Choosing the right foundation for your skin type is like picking the best bra for your girls. Both—bases and bras—set the stage for a smooth, flawless look. So how do you know when to use liquid or powder foundation, and what are the best ways to apply each? Read on for the answers.

LIQUID

How to choose: Liquid foundation works for any and every skin type. The finishes range from light to full coverage and dewy to matte. If you simply want to even out your skintone, select a light coverage foundation. If you want to conceal imperfections or create a completely clean slate for your makeup, opt for full-coverage. If you want skin to look radiant and glowing, select a dewy finish. If you want flat, shine-free skin–go matte.

Exceptions: Women with oily skin should avoid dewy finish foundation, and should set any liquid foundation with a translucent powder to reduce shine.

Try: Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk (sheer to medium coverage), Estee Lauder Nutritious (medium coverage, dewy finish), and Chanel Matte Lumiere (medium-to-full coverage, matte finish).

How to apply: You can use your hands, a sponge or a brush to apply liquid foundation. When using hands, rub the product between your palms to emulsify it then press into skin for a very natural, second-skin appearance. A damp sponge will also give a very natural finish. A brush will give you more coverage but make sure to blend (until you’re bored!) so that there are no streak marks.

POWDER

How to choose: Powder foundations can be illuminating or matte. As with liquids, pick the finish that best suites the overall makeup look you’re going for. Matte powder foundation looks incredible with this season’s hot red lip and black eyeliner, for example. Illuminating powder looks great with the mixed metals eyeshadow trend.

Exceptions: Women with dry skin or rosacea should avoid powder foundation as it will settle into areas of dryness or scaling, which not only detracts from the overall makeup look but is (gasp!) aging as well.

Try: MAC Studio Fix (full-coverage); MAC Mineralize SPF 15 Loose Foundation (medium-coverage).

How to apply: A dry sponge is the traditional method used to apply powder foundation and it works like a charm. If you want your skin to look more natural (the risk with powder formulas is that they can look cakey), spritz a powder or buffing brush with a skin refinisher like MAC Fix+ or Youngblood Minerals in the Mist beforehand.

Which do you prefer—powder or liquid…and why?