The thing that I most appreciate about makeup is its ability to improve the look of my skin. Makeup can do absolutely wondrous things to the complexion. On the flip side it can also have a horrendous effect. There’s nothing worse in my eyes than seeing someone whose skin is absolutely caked in makeup. You’re undoing all the natural beauty you possess! So I suppose the question is how does one perfect the skin without looking cakey? This is how I do it.


I think one of the most important things to keep in mind about foundation is that it shouldn’t do everything. By that I mean if you’re expecting it to cover every little flaw, you’re probably expecting too much. That’s what concealer is for man!

For most people I would recommend sticking to a light to medium coverage and using only a thin layer on the skin. Too thick of a layer of foundation can be noticeable.

If you have more intense hyper-pigmentation then try using a light layer of highly pigmented foundation all over the skin, rather than trying to pile on a load of medium coverage foundation.

For high coverage try: Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer, Laura Mercier Silk Creme

Make sure you’re using the right colour for you skin tone. Trying to go too dark can create a mask like effect to the skin.

Application Technique:
There is no one right way to apply foundation (aside from remembering to blend it down your jaw, into your hair line and around your ears). What works for some people may not work for others.

If you have quite smooth, even toned skin you might find that really buffing and working the foundation into the skin leaves the most natural finish. Others that have little fine hairs on their skin might find that brushing only in downward motions keeps everything looking cleaner. And those that have a lot of redness or discolouration in their skin might find that pushing the foundation on with a flat top brush or a damp sponge is the most effective method.


If you’re struggling with blemishes or uneven skin tone then this is where the magic happens. I like to really invest my time with concealer rather than worrying too much about foundation.

I find the best thing to cover blemishes with is a highly pigmented cream product with a fairly dry consistency. The cream texture makes it quite buildable and the dry consistency provides longevity.

How you apply your concealer to blemishes is half the battle. You want to make sure you’re pushing or patting the product on and never using wiping motions. Try using a tiny detailer brush to pat the product on only exactly where you need it and then taper out the edges.

Try: Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage, Mac Studio Finish Concealer

General Discolouration:
To cover a broader area of discolouration I’d recommend finding a concealer with decent pigmentation and a creamy, liquid texture. It will be easy to blend and provide a nice even, smooth finish.

Try: Maybelline Fit Me Concealer, Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer

Setting Powder

Try not to use a ton of pigmented powder everywhere. It can look like that little bit too much. To keep the skin looking fresh and natural try using a translucent setting powder and applying it only over any areas that you get shiny or that you’ve applied your concealer. Remember again to use patting motions when applying powder over any blemishes, so as not to disturb the product underneath.

If you’re struggling with a particularly troublesome area try setting that area (and, again, only that area) with a powder puff rather than a brush. A puff will mesh the powder into you foundation/concealer a lot more effectively and lock it down.

Bringing Dimension Back To The Skin

Once you even out your skin tone with your ideal colour match you may find you look a bit washed out and pale. We often get used to seeing the hyper-pigmentation or a natural flush in our skin and when it’s all evened out it can look peculiar. Fear not, a little bronzer and/or blush will add life back into the skin. A luminous highlighter on the tops of your cheekbones might also be a good idea if you’ve used a matte foundation.

  • It's nearly 3am what am I doing (hi)

  • love the title of this post – "cakeless" is key indeed. great tips on the application techniques. just had to let you know that i came across your blog and instantly fell in love with your pics πŸ™‚

    le jolie

  • Yes to everything. I used to expect too much of foundation but now rely on concealer for my trouble spots. Great post!
    Ivory Avenue

  • Great tips. I always go for a medium coverage foundation only to cake it on because one layer is not enough to cover up my blemishes :/

  • What the what. I just looked at your blog and it's insanely beautiful. What's your story if you don't mind my asking? Your blog appears to be brand new but you appear to be quite experienced.

  • Go to sleep you strange and beautiful creature.

  • I agree so, so much when it comes to foundation not having to do everything! Having this expectation is where major caking happens. I love to apply a light base to even my skin then conceal anything else. It's my #1 tip for a cake-free face, as well!

  • Wow, this is such an amazing, informative post! Thanks so much Holly! Totally agree about light/medium foundation and spot concealing where you need it. I really want to try a harder concealer like the Laura Mercier SC for blemishes!

    Tasha // shiwashiful.

  • this is SUCH a helpful post! <3 xx

  • I love the look of the Tarte Powder, it sounds so good!

    Maddy, xo // UNSTITCHEDD

  • Definitely agree about concealing blemishes! I usually use a highly pigmented concealer that's not too thin and liquidy because then it just moves around. And yes adding some colour back to your skin is so helpful in not looking washed out/dead.

    Sheri | Behind The Frames

  • You're so right, makeup exists to enhance the beauty you already have, not transform you into a clown lol. Thanks for the amazing tips! πŸ˜‰ I'm gonna try to use a puff with my setting powder cos I always struggle with my brush.

  • I completely agree with your makeup application philosophy πŸ™‚ Amazing photography!


  • these are some lovely tips! Its important to understand what foundation is for because some people dont 'get it' x

  • Great post!! I'm not to much into face products, but I really want to. Any good reccomedations for a tinted moisturizer with a wide range of darker colors?? Love your blog. Has to be my favorite.

  • gorgeous products! that blush really caught my eye, love the hot pink xx

    Natalie / Salt & Sail

  • Concealer and the right brush are beautiful things!

  • Excellent, glad other people are on board with this!

  • Those types of concealers just grip to blemishes so well. I can't imagine going back to liquid concealer for spot covering.

  • It's night and day going to the Rimmel Stay Matte to that powder.

  • I just bought a new foundation for my skin at its absolute palest and man is it pale. It's the right colour, but I definitely need some bronzer/blush to stop myself from looking like a ghost.

  • Thank you thank you!

  • I think it takes a certain amount of patience to sit there and do all the pinpoint concealing, so I understand that temptation to use foundation for everything, but it just doesn't have the same effect.

  • Good old Sleek. They do the best affordable blushes.

  • Oh gosh I'm not really sure. I noticed the Nars Tinted Moisturizer has a couple of darker shades. I don't own it myself, but it seems to be pretty raved about as a beautiful medium coverage, luminous tinted moisturizer.
    And thank you πŸ™‚

  • Lovely post, Holly. Definitely picked up a trick or two!

    I struggle quite a bit with my skin, and just recently I found that all my bases are too dark for me, so I'll have to get new ones at some point. Never manage to match myself properly, lol.

  • Love this! I'm obsessed with skin like foundations (and application), and so many people need some advice on this matter… πŸ˜‰ xx
    Gyudy's Notes Of Beauty

  • Love this post and the title πŸ™‚ Not having too thick of a layer of foundation is key!

  • Lovely tips. I struggle with making my make up last all day x

  • Sometimes I'm shocked how light I have to go. I don't picture myself as fitting into the "fair" category, but I guess I do.
    Good luck finding a good match!

  • I find that a challenge too. I just tried the Hourglass Primer for the first time yesterday and I think it might have been amazing. I'm going to keep testing it, but hopefully it's as good as I think it is for keeping makeup on for the day.

  • Hey Holly, just wanted to let you know that I decided to answer your question in a post HERE. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  • I loved the post πŸ™‚

  • Great post! Such truth and good advice, I swear by pretty much the same thing! πŸ˜›