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Top Foundation Tips to Guarantee You Look Your Absolute Best

By Elise Marquam-Jahns July 13, 2023 Beauty

Have you ever looked in the mirror as you were going out the door and realized that your foundation was making you look older and not better? Well, I dare say that’s happened to all of us at one time or another, so today I want to share 12 top foundation tips that will help you look your absolute best. And be sure to check out the accompanying video for a demonstration of these tips.

A research study done in Germany identified one makeup product that makes the biggest difference in how we look. And yes, it’s a product that evens out our skin tone which is exactly what foundation is designed to do. But, as we all know, we can run into all kinds of issues with foundation – it can look cakey, too shiny or make us look sallow or ashy and any number of other issues.

Tip #1: Skin Prep Is Key

I know from personal experience that skin prep makes a huge difference. That means cleansing and moisturizing before applying foundation, which creates a surface that helps our foundation glide on.

How do I know this? I once got distracted before doing one of my YouTube videos and forgot to apply moisturizer. When I applied my foundation on camera, I couldn’t understand why I was having to tug at my face to apply it. And then the lightbulb went on, and I realized that I’d totally forgotten to moisturize. Lesson learned the hard way!

So, applying a good moisturizer – especially if we have dry skin – is crucially important. And even if we have oily skin, the right moisturizer designed specifically for oily skin can also make a big difference.

Tip #2: Find Your Skin Undertone

We’ve all struggled with finding a foundation shade that matches the undertone of our skin. So, if we have a warm undertone, we need to find a foundation that also has a warm undertone; and we need to go with a cool undertone foundation if we have a cool undertone and a neutral undertone foundation if we have a neutral undertone.

Most foundations now have a letter C, W or N on the bottom or back of the package which stands for Cool, Warm or Neutral so we can more easily find a shade that has the right undertone for our skin.

And if you’re not sure of the undertone of your skin, be sure to check out this video which will walk you through the nine questions you need to answer to determine the undertone of your skin.

Tip #3: Get Color Matched

So, once we know our undertone, how do we find the right shade? The best way to get color matched is at a department store makeup counter or Sephora where a consultant can help test out various shades on our face and neck. If we’re looking for a drugstore foundation, we usually have to guess if it’s the right color by looking at the bottle and the name of the shade.

Thankfully, there are two online sites that can help. One is called and the other is the Sephora website.

On the site, just enter the brand of a foundation or concealer that you know is a good match for your skin. And then enter the specific shade of that foundation or concealer. For instance, if I know that Nars has a foundation that’s a great match for me, I enter Nars.

When different Nars foundations pop up, I pick the specific foundation I have such as Nars Light Reflecting Foundation. And then I pick the shade in that particular foundation that’s a good match. Then a huge list of foundations from other brands will pop up that will be a good match. And for even better results, you can add a second brand after adding the first brand.

For foundations that Sephora carries, go to the Sephora site and then go to the foundation you’re interested in purchasing. Click on “find your shade” which is under the different color swatches of the foundation, and a shade recommendation will pop up. This process isn’t always perfect, but it can certainly provide a great deal of help.

Tip #4: Choose the Right Tools

Do not give up on a foundation after only one try since a foundation can look very different if it’s applied in a different way. So before you throw in the towel with a foundation, try applying it all three ways: with your fingers, with a brush and with a makeup sponge.

Some foundations definitely look better based on the tool that’s used to apply them. For instance, applying foundation with a makeup sponge can make a foundation look flawless, but it can also sheer it out. That foundation might look better applied with a brush that would provide slightly more coverage.

Tip #5: Decide on the Best Application Method

If a foundation is thinner – for instance, if it’s a liquid and runs down your hand – first try applying it with a brush. That’s because a brush will apply slightly more coverage. If that same foundation were applied with a sponge, the dampness of the sponge would sheer out the foundation and the sponge would also absorb some of the foundation so there wouldn’t be as much coverage.

Tip #6: Pick the Right Brush

Different brushes we use to apply foundation can apply it in a different manner. A softer, rounder brush covers a larger area and spreads out the foundation so there’s less coverage – especially if we use a circular buffing motion.

A denser, flatter brush will provide great coverage since it doesn’t spread out the foundation as much. And, if we use a patting or stippling motion with a flatter, denser brush, we’ll push in the foundation rather than spreading it out which will translate to greater coverage.

Tip #7: Too Thick or Thin?

And what if our foundation is too thick or too thin? If the foundation is too thick, add a little moisturizer to thin it out which turns the foundation into a tinted moisturizer. If it’s too thin, simply add a concealer in a similar shade to give some added thickness to the product.

Tip #8: Too Light or Dark?

This tip is a solution for a foundation that’s not quite the right match because it’s either too light or too dark. I always recommend having on hand one shade lighter and one shade deeper drugstore foundation that can be mixed in to either lighten or darken the foundation that’s not quite the right shade. This customizes your foundation to create your perfect shade.

Tip #9: Best Foundation Formula

Next, how do we determine what the best foundation formula is for us? Here’s a guiding principle: for oily skin, usually a matte foundation will be our best choice. For combination skin, a satin or natural foundation can be the best option, and for dry skin, a dewy formula will usually be the best choice. But, if we have oily skin and wear a mattifying primer that helps keep the oil from shining through, we can often wear a satin or natural formula.

Tip #10: Skin Changed to Dry

What if we have a matte foundation we love, but our skin has gotten drier and a matte foundation is no longer flattering? Simply add a drop or two of a glowier foundation or face oil to a matte foundation to give it a dewier look. And if we want to make a dewy foundation look more matte, mix in a drop or two of a matte foundation or a drop or two of a matte face primer.

Tip #11: Prevent Creasing

How can we keep our foundation or concealer from creasing? If using a regular face primer before applying foundation doesn’t work, try applying an eye primer to areas of your face where your foundation tends to crease.

Tip #12: Cakey Foundation

And who among us has not looked in the mirror and seen a cakey looking foundation looking back at us? What usually causes a cakey look is applying too much foundation. The solution here is to apply a small amount first, blend it in and then add a little bit more just to the areas which need it.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What is your greatest foundation challenge? Have you found your Holy Grail foundation? What foundation works best for you?

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Toni Stritzke

If my foundation is too thick, I add a wee bit of my regular SPF sunscreen to it.

Elise Marquam Jahns

Hi, Toni–Thanks so much for sharing this great tip. And adding more sunscreen is probably always a good idea!


I use tinted moisturizer 99% of the time because I prefer the unmade up makeup style. Tarte just released a new tinted moisturizer under their “Sugar Rush” line that has a poreless matte finish. It truly is flawless & adds a Broad Spectrum SPF 20. What makes this a go to for me is their colors can be blended for true color match to my skin.


Thank you for the wonderful tips Elise. Also thanks Ria for your new-to me tip about Tarte.

Elise Marquam Jahns

Hi, Pam–

You’re welcome–and thanks so much for letting me know you enjoyed them.

Elise Marquam Jahns

Hi, Ria–Thanks so much for taking the time to share what’s working well for you. And I really appreciate your mentioning the new Tarte Tinted Moisturizer. It definitely sounds like a good one and the fact that you’re able to get a good color match is really wonderful..


Another fan of tinted moisturiser here, I gave up on foundation years ago. I like to use one that has added SPF and I firstly apply a product that evens out skintone (the type that is green in the bottle). A little bit of translucent or fair powder applied with a brush gives a nice finish.

I just don’t like to look too heavily made up in my 60s and prefer something natural for daytime, but I do use slightly bolder makeup looks for evening.

I have never been one for expensive face creams or serums as they clog my skin pores. My one indulgence is YSL Touche Éclat for dark circles under my eyes as it’s simply a great product.

Elise Marquam Jahns

Hi, Linda–Thanks so much for sharing your routine. Tinted moisturizer can certainly be a wonderful option for many of us–especially during these hot summer months. And I think we all need at least one fun indulgence!

The Author

Elise Marquam-Jahns is a professional makeup artist who is passionate about helping women 50+ get their glow back. She is the founder of Boomer and Beyond Beauty and runs the “Boomer and Beyond Beauty with Elise” YouTube channel. Elise has authored the free guide The Top Four Research-Proven Makeup Techniques That Help Us Look Our Best Now.

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