By Deanna Pai. Photos: Katie Friedman.
Fewer things are more jarring than getting a good look at yourself around 3 p.m. and realizing the foundation you'd considered flawless six hours earlier is now—choose what applies—splotchy, muddy, cracked, or basically non-existent.
You might be quick to blame your skin, but in most cases, it's the makeup you're choosing for your skin. Foundation mistakes are tough to avoid—you're dealing with, in essence, a one-size-fits-all product—but there are a few factors to consider before you even buy the bottle (or stick!) that'll ensure you're getting the most from the formula you choose. Here, we asked pro makeup artists to explain the reasons your foundation isn't working for you—even if you think you've done everything right.
1. It oxidized.
Hate to break it to you, but you can't just walk into a store, make an educated guess, and walk out with a foundation that kind of looks like your own skin—it's worth taking the time to test and wear before you buy. "A foundation in the bottle in its liquid state is a certain color, and it can oxidize on the face and change color as it dries or sets," explains Troy Surratt, makeup artists and founder of Surratt Beauty. "It can also change depending on your personal pH and chemistry." The fix: Do your homework when selecting a shade by using either a high-tech, color-matching service or slathering on what you think might work at Sephora and letting it sit for a few hours before you take the plunge. Seeing how it adjusts to your skin over the course of a day is absolutely key.
2. The color's totally off.
Digital color-matching technology is a beauty junkie's dream, but neither that nor the person interpreting its results are infallible. (Seriously, there's an entire Reddit thread about how color-match readings can be inaccurate.) If you're convinced the selection won't look right for your undertone, take matters into your own hands and either request a sample or go outside to see how it looks in the sunlight. "Ask if you can bring a mirror to an area where natural light is flooding in for the best match," suggests celebrity makeup artist Carissa Ferreri. "Another great place to examine color match is outside in the middle of the day, where you can see the truest color pigment." Also, make sure that your skin is bare and you haven't, say, gone on a five-mile run just before. Anything that can cause redness or distort your pigment will also affect your foundation reading.
3. Prep your skin beforehand.
Slathering foundation without prepping it first is the makeup equivalent of putting on nail polish without base coat. "Dead or dry skin creates a lackluster finish for your foundation," says Surratt. "Foundation will adhere to those patches and create an uneven look." The key is to exfoliate, since your heavy-duty moisturizer can't work its magic on your skin if it's blocked by dead cells. If you don't have a regular exfoliation routine, get on that, stat—and, in the meantime, use a physical exfoliant to take care of those patches ASAP. (Psst: Here are the 10 best face scrubs, according to beauty pros.) On top of that—literally—it's worth layering on primer, especially if you're looking at a long night. Ferreri actually uses two different primer formulas on her clients, most of whom have combination skin. So she'll apply a mattifying primer on the t-zone and chin and a hydrating version for everywhere else.
4. Don't use it where you don't need it.
When it comes to foundation, less is always more. There are zero exceptions to this. (Have you ever wanted to hear someone say, "I love your foundation. Where'd you get it?" Exactly.) "A layer of thick foundation tends to look cakey and can accentuate lines and pores," says Ferreri. If you have noticeable breakouts, spot-treat zits with concealers first, and then blend a light layer of foundation all over so it looks seamless—but still like your own skin.
5. Really, reconsider powder...
Does face powder make you think of your grandma? Join the club. But the stuff deserves a place of honor in your stash, according to Surratt. "Women have been skeptical about powder, but today’s formulas are so lightweight and virtually undetectable," he says. "It absorbs the excess moisture in the formula and helps it adhere to the skin, giving it longevity and a more indelible, longer-lasting look to your makeup." Not only will your skin look as though you slapped an Insta filter over it, your makeup will also last longer. Plus, if you're prone to shine, you won't need to bother with touch-ups with blotting paper.
6. ...and how you apply it. You can always dust on powder with a fluffy brush, but if you have the time, try using it with a dry makeup sponge. "When using powder to set a liquid or cream foundation, I prefer to 'press' on the product either by using a dry Beautyblender or a firm, tapered brush," says Ferreri. "These tools give me more control and allow me to let skin shine through where I want it to.” This way, you can strike the perfect, dewy balance between shiny and matte skin. Foundation mistakes, fixed.
This story originally appeared on Glamour.
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