6 foundation mistakes to avoid for a natural-looking base, according to a make-up artist

Swerve these and expect your foundation to look great, every day

woman applying foundation
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The annoying thing about foundation is that even if you test or read up on loads, and finally get your hands on the holy grail that is the absolute best foundation for your skin, you still need to know how to apply foundation properly to get the best out of it.

To some extent, there's a degree of individuality here: what you want from your foundation won't be the same as what anyone else wants, and that's absolutely fine - but there are some catch all rules that are worth knowing about. And, trust me, as a make-up artist and make-up consultant, I know when someone's skipped one of these rules as their skin will either be patchy, the wrong colour, or their foundation will be obviously there, which is precisely the opposite of what you want.

These are the 6 biggest tell-tale foundation mistakes to avoid.

1. Packing on too much

When you have areas you want to cover up, like blemishes and redness, it's tempting to apply loads of foundation to the area. Try to resist; that's the job of concealer. Also remember that if you apply lots of foundation where you don't need it, it can migrate and end up gathering in areas where fine lines or texture are.

2. Testing shades on the back of your hand

I know, I know: sometimes you don't want your foundation to match your skin precisely, preferring a slightly warmer or slightly more yellow shade. Either way, never, ever try the colour on your hand - it's not the same tone as the skin on your face.

By the way, if you're after a completely seamless finish between your face and your neck, that's where to test your foundation. 

3. Applying concealer under your foundation

If you apply foundation over the top of concealer, you'll end up moving the concealer when you blend. Apply your foundation first, and then your concealer on top where needed.

4. Not prepping skin properly

If your foundation moves around a lot or disappears by the end of the day, it might be worth looking at how you prep your skin.

Make sure you're applying the right amount of hydration for your skin - and for the weather; if it's boiling out, you might want a bit less, whereas if it's very windy, it's smart to add more layers. 

You could also try applying in zones - a less oily moisturiser down your t-zone, with a more hydrating one on your cheeks, for example.

5. Finishing at your jawline

You absolutely don't want a hard stop at your jawline. Ideally, taper foundation out from the centre of your face so there's not much at the edges of your face.

If you have spots on your jawline or need more coverage there, you can either apply concealer or tap a little foundation on where needed.

6. Applying too much powder

Powder is a perfect product to set base - but you want to apply just the right amount. If you struggle with this, use a loosely-packed brush to apply a small amount with control. 

Also pick your setting powder carefully - there are loads now which offer a little bit of blur or a dash of sheen so you can hold foundation in place without killing your glow.

Madeleine Spencer

Madeleine Spencer is a journalist and broadcaster who has contributed to titles including Grazia, Glamour, InStyle, The Independent, The Evening Standard, and Stylist, as well as offering commentary for the BBC, Sky News, and ITV.

She is keen on exploring the significance beauty rituals, products, and memories have on people from different walks of life, and enters into conversation on the topic with guests on her podcast, Beauty Full Lives.

With contributions from