Foundation is a key step in many people’s beauty routines, which is why it’s so important to find your match made in heaven. But it’s more than picking the perfect shade, which, if we’re being honest, isn’t always easy to begin with. You also want to find a foundation that works with your particular skin type.
Foundations come in different forms and finishes—liquids, sticks, matte, dewy—and a particular formula may work better on some skin types than others. We spoke with makeup artists to learn what to look for to find the best foundation for the skin concerns that mean the most to you. They also explained how to apply foundation depending on your skin type.
Here’s what we learned.
If you have dry skin:
People with dry skin produce less sebum (oil), making it difficult for their skin to retain moisture. So any product that provides a boost of hydration is beneficial for this skin type. For dry skin types, the pros reach for liquid, cream or oil foundation. “It will smoothly apply over any rough areas and give a luminosity to the skin,” makeup artist Suzy Gerstein tells SELF. She likes RMS Un-Cover Up ($36) for drier skin types.
Before you even apply foundation, though, smooth on a layer of moisturizer first. “Treat your dry skin to a comforting moisturizer or hydrating mask before beginning your foundation application,” she says.
To get a smooth, even, application, makeup artist Ashleigh Ciucci recommends using your fingers, so that the oils on your hands rub off on the dry skin on your face. To overcome the sometimes dull look of dry skin, she suggests going back over and buffing the foundation with a damp sponge to get an extra glow.
If you notice your skin dries out throughout the day, spray on a soothing face mist on top of your foundation—the moisture can seep through your makeup. Personally, I carry around Avene’s Thermal Spring Water ($9) to spritz on when I feel red, overheated or dry. It’s such a quick and easy way to freshen up.
If you have oily skin:
On the opposite end of the skin spectrum, those with oily skin produce extra sebum, which can leave a slick waxiness on the surface that can appear shiny and make foundation application a little challenging. If you want to minimize shine, look for water-based formulas, powders or matte-finish foundations. Gerstein recommends NARS All Day Luminous Foundation ($49), an oil-free liquid foundation: “It blends easily, gives excellent coverage to typical oily skin concerns like enlarged pores, then dries down and doesn’t budge.” For a comfortable powder foundation, try It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ ($35). Fenty’s Pro Filt’r Soft Matte ($34) wears long and has a shade for everyone.
Since the last thing your skin needs is more oil, Ciucci says you don’t want to use your fingers to apply your foundation. She recommends using a stiff, flat, wide foundation brush. If you still seem to have a layer oil on the skin after all this, Gerstein says to pull apart two-ply tissues and blot over the foundation before finishing with a setting powder like Hourglass Translucent Setting Powder ($18).
If you have combination skin:
Combination skin is exactly what it sounds like—a combination of oily and dry skin. Typically, combination skin feels oily around the T-zone (nose, chin, and forehead) and dry in other areas of the face.
“When dealing with combo skin, I recommend using a satin finish liquid foundation,” says Cuicci. “It'll provide glow for your drier areas without making your usually-oilier T-zone look ultra shiny.” A great satin foundation is Tarte’s Water Foundation with SPF 15 ($39). Apply this using a stiff foundation brush. If you need to blend a bit more in the drier areas, use your fingertips or a damp sponge.
If you have well-balanced skin:
If your skin is neither too oily nor too dry, “you really have carte blanche when it comes to foundation type or tool choice,” Ciucci says. Gerstein has two specific favorites she likes using on well-balanced (or “normal”) skin. The first is a super lightweight pick from Kosas ($42).“It’s quickly absorbed, blends in like skin-care without the need for fancy brushes and gives a lovely, velvety finish.” The second is the pricier Tom Ford Foundation Stick ($87).
Ciucci suggests playing with different types of finishes like dewy cream liquids or matte powders to find the look that suits you best. You can test different application techniques to get the coverage you want: For full coverage, Ciucci recommends stippling with a sponge to build. If it’s a more sheer finish you’re after, try using your fingertips or a brush.