How To: Do Your Foundation Like a Pro

And still look like yourself

If you choose to wear makeup on your wedding day (and we at APW believe it’s always a choice, not a requirement) foundation is more or less the gatekeeper to making it all work (and primer is the key master, in case anyone is wondering. But we’ll get to that in a second). For those of you who are trying your hand at more advanced makeup, a long day where you get photographed at every turn (professional photographer or no), possibly cry, and probably sweat like a mother can make for a holy trifecta of face melting.

Now, in theater the solution to that problem is just to layer your face with about an inch and a half of pancake makeup and send you shuffling off to Buffalo. But we’re going to assume that you want your makeup to actually look like you. And the key to that is good foundation. So today we’ve put together a basic, lazy-girl style tutorial on How To Do Foundation Like A Pro.*

The best part about getting flawless foundation done with minimal effort it is that ninety percent of the secret lies in getting products that are going to go to work for you. Otherwise, technique is secondary, and consists mostly of blending. So we asked one of our awesome stylists, Shana Astrachan of Fox & Doll Hair & Makeup to share her expert tips on getting sheer foundation that will last all day without making you look like a Toddler In Tiara gone wrong:

Primer: Primer, primer, primer. Seriously, guys. Primer. It is a magical tool that helps your makeup stay put so that you don’t end up with melty face and raccoon eyes. Shana used two kinds of primer on Meg, one for her face and another on her eyelids. For face primer, Shana likes Mineral Fusion Natural Brands Face Primer. However, if you don’t want to spend upwards of $30 on something you may only use once or twice, it’s also been pointed out in the comments of previous hair & makeup tutorials that an economical alternative to traditional face primers is Monistat Chafing Gel. (Apparently the formulas are nearly identical. I know. My mind was blown too.) As for eye primer, Shana recommends using a Mac Paint Pot in a shade that matches your skin tone (it contains both primer and a little bit of shadow).

Foundation: APWers tend to prefer a sheer foundation over the cakey stuff, so Shana used Benefit’s Hello Flawless on Meg. Contrary to what I would have expected, she suggests using less foundation, because it’ll stay better throughout the night and look more natural. When it comes time to apply your foundation, that funky pink egg you see up there is called a Beauty Blender and Shana swears by it. It takes all the guesswork out of blending your foundation so that you get a flawless finish and don’t end up with uneven foundation all over your face. (Win!)

Highlighter: Shana’s pro-tip here is to just make sure you don’t use anything that looks like glitter. She recommends using Benefit’s Watt’s Up, High Beam, or Moon Beam and applying it just along your cheekbones.

Concealer & Powder: Concealer is one of those tricky products that varies from person to person (depending on whether you’re concealing redness, if you have fine lines, etc.). But one trick Shana recommends is to use a creamy concealer like the one Mineral Fusion makes and apply it with your finger instead of a brush. The warmth from your finger will help it blend more smoothly and look more natural. Then finish the look by applying loose powder with a big soft brush all over.

And that is, I swear, all there is to it. You are now ready to do the fun part of makeup. I always thought foundation was much more complicated than that (which is why I never wear it) but I’m feeling a little more confident to try and step up my game with Shana’s tips. As always, for more makeup tips, or tutorials on complete makeup looks, you can check out our whole series on DIY hair & makeup from last year right here.


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  • I like this series, but for a post titled how to do sheer foundation, I wish it went a bit more in depth and provided tips on the actual application of said foundation. Instead, this just says “apply foundation.”
    That primer tip is gold, however. As a person who constantly struggles with a shiny looking, greasy feeling face, primer is key to getting my make up to last and feel good on my face.

    • Moe

      There are a lot of helpful make-up tutorials on YouTube. You can watch someone get the job done first before you try it yourself.

    • Sarah

      The basic steps that work well for me are:
      1) Squirt small amount of foundation onto back of/side of hand. Figure out if that particular foundation looks best applied with fingers or brush by testing in advance (use one method on each side of your face) or if you forget to test and are in a hurry, use the back of your hand or your wrist to test. I’ve found that the best way to apply is usually determined by how the foundation interacts your skin, not your skill at applying–so be openminded if using a new foundation.
      2) If using fingers, dip into foundation puddle and either pat gently into face or sweep onto face (slow motion version of how you would brush an eyelash/speck of dirt off face). Once fully covered, go over face again with clean powder brush and/or beauty blender.
      3) If using brush, move in twisting/swirling motion over foundation puddle to pick up foundation onto brush. Apply in overlapping circle motion over face (like CCC, but image the bottom edge of each C on left is connected to top edge of C on immediate right so you are doing overlapping counterclockwise circles). Once face is fully covered, wipe foundation off brush and go back over face with clean brush and/or beauty blender.
      3) Definitely use the beauty blender. I got one for $3 from CVS that is very similar to the one shown. Miraculous. I tend to over-apply foundation, so I do both the clean brush and the beauty blender to take a little back off and even out.
      4) If you look like a washed out zombie, add bronzer and blush as needed. Was never a big fan of bronzer or blush till I found the Nars duo with Orgasm blush and Laguna Bronzer (at Sephora) right before my wedding. I used that instead of highlighter and the shimmer didn’t show up in photos–I did add a translucent powder (sample from Makeup Forever).

      • Nice tips Sarah!

        Fox & Doll

    • meg

      You guys, I wear sheer foundation every day. I literally just rub it on my face with my hands. Like I’m five. If it were harder it would NEVER HAPPEN. If you get good product, your work is done.

      These are lazy girl tutorials, y’all. To be honest, some of the steps here are too complicated for me. I’m… lazy…

      • Emily

        Truth! Sheer foundation is really forgiving.

      • That’s how I do my foundation every day, too, but this isn’t supposed to be instructions on *just* an everyday look, is it? I think while reading this I totally forgot that it’s supposed to be the “lazy girl” method, anyways :)
        I like detailed steps when it’s advice on how to do your whatever like a pro. But! I totally hear you on the fact that this is the lazy girl series and I have adjusted my expectations accordingly.

      • Aine

        Even a note saying “This is how easy this is.” would do it- the other Lazy-Girl Guides have been slightly more detailed than this (I think its also because you HAVE included all the “just before and after” stuff too, so its a more expansive topic than the title suggests. I think makeup scares the bejeezus out of a lot of us, and maybe we just want a little more handholding. I do love this series though, and I get excited every time there’s a new one (even when they’re wedding decor things that I would never use!).

  • Moe

    My favorite primer is MAC’s Strobe Cream. It hydrates the skin and leaves a pearlescent sheen.

  • Amelie

    Great post! I’ve got a question for Shanna—-Is primer necessary if you are using a BB cream as foundation? I’m using Smashbox Camera Ready BB cream for my wedding day. I know they “say” it has primer in it, but would it be beneficial to do a layer first?

    • Hi Amelie,
      I don’t have experience with this specific product, but I would try it with a primer and see if you like the difference with how it applies. Fyi- since it has SPF in it consider that it may not good for flash photography. So if you are going into the evening you may want to use a different option instead. It is the one day I tell everyone to skip SPF, just stay out of the direct sunlight as much as you can midday if the setting allows.

      Fox & Doll

  • mimi

    Love the Ghostbusters reference!

  • I love me some shiny pretty, so posts like this inevitably make me want to go out and buy All The Things regardless of the fact that I have plenty of make up (…my fiance can certainly attest to this).

    Love the tips!

  • For anyone looking for a paraben-free foundation (hey, fellow hippies!), I heartily recommend Tarte:

    It’s a bit pricey, but a little goes a LONG ways, and I’ve found it to be very lightweight. I used this (along with the tips in this tutorial! Primer FTW!) to do my foundation for our wedding, and it lasted all day, looked great in pictures AND in person.

    • bareMinerals also makes paraben-free primer and foundation (I’m both a chemical-avoiding hippie and actually *allergic* to parabens, so I have to be extra careful to avoid them)

  • MissStumptown

    This is great, and thanks for the tips! I’m curious, though, if we are supposed to stay away from foundation with SPF in it? From what I’ve read, that’s the #1 rule of DIYing your own makeup on your wedding day, but the foundation recommended on here (Hello Flawless) has SPF 25 in it. I just don’t want to make a grave mistake of using foundation with SPF when I do my makeup for our wedding later this year when I really wasn’t supposed to!

    • Great question. SPF is ok if you are NOT using flash photography, but usually you are if you are going into the evening. This shoot was daytime outside in the hot sun all day, so I treated it as if that was the wedding setting. The product various depending on skin type, setting, and photography. If you would like non SPF foundation my suggestions vary on what to try depending on where you are located and what you can get your hands on (most of the products in my kit wouldn’t be easy for you to obtain), but if you shop Sephora you can try Kevyn Aucoin foundation, it is amazing.

      Fox & Doll

  • BB

    Alternatively, what do we do if we need to wear sunscreen (outdoor mountain wedding in the middle of the day)?

    • dragonzflame

      Personally, I’m just going to suck it up. The only reason you’re not meant to use sunscreen is because whatever gives it the SPF can make you look whiter in photos. To which I say: that’s what Photoshop is for.

      I’m getting married in New Zealand, on the beach, in February. With the UV levels we get down here, whiter is preferable to lobster!

    • Jess

      Some primers have SPF in them. I use the primer from Mary Kay and it has SPF 25 in it. Also my moisturizer that I put on before anything else has SPF in it too, so if your primer doesn’t have SPF then look for a face lotion that does.

      • Sarah

        I also did a moisturizer and primer with an SPF and a foundation without an SPF, topped by a translucent powder that did not have SPF. There was no visible shiny or glowy effect in my photos, in those taken outside around 2 pm, indoors around 4, or outdoors between 5-10 pm (so a pretty big spectrum of times). You also get some benefit out the fact that you have placed a barrier (the 3 layers of makeup) between yourself and the sun, so if you’re going to be outside for only a short period, that might be enough.

    • Some SFP’s are ok as long as you are not doing flash photography, so if it is daytime it could be ok. But it depends on the content, you don’t want one that already makes you look chalky to the naked eye, which most can. The Benefit on is fine if you are not using a flash, and it applies very nicely. The physical barrier itself of non spf foundation and powder may be enough to protect you from burning. I also say to stay out of the direct sun mid day if you can, you don’t want to be sweaty bride anyway.

      Sorry ladies, the answers vary depending on each situation, that’s way we makeup artists have so many options in our kits.

      Fox & Doll

  • Lily

    I know this has probably been asked a million times, but does anyone have suggestions of good foundation brands/ shades for Chinese girls? I’ve tried so many makeup counters and even had it done professionally once, and even if it looks good in the mirror (rare!) in photos my face looks extremely white! I’m way more of a bronze/olive color!

    • Emily

      I feel you! I had a hard time finding foundation for my crazy pale skin, so I asked my makeup friends your question and the names that came up more than once were Shiseido, Makeup Forever (you can get more than one color and blend them for a custom effect) and Prescriptives (they blend a custom shade for you at their counter, and can even add stuff like light moisturizer.) I hope one of those helps!

      • Great suggestions Emily. Thanks.

        Fox & Doll