How To Apply Foundation, Concealer, and Primer

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We never know what the day has in store for us, so it’s always best to be ready. 

With the power of makeup, you can significantly improve your confidence and face the day head-on.

It can hide that pesky, visible pimple on your forehead or your dark undereye circles from weeks of all-nighters. 

It can transform your dull complexion into a flawless, glowing one — but only if you know how to apply your makeup correctly and in the right order.

Otherwise, it can be a disaster waiting to happen!

A woman with swatches of three shades of foundation on her face

If you’re still not sure about your makeup application skills and the difference between primer, foundation, and concealer, don’t worry, we’re here to help you.

We’ve created a complete guide on how to apply foundation, concealer, and primer to achieve that coveted flawless-looking skin. 

Begin by completing your skincare routine, then follow these makeup application steps:

Step 1: Apply Primer

Is it primer, concealer, foundation? Or primer, foundation, concealer? Which order do you think is correct? 

Whether you’re going for heavy coverage or just a light layer of makeup, creating a base using primer should be on top of your makeup application routine. 

A primer is an essential preparatory product that may come in the form of a hydrating serum or a silicon-based gel.

Aside from making the products stay on longer, primer also does a wonderful job of smoothening your pores and fine lines and preventing your face from oiling up. 

Just a friendly tip, if you have dry skin, best to go for a hydrating primer like the e.l.f. Power Grip Primer to give the skin a smoother complexion and help lock in moisture. 

However, if you have oily skin, choose a weightless, mattifying primer like the Maybelline Facestudio Master Prime Primer to control oil and shine.

A young asian woman applying her makeup primer in front of a mirror.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to correctly apply face primer:

1. Prep Your Face

No one would ever recommend applying a primer on an unwashed face!

That said, make sure to cleanse and nourish your skin before you begin covering it up with makeup.

Make sure you wash your hands clean too! We don’t want you to spread dirt and germs all over your face! 

2. Take Time To Prime

After you’ve completed your skincare routine, squeeze a pea-sized amount of primer on your fingers and apply it on the center of your face such as your forehead and cheeks. 

Applying primer is best done using your hands because you can feel the product you’re using and control it better.

Pro tip, a little goes a long way. You don’t need more than a raisin or pea-sized amount of primer because using too much of it may cause your makeup foundation to clump.

After applying, blend the product outwards in a gentle, circular motion using your ring and middle fingers. 

3. Double-Check and Reapply if Necessary

Make sure you’ve covered all areas by blending it up to your hairline and your entire neck. 

We recommend you double-check and pay more attention to your face’s oil-prone areas such as the T-zone (forehead, nose, and cheeks). Makeup wears off faster here than on the other parts of the face.  

If you think these areas need more primer coverage, you may add a little bit more of primer there to make sure your makeup would stay on longer. 

4. Let It Dry and Set

Allow the primer to get absorbed into the skin. This would only take you about two to three minutes. 

Applying primer before your foundation will allow it to effectively settle into and fill your face’s creases and age lines. 

Step 2: Apply Foundation

A close up photo of a woman applying liquid foundation on her face

For the question “Should I apply foundation or concealer first?” our answer would be foundation. 

There have been several discussions about the order of foundation and concealer application among beauty enthusiasts whether online or offline.

Although this indeed remains to be a subjective matter, we are part of the bigger population that recommends going for the foundation first before applying concealer. 

Compared to concealer, a makeup foundation comes in a formula that’s meant to be worn on the entire face and the neck. Its job is to cover minimal blemishes and even out skin tone. 

It’s also worth noting that this product has a variety of shades and formulations that could provide sheer coverage, medium to full coverage, dewy finish, semi-matte finish, satin finish, and matte finish.

So make sure to choose the correct shade for your tone and the right formulation for your skin type. Otherwise, it might do you more harm than good!

You may check out the FENTY BEAUTY Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation and the 39 other shades it has. 

To achieve that coveted even skin complexion, follow these steps in applying foundation:

1. Get a Minimal Amount of Product

As a rule of thumb, begin by squeezing out a conservative amount of foundation to your clean fingers or foundation brush.

The goal is to create a flawless canvas by targeting areas that need more coverage. 

We don’t want you to apply too much where you end up with a face caked in foundation. 

2. Blend From Inside Out

Apply by gently tapping the product onto the center of your face. This is where redness and blemishes tend to be more visible.

Target the corners of your nose and the middle of your forehead and then your chin. Blend the product outwards. 

Blend, blend, blend, and see if there are areas where blemishes are still detectable. If there are, apply a few dabs of foundation and create a light layer to cover those specific areas. 

3. Don’t Forget Your Ears and Neck

Want another tip to achieve a seamless look? Don’t forget to sweep your foundation over to your neck and ears because these are part of your face too!

Some people are prone to having red lobes, so we recommend dabbing a light layer of foundation on your ears. 

Also, swipe a little bit of product on your neck so it matches the color of your face. 

4. Allow It to Settle

After you’ve thoroughly blended the makeup foundation on your face, give it a few minutes to settle.

By doing this, you will be able to see which areas need reinforcement from a concealer. 

Step 3: Apply Concealer

A woman is applying dots of concealer on her undereye in front of a mirror.

When to apply concealer on your face? It’s when there are areas where blemishes still show, proving that simply applying foundation wasn’t enough. 

But if you’d ask us the question “What goes first: foundation or concealer?” we honestly think concealer should come after foundation. 

If you apply concealer first, you may end up creasing or smudging concealer off the areas where you applied it to, necessitating you to reapply after applying foundation.

It time-consuming, but it’s also a waste of product. 

Not only that, building up too much product on your face will end up in a chalky, cakey, or patchy finish.

A concealer only works like magic especially if you want a targeted solution for hiding acne or specific areas of discoloration like dark under eyes, redness on the sides of your nose, or even melasma

Compared to a foundation, a concealer has a thicker consistency that can provide medium to full coverage. So expect that this is harder to remove using water!

This product has a wide variety of skin tone shades available, but you can also find green, orange, or blue shades, which are effective in neutralizing specific types of discoloration. 

One of the products we’d highly recommend is the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer. This product promises a crease-proof and long-lasting finish, perfect for everyday wear.

If you find that applying concealer is necessary in your makeup routine, follow these steps:

1. Brighten Your Undereyes 

A concealer is a heaven-sent product that can brighten your face in just a few minutes. 

For added radiance on your under eyes, choose a lighter concealer shade. Choose one that’s one to two shades lighter than your foundation.

After you get the right shade, draw an inverted triangle beneath your eyes (just below the lash line) using the concealer wand or a brush, then fill the triangles with concealer. 

If you’re not very concerned about discoloration but want to achieve that light and lifted look, our tip is to apply concealer on the inner and outer corners of your eyes. 

Doing this can help you achieve that subtle, lifted effect. 

2. Spot-Apply on Minor Blemishes

In targeting specific blemishes such as active pimples, reach for a full-coverage concealer in the same shade as your foundation or skin tone. 

Choosing a lighter shade would highlight the blemish instead of hiding it. So make sure you pick the right shade, or else the product’s job would be rendered pointless!

Just apply a few dots of concealer to effectively cover the skin’s minor blemishes.  

3. Hide Redness Around the Nose

If your makeup foundation was not able to hide the redness around the nose, a concealer will do an excellent job for sure!

Dab the concealer around your nose, especially the corners to cover the redness. 

Pro tip, dab it in place using your ring finger if you want the concealer around your nose to stay put and not crease.

4. Dab, Dab, Dab

Be sure to gently dab and not rub or drag your damp beauty sponge when blending the concealer. 

While others prefer blending the product using their fingers, we also totally recommend it since it makes the product easier to blend.

Either of these techniques will help press the product into the skin.

Setting Your Base

A woman is holding a makeup brush and loose powder in front of a mirror.

Are you satisfied with how you’ve blended all the products on your skin? If it looks great already, the next thing you need to do is dip your beauty sponge or brush in loose setting powder, then lightly dust your base with it.

This will lock in your makeup look and keep everything flawless. 

If you have oily skin, this step can also help keep your face from oiling up too much and prevent your makeup from creasing. 

Don’t skip this step if you want your makeup to last from morning ‘til night!

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Apply Primer and Foundation?

Applying foundation and primer correctly is the key to a flawless base. 

To begin, you’ll need to have your skin properly prepared. 

Start by cleansing and nourishing your face. Then apply primer on your skin to smooth out any uneven skin texture and make it easier for the foundation to stick to your face evenly. 

When you’re ready, use a brush or sponge to apply your foundation onto your face in swiping motions. 

Ensure that no spots are missed and blend it up to your hairline, neck, and ears so that everything looks completely seamless. 

Once the foundation is on, let it sit for a few minutes before adding the rest of your makeup for an airbrushed look!

Are There Separate Primers Available for Eyes and Lips?

Yes, there are separate primers available for eyes and lips. Primers are used to prepare the skin before applying makeup. 

Primers for eyes help prevent eyeshadow from creasing and help it stay in place all day long. 

Lips primers help create a smooth surface that enhances the color of lipsticks or glosses. They also protect your lips from dryness or flaking and provide extra hold so that lipstick doesn’t fade away quickly. 

The main difference between an eye primer and a lip primer is the texture as well as their specific purpose. 

Lip primers tend to be thicker than eye primers due to their purpose of creating a protective barrier on the delicate skin of lips. 

Additionally, eye primers generally contain light-reflecting particles that add a subtle shimmer to the eyeshadow, while lip primers usually do not have those properties.

Foundation or Concealer First?

When it comes to makeup, one of the most common questions people ask is whether they should apply concealer or foundation first. 

Generally, foundation is applied first as a base layer and then concealer can be used in specific areas to hide blemishes and dark circles. 

When applying foundation, it is important to select a color that matches your skin tone and blend it into the skin with a sponge or brush. 

Concealer is then used in small amounts on problem areas such as redness, blemishes, or dark circles under the eyes. 

To avoid wasting time and product, apply concealer after foundation to avoid smudging it off areas where you first applied it to. Remember to apply it sparingly when necessary and not all over your face, otherwise, you’ll look cakey!

To get even coverage and to avoid looking cakey, set both products with a light dusting of powder. 

Following this order will give you natural-looking coverage without going overboard with too much product.

a close up image of a woman with flawless make up after applying foundation concealer and primer

Your Everyday Flawless Look Can Be Done In 3 Steps

Applying makeup doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By following our guide to applying primer, foundation, and concealer, you can achieve any makeup look you desire.

With these tips in mind, you should be able to achieve beautiful natural-looking skin without undergoing 10 or more confusing steps. 

If you are feeling lost when it comes to makeup application and you feel that consulting a professional makeup artist will help boost your confidence, you may do so! You have our full support. 

However, if your learnings become too overwhelming to digest, you can always go back and check this article to get you back on track. 

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  • Janille Gultiano

    Jan, a distinguished freelance makeup artist, also boasts a BA in Mass Communication, laying the foundation for her diverse talents. For over four years, she's carved a niche as a captivating content writer, with her articles resonating in various spheres. Beyond writing, her expertise extends to crafting robust Public Relations and Corporate Communications strategies. Each endeavor reflects Jan's unique blend of creativity and precision

  • Kelly Goforth

    With ten years in the beauty industry, Kelly Goforth has mastered the art of hair and makeup. Trained at The Redken Exchange in NYC and mentored by industry legends like Sam Villa and Lauren Hagan, she's a sought-after bridal specialist in Colorado Springs. From managing a Denver salon to now offering bridal hair, makeup, and airbrush spray tans, Kelly's expertise shines.

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