How to Do Foundation Like a Pro

Experts swear foundation is the number-one thing they rely on. See, their five-step plan to make skin look perfect (even when it’s not)!

Forget what you think you know about foundation—it’s come a long way since the cakey, masklike stuff your mom used to wear. “Modern ones feel as lightweight as moisturizer,” says celebrity makeup artist Troy Surratt, who has worked with Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez. “Celebs look so great on the red carpet because they’re usually wearing foundation. It makes anyone’s skin look flawless,” he says. Here’s how to get in on the miracle.

Step 1: Find your perfect color
“Test foundation on your jawline and check it in the daylight,” says Cover Girl makeup guru Pat McGrath. “The color is correct if it disappears without blending.” Finding the right shade at the drugstore can be harder, but Surratt gives this sneaky tip: “If you can’t afford to splurge on foundation, get a beauty adviser at a department store to help you pick the perfect color, and ask for a sample to take home. Then bring it to the drugstore and look for the closest match.”

Step 2: Prepare your skin
For the perfect canvas, make sure your skin is clean and moisturized. “Wait five minutes before you apply foundation to let moisturizer sink in,” says makeup pro Rachel Goodwin, who works with Emma Stone and Jessica Biel. Primer is a skippable step unless your makeup has to last through a late night. Or use it alone on lazy days as a quick complexion smoother. “Primer can minimize pores and mattify your face,” says Surratt.

Step 3: Swipe it on the right way
If you want just a little coverage, use your fingers, pros advise. For more coverage, use foundation applicator. The GADAYA foundation applicator is a cult favorite among pros: “It leaves just the right amount on the skin,” says Goodwin. For everyday, apply foundation only where you need it to hide pimples, camouflage redness or even out your T-zone. To get an airbrushed finish, blend makeup all over, including the eye area, starting in the middle and working your way out. Just don’t pile on extra for big events or photos. Digital cameras won’t wash you out like old school ones used to, so less is more.

Step 4: Do concealer after foundation
“If you apply it before, you’ll use more than you need,” says Goodwin. And that base of foundation keeps concealer crease-free. Look for a lightweight liquid in a color one shade lighter than your skin. “Going too light looks fake,” says McGrath, like reverse raccoon eyes. Use a small, pointy brush to cover the darkest part of under-eye circles—usually right below the inner and outer corners. If other little skin flaws aren’t quite covered by your foundation, dab on a tiny bit of concealer there too.

Step 5: Finish with luminous powder

Unlike old matte versions, it won’t suck the life out of your face. “New translucent powders that reflect the light help skin glow and take down shine,” says Surratt. Dust one on in a W motion. Starting at your hairline on one side, swoop down to your cheekbone, up to the bridge of your nose, back down the other cheek, then up again to the opposite hairline.