The 10 commandments for flawless foundation

What does it take to “face” the world with a flawless look? That’s a question on many a beauty-lover’s lips, and it starts with the perfect blank canvas (a.k.a. a silky-smooth foundation application). But the art of the pristine finish can, at times, be elusive. Just how do those beauty bloggers and makeup artists do it? When I started getting obsessed with makeup in earnest, that’s one of the first things I wanted to check off my list, so I went on a crazy search to find my HG foundation. Along the way, I learned a bunch of useful guidelines for buying and applying foundation.

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1. Thou shall figure out your undertone

Achieving flawless foundation begins even before you shell out the cash on a foundie purchase. I went on for years thinking I had a pink (cool) undertone because I mistook my skin's redness for my undertone, and have constantly been told by family that our coloring is pinkish. The materials I read were no better as they presented conflicting definitions of each undertone. When I finally gained the courage to come up to a high-end cosmetic counter for a professional assessment, I was shell-shocked to learn that I was yellow-toned (warm-neutral) after all!

Knowing your undertone saves you the trouble of blindly guessing which color family your foundation shade belongs in and from wasting money on a bunch of wrong colors. The best way to figure it out is with the help of a trained makeup artist, and there are no shortages of those in the more pricey makeup counters. They’ll do the assessment for free, though of course you may be pressured to make a purchase afterwards.

2. Thou shall choose a formula and finish with your skin type or skin concern in mind.

I love a matte foundation look as much as the next person, but a matte formula always brings out my dry patches. It’s not a good fit, so I have to make a compromise of choosing a satin or semi-matte finish instead. Before buying foundation, make sure to assess your skin type and find out what the foundation finish is like. Generally, those with oily skin should stick to foundations with a matte finish like powder or liquid-to-powder formulas and dry stick foundations. Those with dry skin are compatible with dewy, satin or semi-matte liquid foundations as well as creamy formulas.

3. Thou shall choose an appropriate and comfortable coverage level

Ask yourself where you’ll be using your foundation. Are you gearing up for a formal event? That’s when a full-coverage formula would come in handy. For everyday use at the office, a light to medium coverage foundation works. For those who want a no-makeup makeup look or those who already have good skin to begin with, go get yourself a sheer coverage foundation.

4. Thou shall do a lighting test

After swatching your potential foundation on your bare face, excuse yourself from the counter for a lighting test. Head over to spaces with natural light, bright light, and fluorescent light to see how the foundation really looks on your skin. It may look okay under blinding store lights, but look completely off in the sun. Your perfect shade will have a seamless look under any light. Bonus: Wearing the product for an hour or so also gives you the opportunity to check for potential irritations if you have sensitive skin.

5. Thou shall prep the skin

Start with skincare, especially sunscreen. Those with dry skin will need a moisturizing base, while those with oily skin will benefit from an oil-reducing foundation primer. CC cream can also be layered underneath foundation to help improve its coverage.

6. Thou shall use the correct tool/s according to the formula and finish of your foundation

What is your weapon of choice? There are many brushes and sponges to choose from, or you could just use your fingers! It’s a perfectly subjective choice that depends on what you’re most comfortable using. The effect of each tool should also weigh into your consideration: A foundation brush layers on the product like paint. A stippling brush buffs for a sheered out look. A sponge presses on the foundation right into the pores for an airbrushed effect.

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7. Thou shall begin at the nose, blending outwards

I've watched a lot of Youtube videos to guide me in proper application techniques. One tip that I'll never forget is from makeup guru, Lisa Eldridge. She says that when applying foundation, always start at the center of the face and work your way outward. Apply foundation first on the nose and area around it, then sheer it out towards the outer parts of your face. It gives off a seamless finish rather than creating thick lines around the face.

8. Thou shall work with light hands

When you’re working the foundation into the skin, there are probably some gigil moments. Sometimes, we’re under the impression that more pressure will get the foundation to go deeper into the pores. Well, that’s a mistake! Apart from rubbing your face raw, working with heavy hands will just keep moving the foundation around instead of letting it settle in.

9. Thou shall set it properly

All your hard work in selecting and applying your foundation goes down the drain if your setting powder is off base. Some celebrity makeup artists actually condemn setting powder as they believe it flattens the skin out too much. But for us mere mortals who brave the daily commute and heat, I think it’s safe to say that a setting powder is ideal.

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For a professional touch, invest in a translucent setting powder rather than a transparent or colored one. The colored ones mess with the foundation’s color, while the transparent powders have a learning curve to them. If you’ve seen red carpet photos of celebrities whose faces were caked with white powder, you have the HD transparent powder to blame for that. It’s not all bad, but those in a hurry or those who have little time to practice will look coked out in photographs and if Angie can't rock it, neither can you.

10. Thou shall protect your base

Once you leave the house and get exposed to heat, sweat, oil and pollution, it can be a challenge to make your face last all day. Stock your purse with blotting papers and touch-up tools so you can re-set as needed. Check out our staff picks for keeping our faces fresh and shine-free!


Have you been following these foundation rules? What other face base guidelines do you swear by?