The Key to Flawless Foundation

by Sonia Kashuk

The Key to Flawless Foundation

Learn how to figure out which foundation formula (and how much!) you should be using for a fresh, natural base.

Most of us keep our foundation as close as our ATM card. And just like crisp cash, we tend to “spend” too much of it. That’s the most common problem women make—putting foundation all over their face when that’s very rarely needed. When you get the right shade, and you know how and where to use it, you’ll find you need very little.

But first—which form do you choose? There are sticks, liquids, creams, and powders. If you have normal skin, you’re fine with anything. Dry skin is best with a cream or liquid—these glide easily over the skin. Oily skin is best with an oil-free liquid but a powder foundation’s even better.

I almost always advocate the sheerest coverage possible. I like to see real skin through any foundation. It has life in it—freckles and little idiosyncrasies are what make you…you. Liquid is the sheerest form of foundation. Powder and dual finish powder are less sheer. And cream can be the heaviest, most opaque of all.

Once you choose what to use, you can still control the amount of coverage. With a cream or liquid, use a damp sponge, foundation brush, or—my favorite tool for applying foundation—fingertips. I typically squirt some from my favorite pump formula onto the back of my hand and dab on from there. This warms it somewhat, and I don’t have to deal with a dispenser while I apply.

To build more coverage, apply in thin layers, using a gentle patting motion so you never pull on the skin. You can also go super sheer by blending cream or liquid foundations with a bit of moisturizer. With a pressed powder foundation, you can apply wet or dry with a sponge. Wet, you get more coverage. Dry will be more sheer.

It’s also good to think ahead to what makeup you plan to apply over your foundation. Cream products are compatible with cream foundations. Powder colors work best over powder foundations.

So—cream blush on top of a dual finish foundation? Bad idea. The powder will “grab” the cream blush and you won’t be able to blend it into place. Powder blush on top of a liquid or cream foundation? Also a bad idea—unless you brush loose powder over the foundation to create a compatible surface for your powder blush. Similarly, cream eye shadows should go over a cream foundation; powder shadows over powder.

A final word about finish: If you’ve used a cream foundation, your face will be dewy. If you want creams to go matte, add a final dusting of loose powder.

What Color Is Best?

Foundation should always match your skin tone. Don’t try to fake a porcelain face when you aren’t that fair. Likewise, don’t try to fake a two week vacation in St. Bart’s if you aren’t that dark. Anything other than your real color will look like a mask.

When you put foundation on, it should disappear on the skin—then you know it’s the right shade. Another plus to a perfect match is that you won’t have to wear it over your entire face, which is important because (I can’t say this enough) most women don’t need foundation all over.

Color Tips

  • Always test foundation shades on your face, not on your hand. Put a bit on. Blend it out. If you no longer see it, it’s perfect.
  • Don’t shy away from shades that look yellowish in their packaging. On your face, they’ll look great. Foundations with a yellow tint neutralize pink tones on your face. (This same tip holds true for concealers and powders.) You might think if you have pinkish skin, you need pink in your foundation. Not so. What you’re after is a neutral tone, with no pinks or blues.
  • If your skin color is between two shades, go with the darker shade. A too-light foundation is more noticeable—it will appear to be sitting on the surface of the skin. If you can’t get a perfect color match, make sure to blend over the jawline and onto the neck. But with all the choices out there, I doubt you’ll have a problem.
  • Don’t be surprised if you need to switch shades with the seasons. If you go in the sun (with a smart sunscreen, of course) your foundation should change to match your tawnier skin tone. Most women need one shade for winter, another for summer.

Where Does It Go?

Always use foundation over the eyelids, even if you aren’t using eye makeup. It cleans up tiny veins and uneven skin tone. Simply blend over the entire lid, and powder to set. Go under the eyes, too, to take minor circles away (really dark circles need concealer, then foundation). This is a great nude eye look on its own, also a great primer before applying eye color.

Another key spot: around the nostrils. Most people have some redness here to cover. Foundation around the eyes and nostrils makes such a difference, many women learn that’s all they need. Everywhere else is an option.

I also like to put foundation over the lipline (not over the whole lip), so when I do the lips later, lip pencils glide easily. This gives you a clean line to work with—and also hides any unevenness of your lipline.

If you want a full face application, go for it. But the idea is to use foundation to perfect the skin, not hide it.

Sonia Kashuk’s book, Real Beauty, is available at bookstores nationwide.