One major reason to pay up for a department store foundation is that unlike drugstore formulations, you can try these cosmetic essentials before you buy. Scope out a sunny spot -- natural lighting is more honest than fluorescent bulbs -- and apply the foundation directly to your jawline or cheek. (The skin on your hands and wrists is a different tone and texture, so it'll be tougher to tell how well it blends.) Since shades often change as they dry, don't make a final decision until it sets. And remember: As the seasons shift, so does your skin tone. You may need to switch it up every six months or so.
Once considered a makeup artist's secret weapon, a primer lightly coats the skin, filling in divots and fine lines and laying a supersmooth base for foundation. It's the perfect partner when you're entertaining outdoors in harsh sunlight or prepping for a family photo. Dry or mature skin types should opt for light-diffusing formulas that soften the appearance of imperfections and won't settle into wrinkles, whereas oily types can find a friend in mattifying formulas that sop up excess shine.
For skin that looks glowy, not greasy, dab an illuminating cream like Lorac Oil-Free Luminizer ($28) right on top of foundation. To catch and reflect light, draw a half-moon shape that starts at the outer corner of your brow, then sweeps downward to the highest part of your cheekbones. If you're wearing a low-cut top, pat a bit on your collarbones to help highlight your face.
Powder blush is a makeup mainstay since it works well on all skin types and is practically goof-proof to apply. If your skin tends toward the dry side, a creamy blush can create a dewier complexion in an instant. A fast-drying gel blush, on the other hand, is ideal for oily or combination skin types, but you'll have to blend quickly so it doesn't look too obvious.
Say cheese! "When you smile, the part of the cheek that puffs up is called the apple," says Mary Curran, Martha's stylist and a makeup artist in New York City. "That's where you want to apply color" to wake up your face and create a naturally flushed effect. If you prefer powder formulations, use a fluffy brush instead of what's stowed inside your compact, which is usually too small and will look splotchy. For cream or gel blushes, use your fingers to paint on a sheer layer, then blend by swirling around the contour of the apple.
Instead of relying on pressed powder and a big fluffy brush, set your foundation with a small natural-bristle brush and loose, translucent powder containing optical light diffusers. For a lustrous finish, only powder high-shine zones like the area between your eyebrows, the corners of the nose, and the center of the chin. Leave your cheeks and eyes untouched so skin looks dewy, not dusty.
If the mask starts to crack when the clock strikes five, spritz on a calming rosewater, cucumber, or aloe spray containing glycerin. These instant facial refreshers impart extra moisture without mussing up your makeup. Simply use your fingertips to blend away any creases, paying close attention to animated areas like the eye contour and forehead.
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