The Basics of Base Makeup: Everything You Need to Know

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Back in the ye olde mid-2000s, when I first started wearing makeup, things were simpler. You would go to your local store, pick out some orange toned foundation and go on about your day. Primer? Never heard of her. Concealer? You mean that waxy, orange lipstick looking thing? No thank you. Don’t even think about color correcting or using a setting spray. Just slap on that Noxzema smelling Covergirl with your fingers and go.

Thankfully, times have changed and makeup has improved dramatically. We now have SO many choices. However, all of these choices can be overwhelming. Not only is there multiple foundation shades to choose from, there’s also different undertones, formulas and coverage levels. The same goes for primers, concealers, powders and color correctors. Where should you even start?

That’s what I’m going to attempt to help you with today. I’m going to talk about everything from figuring out your undertone to what kind of products would best suit your skin type. I’ll also discuss different application tools and what works best with different products. I am NOT an expert; I just watch a lot of YouTube and read a ton of beauty blogs. I’ve also been actively into makeup for the past four years and in that time, I’ve learned a good bit. Let’s start with determining your skin type!

Skin Type:

This graph was created by Love, Peace and Beauty.

You’re never going to get the best results from your makeup if you don’t know your skin type. The tricky thing about skin type is, it can change. My skin has changed quite a bit in just the last year. I had TERRIBLE acne and was very oily in my T-zone but dry everywhere else. Thanks to my dermatologist and a religious skincare routine (you can see that here), my skin has dramatically improved. I now have combination skin that is usually more on the normal side with acne scarring and large pores. I’m also slightly in the sensitive category because I do occasionally break out or have reactions to products. I tend to prefer my products to have a matte finish but I’m not picky about coverage levels; I’ll get more into this below. Once you figure out your skin type, you need to know your skin tone.

Skin Tone:

This graph was created by Charlotte Tilbury.

Skin tone can sometimes be a confusing thing to figure out. Obviously, you know your skin color but to truly find the best complexion product match, you need to know your undertone. I have a warm, olive undertone. My skin tends to look more yellow or even slightly green. Sometimes, however, warm toned foundations can be too yellow or straight up orange. I often prefer to use a product with a neutral undertone and that’s why you may notice my skin color changing from picture to picture.

Here are two examples. In the picture on the left, I’m wearing the Australian Gold Tinted Moisturizer. What you’re seeing is basically my bare skin with a hint of coverage. In the picture on the right, I’m wearing the J. Cat Beauty Skinsurance Foundation (full coverage) and their Staysurance Concealer. Both are pretty fair and neutral toned so they evened out out my warm undertones. I also occasionally color correct my photos if they look too warm. Now that you know the skin basics, let’s get into products!

Primer:thumbnail (22)I’m sure most of you know what primer is but just in case you don’t, primer is the base of your makeup. It’s applied after skincare and before foundation. Most primers claim to do one or two things in particular, such as: keep you matte (control oil), blur pores, make you glow and/or make your makeup last longer. I personally could take or leave primer. I still haven’t found one that does anything miraculous but when I use one, I tend to go for a hydrating formula. I typically use matte foundations and a hydrating primer can keep a matte foundation from being too dry. Hydrating primers are also great under stickier or harder to blend foundations because they add extra slip. If you have a REALLY sticky or matte foundation, sometimes an oil can be the best choice. My favorite primers/oil are the Catrice Aqua Fresh Hydro Primer, essence Glow Boosting Primer and Pura d’Or Argan Oil.

Foundation & Application Tools:

Everybody has a different order that they like to apply their makeup in but after primer, I apply foundation. Foundation comes in different finishes and coverage levels. There are matte, satin or dewy finishes and light, medium or full coverage levels. I tend to prefer a matte or satin finish since I do get oily in my T-zone. I would rather add glow where I want it with highlighter. Dewy foundation can look too glowy at times and end up just being oily. If you have more dry or mature skin, however, a dewy finish might be perfect for you.

As for my coverage level preference, it depends on the type of makeup look I’m doing that day and my mood. I love a very light coverage tinted moisturizer, like the Australian Gold one, but I also love a full coverage foundation, like the Hard Candy Glamofluage. If you want something that you can apply quickly, go with a light coverage option. The fuller the coverage, the more blending and work it will take to look natural on the skin.

To make blending those full coverage foundations easier, you’ll need the right tools. I personally prefer to use a damp sponge and my favorite is the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge. You can also use a brush and my favorite is the e.l.f. Ultimate Blending Brush. Brushes tend to soak up less product than a sponge but I personally find it harder to get a smooth finish when using one.

Concealers & Color Correctors:

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After foundation, I color correct and apply concealer. I tend to only correct my dark circles and acne scars but I will occasionally correct redness around my nose or acne. I prefer to use a salmon/pink colored corrector for any darkness and green for redness. My favorites are any from L.A. Girl or the Catrice Camo Cream. Here’s a graph:

This graph was created by Beauty Tidbits.

The concealer I choose to wear totally depends on my foundation. Concealer comes in the same finishes and coverage levels. Just like with foundation, I tend to prefer a satin or matte finish but I do prefer my concealer to be full coverage. My all time favorite is the e.l.f. 16hr Camo Concealer.


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Powder is pretty simple to figure out. Its used to help keep your makeup in place and control oil. It comes in different shades but there’s usually some wiggle room, as long as it’s not very pigmented. I prefer a translucent powder so that I don’t have to worry about it not matching my skin. I also prefer a loose powder over a pressed one. I feel that loose powders are easier to apply and look more natural on the skin. I use a damp sponge to apply my powder, not a brush. The powder will look more even and blend with your skin better if you use a sponge. Applying it this way also adds a bit of coverage. My favorite powder is the J. Cat Beauty Luxe Pro Powder.

Setting Sprays:

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Last but not least is setting spray. Setting spray helps to make all of your powder products look seamless with your skin and not too powder-y. They also can help your makeup last longer. I love to use the Mario Badescu Rosewater Spray and e.l.f. Mist and Set together.

Final Thoughts:

I know that was a TON of information but hopefully it helped you out. I’d love to know if there’s anything I missed or if there’s something you’d like to add. Thanks for reading and have a great day!



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