Foundation 101: Everything You Need To Know For Beginners

Foundation in makeup helps create a uniform color. It can hide imperfections and gives you a flawless canvas to create the rest of your look on. There are various types of foundations to make sure that you have the perfect base to build your ideal look. This comprehensive guide to foundation will tell you everything you need to know about foundations in makeup to make sure that you buy the perfect foundation for you, and can learn how to apply it for a flawless look. 

What Is Foundation?

applying foundation with a brush

Foundation goes on your face after primer and before the rest of your makeup. It helps cover imperfections and can give you an even skin tone. Most foundations are buildable, so you can layer bronzer, highlighter, and anything else on top to create your ideal look. These products are the equivalent of painting over a canvas with white again so that you can paint the perfect picture. 

Types Of Foundation In Makeup

A quick search about foundation will unveil thousands of products. If you’re just now learning about makeup, it can get a bit overwhelming. There are quite a few different types of foundations available. All of them have their own pros and cons and are designed to meet specific needs. Learning more about the product can help you determine what type of foundation you want now, and what will work best with your lifestyle. 

Main Types

There are two main types of foundation that you are going to come across: liquid and powder. In addition to those, there are several other types on the market. However, these are pretty easy to work with for beginners if you want to give them a shot. 

Liquid Foundation

Liquid foundation is typically available for normal, dry, oily, or combination skin. (TIP: It’s important to learn your skin type before picking out your foundation.) It’s more likely to contain additional ingredients, such as moisturizing ingredients and SPF, than a powder foundation is.

Liquid foundations are perfect if you want a dewy or luminous foundation finish. You can get these same finishes in a powder foundation, but they don’t quite pull it off as well.  

Powder Foundation

Powder foundation is typically recommended for people with normal, oily, or combination skin. That’s because it absorbs the excess oil well without caking. Liquid foundation does not absorb excess oil. 

Most powder foundation provide light or medium coverage. Some come a bit closer to full coverage, but they can’t compare to a liquid foundation when it comes to a truly full coverage foundation. 

Powder foundations tend to rank a little higher when you want a matte finish, though. While you can get that finish in any type of foundation, powder foundations can definitely pull it off better. 

Other Types Of Foundation Makeup

Although the main types of foundation are liquid and powder foundation, those aren’t the only two that you’re stuck with. These are your classic types of foundation. They have been around for years. Now, however, there are a few more varieties that you can choose from to guarantee that you have a flawless foundation that works for you. 

Cream Formulas

Cream foundation is similar to liquid foundation, but it’s a thicker cream. Because of this, it can provide a more uniform color. Most cream foundations are better capable of providing full coverage to cover imperfections, too. 

Because they are thicker, they don’t settle into wrinkles and fine lines as easily as powder and liquid foundations do. It makes them a great choice for aging or mature skin types. 

Cream foundations typically provide more benefits to the skin as well. This makes them a great choice for anyone with dry skin. If you have dry and mature skin, you definitely want to try a cream foundation. 

Stick Foundation

Stick foundation comes in a tube like lipstick, but it is a foundation. You put it on your face in the same manner that you would a liquid foundation, complete with blending with a beauty blender or brush as the next step. 

These foundations are best known for providing medium coverage. Although there are some full coverage options available, you won’t get quite the same coverage that you will with a liquid or cream foundation. 

This type of foundation is recommended more for people with dry skin instead of those with oily skin. The foundation is not designed to absorb oil like a powder foundation is, so you’ll wind up looking shiny or sweaty by your lunch hour. 

BB Cream

BB cream is not technically a foundation in the makeup world. However, I included it on the list because there are quite a few people that love to use BB cream instead of foundation. When you do this, you use the same makeup routine, but apply BB cream with your fingers before applying your concealer. 

Most BB creams are tinted to provide a level of coverage and help correct uneven skin tone. However, these creams are very lightweight. They absorb quickly into the skin and provide minimal coverage. If you’re going for a more natural look, BB cream is a great idea. 

From a skincare perspective, BB cream is a better choice than most foundations. BB cream is typically packed with additional ingredients to help nourish your skin. You’re more likely to find an SPF in BB cream than you are a foundation. 

Types Of Foundation Finish

foundation finish

There are various types of foundation finishes that you’ll come across. The most common are matte, dewy, and luminous finishes. Each foundation has its own finish to help you achieve the look that you want and to coordinate with your skin type. 

Matte Foundation Finish

Matte finish foundations typically do not contain oils or other ingredients that give your skin a touch of shine. Instead, your skin will have an airbrushed appearance that looks flawless in photos. 

Most people can benefit from including a foundation with a matte finish in their makeup collection. These finishes are great for people with oily skin. (Using a foundation that provides a shine combined with the shine of oily skin can result in your skin looking too shiny.) 

Matte foundations are known for providing better coverage than other foundations. This makes them ideal for people that are attempting to hide blemishes or have larger pores. You won’t be able to see them when you use a product with a matte finish. 

Dewy Foundation

Dewy foundation is the perfect balance between a matte finish, which has no shine at all, and a luminous finish, which can be a bit too shiny for some people. It gives your skin the same appearance as fresh morning dew. 

Most dewy foundations have additional moisturizing ingredients, such as natural oils. This not only helps to create the appearance of glowing skin, but they are also great for the health of your skin. 

Because these products have a bit of a shine to them, they are not usually recommended for people with oily skin. If your skin is extremely oily, you can appear a bit too radiant as the day goes on. 

You can find a foundation with a dewy finish in both medium and full coverage. These are available in light coverage, but they are harder to find. 

It’s important to note that a foundation with a dewy finish typically does not reflect light. 

Luminous Foundation

A luminous foundation finish guarantees that you have a radiating, glowing face. These foundations are not recommended for people with oily or combination skin. They can make your skin look a bit too radiant just like foundations with a dewy finish do. 

An easier way to remember what a luminous foundation is can be by thinking of a dewy foundation with more of a glow. Your skin will look shinier. 

Most foundations with this type of finish do reflect light. Because of that, your skin can look very shiny in pictures, particularly if you are under the light. 

Foundation Coverage

prevent pimples

You can find foundation in any formula and with any finish that provides the level of coverage that you want. It’s important to learn what different levels of coverage in foundation are before you head to Sephora to make sure that your foundation suits your needs. 

Light Coverage

Light coverage foundation provides the bare minimum. It’s not ideal for covering blemishes, pimples, age spots, etc. Instead, you get a more natural look and a thinner texture. However, most light coverage foundations are still buildable. 

Medium Coverage

Medium coverage foundations provide more coverage than light coverage foundations. They are better at helping you achieve a uniform skin tone, and work well at hiding redness and imperfections. However, they don’t provide full coverage to instantly make all of your skin the same color and hide all imperfections. 

Full Coverage

Full coverage foundation is designed to completely cover your skin and all of its imperfections. These are ideal for individuals that have imperfections they wish to hide, such as age spots or sunspots. However, some people will still need to use a concealer depending on how dark those spots are. 

What Type Of Foundation Coverage Do I Need?

That depends on the look you would like to achieve. For a more natural look that doesn’t look airbrushed, you want light coverage. To hide minor imperfections, opt for medium coverage. For a look that appears as though your skin is the definition of flawless like models in magazines, you want full coverage. Full coverage is best at hiding imperfections as well. 

What Are Skin Undertones

Skin undertones are the colors underneath your skin that tend to shine through. They give your skin a slight hue. Foundations are specially formulated to accommodate different undertones. For example, you might see a foundation shade that is designed for cool undertones, and another that says it is for warm undertones. 

Cool Undertones 

If you look in the mirror and your skin has tints of blue, pink, or a reddish tone, that means that you have cool undertones. 

Warm Undertones

Warm undertones mean that your skin has a hint of yellow, golden, or peachy. You’ll be able to see those colors when looking in the mirror, especially if you have a lighted mirror. 


Sometimes, you don’t fall into the category of cool undertones or warm undertones. You may see a hint of blue and a hint of pink. That’s okay. You may also not see anything, which means that your skin doesn’t appear to have undertones. If that’s the case, you need a foundation designed for people with neutral undertones. 

Wearing foundation in the wrong undertone will make your skin look too red, orange, pink, or white, so it’s important to take this into consideration when you’re picking out your foundation. 

Foundation Ingredients You Need To Know

foundation powder pros cons

You’ll also need to consider certain things when picking out a foundation on the ingredient list. Foundations often have a base, such as silicone or water. Oil based foundations do exist, but these are less common than water based and silicone based foundations. 

Your foundation and your primer need to have the same base. If you have a water based primer but use a silicone based foundation, it can make your makeup separate. Your foundation can literally slide down your face as though it is melting off of your face. There are certain benefits to every type of foundation. 

Silicone Based Foundation

Silicone based foundations are the most popular choice for anyone that wants their makeup to last all day, and still, look flawless when it’s dinner time. They form a fine layer to your skin without being too heavy. 

Most silicone foundations are also waterproof, making them ideal for hot summer days. You won’t have to worry about a slight drizzle ruining your two hours of work. 

These foundations are exceptional for their mattifying effect, making them the perfect choice for people with oily skin. However, you can also find them in other finishes, such as a luminous finish, if you have dry skin. These are a great all-around foundation. 

It is important to note that when products have a silicone base, they are more prone to causing irritation and breakouts. That means if you have oily skin, they might not be a great idea. Avoid using them for everyday wear. This is especially true if you have oily skin that is prone to breaking out. Instead, opt for a water based foundation, a powder foundation, or consider skipping that step in your makeup routine. 

Oil Based Foundation

Oil based foundations take longer to be absorbed by the skin, so they sit on top of the skin longer. You’ll need to remember that a little goes a long way when applying them to make sure that you don’t use too much. If you have oily skin, your skin can have a sheen that can be seen for miles if you use an oily foundation. 

However, these are recommended for people that have dry skin. Oil based foundations can instantly give you a dewy glow so your skin doesn’t look dull. 

The major downside to these foundations is that they are thicker. When they are sitting on your skin, they can feel a little heavy or greasy compared to other products. 

Water Based Foundation

Water based foundations are typically more hydrating for the skin. They are known for not clogging pores, making them ideal for anyone that has breakouts or acne prone skin. These are generally more lightweight and less irritating for sensitive skin. 

These products tend to be absorbed more quickly by the skin, so they feel and look more natural. 

How To Apply Foundation For Beginners

If you’re a beginner, you’re bound to wonder how to apply foundation. It’s important that you apply your makeup in the correct order to get flawless results. 

First, Do Your Skincare Routine

Before you start applying makeup, it’s important to do your skincare routine. You want to complete your skincare routine, and give the products extra time to absorb into the skin. 

Primer Is Next

After your skincare routine, you should apply primer. Make sure that your spread primer over your entire face. Then, if necessary, give it time to dry. 

Apply Your Foundation

After your face is primed and ready to go, it’s time to apply your foundation. There is various techniques that you can use to apply foundation. You can read more about those below. 

Finally, You Use Setting Powder Or Spray

After foundation application, you need a light dusting of setting powder or a fine mist of setting spray. If you do not apply a setting product after your foundation, you should apply it after your concealer. It goes on before the rest of your makeup, such as highlighter. 

(If you don’t do this after foundation, you should after your concealer)

Different Techniques To Apply Foundation

Some people swear that you should apply foundation by rubbing your fingers in slow, smooth circles. Others insist on a tapping method with a flat brush. Some state that a rounded brush is the only way to go. For every makeup artist, there seems to be another opinion on the proper way to apply foundation. 

The thing is, they are all right. For them, their technique works. It probably also works exceptionally well for their clients. However, we are all different and there are no rules to make up. You need to try out different techniques and find the one that suits you. There are benefits and downsides to all of them, but that doesn’t mean that they are better or worse than another technique. Simply different. 

How To Apply Liquid Foundation With A Beauty Blender

I think that this is a great video to show you how to use a beauty blender. It also tells you the difference between using a dry beauty sponge compared to a wet beauty sponge.

The one thing that I want to point out is that the video recommends that you dip the beauty sponge in the foundation, redipping it as you apply. You can do this. However, you can also put five dots of foundation (one on each cheek, two on the forehead, and one on the nose) instead of dipping your beauty blender directly into the pile of foundation on the back of your hand.

How To Apply Liquid Foundation With A Brush

How To Apply Powder Foundation

How To Apply Stick Foundation

Foundation Tips And Tricks For Beginners

  • Don’t forget skincare
  • Always use primer
  • Less is more
  • Apply foundation to your ears
  • Dampen your beauty blender
  • Use a tapping motion instead of rubbing to avoid streaks
  • Exfoliate skin for a flawless foundation appearance
  • Test new foundation shades in natural light
  • Your skin tone changes over time and with different seasons, so you won’t always need the exact same shade of foundation
  • Buy the same foundation you love in a lighter shade
  • Luminous foundations usually look shiny in pictures
  • You can also apply foundation with your fingers
  • Always wash your hands before applying makeup
  • Oil free foundations tend to oxidize on oily skin, so you should test it for a few hours to make sure it doesn’t look orange before wearing it in public or all day
  • Rounded powder brushes with synthetic bristles are great for blending
  • Test different techniques to find your perfect foundation application method
  • After applying foundation, dap your skinwith toilet paper to remove excess foundation
  • Work from the inside out
  • Mix foundation with a strobe cream for an all natural glow
  • Try the whirlwind technique of applying foundation using fast, circular strokes with the powder brush so it doesn’t look like you’re wearing too much

Vegan Foundation Brands

Those of you that are living a vegan lifestyle may want to consider using vegan makeup as well. Vegan makeup is makeup that does not contain any animal by products. There are quite a few brands that offer vegan makeup products in addition to their other products. Some great vegan makeup brands include:

  • Lawless
  • Bare Minerals
  • Charlotte Tilbury
  • Nars
  • Tarte
  • Beautyblender
  • Huda Beauty

These are not all of the brands that offer vegan makeup products. In fact, there are so many it would take pages. Thankfully, if you check out the Sephora website, you can filter results so that they will only show you vegan products.

Cruelty Free Foundation Brands

Whether or not a makeup brand is truly cruelty free often depends on whether they are certified as cruelty free. This means that they do not test their products on animals, and do not allow third parties to do the same. It’s a bit of a controversy because products that are sold in mainland China still have to be tested on animals, which means that any company that sells its products in stores in mainland China is not actually cruelty free. These brands are though:

  • NYX
  • Kylie Cosmetics
  • Charlotte Tilbury
  • Milk Makeup
  • Urban Decay

These are just a few of the awesome cruelty free brands that also sell foundation.

Gluten Free Foundation Brands

Gluten free foundation is a bit more difficult to find when compared to vegan foundation or cruelty free makeup products. If a makeup product is gluten free, it means that its ingredients do not contain gluten, and it was not processed in a facility or on a line where cross contamination may occur. These brands offer gluten free products in addition to their other products:

  • Bare Minerals
  • ELF
  • Thrive Causemetics
  • Afterglow Cosmetics
  • Gabriel Cosmetics

These are just a few of the gluten free makeup brands out there. Don’t forget to double check the ingredient list!


Can you wear powder foundation with cream highlighter?

You can, but it’s not recommended. When you attempt to blend the two of them together, it can result in them being muddied together instead of the highlighter sitting on top of the foundation, which is what you want. The two formulas do not always blend well together.

Should you wear all cream makeup or all powder makeup?

Yes, you should. When you wear a powder foundation, opt for a powder highlighter, bronzer and blush as well. The same applies to cream or liquid makeup. If you’re wearing a liquid foundation, go with a cream or liquid highlighter, bronzer and blush as well.

Should your foundation match your neck?

Your face goes through quite a few things that your neck doesn’t. We exfoliate it more, and it sees more sun so your face is typically darker than your neck. However, you want a uniform appearance. Match your foundation to your neck, and blend the foundation down along your neck every day for a seamless look.

Can I use BB cream instead of foundation?

Yes, you can! People that have oily skin or want a lightweight foundation that doesn’t feel too heavy tend to prefer a BB cream instead of a foundation. These are easy to apply, and often provide the perfect amount of color to make imperfections less noticeable.

In Conclusion

Foundation is one of the makeup basics that we should all master. Learning more about your skin and the different products available can help you find your perfect foundation match.

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