“I need some help picking out a foundation. I want something that gives good coverage, but that doesn’t look heavy. I want it to be smooth and flawless, but not feel like I have a ton on.”

I’m approached with this conundrum 15 to 20 times a day. Everyone is looking for the makeup that will give them that coveted look of natural perfection. The way my clients speak to me about the foundation they’re searching for, it makes it seem as though it’s a secret shrouded in makeup artist mystery. The perfect foundation is the Holy Grail of their cosmetic wardrobe and I am (apparently) it’s guardian. Fortunately, I do have the answer they’re looking for… and it has nothing to do with makeup.

The truth is, now prepare yourself for this startling revelation… are you ready? The truth is that there is no miracle makeup. Makeup can only do so much. Trust me when I tell you, as a makeup artist I love makeup. I love what it can do, I love a million different products that perform in unique and different ways and create amazingly different effects based on how their applied. However, even with my love for makeup, I can openly and honestly admit that it has it’s limits and when it comes to foundations, beautiful makeup starts with well kept skin. Upon reading that last line, I urge you, please do not throw up your hands in defeat because you’ve long since given up on your skin. There is hope for even the most problematic skin. Notice that I said beautiful makeup starts with well kept skin and not good skin. One of the glorious things about makeup is that it enables us all to hide our imperfections, large or small. Imperfections are not the issue we’re dealing with here, what we’re dealing with is skin texture and that’s something, for the most part, everyone can control. It all comes down to two very simple things: exfoliation and hydration.

Here’s the deal, plain and simple, when you’re applying makeup if the skin on your face isn’t smooth, adding another layer to it isn’t going to miraculously make it look smoother. On the contrary, it’s going to look cakey. Oh that dreaded word the in cosmetic world, but I do not lie. Think about it this way, if you were to paint over sand paper, do you think the paint is going to make the gritty surface of the sandpaper disappear and look perfectly smooth? No. It looks like sandpaper with a layer of paint on top. Now imagine that’s your face with heaps (yes heaps) of dead skin cells laying on it, creating texture, and then you’re painting over it with foundation. The results are not pretty. The same concept is true with dry skin… dry skin often peels or is flakey, again creating texture. Instead of hiding imperfections, foundation on top of dry, unexfoliated skin, is going to make them stand out a little more.

The answer to finding the perfect foundation, the big secret of secrets, is finding the perfect exfoliator and moisturizer! Lucky for you, they make them to work with every type of skin. That’s right, you heard me… there is an exfoliator and moisturizer for every skin known to man, and every skin known to man needs one of each. Period.

Image that this is your face under a microscope.

Imagine that this is your face under a microscope.

“I can’t exfoliate, my skin is too sensitive.”

Oh I don’t use moisturizer, I don’t need it my skin is so oily!”

If there’s an excuse not to take this advice, I’ve heard it, so save it for your Momma. No matter what type of skin you have, it still must be exfoliated, and it still must be moisturized. If you are a sensitive skin, there are gentle chemical exfoliators that resurface the skin without a gritty texture. Oilier skins, feel free to scrub scrub scrub, but afterwards, no matter how oily you think you are follow that scrub up with a good moisturizer. Oil does not equal hydration… when you’re thirsty, will eating a greasy slice of pizza quench your thirst? No. Your skin needs water just like the rest of your body and if it doesn’t get it, it’s going to look like crap. It doesn’t have to be a heavy, creamy, thick moisturizer, don’t freak out! They make wonderful moisturizers specifically for oily skin! They are light weight, you can hardly feel them and but they pump your skin full of hydration. If you’re still paranoid about putting anything remotely cream-like on that oil slick of yours, try a hydrating serum first, serums feel pretty much like water on your skin, you can handle that, right?

So lets recap, foundation spread over layers of dehydrated skin and dead skin sells = cakey, flakey, heavy, gross looking makeup. Foundation on exfoliated and hydrated skin= smooth, flawless, natural, radiant skin that you can almost not tell foundation is even on. It’s that simple.

If you can get these two steps down, I can promise you that your foundation is going to look better, and then it’s going to look great, and then it’s going to look awesome. Your skin and your local makeup girl will thank you.