Carl Ray, Michelle Obama's official makeup artist, shares his best tips for a long-wear look.  

By Nashia Baker
March 22, 2021
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Whether you are applying a simple coat of mascara or putting on a full face of makeup, you want to make sure everything stays in place throughout the day. Just ask Carl Ray. He is the chief makeup professional for Albolene, the head of his own wedding makeup business, and a makeup artist to the stars, including former First Lady Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep, and Kerry Washington. While he understands that makeup needs to look its best for extended periods of time, he says you should first know what you want out of your look overall. "Don't get me wrong, I like glam, evening makeup, and day makeup," he explains, "but my favorite look is bringing out your inner beauty and just [letting] your soul shine." Once you have your vision in mind, securing that long-lasting look from dawn to dusk is a breeze—should you heed these expert-approved tips. Ahead, Ray walks us through his process to make sure your makeup stays put, no matter the occasion.

woman applying mascara holding mirror
Credit: Maskot / Getty Images

Prep your skin.

Before reaching for your makeup essentials, you will want to start your beauty routine with clean skin. Reminder: As you prep your face, skin care- and makeup-wise, take note of the best products and formulas for your skin type, which will differ if you are dry, oily, or combination. To truly prepare for seamless application, he recommends starting the night before with an AHA or vitamin C-based product. "Glossier's Super Glow ($39.31, amazon.com) is a gentle vitamin C serum that works really well to even out your skin tone and give your skin that fresh, energetic look," he explains. If you'd rather prepare that morning, Ray says to exfoliate first to rid your face of any dead skin or oil. Just press the exfoliating treatment, like the St. Ives Facial Scrub ($3.89, target.com), into your skin lightly, allowing the product to do the work for you.

Moisturizer is next. "Maintaining healthy, moisturized skin is such an important part of skin prep and really sets the tone of your entire look before you even apply any makeup," he explains, noting that products that pull double duty—like Albolene Moisturizing Cleanser ($9.69, amazon.com)—can moisturize and cleanse skin, leaving it in a supple state. Lastly, you will want to use an SPF and then a primer. He suggests the Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer ($37, sephora.com) formula or even a CC cream, like the IT Cosmetics CC Cream (from $16, nordstrom.com), for additional sheer, smooth coverage for those spending more time inside and on virtual meetings. "The smoother the canvas, the better the makeup will last, look, and feel," Ray explains.

Use long-lasting formulas and strategic application techniques.

Now it's time to apply the makeup itself. Synthetic sponges and brushes or your fingers (as long as they are freshly washed) are best for application. "A lot of times I will start with the eyes," Ray says of his technique, explaining that this allows for quicker cleanup if there is any fallout from eyeshadow. "I like to start at the center of the face, and I apply foundation and I work my way out from the center."

For long-lasting wear, he recommends a matte foundation depending on your skin type (normal to oily complexions will handle this formula best). A good starting place is the Fenty Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation ($36, sephora.com), in his opinion, but do make sure to apply thin layers of this product, regardless of the brand you choose. Ray uses a "stifle" technique to create sheer layers of foundation that last long without feeling heavy or caked on. He then likes to follow up this step with a loose powder. "Generally, I use a translucent powder, but if you want more coverage, you can pick a powder that is closer to the foundation that you're using for more coverage and longevity," the makeup artist explains. From there, he recommends adding other waterproof or lasting formulas, like Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner ($28, sephora.com), for "something that's not going to smudge or budge."

Adjust your look by the seasons.

As the temperature changes, your makeup should, too. "In the summer, I like more sheer tinted moisturizers, maybe even spot treatment with concealer for a little breakout or something you want to touch up or cover up," Ray explains. "Or some sheer foundation." Come winter, he recommends foundations that are matte or creamy.

Set your makeup.

"At the end, I would generally use a holding spray that will keep everything in place," Ray shares. "Pick a spray that fits your skin tone and type, spray about 12 inches away, and make sure you touch up with blotting paper throughout the day." One of his favorite sprays? The Urban Decay All Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray (from $15, ulta.com). In the event that you want to touch up your look as the day goes on, bring along a lip liner or possibly some foundation and concealer if you notice a breakout. Or you can "start over fresh—it always looks good and feels better," adds Ray.

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