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Hair & Makeup

How to apply foundation like a beauty expert

These days, our foundation has to work so much harder than ever before. From contending with redness, smoothing the appearance of pores and, now, having to withstand a face mask, how you apply your foundation is key

A fresh, flawless face showcases the power of well-applied foundation

As well as doing its usual job of evening out skin tone, disguising imperfections, reducing redness and adding glow or reducing shine, our foundation now also needs to hold up under a face mask – and look as good on Zoom as it does in real life. That’s a tall order. Thankfully, makeup artist and global beauty director of Estée Lauder, Violette, who is known for creating perfect skin that looks incredible in real life and on camera, is here to share her best advice – so that we, too, can apply our foundation like an expert.

Quantity control

“Always use less foundation than you think you need,” says Violette. “It’s easier to start with a thin layer and add more if required. I like to dispense it onto the back of my hand rather than applying it directly to the face, as it’s easier to control the amount you’re using this way.”

Start in the center

“Focus your application in the center of your face first. Pat the foundation onto the sides of your nose, then out onto the tops of your cheeks and under your eyes. Stop applying more once you reach your cheeks; from there, just blend out what’s already on your skin,” she advises. “I never put foundation on the front of the nose, only the sides, because if your nose is bare, it makes it look like you’re not wearing foundation at all, but your skin looks great!”

Removing your foundation from the bridge of your nose is even more important if you’re wearing a mask or face covering. Most masks have a more rigid frame along the top to allow it to hug against the contours of your nose and minimize airflow, but this means it’s mostly guaranteed to smudge and move any makeup underneath – resulting in a bit of a mess when the mask is removed. Use a clean makeup sponge to remove excess makeup from your nose and blend out the edges before you put your face covering on.

Apply with your fingers

“Applying foundation with your fingers allows you to quickly warm up the product, and you can feel the skin better. You also tend to use far less product when you use your fingertips,” says Violette. Her method is simple: “Lightly pat the product onto your skin with your middle or ring finger, and then blend it outwards – with the same finger – until it has blended in with your skin.”

But if you prefer a makeup brush…

“Choose one with soft bristles that will help the color blend more easily,” says Violette. “Blending the product outwards towards your hairline will help avoid streaks.”

The secret to using a sponge

“Dampen it first with a thermal-water spray so the sponge doesn’t absorb too much of the foundation,” says Violette. “Use the side of the sponge or whichever end is the largest to pat the foundation onto your skin and blend. Use the pointy end of the sponge, or even a mini sponge, to blend the foundation underneath your eyes and around the creases of your nose. It’s important to pat, not swipe, if you want a natural finish. If you have acne-prone or very dry skin, try using a wedge-shaped sponge to help ‘push’ the foundation into your skin.”

How to apply foundation when wearing a mask

Ideally, you wouldn’t wear any makeup underneath your mask or face covering, as the heat and friction can make a mess of both your skin and mask. However, the reality is that most of us would like to wear a little something on the lower half of our face, if only to cover blemishes or redness, so that our skin still looks good when we are able to remove the mask. The trick is to be more strategic than you normally would.

Forgo anything that is high-coverage, as this will only melt in the heat under your mask and potentially smear across your skin. Instead, use a hard-wearing concealer, such as Pat McGrath Labs’ Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection Concealer, on any spots that are showing – and be sure to set the concealer with a very light dusting of translucent powder. As for the rest of your skin along the bottom half of your cheeks and jawline, opt for a more lightweight, tinted moisturizer, such as Chantecaille Just Skin Anti-Smog Tinted Moisturizer SPF15, or sheer down your normal foundation with an oil-based moisturizer.

Customize your coverage

“For a hydrated, natural finish, try mixing a few drops of serum into your foundation before blending it onto your skin. I love to mix Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair into the Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup.”


Now watch this…

Mastered Violette’s flawless-foundation routine? Now take a glimpse into her New York life and discover the daily skincare and makeup regimen she swears by.


The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown