5 Reasons your foundation doesn’t look right

Ever have those days where no matter what you seem to do your foundation just doesn’t want to play ball? It either clings to every crater and crevice, shifts into a horrible marblised mess or magically vanishes by midday… Through major trial and error I’ve figured out some fixes – here’s what I’ve learnt.

1. You’re not exfoliated enough

When I have a bad foundation day it’s most likely because I’ve neglected my skin – specifically exfoliation. That’s usually when I have uneven application straight off the bat, followed by über unflattering patchiness within hours.

The solution is chemical exfoliants that will digest the uneven layer of dead skin cells hanging around on the surface – think of it as a lawn that needs mowing on a microscopic level. For this I use my Clarisonic with a deep cleansing oil or balm as the first step, followed by an AHA product to take care of the rest.

This can either be in the form of a mask (Rodial Hangover Recovery Mask is a current favourite) or something like Dr Dermal Texture Correction Pads (R475 for 30) which I love because because they have a bit of roughness to them which sorts out those flaky bits next to your nose. In unrelated news they’re also pretty good on areas that are prone to ingrown hairs.

2. You’re not well moisturised

A dermatologist once explained to me that if your skin is dehydrated it will try to get moisture and nutrients from the environment, which makes sense – most moisturisers contain humectants that attract moisture from the environment/air to the skin.

It gets freaky when your skin tries to get these things from your makeup – she described it as your skin ‘eating’ your products. This results in foundation that looks like it has disintegrated/broken up/separated from the skin and its most often seen on the cheeks towards the nose.

The solution is, quite obviously, to ensure that your skin is well moisturised day and night, and especially before you apply foundation. This doesn’t mean rich textures necessarily – in fact, you’re more likely to have success by layering a couple of products with thinner textures. Which brings me to my next point…

Dr Dermal Texture Correction Pads, Dermalogica Skin Smoothing Cream, Kiehl's Daily Reviving Concentrate

3. Your’e not layering product correctly

If your foundation looks great for 30 minutes and then turns into a mess, you’re likely not layering your skincare properly and your foundation goes to the dogs as soon as the textures start clashing underneath.

The rule is that you should start with the thinnest textures and work your way up – watery serums, then gels, followed by light oils, then thicker oils/creams. Each product and each skin is different though, so experiment if the general rule isn’t working for you. You also need to give each step enough time to settle before you follow with the next – I just give each one a minute or two but some people need more.

4. You’re using the wrong foundation formula

If your skin is spectacularly shiny by 11am you probably need to switch to something with higher coverage and more of a matte factor. Using an oil free primer also helps some, but since the majority are silicone based it seems to have a 50/50 success rate with oily skins. You can also try a setting spray, but I haven’t noticed them making much of a difference on my own skin.

You can use powder to set your foundation, but it sometimes makes things so much worse – it can create oxidation (colour changes), caking and a general dull complexion. I’d much rather recommend using blotting paper once or twice during the afternoon to take care of shine.

If you’re on the other side of the spectrum and your foundation looks dry and cakey, it’s probably time to move on to a product that’s made for dry skin. You might also be applying way more than you need, and also see points 1 and 2, obviously.Estee Lauder Double Wear Light, L'Oreal Infallible 24hr Matte, Smashbox Liquid Halo

5. You’re not using the right tools

You don’t have to use tools to apply your foundation, but if you’re having issues it’s something I would look at. While I still do a quick application with my fingers when I’m in a rush (aside from being the fastest method it creates the most natural finish on me), two tools have changed my foundation game completely – the Sigma F80 brush and the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge.

The Sigma F80 is great for buffing in your foundation – you just buff and buff and buff until it looks smooth and perfect. I use the RT Miracle Complexion as a finishing touch – I dab the damp sponge over my skin and like magic it looks like I’m not wearing foundation at all (in a good way).

Rear Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge + Sigma F80 Flat Kabuki Brush

I would never recommend using a flat foundation brush (so many streaks) and those triangular sponges are pretty useless too.

Have any tips to share with us? Would you like to see a follow-up post with my favourite foundations in different formulas/finishes? Leave a comment below!

C x

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  1. Wilna Venter
    Oct 28, 2015 / 7:37 AM

    Thank for this great review, it is really very good information. I recently also went over to the round foundation brush and not the flat one any more, just too streaky!Dischem sells a great make up sponge that looks like a tear drop, blue or pink ones, inexpensive and work very well.The silicone primer i use is smashbox but would like to hear from you what you suggest for foundation primers. I also use smashbox and Mac foundation and as summer is here now and humidity in Durban is bad I switch over to Estee L Double wear light and just LOVE the foundation. Thank you for all y our posts!

    • Chantelle Bester
      Oct 28, 2015 / 8:12 AM

      Only a pleasure Wilna! Sounds like you have a good system going 🙂

  2. Oct 28, 2015 / 8:31 AM

    Such a great post Chantelle! Than you for breaking down each tip so nicely 🙂

    • Chantelle Bester
      Oct 28, 2015 / 8:33 AM

      Pleasure and thank you for the compliment!

  3. Marné
    Oct 28, 2015 / 10:36 AM

    Thoroughly, completely, utterly enjoyed this post 🙂 Please do the follow-up.

    Where can one find the Dr Dermal Texture Correction Pads?

  4. Oct 28, 2015 / 1:26 PM

    This is such a great post, thank you for all of these tips.
    My foundation problems are pretty endless – I am just never happy, but going to give your tips a bash 🙂

  5. R Fourie
    Oct 28, 2015 / 9:21 PM

    Thank you – I am taking most of the above into account but I still think that my problem is finding the right foundation for dry, ashy, mature skin. I go like onesca month to test one but by noon I am already dissapointed. Even change my skincare……?

    • Chantelle Bester
      Oct 29, 2015 / 12:36 PM

      More exfoliation, richer moisturiser, apply a separate SPF and try something like Smashbox Liquid Halo. Good luck!

  6. Jessica
    Oct 29, 2015 / 7:13 AM

    Just the post I needed! Really struggling with acne scaring so my foundation just never looks good. Any suggestions that will work especially for oily skin? Also dark blemish marks? I would really like to invest in getting my skin better and your suggestions would be much appreciated. Thank you so much!

    • Chantelle Bester
      Oct 29, 2015 / 12:35 PM

      It would be best to start seeing a skincare specialist – I suspect a course of peels + IPL would be the best route to go.

  7. Ronell
    Oct 29, 2015 / 8:44 AM

    Good morning.
    I don’t wear make-up at all but I’m getting married in January and would like to know what kind of make-up or powder will get me shine-free for the day?

    • Chantelle Bester
      Oct 29, 2015 / 12:33 PM

      Hi Ronell – it’s difficult for me to say as there are SO many variables, but maybe start by asking for a sample of Double Wear at an Estee Lauder counter and try that? You can do a light application for a natural look, but it sits!

  8. Premi Mudaly
    Oct 29, 2015 / 9:01 AM

    please can you advise where can i purchase the Sigma F80 Brush, and the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Brush

    • Chantelle Bester
      Oct 29, 2015 / 12:31 PM

      You can get the Sigma F80 online from Turquoise Studio, and the RT sponge from selected Clicks & Foschini stores + online from Biovea.

  9. Theresa
    Mar 30, 2017 / 11:31 AM

    Hi, my skin gets super oily when I wear foundation and the only thing that has ever really worked to keep the shine at bay is to apply a thin layer of milk of magnesia after a light moisturiser. Hope this helps someone.

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