Find Your Perfect Foundation in Three Easy Steps
Whether you’re going for full glam or the “no makeup” makeup look, a flawless face starts with the right canvas.
Photo filters are completely optional when your foundation makes you look fantastic in any light. A flawless base can level up your style, especially if you’re rocking a smoky eye or bold red lip. The right foundation can also transform your complexion from dull to radiant in minutes and create the illusion that you’re well rested, even if you’ve only had four hours of sleep the night before. The secret to a red-carpet-worthy face? Remember the three S’s: shade, sheerness and set. We asked two sought-after makeup artists to give us the inside scoop on how to achieve complexion perfection every time.
Foundation is the most important step in any makeup routine, yet it seems to be the most confusing. With so many shades, finishes and formulas to choose from, finding the perfect match can be especially daunting for melanated sisters. Rule number one? Understand that skin tone and undertone are two different things. Not all browns are the same, so determine your undertone — warm, cool or neutral — to ultimately get a flawless finish. Skipping this important step can make your face chalky or ashy.
“Most people confuse their skin tone for their undertone,” explains New York City-based makeup artist Kim Baker, who’s worked with Naomi Campbell, Tracee Ellis Ross, Toni Braxton and Zoe Saldana. “Skin tone changes depending on the season or the amount of time you spend in the sun, but your undertone never changes.”
Warm undertones tend to look better in gold jewelry, while silver usually flatters cool undertones. You can also check out your veins. If they’re green, you fall in the warm category. Blue or purple veins indicate a cool undertone. If you’re neutral, your veins probably match your skin tone and may appear colorless, according to Baker.
Once you’ve nailed your undertone, let the swatch-matching begin. For starters, always test foundation in natural light on the high points of your cheekbones. The perimeter of your face gets the most sun exposure, so your forehead, chin and jawline aren’t true to your complexion. Don’t swatch foundation on your wrist or forearm — your face is lighter than the rest of your body. And because foundation oxidizes, wait a couple of hours to see how it adjusts to your skin tone before committing to that shade.
Two options to try: Fenty Beauty Pro-Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation ($35) and Glamazon Beauty Second Skin Foundation Stick ($28)
As we get older, our skin’s needs change drastically. The foundation you swore by in your 20s probably won’t do you any favors in your 40s and 50s. Regardless of your age, foundation should look like your own skin but better. Foundation can cling to dry patches, but light to medium coverage glides on easier and is more forgiving, especially if you have dry or mature skin. For a dewy, natural-looking application, start with a rich, creamy moisturizer and apply one to two pumps of liquid foundation — only where you need coverage — with a slightly damp makeup sponge. Press the product evenly into the skin using a dabbing motion. Mixing your primer with foundation sheers out the formula as well.
Two options to try: Beautyblender Original Makeup Sponge ($20) and E.L.F. Cosmetics Sculpting and Blending Sponge ($4)
Powder helps your makeup stay put all day because it adheres and absorbs excess moisture, which can be a godsend for oily skin. But heavy powders settle into fine lines and wrinkles, so choose a lightweight, finely milled version that won’t make you look cakey by the time lunch rolls around. Pro tip: Apply powder only to the areas of your face that are prone to shine. For most people, it’s the forehead, nose and chin (aka your T-zone). If you overdo it with the powder, you can add life back to your skin with setting spray. “This technique leaves your skin with a soft matte, breathable finish,” says Chicago-based makeup artist Tia Dantzler, whose A-list clients include Mary J. Blige, Viola Davis and Loretta Devine. “And it’s OK to be generous with the spray.”
Two setting powder options: Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder ($39) and Sacha Buttercup Powder ($22)
Two setting spray options: Urban Decay All Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray ($33) and MAC Prep + Prime Fix+ ($28)