Everything you need to know about foundation

With expert tips from Estée Lauder's National Education Manager

Beauty Crew Beauty Editor / May 25 2017

We sat down with Nica Marcello, Estée Lauder National Education Manager, to find out everything we needed to know about foundation. 

Q: What should we be looking for when were buying foundation? There are so many on the market. Theres creams, powders. Whats the right type for me?

A: There are two things to consider. First is coverage. What type of coverage are you after? Matte finish, something thats luminous, more coverage, no coverage. And the second thing to consider is what is your skin type? If youre more of a dry skin, you should be opting for things like cream or liquid formula. If youve got more of a combination to oily skin, some women actually prefer to have more of that semi-matte look, so something thats going to stay in place with a little bit of setting powder and so forth.

Q: Should you always be priming before you apply foundation?

A: Absolutely. Im such an advocate for priming your skin for longevity but also it has skincare benefits. The great thing about primers is that you can actually alter it for whatever your skin type is. If youre a combination skin use a Mattifying Primer. If you want more of a luminous look you can use our lluminating Primer as well.

Q: Ive got combination skin and I get oily just around the T-zone. Should I be using that Mattifying Primer just in that T-zone?

A: Absolutely. In general people with combination skin tend to have a little bit of normal to dry cheeks so its really not that necessary to apply the Mattifying Primer all over. T-zone, youre exactly right, just concentrate on that. Your moisturiser that you use all over your face should suffice to keeping that foundation on just as long as well on the cheek area.

Q: What about with oily skin types, do you think they can wear dewy foundations?

A: Absolutely. I always like to say there shouldnt be any rules with foundation. I think every woman should be able to wear whatever look they want regardless of their skin type. If youre actually wanting more of a luminous look, use your Mattifying Primer but create that luminosity with a highlighter or something after. Something like a cream highlighter is really great for giving luminosity back into the skin.

Q: Its all about layering, isnt it? How about with dry skin types, can they wear powder foundations?

A: Same thing goes hand-in-hand with that. As long as youre priming really well with something that is quite moisturising, with an illuminating primer. It really depends on the condition of your skin but, having said that, if you have dry skin and you want more of that matte look, then you should be able to wear that.

Q: Should you always just wear the one foundation for day and night or can you mix it up? With fragrance, you always have a wardrobe of fragrances depending on the situation. Should you have the same for foundation as well?

A: Absolutely. You should have it for seasons because obviously we change with our skin tone depending on spring, summer, winter. Whats great is our Stay In Place Double Wear Foundation has 12-hour wear so its perfect to wear all day but our new Nude Cushion Stick is really perfect for applying at night. You dont want to reapply your whole makeup, you can just refresh your makeup. Apply it, its really simple, and you can be ready for the evening for whatever it might be.  

Q: How do you actually match your shade of foundation to your face?

A: Theres a few simple tips. I always say to match from the cheek side but always make sure that youre matching the colour in your chest and not the colour on your neck because that area does not see sun. Quite often women actually match the shade on their neck as opposed to their chest. Its always a good idea to match as close as you can, and where you need most coverage. Most women, we need coverage in the middle of our face, and we should always be blending towards our ears because thats where we need less coverage. Two things—we need more coverage there [front of face], and secondly, most people see us at front face value. We mainly see the front of peoples face so thats where we need most of the coverage.

Q: And even when youre taking photos anyway, youre facing this way, its not looking to the side.

A: My big thing is about matching the face to the area in the chest. Especially in Australia, a lot of women see a lot of sun, and we hold a lot of colour in our chest, there are self-tans these days, so its really important to match your foundation. Then you can warm it up with a bronzer and match the two.

Q: You were talking about how you should apply foundation from the centre of your face. Should you always be using a brush or can you use your fingers?

A: This is all personal preference and its also based on coverage that youre wanting. Whatever youre most comfortable with. Theyre all amazing, they all have their own unique benefits. Foundation brushes are great because theres less product wastage. You can actually know where youre applying it and blend it as you go. Fingers are great for warming the foundation into the skin so the foundation looks more like skin. Sponges are great. Beauty blenders these days are great for coverage, you can get a different type of look. Thats why its so fabulous that with our Nude Radiant Cushion Stick makeup is that it has an in-built tool, so it has our version of a beauty blender basically. Its really easy to apply because all you need to do is twist, and a little bit of product comes through. And whats great about this is that if too much product comes out, you actually just twist anti-clockwise and it goes back in so you get less product wastage. Its really simple. All you need to do is tap, buff, and blend. Tap where you need coverage, then buff, and then you can blend either with your fingers or your sponge applicator.

Q: How would you recommend washing the sponge?

A: This is super fun and easy. All you need to do is unscrew, it comes apart and it comes back, and you can actually just wash it with a normal mild soap, something that you would normally wash your foundation brushes with.

Q: How many shades does it come in?

A: 16 shades.

Q: And I think thats the same with your Stay In Place Foundation, isnt it?

A: Thats right.

Q: You were talking about how its great to use your Stay In Place Foundation at home and then when youre going out you can pop on of these [Nude Radiant Cushion Stick] in your purse and touch up on the go, right?

 A: Touch up on the go, refresh your makeup. We like to always put up a challenge in the office and see if you can apply your makeup without a mirror and this is the perfect tool to do it with.

Q: What about concealer, should you be using a brush as well or should you be using your fingers?

A: It depends where youre concealing. If youre concealing a blemish or pigmentation and so forth and you want precise application, a brush is really good because you can actually blend it. What happens with the oils in your fingers is you can actually keep taking the product off the blemish. Youll be there for hours in front of the mirror.  

Q: That makes sense. When youre doing it at home sometimes it just disappears the more you tap it on, and then when you go on to doing the rest of your face, you have to go back and touch up on it again.

A: Exactly. The only thing that your ring finger is great for with the oil is underneath your eyes. So if youre wanting to use concealer underneath your eyes then your finger is your best application tool for that.

Q: Do you have any other personal tips and tricks to applying foundation? What about around tricky areas like your nose, or around the eyes, or do you go down the jawline? Should you ever be going down to your neck—how far down?

A: You should never have that kind of streak, or that 80s stripe, or the telltale line. Like I mentioned before, if you concentrate on applying foundation from the middle of the face first, if youre using a foundation brush, its important to not reapply until all of the product has actually been deposited out of the brush. Quite often women just keep applying and applying, and it becomes too much coverage. Really, only use whats remaining in the brush before you reapply.  

Q: What if you actually have too much foundation on your face? Should you tissue it off or should you just use your fingers to sort of blend it in?

A: A bit of both. If youve gone a little bit overboard, a tissue is probably a good idea. But if youve just gone just a little bit heavy-handed, your fingers should suffice to blend it all the way through. But Ive even had mornings where I go, you know what, today I just need to start all over again. I just get the makeup wipes and I just start all over again. We all have those days.

Q: What about at the end of your foundation routine, should you ever powder on top or should you be using a setting spray? Who is it for?

A: Both and both. All of the above. Setting sprays are great before and after. Our Set and Refresh Finishing Spray sets the makeup and helps you feel more relaxed that youre going to get that finish that you actually worked so hard to achieve to last all day. The other thing with powders is that if you have an oily T-zone, only powder where you need it, where youre prone to get a little bit of oiliness. If youre going to have a really long day at work, and youre going out that night, you can use the Set and Refresh again in the afternoon without reapplying your whole makeup and, as the name suggests, it refreshes your makeup.

Q: Say, with me, Ive got an oilier T-zone. Should I be using pressed powder or loose powder? Is there a difference between them?

A: I know theres a real trend now with loose powders and how you apply it. Once again, its preference, it really is. Most of the formulas come in a pressed formula or a loose formula. Theres that whole thing about people think theyre getting more value for money in a loose or a compact, but its just convenience, really. Because most of the formulas are really as similar as one another.

Q: Going back to concealer, should you be doing that after foundation?

A: Yeah, Im a big advocate for putting foundation first because what youll find is that you will conceal a lot of what you need to conceal with your foundation, and then you need to go and apply just those final touches with concealer so you dont overdo it with coverage.

Q: In terms of your colour of concealer, should you go lighter or darker? Whats the rule?

A: It really should be the same as your foundation if youre concealing a blemish or pigmentation. But if youre trying to conceal a little bit more of pigmentation or redness, its always good to go a little bit warmer in foundation and concealer than your skin tone. Anything thats lighter is just going to highlight it and they could appear a little bit more ashy. But the same doesnt apply for underneath the eyes.

Q: This is where I get confused a lot between blemishes and undereye. Why is that different?

A: Theres very few women that are lucky enough to have no discolouration underneath the eyes. Quite often those women that are lucky enough can use the same concealer as their face and underneath their eyes. More often than not though we hold colours like blue, purple, and sometimes even grey underneath the eyes, so we need to correct and conceal at the same time. Often with those blue and purple tones, peach tone concealers really work well to correct it. If youre a little bit more grey, those bisque and pink tones are great to correct. And then you could use your same concealer on top so it looks like your skin.

Q: So its foundation, then its undereye concealer, and then concealer over the top if you really need it, and then would you powder on top of that as well just to set it all in place?

A: There are a lot of women, especially of my age, that get a little bit paranoid about powdering underneath the eyes because they feel like it goes into all the creases, but its about smoothing it and the application. If you roll the brush with a bit of powder, it wont sit in those fine lines. It will be like a smooth canvas.

Q: Is it the same with your finger [rolling]?

A: Yeah, so its just a rolling motion. If you tap it into the powder, tap the excess off, and you roll on the way in. If you roll on the way out, it has a tendency to sit in those fine lines but if you roll in youll have no risk of that happening.

Q: Do you have any other foundation or concealer tips and tricks? For example, when you see girls on the street do you ever think youre wearing the wrong shade of concealer’ or its too warm for you. Do you think girls in Australia like to go a little bit darker to match the rest of their tan?

A: Yes, I am guilty of doing that. When Im sitting on public transport I will look and Ill go oh I dont know if I wouldve chosen that. I cant help myself. My philosophy on foundation is that skin really should look like skin. It should just be a better version of your own skin because thats what most women want, to look beautiful and healthy. My tip is if youre going down the contouring route, make sure you blend and understand that contouring for an evening or your Instagram selfies is totally different from walking down the street in broad daylight. If youre going to do it, theres ways to do contouring subtly and blending really well, as opposed to having that structured, contoured look thats only suitable for your selfies and night time and in particular lighting. But once again, as I said before, its really personal preference. If you get the right products, you get shade-matched correctly, you really cant go wrong with getting nice, flawless finish with your foundation.

Viewers Questions

Q: Should concealer be lighter than foundation? So you were saying go a little bit warmer, right?

A: It should never really be lighter than your foundation only because normally what were trying to conceal is were trying to hide it. If we make it lighter, if you think about it, its like putting a spotlight on it. We dont want to highlight, we want to conceal. It should be exactly the same shade as your foundation.

Q: Should you match your foundation colour to your neck and back of the neck?

A: Good question. It depends how much the back of your neck sees. So I guess shes saying maybe it sees a lot of colour. As I mentioned before, this part of the neck [underneath the chin] often is shielded from our face so it doesnt see much colour. It really depends where you hold the most colour so if you were to stand back and look at yourself in the mirror, how much of that do you see as a uniform? How much of that is matching your neck to your chest? As long as its all one uniform colour.

Q: Is it okay to mix foundations from the same brand, for example a darker shade with a lighter shade, just to get the perfect shade for you?

A: Absolutely. Im a mixer at all times. Although we always try to have a long, extensive range of foundation shades, theres no rules or reasons as to why you cant mix it. Good on you for being proactive to find your perfect shade.

Q: With liquid foundation, would you recommend using the back of your hand to mix the two shades?

A: Yeah, absolutely. Back of the hand is a good idea.

Q: If you want a dewy finish, would you still use powder after foundation?

A: Once again, depends on skin type. If youre more oily in your T-zone, combination skin, you want to just use that powder, but if youre opting for a luminous look, I would probably skip the powder.

Q: How do you stop your foundation from looking scaly after a while?

A: We need to go back to skincare. From my understanding scaly means looking a little bit dry. Using an Illuminating Primer, getting great with your skincare, making sure that youre using the right type of skincare, which is moisturising. When I hear the word scaly I think of dehydration with skin. Also, check your formula. It could be that the formula of foundation might be a little bit too drying for your skin, which is making it separate and become a little bit scaly. First point of call is to go back to what are you putting on underneath foundation and if that doesnt work, go to your foundation formula.

Q: I always need tips for dark circles and dry skin. With dark circles you mentioned about wearing something to conceal the undereyes and then tapping concealer on top of that. Do you have any other tips and tricks for that?

A: I think less is more with correcting underneath the eyes. I can totally relate with dark circles under the eyes. As I mentioned before, using something that is of a correcting shade like a peach tone or a bisque tone, depending on what colour is underneath the eyes. Only concentrate on using concealer where you actually hold darkness. I find a lot of women think that they should put concealer all the way around [the eye area] but you should only put it where you need it. A really good tip with people with dark circles is to actually pop it into the corner part of the eye. And always wear a brighter blush. It takes the attention away from the dark circles if you have a beautiful pop of colour on the cheeks.

Q: Its all about balancing everything else out, right?

A: Yeah, and also putting top eyeliner as opposed to bottom liner to really opens up the eyes. 

Q: Can you blend the foundation with a brush or sponge?

A: Yes, absolutely, whatever you need to do. Unless youre a real pro at using makeup artist brushes often, blending is probably easier to do with your fingers or with a sponge, whereas foundation brushes are good for actually applying the product. Thats why with the Double Wear Nude Cushion Stick, its all built in.

Q: What is the best thing when you have very oily skin and the foundation tends to separate shortly after application?

A: Once again, back to skincare, moisturisers and mattifying primers as well, and translucent powder that doesnt look too cakey. Check the formula again. Sometimes we do want a luminous look when we have an oily skin tone, but if its making your foundation separate, it might not be the right formula for you. Try a moisturiser that is oil-free, try a mattifying primer, try a powder, but if its still separating it might mean having a conversation with your consultant about trying to choose a different formula that still gives you the same result about having that kind of luminous skin that you want.

Iantha is BEAUTYcrew's Beauty Editor, and has been part of the team since the site launched in 2016. Besides pinky-nude nail polish and wispy false lashes, she has a healthy obsession with face masks and skin care ingredients. Her previous work can be found in Virgin Australia Voyeur, Women's Health, and SHOP Til You Drop.