10 Reasons Your Foundation Isn’t Looking Nearly As Good As It Could

You've just spent another €30 on a bottle of the latest base to add to your stash of underwhelming foundations. They can't all be crap – so what on earth is going wrong?

Magda from There's something about mary

1. You didn’t use primer

No, so it’s not a 100% necessary step, but if your skin tends towards oiliness, primer is often a really helpful prep step to help your base stay the course all day long. Finding your make-up’s sliding south by 11am? Then you just might need to invest in some primer, girlfriend.

2. You’re using the wrong type for your skin

Make-up is hard. Like, sometimes, really hard. It can be incredibly difficult to work out what’s right for your skin. But like fashion trends, just because a product is new, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should try it. There are a few tricks you need to know in order to buy a base that’s going to suit your skin.

  • If it’s dry, look for words like hydrating, moisturising, creamy – Chanel’s Vitalumiere Aqua is a good pick.
  • If your skin is oily, look for oil-free formulations. MAC Face & Body is ideal.
  • If you’ve got spots, look for oil-free formulas with salicylic acid, like Clinique’s Blemish Solutions.

3. You didn’t moisturise

Finding that foundation is creaking across your complexion and settling into pores and fine lines and generally sitting really badly? More moisture is what you want, and fast. Prepping skin well is really important – you might think depriving skin and not using enough hydration will keep base in place for longer, but it’ll just make it look claggy and you’ll never ever achieve that dewy finish that’s natural and flattering.

4. It’s pilling

Ugh! Finding that as you apply your foundation, it rolls into annoying little balls on your skin? This can actually be down to one of two things: not applying primer correctly (pat it into skin; don’t rub) or the silicone in your foundation is reacting with another silicone in either your moisturiser, serum or primer. A bit like a food intolerance test, you’ll need to take one out at a time to see which is the culprit.

5. You didn’t blend

Is it all looking a bit slapdash? A bit like you threw it on there with your fingers in two minutes and then ran for the bus? Oh, you did? Right: you need to get with the brush brigade. It’s actually completely fine to apply product with fingers – many pro artists like Pat McGrath almost never use brushes – but you’ll need some serious skills to get your finish finessed. Otherwise, what we do is apply with our digits and then quickly buff to perfection with something like a Blank Canvas F20 or a MAC 130 for a streak-free, perfectly even result that takes just seconds.

6. You used too much

A full face really only needs about a pump and a half of product, otherwise you’re just moving the excess around your face. If you’ve got areas that need a little extra help, like dark circles beneath the eyes, redness around the nose or spots to cover, that’s what concealer is for.

7. It’s the wrong shade

The thing so many women get wrong from the get-go, in Ireland, we actually have to be a bit easier on ourselves about this because, for a very long time, there were very few shades that actually suited a Celtic complexion. Nowadays though, even pharmacy brands will have a shade to suit, so we’ve no excuse.

So how do you buy a colour that’s right for your skin? Firstly, avoid testing product on your hand – it’s not going to be the same colour as your face. Instead, shop for foundation with a bare face and apply three stripes of the shades you think are the closest match on your jawline. The one that you can’t see – i.e. which is blending with your skintone – is the right pick for you. Want to add warmth to your face? Honeychild: that’s what blush and bronzer are for, not your foundation.

8. You forgot powder

While we don’t always set our base depending on its formulation, forgetting it can be a definite reason as to why our 8am make-up looks so rubbish by lunch. Sometimes, you really do need that extra powder step to keep things in place. But don’t…

9. Use too much powder

A light hand is required when it comes to powder lest you come over all Beverley Hills 90210 era Shannen Doherty with a matte, flat face of ghostly white. Go for a loose translucent powder that won’t add colour or weight, buff it on with a very fluffy brush (as opposed to patting it with a sponge) and do right before lipstick, just where you’ll need it most: T-zone, forehead and chin. Overdoing powder can cause your make-up to look dry, claggy and ageing.

10. You didn’t add definition

Ah, there’s nothing nicer than a freshly made-up face, is there? But don’t be that girl who then goes out with NOTHING ELSE ON HER FACE like she just came from the factory after a reset. Bitta mascara, blush, lippy; job done.