If I could give any of my clients one piece of makeup advice, it would be to master the art of creating a flawless base. When the skin looks smooth, healthy and glowing, everything else just falls into place. I get SO many questions on this topic, but I’m here to deliver some painful news, ladies. There is no simple answer! It would be pretty dreamy if there was one magical product that I could recommend to you that meant we could all walk around looking like Beyoncé every day, but sadly, it ain’t that simple..
However, there are indeed lots of little, magical tips and tricks that when combined together with a bit of TLC can definitely give you that red-carpet glow. With that being said, here is my all-or-nothing, ride or die, all you need to know guide on creating a flawless base.
Step 1 – Skin
I know, I know – you’ve heard it a million times before and you’re probably tempted to scroll right past this step. But I cannot even stress to you the importance of well-prepped skin when it comes to creating a flawless base! This isn’t about being perfect and pimple free, because let’s be honest, we all get them. It’s about having a smooth canvas to work with so that all the products that we’re about to use can adhere properly to the skin. This means ensuring that the face is thoroughly cleansed, exfoliated and moisturized. Once the skin is prepped, we can move onto primer.
It’s really important to identify your skin type when picking which primer to use. You could be using the most highly-rated, bestselling, luxurious primer on the market but if it doesn’t work with your skin type, then it’s just not gonna do you any favours. For oily skin, look for a mattifying oil-free primer. Dry skin needs something hydrating and nourishing. If your skin is neither oily nor dry, I would recommend a ‘blurring’ or ‘pore minimising’ primer as this will just smooth everything out without having too much effect on the condition of your skin. I also really recommend mixing and matching your primers if necessary. My model Hattie has normal to dry skin, but experiences oiliness around her t-zone, so I applied a nourishing primer to her cheeks and the frame of her face, whilst targeting the t-zone with a mattifying primer. Every face is different so just do what works for you!
Step 2 – Foundation
This is where the fun begins, but definitely not where it should end! So many people apply foundation and then call it a day, but if you want a truly flawless base then foundation should only be a baby step in your routine.
Choosing the right foundation can be confusing. Everyone has their own preferences and if you’re lucky enough to have found your ‘holy grail’ then more power to you – I’m very jealous! However, if you’re still on the hunt for the perfect foundation and aren’t quite sure what to go for, then I would recommend something long-wearing with a natural matte finish. This is because it covers all bases – we’ve already prepped and hydrated our skin so a matte finish won’t be too drying, and we are going to add plenty of glow in all the right places later on. Plus it will keep any unsightly oiliness at bay and last much longer throughout the night.
Next is the application – I recommend applying the foundation with a brush all over the face (don’t worry about being too neat), and then pressing it into the skin using a damp beauty blender. It’s really important to dampen the beauty blender so that it expands in size before you use it. It will become soft and bouncy, which makes it much more effective at blending out product. Take your time with this step – you can’t rush perfection!
Step 3 – Concealing and Highlighting
This is where we start to add some dimension back into the face. Take a creamy, high coverage concealer that’s a few shades lighter than your skin tone and apply it to all the key areas in the centre of the face, as demonstrated on the lovely Harriet here.
This can be customised to suit your face shape. The more surface area that you cover with a highlighting concealer, the larger that area will look. For example a small chin would benefit from a larger area of highlight, as we want to make that area look slightly bigger, whereas we would only want to apply a minimal amount of highlight to a large forehead, so that it appears slightly smaller. If it all seems a bit confusing, just remember that highlighting with light colours makes features stand out.
I recommend taking a damp beauty blender again to press the concealer into the skin, ensuring that the product stays in the areas that we originally highlighted.
Step 4 – Contouring
Can anyone remember the days before contouring was a ‘thing’? Me neither! This technique has stuck around for good reason, though, because when done correctly it really does give you the ability to adapt your features. If you’re just after a bit of subtle definition, it’s totally fine to dust a little bronzing powder under the cheekbones and call it quits, but for the purpose of this post I’ve applied a full, detailed contour.
I love using a cream contour and buffing it into the foundation with a stippling brush for a really seamless finish – make sure to be quite precise when you blend it in, so that the contour stays in the same places that we strategically applied it. There are a ton of cream contour kits available on the market, but if you’re looking for a cheaper option then it’s totally fine to use a concealer or a foundation a few shades darker than your skin tone. Here I’ve used the LA Girl Pro-Concealer in ‘Toast’. As with highlighting, contouring should be customized to your face shape, using a dark shade to ‘slim down’ the features. As a general guide, I would advise applying the contour shade underneath the cheekbones (you’ll be able to feel where your cheekbones naturally dips inwards, and this is where you should contour), along the jawline (the more you apply, the more this will shorten your chin), around the perimeter of the forehead and temples (the more you apply, the smaller your forehead will appear), and a little under the bottom lip and at the tip of the nose for some extra definition.
Step 5 – Sharpen the Highlight
Once we’ve blended the cream contour into the skin with a brush, it’s time to sharpen up that cream highlighting one last time. Notice how we’re slowly adding lots of subtle layers to add definition? This, my friend, is how we get a flawless base!
Using the same light concealer as before, add a tiny bit more under the eye for some extra brightness, and draw a sharp line underneath the cheekbone contour to really make it stand out. Blend this out carefully using a brush or a beauty blender – you don’t want to move the product around too much and ruin all your work!
We’re now totally done with our cream and liquid products, so at this stage I always take the damp beauty blender one last time and go over the whole face using pressing motions, to make sure everything is seamless and there are no harsh lines.
Step 6 – Powder/Baking
This step is all about personal preference. If you have dry skin, you’re probably already cringing at the sight of the word ‘baking’, but if, like me, you have a face like a disco ball and would definitely consider calling into work sick if you lost your setting powder, then this step is vital.
Even if you have dry skin and don’t usually need to powder, I would still always recommend lightly setting the concealer under the eye using a light or translucent powder. This is because throughout the day concealer tends to crease within the lines around our eyes, which is never a good look for anyone. A light dusting of a powder to set the concealer will help to prevent this, even if you don’t feel the necessity to powder the rest of your skin.
If you have normal or combination skin, I would recommend powdering the areas that we highlighted as well as your t-zone (centre of the forehead, nose, chin, smile lines) as these areas do tend to get a little shinier after a few hours, and are always a key culprit in the ‘sweaty nightclub photo’ towards the end of the night. Yeah, you know the one. Again, use either a translucent powder or a powder the same shade as the concealer that we used earlier – this will keep the highlighted areas looking bright and highlighted. Hattie has combination skin, so I used this technique on her. As you can see, the centre of her face and her t-zone are totally matte and lighter in tone, whilst the other areas that we contoured have a natural, bronze finish.
For fully fledged oily girls like myself, we’re gonna have to go that extra mile. And by mile, I mean baking. This is a technique that was invented by drag queens to keep their makeup in place all night whilst performing on stage, so I think it’s safe to say that it’s gonna work for us. It consists of using a sponge to pack on a heavy layer of loose powder and leaving it for a few minutes to ‘bake’. The science? It quite literally COOKS the concealer by trapping it underneath the powder. I use my beauty blender to apply a good helping of my Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder under my eyes, on my smile lines, in the centre of my forehead and on my chin, and let it sit for a few minutes whilst I finish the rest of my makeup. I’ll then lightly powder the rest of my face using a powder the same shade as my skin. Finally, I dust the baking off with a brush and buff everything out and voila! Flawless, matte skin.
Step 7 – Bronzer, Blusher and Highlight
Now that we have our flawless base and it’s all set in place, it’s time to add the finishing touches. We want to add some more dimension and colour back into the face so that it looks radiant and glowing. I dusted some bronzer around the perimeter of Hattie’s face to add some warmth back in, ensuring that I blended it down the neck so that everything tied together. I then popped a peachy, matte blush on the apples of her cheeks and gently blended it back towards her cheekbones for a natural wash of colour. To add a glow, I took a champagne toned highlighting powder on a fan brush and dusted it above her cheekbones, on her temples, on the centre of her chin, the tip of her nose and just above her cupids bow. Finally, I spritzed the face with Mac Fix +, which adds a bit of extra moisture into the skin and softens any ‘cakiness’ that might be left after all the powders that I used.
Step 8 – SLAY
All I added here was a wash of bronze eye shadow, mascara, lip liner, and lip gloss, and look how glam she looks! This just goes to show that if you really take your time perfecting your base, everything else just falls into place and looks flawless. Trust me, the results are worth it!