Newsflash: the best foundation on the planet doesn’t stand a chance of looking good if the skin underneath isn’t in tip-top shape. This might seem counterintuitive since makeup is expected to cover issues. But while foundation is designed to even out skin tone and blend away spots, it gets tripped up when met with dry patches, rough texture, and enlarged pores. “It’s a rare face that doesn’t have at least one of these issues, so please know that you are not alone!” says celebrity makeup artist Katey Denno, who has perfected countless complexions in Hollywood, including those of Felicity Jones and Amber Heard.
Think of your skin like a canvas for painting—a smooth, even-textured surface makes for the best color payout. And in the case of foundation, it’s balanced skin that allows for easy application and the most natural-looking finish.
Ready for red carpet-worthy flawlessness? Follow Denno’s tips below to prep skin like a pro.
Smooth the Surface
Exfoliation is a wondrous thing because it tackles two common foundation interferences: flakes and pores. According to Denno, foundation clumps around uneven texture, so both scaly, dry spots and large pores make foundation look obvious. Exfoliating smoothes away dead skin cells that cling equally to the surface of your skin and fill up pores. She recommends gentle methods, such as using a soft muslin cloth in the shower or an at-home fruit acid peel like Blithe Patting Splash Mask – Soothing Green Tea or Yellow Citrus & Honey, $45 each. All you have to do is splash a capful on your face, wait 15 seconds, rinse with water, and you’ve got soft, makeup-ready skin. Not sure which one is right for you? Choose the green tea version with decongesting tea tree oil if your skin is oily or prone to breakouts; if it’s dry or sensitive then go with the citrus- and honey-laced formula to help soothe and brighten.
Create a Barrier
Clear pores are great…until they inevitably fill back up with oil, dirt, and sweat. Sad face. But there’s an antidote for that! Try the new Blithe InBetween Makeup Prep. Essence, $38, an innovative formula that not only hydrates and strengthens skin with ceramides and tomato leaf extract, but also creates a protective layer that keeps makeup (and other microscopic nasties like dust, smoke, and pollutants) from settling into pores and wreaking havoc. When used before a priming cream, this little guy gives you a double whammy of perfect makeup prep.
Invest in the Power of Primer
Makeup primers might seem like an unnecessary extra step, but makeup artists have known for years how important it is for smooth foundation application, and for keeping makeup from sliding off your face as the day goes on. “Primers can be the saving grace for so many skin issues,” explains Denno. And the right one can bring out the best in both your skin and makeup. Look for formulas like the creams from our favorite new skincare-makeup primer hybrid line called Blithe InBetween that mix good-for-skin ingredients with foundation-saving and insta-smoothing properties to address specific concerns. To boost radiance and hydration, go with the Hydro Priming Cream, $45, with free radical-fighting probiotics and a special fermented extract called bifida ferment. To counteract dullness and keep skin looking dewy all day, the Instant Glowing Cream, $45, with moisture-attracting glycerin and reparative niacinamide is the perfect choice. If allover blurring is what you need, try the Tone Correcting Cream, $45, packed with redness-reducing and dark-spot-evening shea butter and lavender oil. Use them as your last step before foundation post-essence to repair, protect, and create a silky-smooth finish that makes foundation last and last.
Try a Moisture Shot
Attempting to blend foundation over dry, parched skin is like trying to spread butter on well-done toast. And just like those crumbs, your dead skin cells, pill and ball up underneath makeup. Get thee some moisture, stat! “It’s just like how nutritionists say once you’re actually thirsty, you’re already dehydrated,” says Denno. And “once you can see visible signs of dryness on your skin, you’re in desperate need of hydration.” She’s a fan of hyaluronic acid masks for infusing moisture to the deep layers of skin. Our pick: The Gesgep Preparing Mask, $6, which blends two fast-acting, skin-transforming ingredients—HA and pearl powder—for an especially effective pre-makeup mix. Apply the bamboo fiber sheet mask 30 minutes or so before you start your makeup prep to really give your skin a surge of hydration.
Hit the Reset Button
If you see dry flakes or dehydration lines start to pop up during the 3PM slump or anytime, an easy fix is to use a hydrating mist. But not all mists are created equal: “I’ve seen [mists] leave little droplet marks on skin that’s been foundationed or powdered, so if you are going to use one, hold it far from your face and make sure the mister is nice and fine,” says Denno. We love the Whamisa Moisturizing Daily Mist, $38, with over 50 percent rose water, plus carrot seed oil and calendula for calming. The cute mini size, $15, is easy to stash in your purse or at your desk so you can literally #misteverywhere.
The best part about all these skincare prep tips is that they actually improve your skin over time, so with consistent use, you might find you need less foundation in the future. A natural, glowing complexion so good it doesn’t require a ton of makeup? Now, that’s a skin win!