You’re applying your foundation the wrong way.








“Apply your foundation with your fingers!” I used to squawk. “It warms in your fingers and is more natural-looking, and sinks into the skin better,” I’d bellow. Usually after hearing makeup artists say these exact things.


For some, this may still be their preferred way. I concede that it’s fast and you can indeed get a lovely second-skin look. But I’ve changed. I’m now a dedicated brushes girl. Well, to be accurate, a brushes and a sponges girl. I’ve realised that I don’t want my foundation to sink into my skin, thank you. I prefer it so stay on top, (which is why I use primer, so my skin doesn’t eat it) and stay in place, and do its bloody job, quite frankly.

Now, obviously those who use mineral makeup foundation have to use brushes (kabuki) because that’s how it’s done and that’s that. Ditto for powder foundations. It’s a no brainer. But for those of us who prefer something creamy or liquid on our skin there is a choice, and as Duchess of Evangelical Makeup Soapboxing, I enthuse you to revisit, or try a foundation brush* or a new generation makeup sponge**.

I use these for my foundation (and concealer) because it means:

– I get a (much more) longer-lasting effect

– I get precise application

– I only apply product where I actually need it

These seem like obvious things, but until you actually use a foundation brush or sponge do you realise how little product you actually need to cover the uneven areas of your face, and how places like the forehead quite often need no coverage at all.

Unless you have acne, a breakout, substantial pigmentation or redness and need more coverage in more places, all your foundation should be doing is evening out your skin tone. And less is definitely more. I firmly believe that the money and the effort and the time should be spent on getting the skin in as best condition possible – the right skin care, facials, exfoliation, sunscreen, peels, IPL, laser; whatever – so that the foundation is merely evening-out skin tone, and creating a uniform canvas for your colour makeup, rather than acting as an all-over mask. You can spend all you want on a shithot fancypantsy foundation, but if the skin underneath it is dry, or clogged, or covered in dead skin cells that need exfoliating, or sun-damaged – why bother? It cannot create miracles.

The way to do it:

Moisturise, (then apply your primer if you use one) and then, after a minute so that’s all sunk in, paint on or dab on the foundation as though it were, well, paint. I squirt my foundation onto the side of my wrist above my thumb and dab off that. (This area is terrific for mixing different tones or types of foundation, too. Or adding in some luminiser or tinted moisturiser.)

You can layer it as needed, but go gently at first and see how accurate and smoothly it applies.

If you’re using a sponge, dampen it first, dip it into your foundation, and then dab it onto your face. This is especially good for those after a sheer, luminous finish. The “airbrush” finish will dazzle you.

Next use a concealer brush (a small version of a foundation brush) and follow on with your concealer, doing targeted concealing of the undereyes, blemishes and redness around the nose and outer corner of the eyes.

Set with a dusting of loose/translucent powder in the areas that need it (generally just the T-zone) and you’re done. And it’s perfectly applied, and you have just the right coverage (thickness and spatially) and it won’t budge.

I can see a whole army of you rolling your eyes, and shaking your head and muttering about how I am enthusing you to add even more shit to your increasingly gargantuan beauty artillery, but I assure you that great looking makeup is like anything: the quality, appearance and longevity is directly proportionate to how much effort, time and care is expended on creating it, and the tools you use.

And honestly, once you’ve mastered the brushing or sponging, it will take you maybe one extra minute than if you’d done it with your dainty little digits.

*These are specific, semi-stiff, flat brushes that allow you to paint on rather than rub in your foundation. I use a Laura Mercier one, but all makeup brands sell them. Be sure to wash it with a gentle shampoo and dry it flat once a week.

** I strenuously recommend the Beauty Blender (notoriously and painfully hard to find, try here for stockists ) or the cheaper, not-quite-the-same-but-still-okay Manicare version, or the MAC version. They are small, tear-shaped sponges with a pointed nib and a spherical bottom, which means you can get into very small areas like under the eye, or do large buffing/sweeping work on the cheeks. Plus, they’re cute as heck.

Zoe is an author, columnist and porridge fan. Her books include the beauty bible Amazing Face, dating and relationship guide Textbook Romance, and three novels, Air KissesPlaying The Field and The Younger Man. Find more info on her here, or supervise on her daily procrastination here and here.

Please understand that Zoë cannot respond to ALL your questions – but never fear, there are readers that are bound to know the answers, so don’t be afraid to ask.

How do you apply your foundation? Do you use a primer and/or a moisturiser first? What foundation do you use? Have you got a beauty brush recommendation?


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