Do It Wrong Right: Applying Foundation With Your Fingers

How to get the best results without having to learn how to use a foundation brush.
Publish date:
May 13, 2013
primers, chanel, How-To, Stila, foundations, Lancome, estee lauder, makeup brushes, Shiseido

At my old cosmetics-counter job, the salesgirls used to have to push liquid foundation brushes like those guys at mall kiosks that try to whiten your teeth.

We had demonstrations showing the streaks that fingers caused compared to a brush. And DID YOU KNOW that using a sponge to apply foundation soaks up an entire bottle's worth of foundation in one year? That's money out of YOUR POCKET!

We were like informercial girls, fumbling with our hands like we didn't know how touching our faces worked. It was pretty embarrassing and definitely misleading.

I never use a foundation brush now, but I still have a set of rules I follow.


Since you can't stipple as effectively with your fingers as you can with a brush, you want a layer between your makeup and your pores. Your dumpy caveman hands will smush your foundation into each little hole and make your skin look uneven.

If your foundation has sheer coverage, a tinted primer will help even things out so you don’t overcorrect. I like Shiseido Refining Makeup Primer because it has a lot of pink undertones, and the texture is thinner than a BB or CC cream.

If you wear a moderate to full coverage foundation, use something clear like Lancome La Base Pro, or illuminating like Stila One Step Illuminate. This will give you a good surface to work on without getting too matte or cakey.

If your skin feels dry or rough even after the primer, you can mix a little bit of serum or moisturizer in with your foundation on the back of your hand.


So many people put on their foundation the same way they wash their faces!

Focus on where you need foundation the most and blend away from those spots. I start in the middle of my face, around my nose and under my eyes. Dotting foundation around those areas helps keep an even spread, while giving you the opportunity to look temporarily ridiculous.

If you get distracted during this step, the dots will dry in that pattern and you'll have to start over or look like some sad Urban Outfitters version of tribal face art.

I have a few foundations I’m rotating right now, but today I’m wearing Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua in 10 Beige.


I know--the point is to not use a brush, but a powder foundation brush can easily smooth out any streaks or uneven areas. It's also stiff enough to help buff in your foundation without needing the same control as a liquid foundation brush, which is basically painting onto your skin. This step can cut down on your need for setting powder, which means fewer layers on your face.

You can also use a powder foundation brush to apply the liquid foundation, but you'll want to just use a small amount from your hand, not take it straight from the bottle. I like Estee Lauder’s powder foundation brush because it has more surface area than most brands, which means I have to do less work.


I'm sure you washed them right before you touched your face because that's just good sense, but wash them again when you're done. Sorry if it dries out your hands--sucks to be clean.

I always forget this step and end up running my fingers through my hair or fiddling with my shirt. You can get so much foundation stuck on your finger pads, and not realize what havoc you're wreaking on surfaces around you until it's too late. It may be dry, but it'll still give you flesh-colored hair if you touch your hair.

If I had to pick a makeup brush that someone would actually need, I'd pick a concealer brush. Swiping concealer on blemishes with your fingers is the worst method for covering anything up. You really need the stiffness of the concealer brush to cover all angles, and build where you need it. Using your fingers gets concealer all around the area, but not necessarily on top, where it's useful.

If you get those flesh-toned circles around zits from your makeup, invest in a good concealer brush. It'll last forever if you take care of it. And you don't need the brush cleaner; shampoo is fine unless you're sharing brushes with tons of people. If you are, that's weird.

Is that too many rules for what's supposed to be a makeup shortcut? Do you usually apply foundation with your fingers or a brush?