I may never have naturally gorgeous skin—smooth, poreless, even-toned, and in my dreams, sprinkled with freckles—but I DO know a simple (and free!) way to make it seem like I do...
I blend my makeup!
Simple as it may seem, this technique took me some serious trial and error. As a teenager, I hid my insecurity behind a quarter-inch thick layer of opaque concealer. Now that I'm in my twenties, my skin obsession has led me to rethink how I apply my foundation—and celebrate a (mostly) acne-free decade. I came across blending as a way of salvaging my makeup on hot summer days, but once I realized that the seamless transition of colour made my skin looked a whole lot better, I started to blend on purpose.
It makes every product I wear look infinitely better (save for razor-sharp graphic eyeliner). Not to mention it helps me fake that magazine-perfect skin that's the stuff of Photoshop (and 15-year-old models from Belarus).
No one looks good in streaky, unblended makeup. Think: harsh foundation lines around the perimeter of your face and the triple stripe of bronzer, blush and highlighter. So no matter what look you’re going for, whether it’s fresh no-makeup makeup or bombshell beauty à la Victoria’s Secret Angels, here are a few of my tips.
Buff your foundation
Obviously the purpose of foundation is to make your skin look magically radiant and even-toned—not like it's coated in an opaque, all-one-colour mask.
To keep things natural (i.e., your skin looking like skin), it needs to be buffed in. This means applying your foundation—whether it's a liquid, cream, gel or powder—and then making small circular motions with your tool of choice to gently push the product into your skin. It should look and feel seamless, as if it’s melted in instead of just sitting on top.
Brushes and clean fingers (free!) can be your best friends in creating a flawless face. Michelle suggests using brushes instead of sponges, since sponges can waste a lot of product and are usually better suited for removing excess product rather than applying it.
Let's talk about the tools you can use:
Flat foundation brushes: Require a skilled hand to "paint" on product, otherwise you'll be left with streaks or lines. My abilities with a flat brush extend only to using it to apply liquid foundation before then working it in with a buffing brush. However, I've seen pros wield this brush alone to apply and buff in foundation—practice (and great lighting) makes perfect.
Buffing brushes: Have densely-packed bristles cut at an even length, which enables you to buff the product into your skin. Buffing brushes can work powders, liquids, creams and gels into the skin for an airbrushed effect. They do all the hard work for you—just gently swirl the brush over your face and watch your makeup blend beautifully. For extra coverage, try tapping the brush on your skin to add more product—you may not even need concealer!
Fingers: Great for cream products, since your body heat warms the product to help it blend easily into your skin. Your fingers are also good for hard-to-reach spaces, such as around your nose. Dab the product in a diamond shape on your face (forehead, cheeks, chin) and then use your index, middle and ring fingers to blend it into your skin, making small, circular motions.
This is my foundation brush of choice:
Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, $8.99, see here for where to buy.
Aside from being budget-friendly, this brush delivers a streak-free finish for my liquid and cream foundations. The densely-packed bristles are synthetic, which means they'll be more durable than natural (animal bristle) brushes.
For liquid foundations, I use my fingers to apply a dime-sized amount of product in the aforementioned diamond shape, and then push and swirl (at the same time) with the brush in circular motions until there are no more lines.
For cream foundations, I often dip the brush right into the compact to pick up product (less hygienic, I know–always start with a clean brush!). On moisturized skin (otherwise the product will drag), I start in the centre of my face and buff out, covering my cheeks, chin, forehead and nose, dipping the brush in again as I need more product.
If I'm going for super-heavy coverage, I'll reach for a fluffy brush and some loose powder foundation, and will blend that in (using the same technique) over my foundation.
Blend your blush edges
Blush might be the easiest product ever to make you look instantly healthy and awake. The goal is to mimic the rosiness that follows a great workout, and like you're glowing from within, with no discernible edges to where it begins and ends.
Cream blushes: Michelle has some tips for this over here... my brush of choice is a stippling brush. Stippling brushes give a super-light application, so you end up with a translucent glow rather than a blocky slick of colour on top of your foundation. My favourite type of stippling brush is duo-fibre (also called the 'skunk brush' due to its black and white appearance). Duo-fibre brushes are amazing at delivering sheer application, because they pick up a minimal amount of product.
Sephora Collection Pro Stippling Brush, C$42.00/US$35.00; click here to learn more and purchase.
Powder blushes: Blend best when applied with a brush that picks up less product, such as a fan brush or a duo-fibre fluffy brush. I like them better than normal blush brushes because you can build up to your desired colour without overdoing it. These brushes are perfect for daytime wear of super-vibrant blushes like bright red or fuschia.
After applying your blush, whether it's cream or powder, use your blending brush or your fingers in small circles along the edges to blend out any hard lines.
Bronzing, contouring and highlighting
Blending in your bronzer, contour and highlight are essential to giving the illusion of naturally radiant skin. I personally don't use any of these, but if you are inclined, remember that dark shades close in and light shades open up. An easy way to figure out your natural contours is to look at your face while standing directly under a light. The shadows cast by the light will give you an idea of the natural hollows and high points of your face.
To add depth and narrow your cheeks, apply contour in those shadows and use your buffing brush to to blend the edges and really work it into the skin (make sure it's not too dark, and completely matte—glittery contour is less convincing!). Contouring runs the most danger of looking obvious and fake, so be precise (and sparing) in your application. (Or, avoid potential muddiness by following Carmindy's suggestion to use highlighter alone to shape your face.)
Highlighter applied to the high planes of the face—the tops of your cheekbones, the bridge of your nose and above your cupid's bow—can create the illusion of a more angular, feline face. Highlighter should sit higher than blush, slightly overlapping so there are no visible edges.
Bronzer should be applied wherever the sun would naturally hit your face. Think of making a "3" shape on either side of your face (well, a reverse "3" on one side) to add colour across your forehead, cheekbones and jawline. Remember that bronzer is not contour—the sun hits the tops of your cheekbones, not the hollows. Use a big, fluffy brush to dust bronzer over your skin and work in sheer layers so you can build up for that sun-kissed glow.
Blending for beginners
If you already employ these techniques, amazing! People everywhere are probably jealous and/or in awe of your perfect complexion. If you're new to this whole thing, here are a few more pointers...
Always start with a moisturized (but not damp) face. Blending products will be much easier and more comfortable on hydrated skin. You can even dab a tiny bit of moisturizer on your foundation or blush brush to buff in product that's clinging to dry patches.
Consider a spray. Spritzing on a facial mist like MAC Fix+ can help to liquefy your makeup so it blends better. And once dried, it helps keep your makeup in place all day!
MAC Fix+, $21.00, click here to learn more and purchase.
Do what works for you. These suggestions aren't meant to be hard and fast rules. If applying foundation with a sponge on unmoisturized skin works best for you, by all means go for it. Even I don't follow them all! I have a small face—literally a threehead (a three-finger forehead)—so I occasionally use a medium-sized eyeshadow brush to apply my concealer, since regular face brushes cover too much space for quality blending. Give it a go and see what works for you.
Do you find that blending your makeup helps?
What are your go-to tools?
How do you create a flawless face?