that thicker foundation can become more difficult to apply seamlessly with fingers, so using tools can help.
Quinn’s preference is tried-and-true brushes. He recommends dense, synthetic bristles, which work best with most foundations. “Start with a large pearl-sized pump of foundation on the back of your hand, and then use the tip of the brush to load up the brush with the foundation," the artist notes. Then, “apply in small, short strokes blending up and out. As you need more coverage, you can actually use the side of the brush to actually press and stipple to increase coverage in the areas that need it most."
How To Apply Foundation: Keep A Beautyblender Handy
Unsurprisingly, the Beautyblender is pretty universally beloved by celebrity makeup artists (and us beauty editors, too). “For foundation application, put a bit of your liquid or cream foundation onto the back of your hand and swipe onto your dampened Beautyblender,” Loiz says, “Then bounce Beautyblender with product onto the skin and blend until your foundation looks seamless. You can always go back in and add more foundation or concealer if you want more coverage."
How To Apply Foundation: Customize Your Application For Your Skin Type
Just like you wouldn’t use the same moisturizer for dry skin and oily skin, applying foundation can also be customized for your skin type, too. For blemish-prone skin, or if “you have a lot of marks you’re trying to cover, you may want to apply the product in layers,” Denno says. To do this, press the product onto the skin with a blender, repeating until it’s as opaque as you want it to be.
Mann has a hack for managing oily skin, too. Though it seems counterintuitive, she recommends a powder sandwich of sorts. You do this by applying a thin layer of loose powder before applying foundation. This, she says, “helps it last longer, and prevents shine.” Then, you apply your foundation — and then, “finish with another layer of loose powder where needed,” she says. “I know it may seem funny to apply loose powder before a liquid, but the trick really works and keeps the foundation for breaking down.”
If your skin is super dry and or flaky, go ahead and blend a bit of moisturizer or a few drops of facial oil into your foundation. By doing this, you “make sure it’s super hydrating and won’t get cakey around your dry spots,” Denno says.
How To Apply Foundation: Customize Your Finish
Depending on whether you want your foundation to have a matte or dewy finish, Loiz has tips for getting the finish you want. For a matte finish, she recommends finishing off with a translucent powder. For a glowier finish, Loiz employs one of her favorite red carpet tricks—she adds a few drops of liquid luminizer directly into the foundation. “I am all about luminous and glowing skin and this trick delivers to make the skin look flawless—even under all those red carpet lights!” she says.
Shop Artist-Loved Foundations: