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When Should I Apply Foundation with Fingers vs. a Makeup Brush?

A person using a makeup brush to apply foundation to their face.

Watching makeup tutorials online or consulting with your girlfriend who always has it going on can make skincare and makeup seem effortless. And while picking the right products can make a difference, one under-the-radar reason some looks just seem to work is the technique used to apply foundation. So we’re asking: Are you team applying foundation with a brush or team applying foundation with fingers? 

We’re team both. Because what’s most important in foundation use is perfecting your technique and finding the tools and formula that give you the finish you want.  

So if you’re devoted to your foundation brushes or someone who loves to apply foundation with their fingers, that’s okay! Remember, there’s no “best way” to apply your foundation, as both application techniques have their perks and unique touch. Applying foundation with a brush achieves flawless coverage and a precise, even finish. When you apply foundation with fingers, you tend to get a more natural effect that mimics your skin. 

No matter what approach you take, there are some simple steps you’ll want to follow to get the foundation results that will have others wondering what your makeup secret is. 

What is the Best Way to Apply Foundation?

Whether you’re applying foundation with a brush or choose to apply foundation with fingers, you’ll want to follow a handful of important application techniques. This includes skin prep, hygiene practices, foundation blending, and setting. Following these steps can help create a more natural makeup look and glowing finish. 

  • Clean and Prep Skin: Foundation sets better when applied to clean skin. 

  • Use Clean Fingers and Brushes: Always apply foundation with fingers and brushes that are clean. This prevents bacteria transfering to your clean skin.

  • Start With a Small Amount of Foundation: Less is more! It’s easier to add foundation to the face than to take it off. When you hear a foundation described as buildable, the best approach is to gradually add more product to keep the foundation from looking cakey.

  • Start in the Middle of Your Face: Put foundation on blemishes and areas of uneven skin tone (usually around the center of the face). Blending foundation outward also helps create a natural finish.

  • Set with Powder or Spray: Setting your foundation with a spray or powder helps it last longer. Powder gives a matte effect while spray keeps the foundation dewy. Try Bye Bye Pores Pressed Setting Powder or Your Skin But Better Setting Spray+.

Can I Apply Foundation With My Fingers?

Yes, many professional makeup artists and beauty gurus swear by applying liquid foundation with their fingers. This tactile approach provides a skin-like, natural makeup result since you’re massaging the makeup onto your skin. 

Using your fingers works on all skin types and with both cream and liquid foundation. This includes products with a lightweight fluid texture like CC+ Nude Glow Lightweight Foundation + Glow Serum with SPF 40 and creamier, medium-to-full coverage formulas like CC+ Cream with SPF 50+. The exception is powder foundation. If that formula is your go-to, it is best to use a foundation brush.

How to Apply Foundation With Your Fingers

  • Step One: Apply a dime-sized amount of foundation to the back of your hand. Apply dots of the liquid foundation with your fingers starting at the center of your face.

  • Step Two: Blend the foundation outward with your fingers making sure to cover your cheeks, forehead, and chin. Use your ring finger when applying foundation to delicate areas like under your eyes. This allows for gentler pressure. The goal is to make sure everything looks even and that you don’t have any streaks. 

  • Step Three: Slowly apply more foundation to get the look you want, adding another layer or focusing on areas of discoloration. 

  • Step Four: Wash and dry your hands, then blot any excess foundation by gently pressing your palms against your face. This move helps set the makeup and gets rid of excess product. 

  • Step Five: Use a setting spray or powder to help your makeup stay in place.

How Do You Apply Foundation With a Foundation Brush?

Applying foundation with a brush is arguably the more efficient and less fussy way to create a beautiful makeup base. With this method, you can achieve flawless, medium to full coverage and a precise, even finish with any foundation type.

As for which brush for foundation is best, our favorites are the Heavenly Luxe Complexion Perfection Brush #7 and Heavenly Luxe Flat Top Buffing Foundation Brush #6. The former is a dual-ended brush that creates a beautiful airbrushed finish with liquid foundation, while the latter creates a soft-focus effect with powder foundations. Both are cruelty-free, synthetic brushes that have a real-hair look and feel.

How to Apply Foundation With Makeup Brushes

  • Step One: Wash and dry your hands, then grab the best foundation brush for the job. (Are you sensing a theme here? Always start with a clean base.) 

  • Step Two: Apply a small amount of liquid foundation to the back of your hand and then lightly dip the foundation brush into the liquid. Swirl the foundation brush into the compact if you're using powder. 

  • Step Three: Gently buff the foundation onto your face in circular motions starting at the center of your face and working outward.

  • Step Four: Continue blending and buffing in a circular motion. Focus on areas that need the most coverage. You can buff the small amount of product left on your brush along your jaw and hairline to create a seamless finish.

  • Step Five: Lock everything in place with setting powder or spray. 

Remember: Applying foundation with a brush or choosing to apply foundation with fingers are both excellent methods. What’s most important is perfecting your technique. 

Eager to learn more? Discover everything you need to know about choosing foundation brushes, applying concealer, and finding the perfect foundation match for your skin type and concerns. For a quick and easy makeup look, check out our guides on how to do eye makeup in five minutes

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