How to Make a Foundation Work When it Doesn’t: Part 2- the coverage isn’t right

This phenomenon is rarer than getting the wrong shade primarily because trying foundation in the shop should give you a decent idea of coverage. But there are days when your skin needs a little more coverage, and likewise there are days when you want to look like you’re not wearing any foundation. So instead of buying a new foundation, you can try and change the coverage of a foundation you already have.


First of all, bear in mind that a good concealer, while hard to find, beats high coverage foundation in most cases so before you try to make your sheer foundation heavier, consider what it is you’re trying to cover. Perhaps some nifty concealer work could solve all your problems.

Trying to make a sheer foundation give more coverage is all down to what you use to apply. Of course, you’re not going to work miracles, but I’ve successfully made a sheer foundation (Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation) into a medium/high coverage foundation just by changing the tool with which I apply it.


Fingers: This gives the sheerest application, making most foundations look  more like a tinted moisturiser.

Wet Sponge: Coverage from a wet sponge is still pretty sheer, especially if you use a ‘wiping’ motion to apply – it really spreads the foundation out.

Foundation Brush: I’m not a fan of usual (paddle-style) foundation brushes to be honest, but I’d say they’re in the middle of the scale – not too light, not too heavy.

Stippling Brush/ Sponge: I’ve put these two together because they both facilitate the application technique that gives the most coverage: when you pat the foundation on instead of swiping. If you wipe with the sponge you’ll still get some coverage but not as much as you would if you just patted the foundation on. Instead of spreading the foundation over a large area you concentrate it in many small areas. The same idea applies to the stippling brush. In some cases the stippling brush could give more coverage than the sponge because it deposits more foundation. Many sponges can absorb too much of the product and consequently not give good coverage (it’s also a waste of foundation!).

When applying my sheer foundation (Bobbi Brown Skin) with a stippling brush I got good coverage with it but I also still got the natural finish of the foundation.

Stippling brushes don’t have to be expensive – before I got one I thought that it was only MAC who actually made them. Now I use the ELF Studio Powder Brush. It has a flat top and it’s also quite stiff so that makes it ideal for applying foundation (liquid or powder). (Incidentally, ELF studio brushes are really good in my opinion, and they cost nothing). If you’re in the U.S. I’ve heard many people rave about the Sonia Kashuk stippling brush and I think ecotools produce one as well.

A long time ago, when my foundation collection was a mere 1 or 2 strong, I had a good skin day. I know. It was pretty crazy. Anyway all my foundations at the time were kind of heavy, and though my skin was good, it was most definitely not ‘go without foundation’ good. Now with some foundations, a different application technique (see above) sorts this out just fine. But with the ones I had at the time (Mat Velvet+ and Estee Lauder Doublewear) this idea just wouldn’t work. So I created a new foundation! How? By mixing with random stuff I found in my room (kind of).

Mix it with sunscreen: This method is good for lazy days (if you wear sunscreen daily). You don’t get the greatest formula from it so it’s not ideal in that respect, but it is quick. In my mix there was much much more sunscreen than foundation but it still had enough tint in it to even out my skin. Like I said, with my sunscreen (La Roche Posay melt-in-cream 50+) it wasn’t the best formula (it didn’t look very skin-like and I had to powder away the shine) but I think with a more cosmetically elegant sunscreen (I’ve heard raves about the Sofina range) you could be on to a winner.

Mix it with moisturiser: This is similar to the sunscreen but looks much more natural as most moisturisers are designed to look good on skin (ie. not shiny, not blotchy, not greasy). You are basically creating, would you believe it, a tinted moisturiser. Hey somebody patent that idea! Oh wait…

Mix it with Aloe Vera Gel: While my skin can get dehydrated from time to time, my sunscreen usually suffices as a moisturiser so the method above won’t really work as I don’t want any more moisture on my skin. I could just mix it with the sunscreen, but like I said, the finish isn’t so great when I do that. So my favourite method of customising foundation coverage is mixing the foundation with Aloe Vera Gel. Aloe Vera Gel is great as it doesn’t moisturise much at all – in fact many people use it as a primer to mattify skin – and it’s not likely to interfere with the foundation in anyway (change the finish, change the colour etc.). With this mix you get a tinted moisturiser without the moisturiser…a tinted, if you will. Also Aloe Vera Gel is a great multi-purpose item (and cheap) so you can use it for a bunch of other stuff as well!

So that’s my little guide on how to make foundations work, if you guys have any tips please please comment as it’s great to share all this information!

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