Great foundation shouldn't look like makeup—it should look like flawless skin. It should work hard to perfect your complexion all day long, yet always be invisible. The trouble is that when foundation goes wrong, it all of a sudden becomes very apparent that it's there. It could be that tideline along the jaw, a streak here or a cakey patch there.
These are the kind of mistakes that drive makeup artists crazy, and they're also the telltale makeup mishaps that our other halves will often call us out on (which we are both annoyed by and grateful for). To help us avoid these mistakes in the future, we called on five makeup artists to share their foundation tips, so we can always look like we've got that no-makeup makeup look on lockdown.
From matching your foundation shade perfectly to concealing pores like a pro, keep scrolling for the seven foundation mistakes we all make from time to time and how to fix them.
Mistake #1: Your Face and Neck Don't Match
Telltale tide marks are one of the biggest foundation giveaways. The key is to colour-match your base shade with expert precision. "The trick to colour matching is to always use the three-stripe trick. Stripe a shade lighter than your complexion, what you think would be the perfect match and one shade warmer along your jaw line to determine the perfect match which should blend seamlessly to your neck.
"My tip here is to not match foundation to your face but to your neck. Remember, if you are choosing a shade warmer, don't forget to bronze your neck, chest and ears to avoid telltale signs," says Ffion Davies, regional makeup artist for YSL.
Mistake #2: Visible Pores
When it comes to visible pores, our expert makeup artists were unanimous. "That's easy! Use a pore-filling primer and a buffing motion to blend the foundation into the skin using a round dome brush. This will push the foundation into the pores, giving a flawless look. Don't worry about it causing breakouts; foundation is designed to not absorb into the skin!" explains Wayne Goss, ultra HD pro expert for Make Up For Ever.
The primer you choose is key also. "Use a primer that has blurring properties such as Nars Pore & Shine Control Primer (£28). The extracts in this product will instantly blur, tighten and smooth pores. If you want a quick fix, Nars Instant Line and Pore Perfector (£20) is great and can be worn under or over makeup," says Anna Priadka, Nars UK lead stylist.
Finally, Laura Geller, founder of Laura Geller New York, reveals you can blur pores to perfection using powder. "Use a setting powder like Laura Geller New York Matte Maker Oil Blotting Powder (£17), which not only sets makeup but is also oil-absorbing and diminishes the appearance of pores."
Mistake #3: Using the Wrong Product for Your Skin Type
We consider skin type when it comes to skincare, but what about foundation? For a flawless looking finish, match your foundation pick to your skin's needs. "If you have dry, dehydrated skin, consider using a liquid," explains Geller. "Normal skin type? You can use any foundation, but if you are prone to oily skin, steer toward powders," she adds.
Mistake #4: Mismatched Concealer
Depending on what you're concealing—a blemish, pigmentation or dark circles—you need to adopt a different strategy so your concealer blends seamlessly. "When covering a blemish, it must be the same shade as your foundation, which, if you chose the correct shade, should be the same as your skin; otherwise you'll be highlighting a pimple! The texture should be dry so that it doesn't move through the day," explains Goss.
"If you suffer from pigmentation such as psoriasis, acne or rosacea, I would recommend using a colour corrector instead of concealer before foundation application," suggests Davies. "This will give a much smoother finish than concealer and is much more effective in terms of camouflage. Choose green for red pigmentation and apricot for dark blemishes, such as under-eye areas or sun damage."
When concealing under the eyes, Olivia Chantecaille, creative director at Chantecaille, says, "I typically use one that is a shade lighter than my foundation, because the under eye area has thinner skin and less colour than my cheek below. It ends up looking perfectly harmonious."
Mistake #5: Brush Marks
Brush marks, especially when using a flat foundation brush, can easily happen, but they're also easy to avoid. "If your brush is leaving brush marks, A) the brush is poor quality, or B) you're not setting the makeup properly with power, so when you go to apply blusher, for example, the brush with the blusher is moving the foundation underneath. Setting is key," explains Goss.
Once brush marks occur, don't worry; you can easily blend them away. "A great way to erase brush marks is by finishing with a kabuki brush in a gentle circular motion. It blends everything in for a completely natural-looking no-makeup effect," recommends Chantecaille.
Mistake #6: Foundation in Your Hairline
Unless you give your hairline a good inspection before applying your foundation, it's easy to miss. "Around the hairline is always the telltale sign that you're wearing makeup," says Davies. "My top tip is to avoid taking foundation too close toward this area and simply warm up the hairline using a natural bronzer with a fluffy shadow brush, such as the YSL Long Eye Blender Brush (£33)."
Mistake #7: A Cakey Finish
"First things first: Less is more! Most foundations on the market these days describe themselves as buildable, and the clue is in the 'build.' Start with a very fine lightweight layer all over the complexion. The size of a 50p (1 pump) is usually plenty, and then in a 'stippling' motion, build coverage where it's needed. This is typically in the centre of the face, and then I blend outward," explains Davies.
"Another main culprit for the 'cakey look' is powder. I often witness ladies applying a thick pressed powder straight onto wet foundation, which causes the foundation to patch and look cakey. Instead, I recommend an ultra-lightweight, loose, transparent powder applied after about 30 seconds to set everything in place."
Goss recommends using a Beautyblender (£13). "The more you blend and press, the more real the skin will look," he explains. "And keep in mind that the more moisturiser you use, the more powder you can use without getting a cakey effect. However, the opposite is true if you're using a primer. Use less powder, as primer tends to grab."