Between bb creams and cc creams, full coverage and tinted moisturizer, and not to mention countless other categories in between, there is A LOT to understand about foundation.
And while knowing the right formula of foundation for you is only half the battle, it is crucial to also understand proper application, how to color match yourself, and even the proper skin care necessary to ensure you get a flawless application every time!
Understanding all of these elements will ensure you not only find the best foundation for you but also get a perfect application every time.
I wanted to write this article because when I was working in the cosmetics industry I found that so many women knew little to nothing about foundation, even the one they were wearing that day!
I would get blank stares or “I don’t know” responses to questions like “So what kind of coverage are you looking for?” or “What type of finish would you like the foundation to have?”.
It honestly shocked me at first that people would shell out money on something they knew so little about!
But just because beauty is my passion, doesn’t mean it’s everyone else’s. I slowly came to realize that knowing every little finite detail about a foundation might seem normal to me, but to others it wasn’t a necessity.
However, with that being said I do think it is important to know the basics about foundation if you wear it or ever plan on wearing it.
Read on below to discover everything you should know about foundation to ensure it looks amazing on you and does what you want it to do for your skin!
Related Reading: Best Drugstore Foundations
First and foremost let’s talk about formula! It is crucial to pick the right formula of foundation because the formula affects everything from how long the foundation will last to how it makes your skin actually look!
Typically you will find these 6 different formulas for foundation most common: liquid, pressed powder, loose powder, cream, stick, tinted moisturizer, bb cream, and cc cream.
The most popular formula of foundation, liquid typically allows for buildable coverage and also tends to be the most long last formula.
Liquid also works great on any skin type and for any concern since the market is dominated by liquid formulas.
I personally have always opted for a liquid since it allows me to custom create my coverage, based on how many layers I apply, and lasts the longest.
I also find that liquid can look quite natural if you apply it properly and prep the skin right, but more on that later.
Pressed Powder Foundation
This formula is great for the gal on the go!
A compact of pressed powder allows for you to spot correct throughout the day and touch up in an instant.
Pressed powders also work great on top of other formulas as well!
So if you’re wearing a liquid, by all means top it off with a powder if you desire more coverage.
Keep in mind that pressed powders are not typically as buildable in coverage as liquid and too much can tend to make the face look cakey.
Loose Powder Foundation
Loose powders are great for adding a very natural amount of coverage for that fresh and youthful “I’m not wearing any makeup” look.
They also function amazingly as setting powders for wetter formulations (liquid, creams, tinted moisturizer), helping them to last longer on the skin.
They are however not meant to be used for touching up throughout the day like their pressed powder counterparts, which is why you won’t typically find a loose powder with a mirror included in the packaging.
However, this isn’t to say you couldn’t throw the powder in your purse and touch up in a restroom, just be prepared to be careful as loose powder can create a mess.
Cream foundations are going to be amazing for those who have dry skin or have lines and wrinkles in the skin.
Creams tend to be a thicker consistency and do an amazing job of not settling into lines and wrinkles, but instead creating a smooth finish on the skin.
Because of their creaminess, creams are also really forgiving on dry skin and wear comfortable without further drying skin out or clinging to the dryness creating the illusion of texture.
Many creams will be a medium to full coverage and come in compacts, so you can take them on the go and touch up throughout the day just as you could with a pressed powder.
However, in my opinion creams will typically be more long lasting than pressed powders so the need to touch up is unlikely.
This formula is great for those who want the coverage of a liquid, but faster!
Sticks are very easy to apply because you can literally draw lines on the fast with the product and they blend out like a dream with a brush!
For a lighter application you could also dab your makeup sponge or brush (I do not recommend fingers) directly onto the stick and blend from there.
Those who have dry skin and desire very little coverage will find a tinted moisturizer to be their friend.
By far the most natural of the bunch, tinted moisturizers also typically offer sun protection and can take the spot of a regular moisturizer during the day.
Tinted moisturizers also tend to be very easy to blend out and take little to no time to apply.
Because they error towards the sheerer side, they will not be the most long lasting.
BB stands for “beauty balm” which should indicate to you the amazing skin loving properties of this formula.
Most bb creams have de-aging properties to them, and also offer a good amount of coverage, as well as SPF.
BB creams work wonders for the woman who wants everything in one easy step. BB creams can also be long lasting if they have full coverage or you build them up.
CC creams are actually quite different from their bb counterpart, and focus aptly on “color correcting”, hence the cc acronym.
This formula tends to be lighter than a bb cream, also giving less coverage and simply focusing on evening out skin tone.
Many cc creams will also have an SPF. Because they tend to be a sheer to medium coverage, cc creams will not be your longest lasting option.
Those who want a product that will simply even out skin tone without covering anything up, should opt for a cc cream.
Although fairly straightforward, it is important to understand the difference between coverages because this is what ultimately determines how skin like (or not) the makeup will make you appear.
Coverage also plays a role in the lasting power of makeup.
Sheer Coverage Foundation
This is going to be the most natural looking coverage and will allow for the skin to still show through.
This coverage will cover very minor imperfections on the face such as a little redness or blackheads, but will not cover larger imperfections like pimples that have a white head or rosacea.
This coverage is going to be ideal for those who do not wish to conceal very much and also want a lightweight and comfortable makeup that doesn’t feel heavy on the skin.
Typically a foundation with sheer coverage will be evening out skin tone more than it will be “hiding” imperfections.
Because it is such a natural look, sheer coverage foundation isn’t going to be too long lasting and should be applied in conjunction with a primer to help make it last longer.
Medium Coverage Foundation
This level of coverage is ideal for those who want to both conceal minor imperfections and also even out their skin tone.
Naturally, a step up from sheer coverage, moderate coverage will look like makeup on the skin, but not in a “heavy” way.
I’ve always loved a moderate coverage foundation because I find that it perfects almost everything I need it to without making my makeup look really heavy.
Very little skin will show through with a moderate coverage foundation so it might not be the best bet for those who want to appear makeupless.
I found when applying makeup to my clients, that those who were used to wearing a foundation typically enjoyed the feel and look of a moderate coverage (Except when they had prominent scarring, acne, or other features that required full coverage), while those who were newer to foundation tended to prefer the look and feel of a sheer coverage.
So what I’m trying to say is, try a moderate if you’re already wearing makeup regularly, take baby steps and try a sheer if you’re new to foundation or seldom wear it.
Full Coverage Foundation
As mentioned above, this level of coverage is going to be most suited for those who have a lot to cover such as with prominent acne or scars.
Women who have hyper pigmentation could also benefit from a full coverage foundation.
However, all of this is not to say that only those with imperfections can rock a full coverage foundation!
Full coverage is going to create the illusion of perfect, doll like skin, which is why so many women who already have good skin love it!
Full coverage tends to be on the long lasting side as well, so it works amazing for women who need their foundation to work just as hard as they do.
Also, full coverage foundation works amazing for brides because it looks great in photography (Just make sure the foundation or powder doesn’t contain silica or titanium/zinc oxide if it has an SPF) and will last all day.
As one would suspect, a full coverage foundation will typically take a little longer to apply and blend since it’s heavier, but can ultimately save you time later in the day by having little to no touch up work.
Now that you understand how formulas and coverages vary, let’s discuss the differences between the most common finishes!
The finish of a foundation is important because it can work with or against your actual skin type.
Read on to discover just how this works!
A matte finish is going to be ideal for those with oily skin because a good mattifying foundation will not only give you that flat non shiny finish, but will help keep you looking oil free throughout the rest of the day.
I do not have skin that is super oily myself, more combination than anything, but I have always loved how a matte foundation just makes everything look so fresh and clean.
Mattes are also great choices for traveling to exotic or humid locations because they will work with your skin to keep it from freaking out and producing extra oils while exposed to a new climate.
I would typically try to make samples of matte foundations for my clients before they went on vacation to a “wetter” region, regardless of it they had oily skin or not!
If you’re looking for a great matte foundation check out this list of the best matte foundations.
Those with dry, dull, or mature skin will typically opt for a dewy finish because it will make the skin appear healthier and even more youthful in some instances.
Foundations with a dewy finish tend to have more moisture to them, which will help to make dry skin appear more hydrated, and also keep the makeup from clinging to dry patches creating unsightly texture.
The same thing goes for dull skin too, dewy finishes will camouflage the dullness by leaving the skin with a glowing, radiant appearance.
Those with oily skin should be wary of dewy finishes, because the combination of your skin’s natural oils with the dewy foundation can make you look, for lack of a better word, greasy.
A natural finish is going to be just that, natural. It will not have a flat finish nor will it have a dewy one…but instead lie somewhere in between.
If you like how your skin looks naturally and do not wish to change it, I would definitely recommend you opt for a natural finish foundation.
Those who feel like they have normal skin usually like a natural finish foundation because they do not have any concerns.
Also, natural finish makeup is great for altering too, a little matte powder or a dewy highlighter and BAM! You’ve got yourself a completely different finish to your foundation.
Foundation Color Match
When it comes to finding your perfect shade, here are a few tips you can implement to insure you get the closest match possible!
Ask For Help!
Trust me, no matter how seasoned you are at picking out a foundation it never hurts to get a second opinion.
If you go shopping alone, ask one of the employees to assist you in picking out what they think would be a good color for you.
Knowing as much as I do about foundation, I will still always seek assistance at least initially.
HOWEVER, never ever buy what someone says is your right color without first verifying for yourself.
The worst thing that can happen is the color not being your ideal match, you giving them your feedback on wanting to go lighter, darker, change undertones, etc., and then adjusting from there.
Use Natural Light
Nothing is more brutally honest than sunlight.
The lighting used in most department, drugstore, and boutiques can be very misleading.
If you are able to, I highly recommend looking at a swatch of the makeup near a window or outside in natural lighting.
If you are unable to view the makeup in natural light, try to get a sample to take home and try out before buying a whole bottle.
Don’t Forget To Swatch The Neck!
Because our neck is often times lighter than our face, it is super important to make sure the foundation will blend seamlessly there or else you will have the dread line of demarcation on the jaw.
I’m sure you’ve seen this in public, a woman with an orange-y looking line between her face and neck?
This can be caused from a couple things but more times than not, it is due to wearing the wrong shade of foundation.
I would always swatch from the cheek down an inch or so on the neck to make sure the color would blend nicely.
Consider Your Undertone
A trick I was taught when I was being trained was to hold a piece of white printer paper next to your bare face to help make the undertone more obvious.
So for instance, someone with a warm undertone would appear more golden, yellow, or bronze alongside the paper, while someone with a cool undertone would appear more red or pink.
Those with neutral undertones would not change.
Another trick you can use to determine undertone is to look at the veins in your arm. What color(s) are they?
If they are blue you likely have cool undertones, if they look green you likely have warm undertones.
Those with both colors? Consider them neutral.
How to Apply Foundation
So now that you’ve got your perfect foundation all picked out and you’re ready to put it on at home, consider what “tool” you should be using to apply it!
Fingers work best on foundations that error towards the sheer coverage and lightweight side of things.
For instance, sheer liquid foundations, cc creams, and tinted moisturizers tend to be fairly easy to blend out.
You never want to use your fingers to blend out heavier or drier formulations, like foundation sticks or full coverage liquids, because your fingers will just be pushing it around on top of the skin.
Fingers don’t really absorb excess product and also don’t have the easiest of jobs getting the face to absorb the makeup as well.
Foundation brushes are going to work for any and all formulas, however, they can have varying results based on whether the fibers are synthetic or natural.
For instance, a brush with natural fibers (read: animal hair) will absorb some of the makeup just as actual hair would and sheer down the application slightly.
On the other hand, a brush with synthetic fibers, will not steal the product from you.
In my opinion, brushes are the easiest tool to use because they do a phenomenal job of pressing the product into the skin to create the most seamless and natural application, regardless of how heavy the foundation may be.
In need of a good foundation brush but don’t want to break the bank? Check out my full review on the FREE Mieoko foundation brush.
Some people live and die by using a sponge to apply foundation!
Most beauty sponges are going to do a good job of soaking up excess product, which will help to insure that your application doesn’t look heavy handed.
Also, sponges do a great job of really smoothing out foundation onto the skin, which can help if you have a lot of texture or dry patches.
The thing with sponges however, is that they need to be cleaned more regularly than your average makeup brush.
Also, because sponges work nicely when damp, they can make any formula feel more hydrating on the skin.
I would recommend someone use a beauty sponge if they have trouble getting a smooth application or want more moisture from their foundation!
If you want to ensure your foundation looks flawless check out this post on how to expertly apply foundation.
How To Prep Skin For Makeup
So now that we have gone over everything you need to know about how to select the right foundation for you, as well as how to apply it, let’s talk briefly about the importance of prepping your skin so the foundation can look as beautiful as possible!
Regardless of what time of day you apply your foundation, you should always wash your face in the morning to clear away the impurities and oil that can collect while we sleep!
If your face is not clean, the makeup will have a difficult time being absorbed by the skin, and can slide around.
A clean base makes for a flawless face!
Dermatologists recommended that instead of exfoliating once or twice a week, that we actually do it daily with a gentle (this is key) exfoliant.
If you are not exfoliating daily, you are leaving dead skin cells and oil on the surface of the skin for the makeup to cling to and react with.
Dead skin cells create a gross texture to the face when makeup is applied on top of them, and can also make the makeup appear as though it is “cakey” or peeling off.
Also, dead skin does not reflect light properly, and can leave the skin looking dull and aged with and without makeup.
Bottom line here, just exfoliate daily and your makeup and skin will thank you for it.
You want to add hydration back into the skin after cleansing and exfoliating.
A moisturizer will also create a smooth texture to the skin which will help make your foundation blend easier.
Although not absolutely necessary, primer will help make your makeup last longer AND look better.
Most primers will create a baby smooth canvas for the makeup to be applied to and also function like a kind of glue for the foundation, keeping it in place longer.
There is a primer out there for just about every skin type and concern possible!
I 150% recommend using a primer if you are attending an event, have long days, or simply just find it difficult to keep makeup in place. For more tips on how to keep your makeup from breaking up throughout the day click HERE.
If you want to get a better understanding of how to best care for your specific skin concerns check out this post about how to get flawless and beautiful skin.
Alright, so now that we have completed this course I hope you feel excited, confident, and well educated on how to choose the right foundation for you, how to apply it, and the steps you should be taking to make sure it looks flawless!
If you have any other questions or tips of your own please share them in the comments below because I would love to respond to them and hopefully learn something new myself 🙂