How to Apply Foundation? 11 Expert-Approved Ways to Make it Look Like Second Skin

What is every pro’s top secret for how to apply foundation? Execute it without a trace. “I want people to say, ‘Oh my god, your skin looks amazing!’ not, ‘Your foundation is so great,’” makeup artist and brand founder Violette explains. And while finding the perfect formula is half the battle, once you have it, making like Houdini and ensuring it vanishes into your complexion is just as crucial. Here, in-demand makeup artists share their fine-tuned tips for how to apply foundation and achieve that ever-elusive, second-skin finish.

Create a Glowing Canvas

Clean and moisturized skin is a no-brainer, but to really supercharge your glow, begin with a hydrating mask and follow it up with a lymphatic facial massage. When makeup artist Nina Park works with clients such as Zoë Kravitz and Bella Hadid, she begins with a sheet mask specifically targeted to their skin type, with ingredients such as rose to combat oiliness, aloe to treat dryness, and green tea to soothe inflammation. After masking, gently massage your moisturizer into the skin to boost circulation and reduce puffiness. “It creates a natural flush that makes the face look more awake,” says makeup artist Kira Nasrat, who helps give Jessica Alba that perpetually luminous complexion.

Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre

Tata Harper Water-Lock Moisturizer

By Terry Baume de Rose Hydrating Sheet Mask

Dr. Jart+ Dermask Water Jet Soothing Hydra Solution

Prime as Needed

To prime or not to prime? It’s an eternal question for amateurs and pros alike. While Violette typically skips the extra base step in the interest of using as little product as possible, when applied correctly, it can prolong foundation for all-day wear. “I use an anti-shine primer for hotspots like the forehead, hairline, sides of nose, and around the mouth, and then a sheer, illuminating one for the tops of the cheekbones,” explains Park, adding that she applies each with her fingertips.

Pick the Right Formula

Beauty is Boring makeup artist and photographer Robin Black says that while newer generations of powder foundations can give you that second-skin look, they only do so for certain skin types such as oily skin. For fool-proof application, she recommends using a liquid foundation. “Liquid tends to offer more options when it comes to natural finishes and level of coverage.”

Skip out on a full-coverage foundation and go for something more lightweight. The best foundation is the one that suits your skin type. For example, those with oil skin will want something that controls the excess oil and gives a matte finish whereas those dry skin will want a hydrating formula. We like something like the bareMinerals Original Pure Serum Radiant Natural Liquid Foundation Mineral SPF 20 which is packed with nourishing skincare ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and water lily extract to plump and soothe skin while also providing medium coverage. Plus it has a lovely radiant finish for that natural glowy look.

Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer

Grown Alchemist Anti-Pollution Primer

Tula Face Filter Blurring & Moisturizing Primer

Apply From the Center and Move Outward

Only apply foundation where it’s really necessary, insists Violette, who counts Estée Lauder Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturizing Foundation with SPF 45 among her favorites. “Start in the center of the face, on the apples of the cheeks, and slowly blend out,” she instructs, adding that another key part of the face is the area around the mouth, which is prone to yellow undertones and shadows. 

Black says to apply four dabs of foundation to the center of your cheeks, the low center of your forehead, and the center of your chin. From there, you’ll want to blend from the center of your face toward the edges, making sure you also blend the underside of your jawline and the top of your neck. (If your hair is going to be pulled back, she also recommends sweeping some product across your ears). “This technique helps keep most of the coverage in the center of the face where you are more likely to want it and it provides a very even base without the dreaded ‘foundation buildup’ along the hairline,” says Black.