When I get a notification that Pat McGrath—the mother of makeup—is going live on Instagram, I drop literally everything I’m doing to tune in. Considering she’s been trusted to perfect the faces of pretty much every uber-glamorous famous person you could fathom, and her work has appeared on countless runways and magazine covers, it’s likely that she’s got some tips worth taking to heart. So last night, after three(ish) glasses of wine, I watched a solid 20 minutes of McGrath putting foundation onto a model’s face, and let me tell you—I learned a lot about the right way to do it. Fast.
McGrath, who just launched a line of foundation of her own, uses what she calls “the system” to make foundation look flawless. And after years of practice, she’s able to do it in under two minutes. She starts by applying primer with her fingers, then moves on to foundation. To begin with, she puts the product in the palm of her hand—which is particularly helpful if you need to mix to shades to achieve the perfect match—then uses the Skin Fetish: Sublime Foundation Brush ($55) from her own line to apply it. She starts on the model’s cheek, and blends outward from her nose in soft, short lines. Then, she focuses on the facial contours around the chin and hairline. For the most natural looking, seamless results, McGrath also takes great care to apply the foundation to her neck and ears (something I’ve never thought to do, TBH).
To finish things off, she pats foundation along the cheeks, chin, under her eyes, and anywhere else that needs additional coverage with her fingers. She’s previously spoken of the importance of massaging your foundation into your skin, the way you would a moisturizer, so consider this quick-hit an abbreviated version of that edict.
“There’s kind of a security with a brush, I find,” says McGrath. “It goes on easily. You can stipple and push and thicken, so that the makeup goes on. You can get another level, a legendary level. And then you can swipe to give yourself a sheer level.” Think of the brushes as an extension of your hands, which will enhance the entire application experience.
Of course, you can also apply foundation solely with fingers, but McGrath notes that using a brush is much quicker and more efficient—which is why she often uses this method when she’s working backstage and has “thousands of models” whose makeup she needs to get done. There are ways to make the routine more complicated, but for something simple—and that you can do on your own with very little fuss—this is the best way to do it. You can top everything off with powder, et voila, you’re good to go… with plenty of time to spare for the rest of your makeup routine.
Here’s how to keep your foundation from melting off, no matter how hot it gets this summer. Plus, the most common mistakes you’re probably making when you’re applying it, straight from a makeup artist.
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