How to Apply Every Type of Foundation: Cream, Liquid, Gel and Powder

September 15, 2020
By: Tembe Denton-Hurst | Makeup.com by L'Oréal
How to Apply Every Type of Foundation for a Flawless Finish

Have you ever stared in awe at your favorite celeb and wondered how they get smooth, seemingly poreless skin? Well, aside from a regular regimen of peels, exfoliators and enough essences to bathe in, their foundation application has a little something to do with it. While we can’t provide you with professional glam squads, we can steal a few of their expert foundation application tips so you can DIY your beat. Whether you like to apply your foundation with a brush, your fingers or a beauty sponge, keep reading. Ahead, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about applying every type of coverage, from lightweight liquid foundation to powder foundation


How to Prep for Foundation

The key to a flawless base is moisturized skin, so make sure your face is clean and prepped with your favorite moisturizer before applying makeup of any kind. We also suggest applying a makeup primer, like the Urban Decay All Nighter Ultra Glow Primer, before layering foundation on top. This will help your product last throughout the day and provide extra hydration. 

Liquid Foundation

Coverage Level: Varies

Recommended Skin Type: All skin types

Best Application Method: Varies

Applying Liquid Foundation With a Tapered Foundation Brush

Using a tapered foundation brush, paint the liquid foundation onto your face using short, downward strokes. Move the product from the center of the face outwards. Make sure you blend down to the top of the neck to avoid a line of demarcation along your jaw. Pat and blend to erase any telltale lines or creases.

Applying Liquid Foundation With a Stippling Brush

A stippling brush will give you sheerer coverage than a foundation brush. Use a stippling motion to blend and press the foundation all over your face for a light, glowy finish. Press gently all over the face with your brush rather than sweeping it across the skin.

Applying Liquid Foundation With a Rounded Foundation Brush

Blend the liquid foundation into your face, alternating between swirling and stroking motions. Use a circular motion to blend out the product seamlessly and prevent any creases or lines.

Applying Liquid Foundation With a Flat-Top Kabuki Brush

Dot your foundation around your face, taking extra care on the areas that need more coverage. Use a flat top kabuki brush to press the product into your skin, dabbing it all around. Then use light swirling and sweeping motions to blend it in.

Applying Liquid Foundation With a Beauty Sponge

A beauty sponge will give you a natural finish while still allowing you to build up coverage. Wet your beauty sponge, squeeze out any excess water and gently press the foundation into your skin with the damp sponge. Use a tapping motion to blend foundation into skin.

Applying Liquid Foundation With Your Fingers

Some makeup artists swear that no method gives quite the same flawless finish as using your fingers. Squeeze the foundation onto your wrist and use your fingers to warm it up. Apply to your face using circular motions, taking care to blend and distribute evenly.

Our Favorite Liquid Foundations

If you want a matte, full-coverage foundation, look no further than NYX Professional Makeup Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Foundation, an oil-free, affordable formula that lasts all day. For a lighter weight, glowy option, try the Giorgio Armani Neo Nude Foundation or the L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Radiant Serum Foundation


Mineral or Loose Powder Foundation

Coverage: Light to Medium

Recommended Skin Type: Oily/combination skin

Best Application Method: Brushes

Applying Loose Powder Foundation With a Rounded Kabuki Brush

The easiest way to apply loose mineral foundation is with a rounded kabuki brush. Use the brush and swirl around to pick up the powder. Then, tap off the excess product and apply it all over your face using a buffing, swirling motion. Pay special attention to the nose, forehead and other areas where you may need extra coverage to prevent shine.

Applying Loose Powder Foundation With a Rounded Foundation Brush

As an alternative to a kabuki brush, some people prefer using a rounded foundation brush to apply loose powder foundation. The coverage will be more sheer and is often used when setting a liquid or cream foundation.

Applying Loose Powder Foundation With a Fluffy Powder Brush

If you want light coverage for a more natural look, use a fluffy powder brush. Tap the brush lightly into the loose powder and sweep the brush across the face, focusing on the T-zone and then moving outwards.

Our Favorite Mineral and Loose Powder Foundations

We are head over heels for L’Oréal Paris True Match Mineral Foundation. This gentle mineral makeup provides coverage without looking overdone. Plus, it has an extra dose of SPF to help protect you from the sun. Another option? The NYX Professional Makeup Mineral Finishing Powder. It gives a flawless finish and is perfect for layering on top of other complexion products.


Pressed Powder Foundation

Coverage: Medium to Full

Recommended Skin Type: Oily and combination skin

Best Application Method: Varies

Applying Pressed Powder Foundation With a Rounded Kabuki Brush

If you are using a pressed powder as your only form of foundation, use a rounded kabuki brush to achieve the same finish as if you were using a loose powder.

Applying Pressed Powder Foundation With a Beauty Sponge

For a more opaque finish, wet a beauty sponge and use it to apply the pressed powder to your face in dabbing motion.

Applying Pressed Powder Foundation With a Rounded Foundation Brush

The round, dome shape of this brush allows you to distribute powder foundation evenly. Swish the brush back and forth over the powder foundation using short, back-and-forth strokes, then press the powder in a slight rolling motion all over your skin for a smooth finish that doesn’t look caked-on.

Applying Pressed Powder Foundation With a Puff

Many pressed powders come with their own puff. Use this for on-the-go touch-ups by patting the powder over any oil-prone section like your nose or forehead.

Our Favorite Pressed Powder Foundations

We adore the Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Powder Foundation. This compact allows you to easily customize the amount of coverage. Plus, the oil-free formula is perfect for getting that elusive, radiant glow. We also love the Maybelline New York Super Stay Full Coverage Powder Foundation Makeup for a full-coverage look that lasts all day long.

Cream Foundation

Coverage: Full

Recommended Skin Type: Mature and acne-prone skin

Best Application Method: Varies

Applying Cream Foundation With a Tapered Foundation Brush

Use a tapered foundation brush to paint the foundation onto your skin, starting from the center of your face and working outwards. Stipple and pat in the foundation afterwards to blend in any streaks.

Applying Cream Foundation With a Beauty Sponge

For a sheerer finish, use a beauty sponge with your cream foundation. Apply as you would a liquid foundation, paying extra care to blend and roll the product into your skin for even coverage.

Applying Cream Foundation With Your Fingers

Warm up cream foundation between your fingers and apply to your skin as you would a liquid foundation. Make sure your skin is moisturized before applying to avoid any patchy-looking sections.

Our Favorite Cream Foundations

If you love cream foundation, the Dermablend Smooth Liquid Camo Foundation should be on your radar. This formula goes on smooth and has a weightless finish that lasts for an entire day. It’s also perfect for covering acne marks, scars, tattoos or anything else you want to hide. For an option with SPF 20, try the hydrating Lancôme Absolue Makeup Cream Foundation


Gel Foundation

Coverage: Light to Medium

Recommended Skin Type: All skin types, especially dry skin

Best Application Method: Varies

Applying Gel Foundation With a Tapered Foundation Brush

Start from the center of your face and work outwards. Make sure to pat the foundation once complete to prevent streaking.

Applying Gel Foundation With a Rounded Foundation Brush

Alternate between swirling and stroking motions. Then use a circular motion to prevent creases and lines.

Applying Gel Foundation With a Beauty Sponge

Wet the sponge, squeeze out any extra water and gently press the foundation into your skin. If you’re using a round sponge, use a rolling motion for even coverage.

Applying Gel Foundation With Your Fingers

If you’re using a gel foundation stick like the Maybelline New York Fit Me Shine-Free Foundation Stick, apply over your forehead, down the nose and upwards and outwards from the cheeks. Blend everything in with your fingers and then finish with a light dusting of loose powder.

Our Favorite Gel Foundations

If you’re dealing with fine lines or wrinkles, we recommend the Maybelline New York Fit Me Dewy + Smooth Foundation. It hydrates skin while also smoothing skin texture and leaves a luminous, dewy look. 


Photo: Chaunte Vaughn

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