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8 Secrets to Finding the Perfect Foundation Formula, According to a Makeup Artist

With an endless flow of products, formulas and unique applicators launching each month, it's easy to become overwhelmed when thinking about a beauty base. But it's surprisingly simple—as long as you follow these expert-approved guidelines.

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Skincare is the best makeup

Before you can have great makeup, you must have great skin. Jill Freeman, a makeup artist and general manager at Brooklyn’s Shen Beauty, emphasizes that your number one consideration must be skincare. “100 percent, this is the most important,” she says, “because then the foundation becomes part of your skin.” Create your unique skincare routine, and don’t forget an SPF product, from a trusted skincare brand, that can be worn under makeup, like EltaMD Daily SPF 40 Sheer Moisturizer.

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Use the buddy system

When shopping for foundation, Freeman’s rule is “find the formula and color that looks like you.” Shop with someone who knows you well, and who can offer a second opinion. But, Freeman says, don’t buy it just yet. “Walk around a bit, outside, even go home to see how it looks in your mirror and in different lights. Everyone’s skin chemistry is different.”

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Oily or acne-prone skin requires special choices

Powder foundations are a smart choice for those with oily skin or who use oils, says Freeman. “If you put a dry product on dry skin, it will look flaky,” she cautions. Her top powder pick? RMS Beauty Tinted “Un-Powder.” And for acne-prone skin, Allure suggests these products, which include Neutrogena SkinClearing Oil-Free Makeup and Rainforest of the Sea Water Foundation by Tarte.

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Channel a makeup artist

Makeup artists often develop their own collections, and, Freeman notes, “they make amazing products because they know what they need and if it doesn’t exist, they create it.” She loves the velvet cream foundation from Kjaer Weis, which is the line created by Danish-born, New York-based makeup artist Kirsten Kjaer Weis. “You’re the boss,” says Freeman, “with this foundation you can do full coverage or pat down and press for sheer.” Also, we suggest trying Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Foundation, which features collagen-boosting benefits such as a reduction in age spots. Find out all the secrets makeup artists wish they could tell you.

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Dry skin? Brighten and hydrate

Again, Freeman emphasizes skincare first to moisturize and illuminate, but many foundations also offer these skincare benefits-in-a-bottle. For those looking for an organic dupe of the Armani cult-favorite foundation, she loves Vapour Organics Soft Focus Foundation “for a dewy, glow-y finish.” Other expert-recommended products that have skin benefits include Confidence in a Compact from It Cosmetics, and ReVive Le Tint Moisturizing Veil.

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Blend, blend, blend

Blend and experiment with formulas and shades, says Freeman. “Most people aren’t just one color,” she notes. Not only that, but many formulas now include the aforementioned skincare benefits—so you can buy one product that blends skincare needs with coverage. In this category, Refinery29 likes L’Oreal Infallible Pro-Glow Foundation, while Make Up For Ever offers Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation in both liquid and stick, which can provide light or full coverage, depending on your brush (buffing for light coverage, flat foundation for full coverage).

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Consider your lifestyle

Some enjoy spending considerable time doing their makeup, while others prefer more of a grab-and-go application. Before choosing a formula, think realistically about how much time you typically have in the morning, how active you are during the day, and how often you’re willing to touch-up. If you don’t need full coverage and prefer the “make-under” look, opt for a tinted moisturizing balm like this favorite from Bobbi Brown. And for something “no-fuss,” try this Dream Fresh 8-in-1 BB Cream by Maybelline, a makeup artist drugstore pick, as laid out by the experts at Byrdie.

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And if you’re a “natural beauty:”

The organic personal care market, which is reported to be worth nearly $16 billion by 2020, is hot and many of these products now have advanced, efficacious formulas and ingredients with minerals that are great for your skin. Freeman is a strong proponent of products that are more natural and/or organic, which are now so readily available—even in the drugstore. You can find Promise Organic products, like this Nourishing Coconut Milk Facial Cream with Mango, in CVS. Finally, beauty food for thought: Celebrity makeup artists often opt for natural/organic products because they’re wary of potential reactions to chemical ingredients in “traditional” products.