Choosing and applying your foundation correctly can mean the difference between a flawless, radiant glow and a dull, flat finish. You can have the best foundation in the world, but if you don’t apply it correctly it may as well come from the bargain bin in your Nan’s local chemist. It’s no surprise that foundation shopping it almost as feared as searching for a new pair of jeans, nor that women tend to stick to their ‘holy grail’ product when they find one that works for them. If you’ve ever wondered how you should be making that essential purchase, and what to do with it once you’ve got it home, then here are my top tips for choosing and applying foundation for the best results possible.

It’s impossible to guess a shade using online guides. The colour of your screen could be completely different to someone else’s, leaving huge room for error when approximating which shade to buy. Make a conscious effort to go into a store, spending as much time as you need to swatch and blend lots of different formulas onto your skin. Department stores are great if you’re nervous, as the beauty counter staff will be able to help you pick the perfect product and shade for your needs – as well as showing you how best to apply it.

Wherever possible, ask to take a small sample away with you to try at home under natural light; shops are full of artificial lighting that never show you what the true colour really is. The amount of money lost each year by buying the incorrect shade due to store lighting is utterly incredible, so pluck up the courage to request a sachet to use at home. (If you’re a genuine customer, there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be happy to oblige.)

Your neck’s skin is in a constant shadow, so can be a shade lighter or darker than your skin tone. You want to match your foundation to your chest, as this is what will catch the eye and provide a noticeable difference if the shade isn’t quite right. Although it’s always suggested you should go lighter if in doubt, I always find it more natural for paler complexions to go darker – using a too-pale foundation can wash away all the natural contours of your skin and leave you looking like a ghost.

Your skin’s natural undertone will either be warm, cool or neutral. Your foundation should look natural and be used to either correct or enhance your skin tones, so it’s important to know when you’re shopping for a new shade; many beauty counters will offer you two or three suitable shades to choose from, with the only difference being the undertone. (You’re warm if you turn brown in the sun, have brown eyes, and the veins on your wrist are mainly green. You’re cool if you turn pink in the sun, have blue or green eyes, and the veins on your wrist are mainly purple. You’re neutral if you have a combination of all of these.)

You’re not one shade of skin for twelve months of the year. As you change your wardrobe, so you should change your foundation. As a general rule, go one or two shades darker in the summer months than in the winter. Alternatively, add a liquid bronzer to your foundation to warm and deepen the tones while keeping the match as perfect as possible. If you’re worried about looking too uniform, add a touch of bronzer to wear the light naturally catches your face (nose, cupid’s bow and apples of the cheeks.)

A base for foundation is vital; prepping beforehand will help ensure an
unblemished, radiant finish. Cleanse, exfoliate and moisturise to get
rid of dead skin sells and reduce that horrendous cakey finish, adding a touch of primer or silicone spray before you apply your base. This will help even out your skin and ‘fill in’ fine lines, ensuring your makeup lasts all day and looks airbrushed. (Check out my ‘five reasons why you need a primer‘ post for more info.)

For a flawless finish, use an angled foundation brush to apply to the skin in small movements, ensuring you use a little amount and build up coverage as you need it. Start from the centre of the face and blend outwards in sections, focusing on the nose and eye area to ensure the product is blended effectively. Brushes are able to get to all those little areas of the face fingers cant, as well as making it much easier to build up layers and conceal those imperfections. (This is my current fave from Eco Tools.)

Fix your foundation with a very delicate
dusting of powder over the t-zone, only where needed, to ensure it stays
as long as possible. Taking a compact with you for touch-ups throughout the day will also ensure you remain shine free – Corn Silk is great for this, as well as being super affordable. There are also loads of makeup fixing sprays, including the new Pixi Makeup Fixer and Smashbox’s Photo Finish Primer Water, which help to fix your makeup and prevent movement when spritzed over your finished look.

Do you have any other top tips for choosing and applying your foundation? 

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  1. Pam Scalfi
    July 16, 2015 / 12:02 pm

    I learned from my mistakes by shopping online. Always always ask for a sample before forking out on an expensive product :)Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

  2. Anonymous
    July 16, 2015 / 1:02 pm

    Great post! Love your blog :)Rachel

    • Hayley Carr
      July 20, 2015 / 9:12 am

      Thanks Rachel!

  3. The Bookish Reader
    July 16, 2015 / 1:45 pm

    I always thought I was warmed toned, but I turn brown in the sun, have blue eyes and have green veins on my wrists which mean I'm neutral. Love learning stuff like this 🙂

  4. Lydia D
    July 16, 2015 / 2:43 pm

    So helpful… especially the cool/neutral/warm skin tone stuff! Lyd x electricSUEDE

  5. Emmys Beauty Cave
    July 16, 2015 / 3:13 pm

    I do actually buy alot of my foundation online but before doing so i use a site called "Foundation" where you can put in shades you already own from other brands and it will tell you what shade you would be in other brands xEmma | Emmys Beauty Cave

    • Hayley Carr
      July 20, 2015 / 9:13 am

      That's genius! I'm so trying this out… A great concept.

  6. Jessica Grimes
    July 16, 2015 / 6:09 pm

    The undertone point was very helpful. Nice to know that I'm cool toned! Wonderful blog post! I've always wondered, though, should you apply foundation underneath the eyes? I've found that it seems to make them crease more, so should I just be applying less or none at all and just concealer?Jessica Grimes |

    • Hayley Carr
      July 20, 2015 / 9:14 am

      It's always good to cover all the skin to even everything out – then just apply little dots of a creamy concealer. Buff in with a brush if you're seeing creasing, and make sure you use a primer.

  7. Philippa
    July 16, 2015 / 7:35 pm

    I used to only ever apply my foundation with a brush but was getting quite frustrated that it always seemed to look streaky and uneven. I've since gone back to using my fingers to apply and am much happier with the result! My tip is to try both ways of applying – some foundation work better with one over the other!Philippa – ByPhilippa

    • Hayley Carr
      July 20, 2015 / 9:15 am

      It could be your brushes – if they're too harsh (or need a clean!) they can cause streaks. Try a buffing brush and you can't go wrong.

  8. Catherine Sayer
    July 16, 2015 / 8:23 pm

    Loved these tips – especially the one about prepping the skin, it definitely makes a difference to the overall finish! x

  9. Stella Robinson
    July 16, 2015 / 10:41 pm

    Great post, this is very useful. I am not very good with my makeup (despite practicing a lot!).

  10. abigailalicex
    July 18, 2015 / 6:59 pm

    Great advice. I really need to start asking for more samples! I always love trying new things.Check out my latest post <3

  11. Autumn Hope
    July 21, 2015 / 3:57 am

    Love this series! I was wondering where you find these questions from…?Thanks!

  12. Kirsty Haynes
    July 23, 2015 / 12:06 pm

    Looking like a weirdo right now checking the color of my veins! Haha! Great tips and tricks!Kirsty London | Kirsty London x

  13. JenniferZ
    July 26, 2015 / 1:37 pm

    This is such a wonderful post! My skin tone doesnt really change that much over the seasons because it's already dark, but despite that the other tips were really helpful! Thank you so much! 🙂

  14. claudia wright
    August 25, 2015 / 10:05 am

    Great tips! I am constantly leaving the shop with the wrong shade foundation, it's either too dark or too orange..Absolute nightmare!Saying that though, the beauty blogger in me is secretly thrilled at 'having' to buy another foundation! Claudia

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