When you’re trying to figure out how to find the best face makeup, there are a few things to keep in mind. You’ll need to know your skin type and analyze your coloring so you can match the undertones. From there, you’ll need to make sure that all the products you layer on top of one another will work well together.
Here, we’ll piece together everything you need to get started, from primer to blush and everything in-between. We’ll also get you started in the right direction with product recommendations.
How to Find the Best Face Makeup for You
Finding your perfect shade and finish that wears well all day may take a few tries. You’ll also need to find the concealer shade and/or color correctors if needed.
Then there’s primer, blush, bronzer, contour, highlight, and powder to choose from. You won’t need all of those, but once you decide on the face makeup types you want to experiment with, you’ll need a set that works in harmony.
Don’t worry; it’s easier than it sounds.
Here are some things to keep in mind while you’re in pursuit of your perfect products:
Test Before You Buy
Sometimes, there’s no way to know for sure if a foundation you’re considering will work for you until you try it on, wear it all day, check to make sure it doesn’t oxidize (turn orange) as the day goes on, and discover how well it performs from morning tonight.
However, sometimes you don’t have to make the upfront commitment of a purchase.
Some stores, like Sephora and cosmetics counters, are happy to help you narrow down your shade and formula options and let you take sample vials home to try. Don’t be afraid to ask!
Some online companies, like Everyday Minerals, will even offer free or very inexpensive samples for you to try through their website, so you still won’t need to make a big commitment.
Learn to Prep the Canvas Before Applying Makeup
One thing people sometimes forget about makeup application is that it’s not all about the foundation: skincare and a primer matter before you ever lay the product down.
Exfoliate as often as you need to, find the skincare routine that works for you, and use a foundation primer before applying the foundation. The primer smooths everything out so the makeup goes on like a dream, wears well throughout the day, and looks flawless.
Consider Your Skin Type
Your skin type will play a major role in determining which face makeup is right for you.
If your skin is oily, seek out lightweight formulas with matte or velvet finishes to start.
If you’re on the dry side, you’ll want to look for formulas marketed as hydrating or nourishing or those that promise a radiant or dewy glow. These are code for dry-skin-friendly.
Satin finishes (also called demi-matte) can look at home on any skin type.
Know Your Skin Tone and Undertones
Most foundations have a system to organize their shades, so you’ll know what you’re getting. For example, fair to deep skin tones may be numbered from lightest to darkest.
Undertones will often be marked with a C (cool), W (warm), N (neutral), or O (olive) after the number.
Once you’ve nailed down your undertones, it’ll be easier to choose a foundation shade. Here’s a quick crash course in undertones:
- If yours look blue or pink, your veins look blue, and you look best in silver jewelry, you’re cool.
- If yours look yellow, your veins look green, and you look best in gold jewelry, you’re warm.
- If you seem to have pink and yellow, you can wear silver or gold, and you can’t tell if your veins appear blue or green, you’re a neutral.
- If you seem to have green or grey undertones, you can’t tell what color your veins are, you look best in rose gold, and foundations almost always look “off” on your skin for one reason or another, then there’s a chance you have olive undertones.
The Desired Coverage and Finish
This is a personal preference. Do you want light coverage that you may even see your skin peeking through, full coverage to cover everything from freckles to blemishes, or the middle ground between the two?
From there, do you prefer a glowing, radiant complexion that looks dewy, or would you prefer something matte?
Typically, people with dry skin gravitate toward the dewier finishes, while people with oily skin prefer the matte finishes.
If your skin is normal or in combination, feel free to experiment with both ends of the spectrum to see which one you prefer and which one lasts all day on your skin.
Which Products Work Together
Since there can be so many layers to face makeup, how do you know what works together?
In general, layering creams or liquids together works better than combining either of those with a powder.
You can wear powder cheek products on top of liquid or cream foundation, of course, but if you find that too much color likes to stick to the first place the brush touches your skin, try adding a layer of loose, translucent powder between the two next time.
Make sure the undertones in your concealer match your foundation’s and then extend that to your blush, highlight, and contour shade.
If your foundation and concealer have pink undertones, don’t go too warm with the cheek shades. Warm foundation and concealer undertones? Skip the cool pinks and stick with peaches, corals, rusts, etc. Neutral cheek shades will work no matter what.
The Main Differences Between BB and CC Creams
BB and CC creams are pretty similar, so we’ll group those together and compare them to the foundation in a minute, but first, let’s talk about how they differ:
- BB cream offers light coverage (but more than your average tinted moisturizer), whereas CC cream provides a little more coverage.
- BB cream is pretty basic as far as performance goes, beyond blurring imperfections, whereas CC cream has more color-correcting, imperfection-blurring, and skin treatment properties.
The Main Differences Between BB/CC Creams and Foundations
For the longest time, there was the only foundation and tinted moisturizer. Then came BB, CC, and now even DD creams. So how are these creams different from the foundation?
- BB and CC creams can easily be applied with your hands, whereas foundation will often perform better with the help of a brush or sponge.
- BB and CC creams are generally lighter coverage, whereas foundations can offer more coverage.
- BB and CC creams don’t come in a wide range of shades, whereas foundations often do.
- BB and CC creams include ingredients to improve your skin with hydration, antioxidants, and beyond, whereas foundation doesn’t always do all of that.
The Main Differences Between Powder Blush and Cream Blush
Powder and cream blush are both designed to brighten your cheeks, and neither one is better than the other. However, there are some differences:
- Powder blush works well on oily skin, whereas cream blush is better on dry skin.
- Powder blush can be applied with a synthetic or natural blush brush, whereas cream blush should be applied with a synthetic brush or fingertips.
- Powder blushes can last up to two years, whereas cream blush expires after 12-18 months.
- Powder blushes can provide almost any kind of finish, whereas cream blushes usually have a youthful, dewy finish.
The Main Differences Between Color Correctors and Concealers
Color correctors and concealer can work together or separately to hide redness, blemishes, dark circles, and more, but they’re not exactly interchangeable. Here are some of the differences:
- Color correctors don’t come in skin tone shades, whereas concealers do.
- Color correctors neutralize unwanted colors in the skin, whereas concealers mask them.
- Color correctors can rarely be used alone, whereas concealers can.
- Color correctors should go under the foundation, whereas concealers can go under or on top of the foundation.
The Main Differences Between Contour Shades and Bronzers
In some cases, you can use contour shades and bronzers interchangeably. Consider their differences, though, so you can make the right purchase for your needs:
- Contour shades are usually on the cooler end of the spectrum (so they’ll look like shadows), whereas bronzers are typically warmer, so your skin will look sun-kissed along with the areas of the face the sun hits.
- Contour shades create “shadows” and sculpt the face, whereas bronzers are meant to warm up the complexion.
- Contour shades should always be matte, whereas bronzers can be matte or shimmery.
Advantages of Face Makeup
Makeup is amazing. It allows you to try on new personalities in a way, hiding the things you view as flaws and emphasizing the things you like about your looks. Diving into the world of face makeup and beyond can skyrocket your confidence and allow you to explore new levels of creative expression. Here are some of the things we love about foundations, BB/CC/DD creams, blushes, bronzers, and more:
- It can even out your skin tone and help hide blemishes.
- You can have fun contouring and highlighting to bring out features you like and downplay the ones you don’t.
- You can make yourself look healthier and more awake with the right cheek color, bronzer, concealer, and/or a color corrector.
- Some face makeup contains SPF for extra protection.
- Some face makeup contains hydrating ingredients and skin treatments, so you can actually make your skin better by wearing it.
Disadvantages of Face Makeup
As with anything, face makeup isn’t only positive. Here are some of the downsides to it:
- Finding the right face products can take a lot of trial and error, leading to disappointment and frustration.
- Trial and error can cost a lot of money, especially if you’re not shopping in a store with a good return policy or the ability to give you samples to try before you buy.
- Face makeup can show you skin issues you didn’t know you had before you applied it, like flakes.
- If your skin is sensitive, you risk a reaction each time you try a new product.
- Some products will look fine in the morning but turn orange or disappear throughout the day.
- Applying the layers of face makeup and perfecting your application methods can take time, and it’s not always as exciting as playing with color on your eyes, lips, and cheeks.
Safety Tips for Face Makeup
There aren’t many rules when it comes to makeup, but there are a few things to keep in mind to avoid outcomes like infections or sun damage.
Don’t Share Products with Anyone
You should keep your face makeup to yourself unless you’re simply pouring from a bottle or squeezing product from a tube. If something requires you to dip and re-dip brushes and/or fingertips into, don’t share those. You risk exposure to bacteria if you do, which can lead to breakouts and infection.
Throw Products Away When They Expire
Bacteria growth is a threat when you keep products past their expiration dates, too. Be sure to toss anything that looks or smells funny. Discard liquid and cream products after 12-18 months and powder products after about two years. Be sure to store your makeup in a cool place. That may mean you need to keep it out of the humid bathroom.
Don’t Get It in Your Eyes
Don’t apply your face products so close to your eyes that they actually get into your eyes. If it does happen, rinse immediately.
Don’t Rely on the Sunscreen to Keep Your Skin Safe
Some face products will boast of a certain SPF number that sounds like it’s everything you need. The extra protection is great, and it’s better than nothing. However, if you’ll be in the sun, you should layer sunscreen under your makeup anyway. You most likely won’t be applying so much of a foundation or BB/CC/DD cream that you’ll get adequate coverage from the sunscreen in the product.
My Top Recommendations
There are so many categories under the face makeup category. Hopefully, my recommendations can set you off in the right direction and help you learn how to find the best face makeup for you.
Ah, the starting point for your face makeup application.
Rare Beauty Illuminating Primer
This primer adds a glow to your skin whether you wear it on its own or under your foundation. It’s hydrating and a good friend to dry-to-normal skin.
- Gives a radiant finish
- Not the best for oily skin or for those who prefer a matte finish
- Some people find it more “glittery” than “glowy”
Rare Beauty Pore Diffusing Primer
This primer is for all skin types but especially those who worry about enlarged pores and oil.
- Designed to soothe skin
- Blurs fine lines and hides pores
- Some reviewers find it too sticky
- Some people with oily skin don’t think it does much for oil control
Smashbox Photo Finish
An oldie, but goodie, this one is silky and there’s a whole line of options under the Photo Finish umbrella, so there’s something for everyone, even those who need a little all-over color correction.
- Oil control
- Nourishing and hydrating options for dry skin
- Color correction options for redness or dull skin
- Silicone-based ingredients in most options can irritate some skin types
Tarte Double Duty Base Tape Hydrating Primer
This primer is hydrating and nourishing, so it’ll be better for dry skin.
- Hydrates well
- Probably won’t work for all skin types due to all of the moisturizing ingredients, like jojoba and grapeseed extract
Once you’ve discovered the type of primer your skin prefers, it’s time to get the right foundation. Here are some of my top picks:
Lancôme Teint Idôle Ultra Wear 24H Long Wear Foundation
This is one of the rare long-lasting foundations that works well on dry skin without causing flakiness or itching.
- Long-lasting but still good for dry skin
- Pretty good color range (50 options)
- Doesn’t tend to oxidize
- Feels natural, not heavy, on the skin
- If your skin is especially dry and sensitive, this may not be your best choice for everyday wear and could instead be saved for special occasions, times when photos will be taken, or when you want to look especially flawless
- Could use more shades for darker skin tones
IT Cosmetics Celebration Foundation Illumination
Love the idea of a powder foundation that’s quick to apply? Try this one.
- Makes skin look radiant
- Convenient and easy to apply
- Full coverage but still feels light and doesn’t look cakey
- Not the widest color range
- It Will require a brush to apply (try the Everyday Minerals Long-Handled Kabuki)
Rare Beauty Liquid Touch Weightless Foundation
This foundation is new to the scene, and there are so many reasons to love it (especially on top of the Rare Beauty primer with the Rare Beauty foundation brush).
- The amazing color range for such a new company
- Lives up to the “weightless” in its name, even though its medium coverage
- Gives a radiant, diffused, almost airbrushed finish
- May work best on the oily, combo, or normal skin types
- Some reviewers say that it breaks apart on their skin or comes off as they’re working with it
Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Foundation
This one has been around for quite some time and has a history of being the go-to long-lasting foundation for women of all ages.
- Really does stay put all-day
- Can work for all skin types (better for combo-to-oily, though)
- At least 56 shades
- It Will look and feel too matte and dry for some skin types
- Some very fair people may still not find their match in this line
If supporting smaller companies and mineral makeup are two of your favorite things, you’ll want to try samples from this brand ASAP.
- Separate formulas for dry and oily skin
- Choose between a matte or dewy finish
- Sample packages are available
- Thorough explanations of the products on the site, so you’ll get a pretty good idea of what you should try within a few minutes
- You have to order online
- Mineral makeup can feel like more of a hassle to apply than liquids, creams, and pressed powders
These creams are the workhorses of face makeup, really. They accomplish so much in one layer.
It Cosmetics CC Cream
This product comes in regular and illuminating formulas.
- medium-to-full coverage
- Good for most skin types
- The illuminating formula is too shimmery for some
- The lightest shade may still be too dark for very fair skin
- Very few shades available in mini size
DERMAdoctor DD cream
This product is one of the few DD creams on the market at the moment right now. It’s a cream that does everything.
- SPF 30
- One shade that self-adjusts, so there’s no stress in choosing the right one
- Can be used as a primer or worn on its own
- Most “one shade fits all” products don’t have good track records, so this product may inspire some skepticism
- May not be ideal for combination-to-oily skin tones due to the moisturizing properties
Dr. Jart+ Premium BB Beauty Balm SPF 40
This option comes in a natural or radiant finish. As tends to be the case with BB creams, the shade selection is limited (to only three shades, in this case).
- SPF 40
- Blurs imperfections
- Some reviewers report a grayish cast or strong pink undertones in the lighter shades
If you’re choosing a concealer for your face, match your foundation as closely in finish and shade as you can. Anything lighter or with a brightening effect will draw attention to what you’re trying to hide. For under eyes, you can match your foundation or go just a bit lighter. Brightening effects and even a bit of color correction depending on the color of your circles may also be helpful. Here are some of my favorite concealers:
NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer
This concealer gives a natural finish and works well for dry skin.
- Doesn’t crease or look dry under the eyes
- Wide range of shades
- Comes in a mini size so you can try it out before you buy a full tube
- Maybe too hydrating for some skin types
- May crease if you use it under eyeshadow in place of a primer
Too Faced Born This Way Super Coverage Multi-Use Sculpting Concealer
This concealer does it all, flawlessly,
- You can use it anywhere on your face, and the applicator is even shaped to help you do so
- Wide shade range
- Minis are only available in very limited shades
e.l.f. 16HR Camo Concealer
This is one of the best drugstore options out there.
- Lasts a long time
- Doesn’t look dry or crease
- Some reviewers say it oxidizes on their skin
Add some color to your cheeks with a highly pigmented, blendable blush.
Shop e.l.f.'s Sale section for 20% OFF tons of new and discontinued goodies!
Shop e.l.f.'s Sale section for 20% OFF tons of new and discontinued goodies!
NARS has some of the best blushes on the market and they last forever.
- Highly pigmented
- Interesting collection of shades for dramatic or neutral looks
- Sleek packaging
Milani blushes are some of the most impressive drugstore options.
- Highly pigmented
- Cream and baked blush options
- Not an especially wide range of colors
Bronzers and Contour Products
Add warmth and/or contour your face with these versatile matte bronzers.
Overall, these lean slightly warm, but they could still be contour shades on several skin tones.
- Comes in four shades
- Matte, so versatile
- Comes with a brush
- It May not work as a contour shade for all skin types
Highlighting products can help bring out your beautiful bone structure and add a healthy glow to your skin. Try these:
Juvia’s Place The Nubian Loose Highlighter
This is a loose powder highlighter that gives a stunning glow to the high points of the face when applied with a kabuki brush.
- It’s intense, in a good way (you won’t need to use much, so it’ll probably last for years!)
- Gorgeous glow
- Not too glittery
- Only available at Ulta
- Could be messy to use since it’s a loose powder
Wet n Wild MegaGlo Highlighting Powder
This is a drugstore option that comes in a few different shades.
- Four shades to choose from
- Highly pigmented
Some reviewers say it’s more glittery than pearly
Still, have questions about the best face makeup? These Q&As might help.
Question: How do I find the best makeup for my skin type?
Answer: Match your undertones and the depth of your skin tone. Choose a product that’s designed for your skin type (for example, a dewy finish foundation is great for dry skin, but people with oily skin will do best with something labeled matte).
Question: How do you get the perfect face makeup?
Answer: Exfoliate, moisturize, and use a primer before you begin with the foundation. Experiment with application methods (brush, sponge, fingers) to see which one suits your foundation best.
Question: How do I match my skin tone with foundation?
Answer: Narrow down your choices by determining your undertones, then select a few that look close in both depth and undertones. Swatch them on your jaw or neck and blend them out to see which one looks the most natural. Don’t forget to check in natural lighting, not just store lighting.
Question: Should the foundation be lighter or darker than your skin?
Answer: If you can’t get a perfect match, it’s better to go a tiny bit lighter.
Question: Should I use BB or CC cream?
Answer: Dry skin, those who want light coverage, and those who don’t need a built-in skin treatment should choose BB cream. Oilier skin types, people who prefer heavier coverage or need color correction, and those who love to have skin care ingredients in their face makeup will like CC cream.
Question: Why doesn’t my makeup look flawless?
Answer: You may need to exfoliate more often, choose a new moisturizer, or use a primer if you’re not already. Also, consider the tools you’re using to apply the makeup. A brush and some sponges will typically make your makeup look more flawless than applying it with your hands.
Question: How do I make my foundation look natural?
Answer: Look for a satin finish and try cutting back on the amount you use. Try using a makeup sponge like the Beautyblender or even a foundation brush to apply the product.
Question: Should you match your foundation to your face or neck?
Answer: Match it to your neck or décolletage, so your face and body are one color.
Question: Can I use CC cream instead of foundation?
Answer: Yes, CC cream will provide some coverage and color correction. It’s not necessary to use a foundation on top.
Question: How do I make my makeup look smooth?
Answer: A makeup primer will go a long way towards making your makeup look smooth.
Question: What is DD cream?
If BB cream and CC cream had a baby, it’d be DD cream. DD cream attempts to do everything—moisturize, treat, color correct, cover, and protect.
Conclusion: How to Find the Best Face Makeup
I won’t sugar-coat it: finding the best face makeup can be a chore (even if it’s kind of fun to try new things). To shorten the time it takes, you’ll need to discover your undertones, learn to care for and prep your skin for foundation, and determine not only your skin type but the effect you want. Once you have some guidelines in place, you’ll be able to home in on the best face makeup for you.
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