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Apply Liquid Foundation Correctly for Smooth, Flawless Skin

Your foundation sets the stage for the rest of your makeup — it’s the ground on which all the rest relies. When applied incorrectly, you’re left with a cakey, streaky mess that draws attention to blemishes, freckles, and other imperfections rather than concealing them. Often, products and tools are blamed — but it may be your technique that needs refining. 

While both powder and liquid foundations exist, the most common type is the latter. It’s also harder to apply, so it’s worth learning how to apply this foundation. After our tutorial, you’ll be wearing foundation makeup like a pro.

October 21, 2022
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woman in front of a red background applying foundation on her face
Table of Contents

Choosing the best foundation for you

Picking out the right liquid foundation shade is crucial for compliment-worthy skin. Here are some tips for avoiding the dreaded mask-like foundation effect.

  1. Take time to swatch. The best place on the body to shade match is your chest. The skin tone in that area more closely resembles your face and will give a more accurate result. You can also use your face to color match by applying a small amount of product to its center and blending outward toward your neck and hairline. If your neck is lighter than your face but you don’t want to go that light, choose one shade down so the tones are comparable. 
  2. Consider your undertones. If you don’t want to apply a color corrector every time you use foundation, choose a product that works with your skin color’s natural warm or cool undertones. For a peachy skin tone, pick a product with a yellow base. Foundations with pink undertones work to warm up a fair complexion. If unsure, select a neutral product that combines well with any undertone. 
  3. Choose a finish. The next big thing to consider is your skin type. Is your complexion dry, normal, or oily? A dewy finish helps give normal and dry skin a radiant glow while also providing hydration. A matte finish is better for combination or oily skin as it reduces shine. If your skin is more mature, opt for a satin finish that reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  4. Consider coverage. If you don’t like the feeling of foundation, opt for a sheer product with light to medium coverage. These foundations are buildable — simply apply more on days you want additional coverage. If you want a long-wear product, choose a full-coverage foundation that’ll take you from morning to night without needing touch-ups.

Remember: Your skin tone shifts seasonally, even if you regularly use sunblock. Do a quick color match as you move from summer to winter and back again for the best result.

Step-by-step foundation application guide

Now that you’ve found the perfect shade, it’s time to perfect your application technique.

1. Start with a clean canvas

Remove oil, dirt, and traces of old makeup with your favorite face wash.

2. Set the stage

Apply a thin layer of moisturizer all over your face and let it sink in for 5–10 minutes. Allowing moisturizer to set gives your skin time to become fully hydrated and prevents streaks. For a flawless finish, try Tata Harper’s lightweight water-lock moisturizer

3. Get primed (optional)

Primers like Saie Sunglow keep foundation looking fresh all day and protect your skin, reducing the need for annoying touch-ups and offering a healthy natural glow.

4. Apply liquid foundation

There are three methods for applying liquid foundation: your fingertips, a makeup brush, or a makeup sponge like a beautyblender. All have their pros and cons — give each one a try to see which works best for you.

Regarding how much foundation to use, the amount is the same no matter your chosen method. Start with a conservative amount of product — one or two squirts is all you need to achieve a faultless makeup look. You can always add a bit more for extra coverage, but it's easier to add foundation than to take it off.

Applying foundation with your fingertips

Using your fingertips to apply foundation means less product waste and quicker application. 

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly. 
  2. Dot liquid foundation on the center of your forehead, nose, and chin. 
  3. Using feather-light strokes, blend the foundation outward from the center of your face, gently tapping the product into the delicate skin around your eyes with your ring fingers.
  4. Apply another layer using the same technique if you want more coverage, or concentrate on areas of discoloration that may be showing through. Keep blending until your coverage looks perfectly even.
  5. Wash your hands again. 

Applying foundation with a brush

Applying foundation with a brush offers precision and an even finish. It takes a bit more time, but the results are worth it.

  1. Begin with clean hands and a makeup brush designed for foundation
  2. Starting at the center of the face, dab the product on with clean fingertips, then use the brush to blend toward your hairline, ears, and jawline.
  3. Make sure to add some dabs of foundation to your cheeks and do the same. Focus on areas that need more coverage, and run the brush along your jaw to achieve a seamless look. 

Applying foundation with a sponge

Using a makeup sponge like a beautyblender takes your foundation application to the next level by producing a Photoshop-worthy, airbrushed look. 

  1. Start with clean hands and a clean sponge. 
  2. Wet your sponge thoroughly using warm water until it puffs up and isn’t dripping. 
  3. Dip the broad, rounded end into the foundation. Starting in the middle of your face, dab and bounce the sponge in a stippling action against your skin, working your way outward. Don’t drag the sponge over your face as this creates streaks. 
  4. Using the pointed end, dab product into the hard-to-reach areas like the under eyes and nose creases to ensure even coverage.
  5. Continue stippling until you achieve an even, flawless finish.

5. Wrap-up

Now that your liquid foundation is applied, here are a few tips to ensure it stays flawless all day.

  1. Conceal. Dab your favorite concealer under your eyes or on any blemishes or dark spots and blend using your fingers or a sponge. 
  2. Lock it in. Set the foundation with your go-to setting spray or a light dusting of translucent powder. If you have oily or combination skin, focus primarily on your t-zone. 

A final tip

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, an effective skincare routine is crucial to enjoying flawless-looking makeup. Not only will washing your face regularly and using thoughtfully-chosen products cut down on breakouts and rough patches, but a healthy complexion needs less product to achieve your desired results. It’s a win-win for both your skin and your wallet.

Now that you understand the ins and outs of foundation application, it’s time to choose your makeup. Here are a few suggestions. 

Oily skin: Too Faced Born This Way Natural Finish Foundation

Combination skin: e.l.f. Cosmetics Camo Powder Foundation

Dry skin: KVD Beauty Good Apple Foundation Balm

Mature skin: Yensa Super Serum Silk Foundation

For more guidance, browse product reviews on Flip. Our community uploads new videos daily discussing all the ins and outs of the products already in your shopping cart so you can purchase confidently.

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