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Makeup Application Techniques for a Flawless Look Every Time

By Elise Marquam-Jahns June 23, 2022 Beauty

Even though I’ve done a boatload of videos focusing on makeup techniques for those of us with more mature skin, I’ve never specifically focused on a subject which is really crucial to creating a beautiful, flawless makeup look: the actual application techniques we use to apply that makeup.

After all, we can have a fantastic product with a great formula, but if the application method we use doesn’t quite work for that product or isn’t the look we want, we definitely won’t look our best.

The First Important Step

Today’s focus will be on face makeup application techniques for foundation, contour, blush and highlighter. But before we apply any makeup at all, prepping the skin is absolutely key. Think of applying makeup as being similar to being an artist who needs to prep a canvas before applying paint.

Prepping our skin not only ensures that our makeup products look their best, but it also helps the makeup stay put and last longer. In addition, it ensures that our skin is all one texture so our makeup applies smoothly and evenly. So, it’s very important to always cleanse, exfoliate, and apply your favorite serums and moisturize before applying any makeup.

Today we’ll be focusing on cream and liquid products since they melt into the skin and blend well with other complexion products. And since most of us have skin that gets drier as we get older, cream and liquid products can definitely be the most flattering on us since powder formulas can emphasize dryness.

Seven Ways to Apply Makeup

There are basically seven different ways we can apply makeup. We’re most familiar with the first four: we can apply makeup with our fingers, with a brush, with a sponge, or directly from the applicator if we have a cream stick product.

Three additional ways of applying our makeup include putting the product on the back of our hand and then picking it up with a brush to apply it; putting it on the back of the hand, adding some moisturizer, and then picking it up with a brush; or applying it to the back of the hand, and then warming it up by rubbing it and then applying it with our fingers. In the video I’ll demonstrate these different application techniques with a variety of different products.

So, at this point you might be wondering: “So how do I know which of these application methods is best to use?” Choosing which application method to use basically depends on five things:

  1. the formula of the product;
  2. how pigmented the product is;
  3. what kind of look you want (for example, a softer look or a more dramatic, bolder look);
  4. what products you’re applying the product over (if any); and
  5. how heavy or light handed you are when applying products.

Foundation Application Tips

Let’s first focus on foundation. I’m combining my Catrice Foundation with my L’Oreal Age Perfect Foundation and dotting it on with my fingers. Then I’ll use my brush to blend it in on one side and use my dampened sponge to blend it in on the other side.

Brushes are great – especially for fuller coverage foundations – and a buffing brush is best since it really melds the foundation into the skin. Other types of brushes can create streaks which is definitely not a look we want.

Applying foundation with a dampened sponge creates a beautiful flawless finish and can also be used to sheer out a fuller coverage foundation. For instance, I’ll sometimes wear Clinique’s Beyond Perfecting Foundation which has fuller coverage. So I’ll often use a sponge to apply this fuller coverage foundation just so it looks more natural.

And, of course, it’s always possible to combine application methods. I’ll often buff foundation in with a brush and then go over it with a dampened sponge if I want a flawless look.

Since every makeup product is formulated differently, sometimes it really is important to just test several different application techniques to see which one works the best. I have some foundations that look better when I apply them with a sponge, and some that look better when I use my brush to apply them.

Be sure to check out Elise’s YouTube channel which specifically focuses on makeup tips, techniques, and product reviews for those of us 50+. Don’t forget to subscribe!

Ways to Apply Contour

Because liquid contour products can be tricky to apply directly to the face since they can drip, run or go on unevenly, it works well to apply liquid contour on the back of the hand first and then pick it up with either a stippling brush or a sponge. Stippling brushes typically have two sets of bristles and a blunt edge.

The white synthetic bristles pick up the product and apply it to the skin while the black bristles at the base of the brush are denser and help push the product into the skin. This type of brush not only helps blend the product in well, but it also helps to prevent the makeup underneath from being disturbed.

Most cream products apply very easily and can be applied directly to the face. But if a cream product is not so creamy, it works well to put it on the back of the hand and pick it up with either a brush or sponge.

Many cream products also come in a stick form. Since stick formulas typically apply a greater amount of product if applied directly to the skin – and have stiffer formulas – they often require quite a bit of blending.

So it can work better to put some product on the hand and pick the product up with a stippling brush. Another option that works well is to mix in a little moisturizer to make the formula less stiff and easier to blend out and then pick it up with a brush or a sponge to apply it.

Blush Application Options

Liquid blushes can vary from very pigmented to more lightly pigmented. If a blush is highly pigmented – like Rare Beauty’s liquid blushes – it’s very easy to apply too much blush if it’s applied directly to the face from an applicator.

Instead, it can work well to put it on the back of the hand and then use a dampened sponge to apply it. The sponge will sheer it out even more than a brush. A drop of sheerer blush – like the blushes from Daniel Sandler – can be applied directly from a brush.

Blushes can also come in a gel formula or a cream formula. First, it’s important to determine how pigmented the formulas are. Using a denser brush to apply a less pigmented product – like Rare Beauty’s “Stay Vulnerable” cream blushes – works well because the denser brush picks up more product.

With a more highly pigmented product – like Flower Beauty’s Blush Bomb gels – picking the product up with a stippling brush from the back of the hand is a good solution. Or, if an even softer look is desired, use a sponge rather than a brush to pick up the product.

Highlighter Application Tips

Highlighters can come in liquid, stick, cream or cream to powder formulas. For the most pigmented products – like Rare Beauty’s Positive Light Liquid Luminizers – I’ll apply some on the back of the hand and pick it up with a sponge.

A stick highlighter that is not as pigmented – such as the one from Merit Beauty – can be tapped onto the skin with the fingers. But what’s most interesting is Laura Geller’s “Portofino” cream to powder formula because the application method makes a huge difference in the amount of intensity of this highlight. Using a soft, fluffy brush will give a soft application, but if a paddle brush is used, the result is a far more intense highlight.

So, dense or paddle brushes can pick up and apply more product which creates a more intense look, and fluffier brushes pick up less product which creates a softer look. Picking products up from the back of the hand with a brush or sponge can help soften the look of a more highly pigmented product like a stick contour or blush.

And using a sponge to pick up a product – or adding a bit of moisturizer to a product – tends to sheer out the product even more than using a brush since the slight dampness tends to dilute the product.

Before applying any face makeup product, it’s always a good idea to determine how highly pigmented the product is and to test various application methods to determine which method gives you the look that you prefer.

What foundation application method works best for you? What’s your favorite blush formula and what blush application method do you prefer with this blush?

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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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