Making Foundation and Concealer Last


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If you use foundation and concealer, most likely you're trying to achieve a flawless look so your skin appears naturally even, glowing, and gorgeous, no matter what Mother Nature might have doled out.

Because foundation and concealer are makeup must-haves to mask flaws, even out skin tone, and fake a good night's sleep, it's a huge disappointment when they seem to slide right off your face halfway through the day! Not to worry, though, there are plenty of tips and tricks to make your makeup work for you all day long.
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How to Prepare Skin for Makeup Application

Base makeup might be called "foundation," but the true foundation of any great makeup look is good skin care. How you take care of your skin and prep it for makeup has a big impact on how your makeup applies, looks, and wears. Here are skin care basics to keep in mind:

  • Use a gentle cleanser appropriate for your skin type to remove excess oil and impurities that can interfere with the performance of foundation and concealer.
  • Exfoliate to make skin smoother. Whether you choose an AHA or BHA exfoliant or use a scrub, getting rid of dead cells and flakiness can do wonders for making foundation apply and look better!
  • Moisturize. All skin needs a mix of the skin-repairing, cell-communicating, and antioxidant ingredients that are found in the best moisturizers. It's simply a matter of finding the right moisturizer for your skin type: Dry skin does best with creams; combination skin may need a cream and lotion; oily skin does best with a liquid or gel moisturizer; and those with normal skin can choose based on personal preference.

Do you need a foundation primer, too? Possibly, but most often this is an optional step, and likely unnecessary if your other skin care products are doing the job already. The idea behind primer is to create a surface that makes it easier for foundation and concealer to glide across and adhere to, so application is easier. A good moisturizer or serum can do the same thing, but if you're curious to try a foundation primer, we've listed our favorites here.

Most importantly, and we can't stress this enough, if your foundation doesn't contain sunscreen with SPF 25 or greater (and greater is better), then you need to apply a daytime moisturizer with sunscreen after primer. (Sunscreen should always be the last skin-care product you apply.) It also doesn't hurt to layer a sunscreen, a moisturizer with sunscreen, a foundation with sunscreen, and a pressed powder with sunscreen! Now that's great daytime protection, especially in sunny climates.

Types of Foundations and Concealers

If you've been to the drugstore or cosmetics counter lately, you know there is a dizzying array of foundations out there. But NOT assume the expensive stuff is better - it absolutely is not. There are great foundations in all price categories.

So with all the choices, how do you decide which ones to focus on? We've made it easier for you by breaking them down into a list of the types of foundation, and which types are best for which skin types. You can see the complete list in our article, Which Foundation Type Is Best For You?

As for concealers? Well, it turns out there are a wide variety of them, too. Here's a look at the different types, and how they work:

  • Stick concealers. Housed in a swivel-up tube similar to lipstick, stick concealers generally provide full coverage for dark circles around the eye. Some are thick and dry, while others are creamy to the point of being greasy. Stick concealers are easy to apply, but they are too heavy to use over breakouts.
  • Creamy liquid concealers. These generally come in tubes with wand applicators, or in squeeze tubes. Depending on their consistency, they have the least tendency to settle into lines around the eyes, although some have quite a bit of slip to them, making them a less- than- ideal choice for women with oily skin.
  • Cream concealers. Cream concealers usually come in small pots and provide medium to full coverage for dark under eye circles and for brown spots. Some can be a bit greasy, causing problems for people with oily or breakout-prone skin.
  • Matte-finish liquid concealers. Like creamy liquid concealers, these come in tubes with wand applicators or in squeeze tubes. They last longer than creamier concealer formulas, and serve well as eyeshadow primers, too. They aren't the best option if the area under your eyes is dry, but they are the best type to apply over breakouts or red marks from past breakouts.
  • Matte-finish cream to powder concealers. These usually come in compacts, and look like smaller versions of cream to powder foundations. They glide on easily because of their initial cream consistency, and dry to a matte or powder-like finish. However, the powdery finish can also emphasize lines, and so they're not the best option for dry or flaky skin.

Whew! That's a lot to digest! But it's absolutely critical to choose a foundation and concealer that's best for your skin type. A very creamy formula simply isn't going to hold up on someone with oily skin, and an ultra-matte finish won't look good over the long haul on dry skin or the dry areas of combination skin.

One splurge to consider is getting your makeup done at a cosmetics counter so you can try out different formulas and application techniques to see what works and what doesn't. It's knowledge and experimenting, not sales pressure, that will help you get the most out of your makeup! Over time, you'll also feel more confident shopping for foundation and concealer at the drugstore, where you can really save money and still find great makeup.

Application Techniques and Setting Makeup

How you put on your makeup is just as important as what makeup you use. Proper techniques will ensure your foundation and concealer perform at their absolute best.

The first and most important things you need to know are that less is best and you need to blend, blend, and blend again. Start applying foundation in the center of the face, then blend it out toward the edges with sponge, being careful to avoid your hair, but getting it close enough to not leave a visible edge there. Watch out for your jawline, too! Starting in the middle of the face and working your way outward helps avoid these problems, creating a more natural look.

Sponges ensure smoother application, and can be used to dab away excess foundation. The idea is to get even coverage that appears as natural as possible, which means trying to get your makeup to mesh with your skin.

Start with a thin layer of foundation, then build if you want more coverage. A very thick layer of makeup is more prone to slide off your face throughout the day because it just can't adhere as well to skin.

When it comes to concealer, application is fairly straightforward. With your fingers, a brush, or a wand applicator, gently dot concealer on the areas you want to cover. Pat the concealer in place, making sure not to drag it over skin. As with foundation, start out with a light amount, then build to get the coverage you want. Pat the concealer in one direction, repeating this step until it sets. Don't use a back-and-forth or rubbing motion, as this basically just wipes concealer away as soon as you apply it, leaving you with spotty to no coverage.

Last, and most important: Use powder. It's just a simple truth that both foundation and concealer last much longer if you set them with some sort of powder—and we promise there are powders out there that won't make skin look dry or overly made- up.

Some people choose translucent powders, while others prefer highlighting powders, and some prefer loose powder, while others like pressed powder. No matter the type, your makeup will last longer with powder over it. We don't mean a thick layer of powder (which can emphasize fine lines and dry spots on the face); just a soft dusting brushed on areas where foundation and concealer have been applied, and you can brush on a bit more over shine-prone areas.

What to Do After Your Makeup Is On

OK, so you've chosen the right foundation and concealer for your skin type, applied them the correct way, and set them with powder. Are there any extra steps to make sure your hard work lasts the day? Yes!

Most important, even though it sounds incredibly basic, is to make sure you don't touch your face. People actually touch their faces hundreds of times during the day, and each touch takes off some makeup. Given how often we touch our faces, it's no wonder makeup doesn't stay put! Try your best to be conscious of where your hands go, and avoid rubbing your eyes, scratching your chin, brushing your cheek, or doing anything else that could disturb your makeup, such as resting the phone against your chin.

Carry blotting papers with you to dab off excess oil, which can cause makeup to slip and dissipate. Check your makeup every so often (not obsessively, but just to see how things are going after a few hours) and dust on a bit of powder where needed. It also doesn't hurt to add a touch of blush, which also tends to get wiped off as well.

If you have oily skin, you may want to try a mattifier or shine-control product before you apply foundation. These can go a long way toward keeping excess shine in check, so your makeup lasts (and looks better) longer.

What about those makeup-setting sprays like Model in a Bottle? Although some people like these, the truth is that spraying anything on top of your makeup can cause it to begin breaking down. For the most part, makeup-setting sprays are similar to hairsprays, in that they contain water and/or alcohol plus ingredients known as film-forming agents. The film-formers create a water-repellant "seal" on skin's surface, which to some extent can help makeup last longer, albeit not much longer - and when dry, these sprays tend to feel sticky or tacky.

Although it might sound like a lot of work, making your foundation and concealer last throughout the day isn't as difficult as it seems. You just need the right products, the right techniques, and a good powder that will set you up for a day of worry-free coverage!

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! See Paula's Choice Makeup.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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