When done right, foundation should look as natural as possible; your own skin, just better. When done poorly, it can highlight imperfections, make you look older or change your skin tone entirely! Here are a few pit falls you need to avoid when selecting and applying foundation.
1. You Picked The Wrong Formula
When choosing a foundation, you need to understand what your skin type is (Normal, Dry, Oily, Combination) in order to pick the correct formula.
If you have oily/combination skin, you need to find an oil-free formula that provides a matte finish so as not to add to the oil and shine that your skin produces naturally. Liquid foundations usually work best over creams or powder versions. Drier patches can be addressed with moisturizer if needed. Some formulas will cling to dry patches more than others, so some trial and error may be required!
Drier skin types will want foundation that promotes dewiness, glow, satin or semi-matte finishes to give them the hydration they are missing.
Normal skin? Lucky you! Go for the finish you prefer.
I also like to test a sample of the formula on the back of my hand, if possible, to determine the feel of it (e.g. thin and watery? thick and creamy? blendable? chalky? cakey?). Don’t be afraid to mix and match foundation formulas either – sometimes 2 foundations mixed together are better than one!
I suffer from oily/combination skin and I’ve posted my makeup and skin care tips and recommended products for oily skin types here.
2. Selecting The Wrong Shade
Mismatched foundation is the most unflattering, unnatural look you could go for, so this step is important!
If possible, have a staff member at the beauty counter help you test your shade. In most cases, you should be looking for the shade that best matches your face (unless your face and body are drastically different). Always test foundation on your face, preferably on your cheek or along your jawline and blend the foundation into your skin. Properly matched foundation should disappear into your skin after blending. To be really sure, check your foundation swatch in natural or bright white light.
Never test foundation over existing foundation and don’t assume it will match your skin just from looking at the bottle.
Need to lighten or darken a shade that wasn’t a good match? You can always try mixing 2 foundations together or use The Body Shop’s Shade Adjusting Drops that I raved about here.
3. Not Changing Your Foundation As Your Skin Changes
New weather conditions can cause your skin to change in hydration, texture and colouring. Consider changing up your foundation as the seasons change. For example, I personally love using a very matte foundation in the summer months to help control my oil, but change to a creamier, more hydrating foundation option during the winter, when my skin tends to be drier and duller.
You may also need to change your shade if you tend to get darker in the summer months from sun exposure or (hopefully fake) tanning.
Health conditions, such as hormonal changes, prescription medications or pregnancy can also cause your skin to change. Aging skin also has different foundation requirements as well (boo!).
4. Not Moisturizing
Moisturizing your skin is essential, even for oily skin types (oily skin can actually pump out more oil if it becomes overly dry). Moisturizer creates a smooth, hydrated canvas for your foundation to lay on and can often help your foundation adhere better. Unmoisturized skin can lead your foundation to go on unevenly and make it more prone to cling to dry patches.
Focus on finding the right moisturizer for your skin type. If you have dry skin or are looking for a dewier finish, try adding a drop of facial oil to your foundation for that extra glow.
5. Applying Too Much
With makeup application, it’s important to remember that less is often more. Always start with a thin layer of foundation; you can always add more if you feel you need to, but it is very difficult to blend out foundation that has been applied too heavily. Over-applied foundation can look “cakey” on skin or like a heavy mask, which won’t look natural by any means.
Start by applying foundation to the T-zone/centre of the face (which normally requires more coverage) and then begin blending and working outwards. Starting with a thin layer will allow you to easily determine if there are some areas where you require more coverage than others.
6. Using The Wrong Tools
I recommend trying different tools to apply your foundation. Usually, thicker foundations apply better with a foundation brush, while thinner formulas work well with a damp makeup sponge. However, I always test out both options before making a decision.
Sometimes you can mix and match tools; I like to apply my e.l.f. Flawless Finish foundation using the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge, but will go over it again, very lightly, with a foundation brush to make sure any excess is picked up or blended further.
Test out a few methods to find what works best with the product. For some areas of my face, I find that my fingers are the best blending tool.
Make sure your tools are cleaned regularly. Caked up foundation on brushes or sponges will make blending even more difficult.
7. Not Blending Enough
Nothing says “Hey, I’m wearing foundation today!” like unblended foundation. I personally like to apply foundation with a small vanity mirror pulled close to my face so I can really see how it’s blending (or not blending) into my skin. It is much easier to identify blending issues up close as opposed to looking into a mirror that is further away (doesn’t everything look great at a further distance?).
If using a damp makeup sponge, I usually tap the foundation all over my face to apply it and then go back and press the foundation into my skin.
When using a foundation brush, buff the foundation into your skin by using either back and forth sweeping motions or light circular motions. Again, don’t be afraid to try both methods; different parts of your face sometimes need different techniques. Blend it down your neck as well!
8. Not Setting Your Foundation
I did a post on the benefits of setting your foundation properly and how to select the right setting powder here, so I won’t reinvent the wheel at this point.
While drier skin types may be against using powder (don’t knock it until you try it!), it is essential for oilier skin types or for foundation formulas that feel a bit tacky on the skin after application. If set well, with the right powder, your foundation will look air brushed and last longer. Try it!
9. Primer Isn’t Always The Answer
There are tons of primers on the market that promise to make your foundation last longer, minimize the look of pores and give you a flawless complexion, but they aren’t for everyone. Even some celebrity makeup artists opt to skip primer for a good base moisturizer (Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist is one of them).
I personally haven’t found a primer yet that I’m crazy about and I actually find that my foundation looks better and lasts longer on top of my moisturizer alone.
10. Ignoring Your Skin Care
Foundation and concealer can cover up a host of skin care woes, but nothing beats a healthy complexion as a great makeup base. Practising great skin care on a regular basis can make a world of difference and finding the right skin care ingredients can help address the skin issues that you are relying on your foundation/concealer to cover.