Easy Guide On How to Apply Foundation, Concealer, and Powder

I’ve been so into makeup since I was in my early teens that I sometimes forget there are plenty of women out there who could use some basic pointers in makeup application. I love showing women how to do their makeup. Obviously, I can’t sit down with you personally. But I’ll do my best to guide you via the Interwebs.

Since I could fill an entire book, I’ll break this down into a few parts and start with foundation, concealer, and powder because it’s important to begin with a beautiful canvas. If your skin looks blotchy and uneven, it detracts from any other makeup you apply.

Skin Prep

Before I apply a drop of foundation or concealer, I prep my skin.

  • Moisturizer. Apply a good moisturizer first. Otherwise, makeup won’t go on smoothly and will highlight dry patches. If your skin is oily, opt for something light or something that controls oil so your makeup doesn’t just slide off (love that).
  • Primer. An optional next step is to apply a primer to help makeup last longer. A good one will also help even out skin tone, and reduce the look of imperfections and pores.
  • Brightener. Another optional step is to apply a brightener to reflect light, minimize imperfections, and neutralize darkness. This is really helpful if you have under eye circles.

    Some people apply concealer first, but I prefer to apply foundation first so I don’t wipe away the concealer when I apply the foundation. This also prevents me from overdoing it with concealer. If you have a nice, even complexion and only want a little coverage, opt for a tinted moisturizer.

    • The right color. Using the wrong color of foundation is one of the most common makeup blunders, To choose the right shade, Apply two or three stripes of foundation along a clean jaw line and letting it dry one to two minutes. Waiting is important, because foundation changes color a little as it dries and oxidizes. The color that seems to disappear on your skin is your perfect match.
    • Time of year. Remember that your skin color varies throughout the year. A color that works in the dead of winter will probably be too light in summer, when skin is darker and gets more sun – and vice versa.
    • Application method. I use a sponge for a very smooth, even finish. If I’m pressed for time, I just use my fingers. Want more coverage? Try a brush.
    • Portion control. I put the foundation on the back of my hand and pick up color as needed. If you slap on whatever comes out of the bottle, you’ll likely end up with too much on your face.
    • Less is more. Just because you’re applying foundation, it doesn’t mean you have to look like you’re wearing foundation. Try to use as little as possible for everyday wear to keep skin looking natural. Use a little more for a more polished look. But you never want someone to notice your foundation.
    • Where to apply. There’s usually no need to apply foundation to every inch of your face, since outer areas of the face usually look fine without any foundation at all. Focus on areas that need to be evened out. Start by applying around the center of the face. There’s usually redness around the nose and mouth, and on the eyelids.
    • Blending. Blend outward to avoid having any tell-tale lines.
    • Trouble spots. For any areas that need more coverage, like dark spots or blemishes, dab on a little foundation with your finger or a small, concealer brush. If more coverage is needed, hit ‘em with concealer.


    I tend to feel naked without concealer, because of my under eye circles. Concealer can really lighten up the darkness and make you look fresher and more awake.

    • Color. I try to get my concealer to match my skin tone as much as possible. A color that’s too light can give a reverse raccoon look.
    • Application method. With concealer, I apply with a brush or my finger. I find that sponges are too big and don’t allow enough control.
    • Under the eyes. To counter darkness in the eye area, apply concealer in the inner and outer corners, as well as under the eyes all the way up to the lash line.
    • Less is more. Since it’s thicker than foundation, you can easily end up with a cakey look. Apply a thin layer first and build up as needed.
    • Pat, pat, pat. Blend by gently patting with your fingers. Don’t rub or you’ll just end up rubbing it off.

      For most occasions, I prefer a fresh, natural look so I tend to use just a little powder to set the foundation and concealer.

      • Application method and where to apply. I recommend applying powder with a fluffy brush along the t-zone, where the face can get oily. A brush gives the most natural finish. Under the eyes and on trouble spots, I pat the tiniest amount of powder with a powder puff to keep concealer in place.
      • Less is more. Use a light touch when applying powder. If you use too much, it can look cakey and fake, and make you look old in an instant by accentuating wrinkles.
      • Loose vs. pressed. Loose powder will look the most natural. But it can be messy and impractical for touch-ups during the day. 
      • Photos. If you know you’re going to be photographed – at a wedding or whatnot – powder is not optional, unless your skin is dry as the Sahara. Any bit of shininess is highlighted bigtime in photos. I recommend using a powder that has a matte finish and offers good coverage, and applying it with a sponge or puff.


      courtesy: Sally McGraw

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