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Foundation mapping is the clever technique that will give you the best base yet

Time to get strategic.

20 Jun 2019

We’re a dab hand at foundation. Been using it for years. Have it down. No worries there. Except (except) it seems we could be getting much more out of our base with the help of an expert application technique that the pros have been using for years.

Traditionally we’ve swept our foundation across our complexion in one uniform veil, but top MUAs have been sitting on a game-changing secret, which, when strategically employed, can transform the look and finish of your base.

Foundation mapping is the insider answer to flawless, but crucially, “real” looking skin. “The modern base is to apply it only where you need it, explains expert makeup artist, Zoe Taylor. It works by blending peekaboo skin (leaving some areas bare and beautiful), with some tactical concealer. Adding more only where strictly necessary. Here’s how to get it right.

How can we utilise our foundation to get the best base possible?

First things first, you need to find your jam – the foundation that works perfectly for your skin type and desired finish. “Finding the correct foundation is key,” says top makeup artist, Lan Nguyen-Grealis, “you need to first know what finish you want to go for i.e. matte, dewy, natural or a heavier coverage.” If you’re still on the hunt for “The One”, our foundation guide is a great place to start.

Next is prep. A masterpiece is only as good as its canvas, after all, which is why Taylor credits skin prep as the most important element to creating utterly perfect skin. “Using a mattifying or blurring primer works wonders,” says Nguyen-Grealis, particularly for oily, sensitive, blemished and porous skin, she adds. “This ensures the foundation stays put and you get more out of it by making sure the skin beneath is as perfected as possible before applying your base.” If your skin is dry or you like a glowier finish, try introducing an illuminating primer instead for extra radiance.

Finally, you can tailor the consistency of your foundation to your needs. Call on your skincare arsenal to infuse in some extra radiance. “Sometimes it’s nice to mix your foundation with a light moisturiser or facial oil to get a really glowing base,” says Taylor. “Chanel Jasmine Oil blends very well into foundation,” she says. And, it will give a more sheer and natural coverage, says Nguyen-Grealis “especially if you have holiday skin or freckles.”

Where to apply

The normal rules apply. “Concentrate on your T-zone, on the side of your nose and anywhere with blemishes,” says Nguyen-Grealis. “Under and around the nose where the skin is a little thinner and often has red patches tends to need more coverage,” she adds. Similarly, “concealer and highlighting concealers can be used to perfect under the eye especially where there is general dark circles and puffiness. Mixing your foundation with these can help and brighten the skin and still give a flawless look,” says Nguyen-Grealis, but you want to keep it light, anything too thick will crease.

Finally, special attention should be paid around the jawline and neck. “It should be seamless. So always ensure it’s blended properly, not forgetting the hairline and ears where foundation should be buffed in. Using a large blending stippling brush helps to erase any lines and blends foundation evenly,” says Nguyen-Grealis.

And, if you want an even more flawless finish, try a powder. “Often I apply a very light sheer powder (Tom Ford Translucent finishing powder is heavenly) only where I need it and then blot off with a damp Beauty Blender (I like to use the mini as its easy to be very accurate due to its size), says Taylor. “Just avoid applying more under the eyes,” adds Nguyen-Grealis.

Where not to apply

“Don’t be tempted to apply lots over areas which need nothing,” says Taylor. “The cheeks where the light bounces, should have as little coverage as possible as this is the part that is more noticeable when seeing a foundation on skin,” advises Nguyen-Grealis.“Leaving this area will give the most natural and flawless base,” she adds. Instead “add a tiny sweep of highlighter at the highest point of cheek bones and down the long part of the nose but avoid the tip or bridge of the nose to give a natural dimension,” says Nguyen-Grealis. And to finish off, “spraying a fixer spray will help mix your concealer, foundation and powders together to give a seamless and healthy finish.”

The tools for the job

“I normally apply foundation with a brush (I love the Mykitco smoothing foundation brush) and then, where I need extra coverage, I’ll apply it with a smaller brush to create more coverage (such as the Topshop small paddle brush),” says Taylor. And a stippling brush is good for blending quickly and easily, especially around all the trickier areas around the neck, says Nguyen-Grealis. “If using a sponge ensure it has a little moisture to help blend and stipple rather than drag,” she adds. The best method, however, is a combination of the two. “Applying the foundation and concealer with a brush, then using a sponge to blend will give you a proper skin-like texture,” explains Taylor.

The foundations the pros swear by

Shiseido Synchro Skin Glow, £36
Recommended by Nguyen-Grealis. Natural, dewy and buildable, this looks beautiful blended across skin.

Chanel Les Beiges Eau De Tint, £48
Recommended by Taylor. "This is the ultimate skintint with the perfect glowing finish. Skin looks alive and well rested."

Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick, £32
Recommended by Nguyen-Grealis. A more matte finish, this is ideal for a natural skin finish, comes in plenty of shades and can be layered up naturally over blemishes.

Becca Ultimate Coverage Complexion Creme, £34
Recommended by Nguyen-Grealis. This comes in a wide range of shades, particularly for deeper skin tones and gives a full coverage but without feeling at all heavy.

Sisley Phytocernes Under Eye Concealer, £69.50
Recommended by Taylor. "Even though this is an eye concealer, I often use this as a patch foundation over the entire face, it is creamy and gives amazing coverage. Skin looks so beautiful."

It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream, £31
Recommended by Nguyen-Grealis. This is highly pigmented to cover skin beautifully but weightlessly.

Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturiser, £31
Recommended by Taylor. "This is oil free so perfect for a more matte finish, great coverage and such an impressive amount of colours."

Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow, £38.50
Recommended by Nguyen-Grealis. Technically not a foundation, this illuminating primer can be blended into your favourite base for a thoroughly healthy glow.

Vichy Dermablend 3D Fluid Foundation, £23
Recommended by Taylor."For something really long wearing I love this. The colours are good and it stays put for hours. The texture is buildable and gives full coverage, their coverstick concealer is also a firm favourite."

Guerlain L'Essential Natural Glow Foundation, £44
Recommended by Nguyen-Grealis. This is wonderfully glowy, silky, light and buildable. Ideal for fresh-looking skin.