Tips (Plus a Techy Tool!) That Will Make Everything About Drugstore Foundation WAY Less Frustrating

Victoria Moorhouse
Girl applying foundation

BJI / Lane Oatey / Getty Images

As friendly as the idea of stopping at the local drugstore to pick up the foundation gap in your beauty bag sounds, the experience isn’t always that of relaxation, ease and total convenience. Unlike beauty counters or even stores like Sephora, you can’t pop open that bottle and quickly blend in a smear on the back of your hand. So what do you do in order to pick out the right formula that not only fits your color, but your skin type and the finish you desire? CoverGirl—a leading foundation and drugstore brand that you’ve likely been aware of for years at this point—is working to solve that problem with a new tool they have made available to consumers on their website.

We actually made our way over to a local drugstore with Dr. Sarah Vickery, Principal Scientist for CoverGirl, and makeup artist Jen Fleming, to give it a shot. Not only did we learn the best tips for finding your foundation match and blending it once you’ve got it, but these pros filled us in on some of the brand’s new breakout offerings in the complexion category, and if you’re into all-day last and a tiny bit of glow, you’ll want to know more.

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The Tool
“If you know a few key things, you can get to the right foundation. I think women walk in, they see all these choices, it can be a little overwhelming, a little intimidating. Because it’s like, ‘Where do I start? What do I choose?’ That’s why we’ve developed that new tool, the Embrace Your Face tool. You just answer a few quick questions, takes like 30 seconds, really less, and it tells you exactly which CoverGirl foundation is right for you,” says. Dr Sarah Vickery.

The tool features a series of four questions where you fill in your respective answer on the coverage you want, the skin type you have, the finish you want, and the type of complexion you have. Once you’ve answered those, the tool points you to the type of foundation right for you. It doesn’t, however, pick out the exact hue, but makeup artist Jen Fleming gave us some solid tips on solving that issue.

Finding the Match
First things first—make your way over to the window. Because you can’t take the product out of the packaging, you’ll need to see what it looks like in comparison to your skin in the daylight. “I would suggest taking the foundation bottle—because you can’t open it—take it to the window and selfie. Put it up to your face and take a selfie and see how your skin compares to the bottle,” says Fleming.

And knowing what your undertones are will make the process even easier. “Once you can identify whether you’re light, medium, or deep, the next thing is [that] you need to be able to assess your undertone, which no woman seems to know the algorithm for that,” says Fleming of the confusing process.

“A couple of tips for that is, how do you describe your skin? If you describe your skin as extra light, as pale, as blue, as fair, you’re more likely a cooler undertone and probably burn very easily in the sun. If your skin is a little bit yellow, but you’d also describe it as green, if you go in the sun and you tan very deeply, you may be olive. It’s really thinking about what your skin does when it’s exposed to sun and how you describe it when you look in the mirror and you break down,” she explains.

This will also help you lean towards the right color in the fair, medium, or deep skin tone genres.

MORE: How to Find the Perfect Foundation for Summer

Blending the Formula
Sadly, all your foundation woes aren’t always over once you’ve found your fit. Now you’re faced with the challenge of applying it so you get the coverage and finish you want without it being totally obvious or smudged on with unblended lines and smears. This is where your tools and skills come in.

If you like using sponges, makeup artist Jen Fleming suggests reaching for a beauty blender—a genius applicator that has a glowing reputation. “I love a beauty blender because the sponges are really soft. It melds the foundation into your skin without giving you a really heavy application, so I feel like you have more control and a softer, more natural look,” she explains.

However, if your comfort lies with a brush and a sheer, natural look, Fleming says you should try to use a powder brush instead. Sure, “foundation” might not be in the name, but there’s a purpose. “The bigger the brush, the sheerer the application is going to be,” she says.

The final step is where you actually start to apply the product on your face. Fleming says you should always start on the center of your face and blend outwards. “Most people need foundation in the center of your face,” she explains. “Start on your cheeks and blend inward, outward, up, and down.” Our expert also says to remember that wherever you put your brush or your sponge, that is where the most color is going to end up. “If you start on your forehead, you’re putting so much product on your forehead and now you’re committed,” she says.

The New Formulas
A foundation that fits your skin type isn’t beneficial if it lasts all of 4 seconds. Always advancing, some of CoverGirl’s latest primer and foundation formulas—that are out in July—take long-lasting, as well as multitasking in terms of moisturizing and illuminating, and put it high up on the priority list.

“Long-wear is one of those enduring needs in makeup. Everyone wants their makeup to last as possible,” says Dr. Sarah Vickery.

Of course, we all know that primer makes that even more possible. And with that, the brand formulated the CoverGirl Outlast All Day Primer. Out in July, this product is available in 7 shades and can be worn under any foundation. It wards away foundation breakdown that your skin causes throughout the day. “This primer has a three-part powder complex that absorbs both sweat and sebum. When your foundation is ruined, it’s more from the inside out than the outside in,” says Dr. Vickery. “It’s more your own skin oils and sweat that are causing the foundation to break down. What the primer does is that it never allows those to reach the foundation on top,” she says.

Another trend CoverGirl is tackling? Getting a glowy, illuminating complexion without the use of what feels like 45 different products. They’re giving you a new product, the Outlast Stay Luminous Foundation, that provides coverage and radiance that you usually would get from a highlighter. “It provides a luminous finish, which is very unusual for a long-wear,” says Dr. Vickery. “This has a illumination complex that has reflective particles in it at a very particular particle size, so you get that bit of luminosity without looking [like] glitter or shine.”

Dr. Sarah Vickery also notes that it hold skin-nourishing ingredients like glycerin and niacinamide to hydrate your skin.

Know the Difference Between Water-Based and Silicone-Based Products
Whether you wear a water-based or a silicone-based foundation, that’s up to you! There’s actually great products available in each. What you should know, however, is how they behave on the skin. Dr. Sarah Vickery tells us that water-based foundations are more blendable as they merge with the skin, while silicone-based foundation sit on top of your skin. That, however, has nothing to do with making it buildable.

What makes a foundation buildable, Dr. Vickery tells us, is how the pigments in it are milled, coated, and lay on top of one another. “Often, pigments are coated in something that keeps them so that they don’t stick together so that they stay in a very particle size, so that you’re able to build them and layer them on top of one another without getting that agglomeration of pigments,” she says. “Pigments, raw, like to stick together.”

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