Radiance, luminosity, a healthy gleam – whatever you call it, everyone wants it.
But do you know how to apply foundation so your skin glows? Ask any professional and they’ll tell you it’s a combination of three things: careful skin prep, choosing the best foundation and clever application techniques.
Make-up can enhance what you’ve got, but it’s no substitute for real radiance, so always begin with skincare. Natural glow is a result of two things: a smooth texture that light bounces off freely, and good circulation carrying oxygen to the skin’s surface.
How your skincare routine helps your foundation
Thorough cleansing is key to dislodge rough-textured dead skin cells that build up and subdue shine. Lather up with lukewarm water and a nourishing oil or balm like Laura Mercier Conditioning Cleansing Oil, £33, then remove with a flannel for extra smoothness.
Twice a week, follow up with a glycolic acid toner, which loosens the joins between dead cells so they’re easier to budge. REN Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic is effective without being aggressive. Circulation improvements take more than just beauty products but facial massage can give you a boost. Facial guru Abigail James is an expert in the field and posts short, easy-to-follow videos on her Youtube channel.
Once your skin is clean and flake-free, it’s time to hydrate and prime. The difference between looking like you have perfect skin and looking caked in make-up is down to what you do beforehand, and several light layers of supple product will always look better than one thick, immovable one. “I’m in love with Sisley Black Rose Skin Infusion Cream,” says make-up artist Tania Grier. “It’s the perfect base to add radiance and plump the skin before applying make-up.”
Finish your skin-prep with primer. They aren’t a pointless extra step (promise) – the best primer will grab hold of your foundation and give skin a beautifully smooth, blurred texture that’s as natural looking as it is naturally impossible to achieve. “For an all-over glow, use a radiant primer straight after moisturiser, applying all over to enhance the skin,” says Tania. “Alternatively, using your fingers, apply to specific areas: bridge of the nose, cheekbones, centre of chin, above the brow and Cupid’s bow.”
How to choose the right foundation for glow
One your skin is prepped to perfection the last thing you should do is smother it in heavy pigment. Get to know your foundation texture terms and pick one that encourages your skin’s natural radiance. We translate the marketing terms for you:
- Luminous = glowy, sheeny, hydrated-looking skin
- Dewy = moisturised, slightly shiny skin
- Sheer = translucent, radiance-enhancing formulas with minimal coverage
- Glowy = sheeny verging on shiny effect, good for those with nothing to hide
- Full coverage = more opaque, you will see less blemishes, but also less skin
- Medium coverage = allows skin to show through, but blurs blemishes
- Matte = reduces shine, looks polished, but can be ageing if applied too thickly.
The next step in learning how to apply foundation is shade matching. The mark of a great foundation is that it leaves no mark – you shouldn’t be able to tell it’s there. We all feel a bit conspicuous testing in a busy beauty hall, but it’s vital to try foundation on your face if you can. Good counter artists will be happy to help or if you’re self-selecting, follow make-up artist Sasha Ghodstinat’s tips. “Always colour match with your chest so your face matches the rest of your body. Choose three shades to test on the jaw line – one should look the closest to your skin, the second should be slightly warmer, the third should be lighter in case you have any pigmentation on the face or neck. The colour that you can’t see once blended is the one.”
How to apply foundation so you glow
Step 1 – invest in a good brush
Blenders and fingers have their merits, but most experts agree that a brush is usually best when it comes to learning how to apply foundation. This is because it lays the foundation down evenly for a polished look that lasts, and really “pushes” the formula into your skin.
The type of brush you use depends on the finish you want, explains MAC Senior Artist Dominic Skinner. “A Duo Fibre brush, like MAC 188 will whip the foundation onto the skin lightly and evenly, so it’s ideal for glow. Whereas a flat synthetic brush, like MAC 190 will lay the foundation on the skin with a fuller finish so will suit if you have oilier skin or need more coverage. You can use fingers to apply foundation if you prefer, but always go over with a brush to finish off and add finesse.”
Step 2 – build up layers gradually
Once you’ve got your prep out the way and have selected a product and brush, learning how to apply foundation for glowing skin is suprisingly simple. The key is building it up in small layers, with just a few tiny blobs in the middle of your face around the nose and chin where most of us need the extra coverage. Buff the product outwards towards your jaw and forehead for a good 30 seconds, then take a good look in natural light before adding in any more. You want as much skin as possible to show through for a natural, radiant finish.
The best radiance-boosting foundations
A good rule of thumb is to think of foundation as a veil rather than a mask and pick something sheer and light reflecting. If you can invest, Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation, £41, may be the perfect radiant base. The light fluid blends with minimal effort, feels fresh and nourishes skin with plant oils. Of the 35 shades, 14 have golden undertones for extra warmth and the pigment is robust enough to even out redness but fine enough for freckles to show through.
Less luxurious but still impressive is Max Factor Miracle Second Skin, £12.99, which softens, hydrates and illuminates. It contains a mineral SPF20, which gives it a slightly more opaque finish.
If you’ve caught a bit of a tan this summer you’ll probably have some dehydration too, so try L’Oréal Paris Skin Paradise Tinted Water Cream. This light tint is one of my best foundations for a reason – it’s bursting with moisture plus antioxidants to combat dulling pollution.
The best make-up for glowing skin
Once you’ve picked the right base, prepped your skin and learned how to apply foundation like a pro, try a few finishing touches. Using bronzer, blush and highlighter in a flattering and subtle way you can create a beautiful glowing look that lasts.
How to get bronzer right
Bronzing powder is an obvious choice for glow but many women avoid it completely because the world is full of bad bronzers. There are orange ones, sparkly ones, ones that make dark skin ashy and fair skin mucky. Add to this bad bronzing techniques and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster, but pick the right products and follow this simple three-step protocol and you can make bronzer work for you:
- Swirl the fattest brush you can find in the powder
- Tap off excess and dust from temple to cheekbone to chin as if drawing the number three
- Blend, blend blend and always remember to work lightly. It’s much easier to add than take away.
It Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Bronzer is lightyears ahead of most bronzers out there. This silky, finely milled powder has the tiniest hint of iridescence, gives skin healthy warmth and doesn’t dry into lines. However there is only one shade so it won’t suit everyone.
Skin at the fairest or deepest end of the spectrum will find its match in one of five new Gucci Bronzing Powders, £46. These unapologetically high-end compacts come in a sophisticated matte finish, variety of undertones and beyond beautiful packaging that justify the expenditure.
The most flattering shade of blusher
Glowing skin loves peach blush. It’s fresh, youthful and complements every skin tone. Try a liquid formula such as Flower Beauty Blush Bomb Color Drops for extra juiciness and dab it straight onto the apples of your cheeks, blending quickly with a finger. It won’t last as long as powder but only takes seconds to reapply when needed.
How to highlight skin over foundation
If you’ve tried highlighter and ended up looking more C-3PO than J-Lo, don’t blame yourself. They’re often billed as all-over glow boosters when in reality they look far better as an eye-catching dab here and there. Cream is generally more flattering than powder as are champagne, peach and rose gold shades compared to silver, which can look greyish in the wrong light. Pump it out onto the back of your hand, then use your ring finger to pick up tiny amounts and lightly tap onto the high point of your cheekbones, just below the arch of your eyebrow, and cupid’s bow. Blend quickly and, if you can, step outside to see how it looks before adding any more.
Comes in Rose and Gold shades, with skincare ingredients like vitamin E and hydrating aloe vera.