Underpainting Is Your Secret to Natural-Looking Blush, Highlight and Contour

February 17, 2023
Ariel Wodarcyk
By: Ariel Wodarcyk | Makeup.com by L'Oréal
Picture of a model with dark hair in a ponytail, lying on their side

If you’re on makeup TikTok, you’ve probably watched more than one video on underpainting, a makeup technique in which bronzer, contour, concealer and blush are placed under foundation instead of on top of it. While underpainting is nothing new (in fact, makeup artists have been recommending the practice for years), it’s finally getting the spotlight it deserves. “When you add highlights and bronzer underneath a thin layer of foundation as we do in underpainting, it really allows your makeup to feel like a second skin, creating a natural finish and lit-from-within glow,” says makeup artist Shreni Patel

Interested in trying underpainting yourself? Keep reading for Patel’s pro tips on how to master the technique. 

How to Underpaint Your Makeup

Step 1: Prep Your Skin

Skin prep is one of the most important aspects of any makeup look. Start by applying a moisturizer that works for your skin type and plays well under makeup, like the Youth to the People Superfood Air-Whip Moisture Cream. Give the cream a few minutes to dry before you move on to the next step. 


Youth to the People Superfood Air-Whip Moisture Cream

Step 2: Apply a Bronzer or Contour Shade

Next, choose a cream bronzer or contour shade that’s one to two shades deeper than your skin tone. Patel recommends applying the product with a flat brush on the sides of the forehead, cheekbones, down the sides of the nose and along the jawline to add depth and dimension to your face. “I like to also put some on the eyes just to add a bit of definition and also prep for eyeshadow,” she says. Blend out the color using the same brush. We recommend the NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Stick Contour and Highlighter Stick for a subtle sculpting effect. 


NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Stick Contour and Highlighter Stick

Step 3: Apply Concealer

“I follow with applying a concealer that is just a touch lighter than the skin tone to add some brightness and really lift and continue to sculpt,” says Patel. “Using a small fluffy brush, I apply under the eyes, down the bridge of the nose, and the middle of the forehead and blend to make it seamless with the previously applied bronzer.” We love the Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Wear All Over Full Coverage Concealer. Because the formula is pigmented, a tiny dab goes a long way.

“Remember, you want to apply the color in thin layers as we are building products,” says Patel. “You don’t want the end result to be too thick or textured.”


Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Wear All Over Full Coverage Concealer

Step 4 (Optional): Apply Blush 

For a subtle flush, Patel says you can add a few dots of liquid blush to the apples of your cheeks and upwards toward your temples. She swears by the Rare Beauty Soft Pinch Liquid Blush.


Rare Beauty Soft Pinch Liquid Blush

Step 5: Finish With Foundation and Powder

Apply one pump of your favorite foundation to the back of your hand. Then, apply a light layer to your entire face, on top of all the previous products, using a foundation brush or makeup sponge. We like the Giorgio Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Foundation, which has medium coverage and gives the skin a subtle glow. To lock in your underpainting and keep your base crease-free, set your face with a light dusting of powder, like the Dermablend Loose Setting Powder.


Giorgio Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Foundation

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn

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