Having a flawless canvas is exactly what an artist needs to build his or her masterpiece — and the same applies to your face pre-makeup application. Knowing how to make the most of your foundation and concealer for smoother, brighter skin and a more even complexion is key in creating and maintaining a full-coverage, smooth look. Ahead, we broke down the best products to try, plus all the tools, products and insider tips you never knew you needed.
There are so many different formulations of foundation out there, so ultimately, the choice depends on the coverage level you’re looking for, your skin type, the amount of time you have to apply and the price you’re willing to pay. The most classic form of foundation, liquid, offers medium-to-full coverage for all skin types and is a sure-fire way to achieve a smooth base.
NYX Professional Makeup Total Control Drop Foundation allows you to customize the exact amount of coverage you want, making it even more versatile than the amazingly affordable formula already is. If you’re looking for lighter coverage, try a BB or CC cream, which offer skin a ton of benefits (think: antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, illuminators) in one tube.
The IT Cosmetics CC+ Matte Cream is beloved for many reasons. Not only is it your foundation, moisturizer, primer and sunscreen all in one, but it also offers a great amount of coverage and keeps you matte for hours.
And we haven’t even gotten into the other types of formulas that could technically live in the liquid family. Take the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Teint Mattifying Mousse Foundation, for example. It’s a practical choice for oily skin types because it deflects any sebum or oil from building up throughout the day with a lighter-than-air feel.
If you’re looking to really build and customize the amount of color, try a cream foundation, like the Giorgio Armani Crema Nuda Supreme Glow. It’s loved by makeup artists for its non-comedogenic water base as well as light-blurring particles that give your complexion an Insta-filter effect.
Oily, acne-prone skin will benefit from a cream consistency foundation like the Dermablend Cover Creme Foundation, which gives you full coverage like a liquid foundation but with the consistency of a concealer — in fact, you could use this for your foundation as well as your blemish and spot concealer.
If you’re feeling like your skin is dull and dry, opt for the NYX Professional Makeup Born To Glow! Radiant Foundation. This formula is made with luminous pigments that help to brighten and maintain major glow all over the face for hours.
Different Types of Concealers, Explained
Before you even look into concealer formulas, it’s important to know that there are two kinds of concealers, because like your body, your skin isn’t a one-size-fits-all kinda deal. You should use a concealer two shades lighter than your foundation for your under-eye area (and formulated to ward off puffiness, darkness and bags), and a separate formula for spots, zits and redness.
We love Maybelline New York Instant Rewind Eraser Dark Circles Treatment Concealer, which has a cushion applicator and skin-tightening goji berry extract. Cream concealers work well under eyes as they’re blendable and can provide sheer or full coverage, depending on your needs.
For blemishes, dark marks and other corrections, a pencil can be incredibly easy to use — easier than a stick, even — as it requires no brush, and the waxy formulation stays put without the help of foundation, powder or setting spray. Cue the NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Pencil for your next beat.
Perhaps the most important type of concealer is the corrective type, and it is most effective in a liquid formula, like the La-Roche Posay Toleriane Teint Corrective Pen, which has corrective colors to help tone down ruddiness, fade the appearance of hyperpigmentation, and yes, even cover up any irritating blemishes.
If you need extra luminosity and dark-circle coverage, we also recommend the NYX Professional Makeup Born To Glow Concealer or the Maybelline New York Superstay Under-Eye Concealer for a long-lasting finish.
What Order Do You Apply Foundation and Concealer?
Start by laying your foundation first. The only exception is when using a treatment concealer to cover blemishes or scarring. In that case you will apply a color corrector or thin layer of concealer first. Otherwise, it’s foundation and then concealer. If you apply your concealer first, you will end up using a lot more than necessary and can risk looking cakey.
How to Properly Apply Foundation
To apply any foundation formula, skin must be hydrated and smoothed. Start with a spritz of rosewater or face mist like the Garnier SkinActive Soothing Facial Mist with Rose Water. Using a foundation brush — like the Clarisonic Sonic Foundation Brush — apply a dime-size amount of smoothing primer like the NYX Professional Makeup Bare With Me Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Radiant Perfecting Primer that will fill in any fine lines and wrinkles while also having a blurring effect. Let it set for approximately five minutes’ otherwise you’ll risk wiping off the entire layer of primer you just put on.
Next, grab your application tool of choice — like the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Blend Artist Foundation Blender or the Clarisonic for a more even spread. Start by applying foundation using short strokes, starting from the center of your face and sweeping outwards and downwards, ensuring that the color seamlessly blends past your jawline and down your neck. A brush provides fuller coverage with each swipe, but a sponge makes any formula more buildable.
Which Formulas Work Best Together?
When it comes to picking the perfect pairing, you should use cream with cream, liquid with liquid, and so forth. For powder foundations, use a concealer with a drier consistency, ideally one with a waxy base, such as the Wonder Pencil or any concealing palette, which allows you to customize your colors.