How to Apply Liquid Foundation

How to Properly Apply Liquid Foundation: A Beauty Newbie Guide

by Holly James
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Whether you just started in makeup or you’ve been at it for years, nothing can make your face look it’s best like the right foundation. When it comes to liquid foundation- if it’s not the right color, texture or formula for you, well… even the best eyes, cheeks and lips can’t save face. Here’s the Beauty Newbie Guide on finding the right one, and how to properly apply liquid foundation to that beautiful mug.

1. Assess your skin.

Questions to ask yourself:

a. What do I want to achieve as far as coverage goes?

b. Do I have acne, discoloration, scars etc. that I want to cover up?

c. Do I have skin that’s pretty clear and I only want/need a light coverage?

d. Is my skin oily, dry or a combination of the two?

2. Based on your answers, figure out what type of products you need for foundation.

When buying a foundation, whatever brand, ask for a free consultation from a cosmetics clerk. Even drugstores should have a cosmetician available to help you. This is always free.

3. Wash your face (with a cleanser that is suited to your skin) and hands before you begin applying anything to your face.

Yes. This is extremely important. You don’t want to pollute your pores with dirt from your hands or contaminate your foundation etc.

4. Moisturize your face with a good moisturizer that is suited for your skin-type. Let it dry before applying your foundation.

4a. If you want a good deal of coverage, or really want to make sure your makeup stays in place, use a primer such as Smashbox Photo Finish Primer.

5. Apply concealer.

Some pro’s suggest applying concealer after your foundation has been applied, but one of the best tips I’ve ever heard when it comes to concealer, is to set it with a powder before applying foundation (yes, even liquid foundation) and I have found this to work wonders for me. Concealer is great to cover up blemishes etc. Just make sure that you pick the appropriate color for your skin. You don’t want it to be too dark, and you don’t want it to be too many shades too light. You can also layer the concealer if you do chose to apply it after foundation.

There are many different tools to use when applying liquid foundation and liquid/stick concealer, such as beauty sponges, foundation brushes, stippling brushes, concealer brushes etc. For a break down of the most common makeup brushes, check out the Beauty Newbie Guide to Makeup Brushes.

5a. You can also use your fingers- don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve a good application with your fingers… you just have to do it the right way.

6. After you have concealed your problem areas, you can begin to apply the foundation. First put a small dollop of foundation on the back of your hand. You don’t need a lot on your hand (if it’s not enough you can always add more later).

6a. With your brush or finger dab 1-4 dots on the main areas of your face: forehead, nose cheeks and chin.7. Now is the most crucial point of the blending of your foundation. If you are using your fingers, you do not want to “rub” your foundation into your skin. With a feather-light touch, use your ring finger in a small circular motion to blend the foundation over your face.* If you are using:

a. A stippling brush: Dab the brush into the foundation and tap it all over the area in a circular motion for even application.

b. A foundation brush: Make small strokes in the same direction to give an even look for your foundation. Again, go lightly with the brush.

c. Any type of beauty sponge: Make small strokes with a small corner of the sponge making sure to go lightly with the sponge so all the foundation doesn’t get soaked up by the sponge; dab lightly around your nose and under your eyes to get into every corner.8. Before you apply a setting/translucent powder, take a once-over look at your foundation and assess your coverage.

Questions to ask yourself:

a. Does everything look even? If not, make your touch-ups now.

b. Are there obvious lines where the foundation ends around my hairline and jaw? If there are, you may have put too much foundation around those areas, or the color isn’t right for your skin tone. If there is an obvious difference between your jawline and your neck, blend some foundation down onto your neck. It (your neck) is attached, not a separate entity to your face. A little trick to blending foundation down into your neck, is to add a little moisturizer to your foundation for below the jawline.

c. How does my skin feel? So often we forget about how a product feels because we’re so concerned with how it makes us appear. If your skin feels to dry, too oily, too covered etc. Then you probably haven’t yet found the right foundation. This is the one piece of makeup that takes a lot of trial and error to perfect. We all go through it. If you want a little less hassle in figuring it out, check out the end of this post.

Now you can apply your other makeup, but if you want to make sure that your foundation stays in place, you will not want to skip this step. Set your foundation with a finishing veil or translucent powder. You can apply it with a beauty puff (they are fluffy feathery things- all the glamorous ladies of the 40’s and 50’s used these things), or a powder brush. I like to use a good old kabuki brush. Again, you can use circular motions, or sweeping motions all over your face. Make sure you are doing it gently. After that, some people like to spray on a few shots of a fixing spray such as M.A.C.’s FIX spray.

Voila! You are finished with your foundation and ready to go on to your cheeks, eyes and lips.


a. If you want to avoid a giant hassle with figuring out your skin type, get a free skin consultation at Clinique or your local drugstore. You do not need to buy the products they suggest. Get a few consultations from more than one place so you have a few different options. If you are on a budget you know what you’re looking for the next time you head to Walmart or Shoppers.

b. When testing out a color of foundation on yourself, do a swatch close to your ear and swipe the foundation from the hollows of your cheek down past your jawline and onto your neck. Do this with three or four different foundations to see which best matches your skin… the one that camoflages itself into your skin is probably the best color for you.

c. If you aren’t sure about a foundation, get a sample and try it out at home for a few days. Sometimes the fluorescent lighting in stores can be misleading as to how well your skin matches a foundation. Not to mention you want to see how your skin reacts.

d. Don’t worry if you buy something that ends up being a disaster. Take it back and exchange for a different color, texture or brand. I have yet to come across a cosmetic line that doesn’t offer money back guarentee.

e. For those of you who have a particular skin condition, such as bad acne— Book an appointment with a dermatologist. They sometimes even formulate a product specifically for you. An original!!! If you don’t make it a priority, you could be doing more harm to your skin than good.

How to Apply Liquid Foundation
How to Apply Liquid Foundation

Steps to apply liquid foundation 

  • Cleanser
  • Moisturiser
  • Primer
  • Liquid foundation, 
  • Concealer,
  • Foundation, 
  • Brush/Sponge

Step 1: Wash your face with a cleanser. 

Wash your face with a cleanser and remove excess oil and dirt that can make your skin look dull and oily. Pat your face dry with a clean towel. 

Step 2: Apply the moisturiser 

Whether you have oily or dry skin, moisturizing cream is a must. Moisturizes the skin and makes it shine. You should also apply sunscreen when you get off. Wait five minutes before moving on to the next step. 

Step 3: Use a primer 

Two primer applications are all you need to blur pores and create a smooth canvas for your foundation. Use your fingers to apply foundation to your forehead, around your mouth, and areas where you need to blend. Remember to hit it and don’t pull on your skin.

Step 4: Apply the foundation to your face 

Pour a little liquid foundation onto the back of your hand and rub it over your face. Focus on areas that need to be covered, such as the chin, mouth, and pigmented areas. 

Step 5: Damp and Stamp

Use two sprays of a setting spray and wet the foundation brush (a flat tip polka dot brush or a kabuki brush). Wipe off excess and spread the base evenly over the face, neck and ears with a quick and gentle stamping motion. 

Step 6: Blend With A Damp Sponge

damp sponge Moisten your beauty sponge/blender and run it over your face to blend the foundation, absorb excess and soften any brush strokes. 

Step 7: Use concealer 

This step is optional. However, if you have hyperpigmentation or acne scars, a concealer can help you achieve even skin tone. Apply a few dots and apply them with your fingers, blending the outer edges. 

Ultimate Guide to Applying Liquid Foundation

Beauty experts have strong opinions on how to apply foundation, but there is one case that can be done for each method of application. Fingers work best for quick, natural application, sponges are good for a flawless finish, and brushes are ideal for full coverage. And sometimes, mixing and matching a little can be very useful, which means it’s worth exploring different combinations of tools with different basic formulas to see what works best for you. 

How to Apply Foundation with a Sponge

When it comes to the foundation, professionals say that their favorite tool is a classic beauty blender. This makes sense if you consider that a beauty blender is designed for simple airbrush finishing. When using this application technique, be sure to wet the sponge first. This is key to achieving even coverage and minimizing product absorption. Simply place it under the sink for a few seconds until the sponge is saturated and filled. Then dip it into the liquid foundation you applied to the back of your hand and apply it with a gentle motion. 

Professionals apply the foundation to model’s skin and they remind us that the foundation should not be a mark on the entire face. Rather, you should apply it strategically to even and brighten skin tone. The foundation is there simply to balance the skin. Take it where your cleavage begins. And I work very lightly just to balance them out. And if you’re brown on your body, but pale on your face, don’t hesitate to apply foundation on your neck. bouncing off the sponge allows a perfect blend (without streaks or lines) and the highest performance of the product on the skin. You can use the tip or the bottom to bounce. Makeup artists use the rebound method to achieve a more natural finish. Just put the foundation in your hand and then place the beauty blender on the product. Work from the center of the face outwards: do gentle rebound movements and it really pushes the product into the skin. 

How to Apply Foundation with Your Fingers

We use our fingers more than any other beauty tool in our arsenal. Whether you’re brushing a cream blush, patting our pouting dog with lipstick, or, yes, applying a liquid foundation. Make-up artists don’t mind applying the foundation by hand! In fact, it heats the product and gives it a more natural finish. If that’s your only way to apply foundation, we suggest you take an extra few minutes to make sure you’re really blurring and smoothing all the edges. Make sure your fingers are clean before applying foundation with your hands. Wash your hands between makeup steps. This prevents paint transfer and keeps germs and other contaminants to which hands are exposed away from the face. Once your hands are dry, apply a little foundation to the back of your hands. Dip your fingers into it and gently spread the product on the skin, starting with the T-zone and blending it. We like MAC’s Studio Fix Fluid Foundation for this technique. It’s fluid enough to fade relatively easily, but it has enough opacity so your fingers don’t pull it out too much. 

How to Apply Foundation with a Brush

The type of brush you want to use depends entirely on the look you want. A flat base brush provides full coverage. However, if you’re looking for something more natural, you can use a polishing brush that gives you a medium opacity or a polka dot brush that gives you modest coverage. If you want your foundation to look flawless, apply the product to your skin with a smoothing brush in circular motions. 

When using a brush, it is important to choose a brush with synthetic bristles. Natural bristles can be somewhat porous, meaning they can absorb part of the product. The synthetic bristles hold the liquid foundation on the skin, exactly where you want it to be. The brush must have fine bristles. There may be streaks if you use thick bristles. When applying liquid foundation with a brush, artists prefer a fluffy synthetic brush, such as a blush brush. It sounds crazy, but you get a super smooth, almost airbrushed result. 

The Final Takeaway

Before you start applying foundation, you should start with a foundation to even out the texture of your skin (for example, your forehead tends to be more oily than your cheeks, so foundation will look different on different areas of your face if you don’t use foundation). Remember that foundation should not be applied as a moisturizer. You want the foundation to look like skin, so use the foundation where you need it instead of rubbing it all over the place. The same general rule applies to powder, which you should use to fix the look. If you have oily skin, you can use powder anywhere. If you feel drier on your cheeks and around your nose, just powder your forehead and chin. Once you’ve determined your appearance, you can bring your skin back to life with bronzer or blush. 

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