How to Apply Powder Foundation Like a Pro

How to Apply Powder Foundation Like a Pro
Photo: ImaxTree.

Admittedly, I’ve never been a fan of powder products. Even with skin that falls on the oiler side, I’ve preferred the second-skin feel of a liquid foundation, and more often than not, these are the formulas that have brown girl-friendly shades to choose from anyway. Still, I realize that if I had a better grasp on how to make powder work for me, I’d probably mix it up a lot more. And who better to put me at ease than someone who works with the stuff every day?

Ahead, Nick Lujan, Make Up For Ever pro educator, who’s already delivered the liquid foundation commandments, does the same for powder.

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The Benefits

Unlike liquid foundation, which requires a bit more time to dispense and apply, powder foundation is great for those days when we’re in a rush and need to apply on the go. Even if you start with a liquid, it’s a mess-free way to touch up without building coverage that looks super caky. And according to Lujan, powder is also a “great entry-level foundation formula for a makeup beginner.”

If you’ve got oiler skin, this should be your first form of coverage, and for those with drier skin who prefer a hydrating liquid formula, stick to powder strictly for touch-ups.

Finding the Right Shade

As with any form of coverage, Lujan suggests always testing at least three shades that look close to your skin tone and in a prominent place, like the front of the cheek.

“Place the three color options in stripes next to each other and go with the color that blends the best into your skin tone,” he says. “It also helps to test on the chin and blend into the neck. Never go with what a machine color-match system says you are. It is a great starting point, but you should still test the actual shade on your skin.”

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dewy skin How to Apply Powder Foundation Like a Pro


Skin Prep

First, always start with clean skin. Lujan prefers using micellar water after a cleanser to remove any leftover oils, sweat and free radicals (dust, smoke, grime). Also, hydrating with a water-based spray or moisturizer doesn’t hurt.

“Next, lock in your hydration or moisture with a serum, like the Ultra HD Skin Booster. Apply a couple drops to your fingertips, then lightly dab over the skin,” he says. From there, you have the option of applying a primer (like STEP 1 Skin Equalizer Primer) to smooth the skin and create a flexible barrier between the skin and the makeup. If you have oiler skin, apply a rice-sized grain only to areas of concern.

“Give all your skin-prep products a few minutes to do their jobs before applying makeup. Let the skin plump and the primer smooth. This is the perfect opportunity to work on hair or have a few sips of coffee in the morning,” says Lujan.

Range of Coverage

Most professional brands have more than one option for a powder foundation; one for sheer coverage and another for medium to full.

Sheer-to-Medium Coverage: Think of these like pantyhose. You can still see your skin peeking through. Lujan says these “help to balance tone and even out mild concerns for a soft, filtered look.”

Depending on your application tool, you can start out very natural and build coverage from there. “Make Up For Ever Pro Finish Powder Foundation is a fantastic formula to use for a light dusting of coverage as well as all-day touch-ups. Because the unique formula contains sodium hyaluronate (a moisture magnet), this formula is great for all skin types, including dehydrated skin,” he says.

Medium-to-Full Coverage: These are more like tights. Your skin might show through a little at first, but you can quickly build to full coverage like leggings. This is the best option for skin with more visible concerns, such as acne, redness or discoloration.

When you want this type of finish, Lujan recommends using a pressed-powder formulation (like the Duo Mat Matte Powder Foundation) because it has smaller particles, which deliver smoother results. However, a note of caution: “The more you build this formula with touch-ups, the thicker it will appear at the end of the day. It might be a good idea to touch up with a sheer-to-medium coverage formula,” says Lujan.

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glowing skin makeup How to Apply Powder Foundation Like a Pro


Application Tools 

When it comes to powder foundation, fingers and flat foundation brushes aren’t the best options, as they usually distribute the formula with a patchy and inconsistent effect. Stick to these methods when you want to apply spot coverage over a blemish. Overall, beauty sponges—which are usually already in a powder compact—work best.

“Just like with liquids, first start by applying your foundation in the areas that need the most coverage. Then, stretch the product outward and down to smooth texture and create a seamless blend into the skin of the neck,” says Lujan. Just be sure to clean your sponge frequently, especially with acne-prone skin. Wash with an antibacterial soap, squeeze them out and dry overnight on a clean towel.

For faster application, use a Kabuki-style buffing brush, like the Make Up For Ever Artisan Brush #124. “Load your brush with powder foundation,” says Lujan, “then dot foundation where you need the most coverage first, then quickly buff in circular motions outward and down with a light pressure.”

Lastly, remember that setting spray is your friend. Hold it about 10 inches away from the face and spray in a circular motion. Then, gently press into the complexion with the palms of your hands. This will help to smooth texture and restore radiance to the skin.