How to Apply & Layer Face Makeup
Applying makeup can be relaxing, artistic, and empowering—but it can also be overwhelming.
Whether you’re just beginning to add cosmetics to your beauty bag or you’re already a makeup connoisseur, chances are you have questions about how to apply and layer makeup properly.
Today, we’re discussing how to apply cosmetics so you can achieve the makeup looks of your dreams, focusing on prep and layering. It all starts with the order in which you apply your makeup, so buckle up and get ready for a beauty lesson.
How should I layer my makeup products?
To achieve the makeup look of your dreams, layering is key. Once you know a few basic rules, you can start to freestyle your makeup any way you want.
The most important rule is that order matters. This isn’t because we want to police your creativity or because the makeup goddesses will smite you if you disobey; there are actual concrete reasons for the step-by-step process.
As a general rule, start with skin prep, then move to face makeup, then eyes, then lips.
The Three Big Rules of Layering
- Start with less—you can always add more. Adding another layer of blush is easy, but removing some without disrupting your base is a hassle (and near-impossible).
- Blending is your friend, and to blend, you need to have the right tools on hand. That means investing in quality sponges and brushes that don’t shed all over your face.
- Liquid and cream products come before powder—always. If you use cream or liquid on top of a powder, it won’t settle right and it might pill.
With these rules in mind, let’s get started on how you can layer up a stunning makeup look.
How to prepare your skin for makeup
Curating a well-thought-out skincare routine using clean, cruelty-free skincare products makes a tremendous difference, whether you’re going fresh-faced or doing a full beat. While a skincare routine is highly personal and can take years to develop, we have a few tips for those who are just starting out.
First, cleanse your skin. Whether you use face wash, like the Youth Refresh® Hydrating Strawberry Antioxidant Cleanser from our Herbal Dynamics Bundle, or something gentler like micellar water (or both, if you’re into double-cleansing), you need a clean base for the rest of your products to sit on. Just remember: be gentle. You don’t want to scrub and tug—washing your face shouldn’t hurt.
Toner and Serums
Depending on what toner you’re using, it may help rebalance the skin’s pH level, exfoliate, or add an extra boost of hydration. Toners like this Rose Water Calming Face Toner from Herbal Dynamics also help the skin better absorb the heavier products that come later in your routine. Pat it in or use an (ideally reusable) cotton round to apply it to your face.
If you use any serums, apply those now as well. Serums often feature active ingredients, like AHAs, BHAs, or vitamin C, as in the case of Herbal Dynamics Beauty’s Vitamin C 25% Rejuvenating Serum. Serums are meant to target more specific skin concerns, so do your research to find what will work best for your skin.
Moisturizer needs to sit underneath your makeup, so choose a product that absorbs quickly. Save the heavier creams, like the Earth Harbor Mermaid Milk, for your nighttime routine.
Massage the moisturizer onto your skin using clean fingers. Then, let it sit for five to ten minutes so that it has time to absorb before you apply anything else.
We don’t mean to sound like your mother, but yes, you do need to wear sunscreen. Though getting a tan has become an icon of summer, the sun emits harmful UV rays that can lead to skin damage, signs of premature aging, and even cancer. Slathering on a layer of sunscreen when you’re getting ready for the day is a quick, easy step to add to your routine that has a real impact.
If your hesitation is the dreaded white cast that certain SPFs can give you, here are a couple of recommendations that just might change your mind:
- MALU’s SPF 30 Protecting Day Cream contains only reef-safe ingredients, and it’s broad-spectrum, so you know you’re getting max protection.
- For a slightly more affordable option, consider Pacifica’s Vegan Collagen SPF 30 Every Day Lotion, which features hyaluronic acid for moisture, aloe extract for hydration, and broad-spectrum SPF for protection from the sun’s rays.
For best results, warm your sunscreen in your hands before gently pressing it into your skin. Allow it to sit on the face for a few more moments before pressing it in again and then gently rubbing it into the skin.
How to apply face makeup
Now that your skin is prepped and ready to go, it’s time to set up your base.
Primer isn’t a requirement, but it does have several benefits. First, primer helps makeup stay on longer because it creates a smooth, even surface to apply other products onto. Second, some primers help eliminate the appearance of large pores, reduce shine, and increase your glow.
For a product that will give you all the benefits of a serum while still acting as the perfect primer, consider Lawless Beauty’s Set The Stage Hydrating Priming Serum.
If you’re looking to amp up your glow a bit, try 100% Pure’s Luminous Primer to minimize the appearance of pores and give you long-lasting wear.
Use your fingers to massage the primer onto the skin, giving it a few minutes to settle before going in with your base makeup.
You can apply foundation with your fingers, a beauty sponge, or a brush. Most foundations are buildable, which means they can be as full or as minimal coverage as you want. If you want fuller coverage, opt for a brush.
Apply the foundation to your face in the flat places first—your cheeks and forehead—and then move onto the T-zone, with less product on the brush to blend it out. Start in the center of your face by your nose, and then blend out to the edges of your hairline and your jaw. You usually don’t need to apply foundation directly under your eyes because that’s where your concealer will go in the next step.
If you’re using a brush, avoid looking like a Van Gogh painting by using small, circular motions rather than broad, sweeping strokes. You may also have more luck with this buffing motion if you apply your foundation in small dots across the wider areas of your face, rather than placing it directly on the brush.
If you’re using a sponge, work in gentle bouncing motions until the foundation is distributed evenly across your face. Just be aware that you may end up using slightly more product with a sponge, as beauty sponges are prone to absorbing foundation.
When hunting for the ideal foundation, look for clean ingredients, a wide shade range, and companies that care—both about you and the world around us. That means shopping vegan and cruelty-free whenever possible. Some of our fave brands for foundation include 100% Pure, Clove & Hallow, and Kosas. Even better, these brands have solid concealers, too, so you can make sure you get the perfect color match.
Concealer comes after foundation because once the foundation settles, you’ll be able to see the areas where you need a little extra coverage. It’s perfect for blemishes, dark circles, beauty marks, or anything else that you’d like … concealed!
Dot it anywhere you desire it, and then blend in with your fingers or a brush. Concealer should match your foundation (unless you’re planning to contour with it, but that’s another story), so it should be easy to blend in.
For ideal under-eye coverage, there are two schools of thought.
The first comes in handy when you’re looking for an intense, full coverage look. Starting from the inner corner of your eye, draw a triangle that reaches down next to your nose and then comes back up to meet the outer corner of your eye. Then blend, being careful not to scrub or rub as this may cause your foundation to lift.
The second concealer method lines up slightly better with the dewy, no-makeup makeup look that’s popular right now. Instead of drawing a full triangle, place a small dot of concealer in your inner corner, and one in your outer corner for a subtle look. This process uses less concealer, and it gives you a lifted look that automatically makes you look more awake.
Whichever method you choose, avoid drawing on your concealer in a half-moon shape below your eyes. This is notoriously hard to blend and may emphasize dark circles more than it conceals them.
If you’re putting this much work into your makeup, it’s safe to assume that you’d like it to actually stay put on your face. That’s where your setting powder comes in—and we particularly like the Mineral Mattifying Powder from INIKA.
For a light application, dip a fluffy brush into your powder, tap off the excess, and lightly press the areas of your face that are likely to crease or get oily: your T-zone, under-eyes, and maybe even the corners of your nostrils.
Contour and Bronzer
If you’re contouring, choose a cooler brown color to replicate the effect of a shadow on your face. This product goes in the hollows of your cheeks and along the edges of your hairline and jawline. Then, blend, blend, blend.
If you so choose, you can also contour your nose by running two thin lines of contour along the sides of the bridge and emphasizing the bulb. Just be wary and blend well, because this technique is tricky.
Word to the wise: Contour is very, very easy to overdo. Make sure you are contouring in bright light, and brush with a light hand.
For a more natural contour look, very lightly sweep a loaded brush across the very top of your forehead along your hairline, dip in for more product and go lightly along your jawline, and dip once more to go along each cheekbone. You want to use as little product as possible and take advantage of blending to achieve this more natural contour.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time for bronzer. Bronzer gives you that healthy, just-spent-time-in-the-sun glow. Focus the bronzer on the hairline, bridge of the nose, and just below the high points of the cheeks. Imagine that you’re drawing a three, moving from the top of your brow, coming in by your cheekbones, and then running your brush down along your jaw.
If you’re in the market for a liquid bronzer, the K Voss Bronzing Potion Glow Cream can be worn alone or layered with makeup for an ethereal summer glow. If you’re looking for a more traditional powder, consider Clove & Hallow’s Bronzing Powder or PYT Beauty’s Faux Sun Bronzer Duo.
Blushes of all shades are trending right now, so whether you choose a punchy coral or a soft pink, you have plenty of room to play. While blush is traditionally applied to the apples of the cheeks, place it up higher towards the cheekbones for a slimming effect or lower down for a contoured look.
If you’re using powder blush, move in circular motions and gently buff it out with a fluffy brush. This 100% Pure: Fruit Pigmented® Rose Gold Palette comes with a beautiful powder blush, as well as a highlighter shade and three eyeshadow shades for the perfect, cohesive look. Another powder blush well worth looking into is INIKA Organic’s Mineral Blusher Puff Pot, a loose powder that gives you a natural glow, or Bellapierre’s Compact Mineral Blush.
With cream or liquid blush, use a beauty sponge or your fingers to gently pat it into the skin. Clove & Hallow’s Hydratint Blush Serum is a top contender for a liquid blush, formulated with hyaluronic acid and meadowfoam oil to give you a healthy, smooth radiance.
Highlighter is the finishing touch on the face, which you can strategically place anywhere you want some extra shine. The top of the cheekbones, inner corners of the eyes, and the clavicle are a few popular options, but you can use this Aether Beauty Highlighter anywhere you see fit—it’s just that beautiful.
If you’re looking to get creative with your highlighter shades, Habit Cosmetics’s BRIGHT LIGHTS Vegan + Organic Creme Highlighter comes in silvery-white, warm lavender, and glimmering gold so you can live out your festival makeup dreams. Otherwise, the LARITZY Cosmetics Cream Highlighter comes in a dewy, universal shade to keep things subtle.
Make your life easier by revamping your makeup bag with clean beauty
To amp up your makeup game, consider the products in your beauty stash. Are they clean beauty products, or are they laden with preservatives and unpronounceable chemicals?
The basic definition of clean beauty is that it was formulated mindfully. It’s safe and non-toxic, no cancer-causing ingredients in sight. If your products aren’t transparently labeled or you can’t find information about the company, consider tossing them and getting products that actually fit your lifestyle.
Note whether your products are cruelty-free and vegan. If a cosmetic is vegan, there are no animal byproducts in it. Veganism is beneficial for the earth—and animals—for many reasons, and it truly is a lifestyle, not just a way of eating. At Kinder Beauty, all of the products we offer are vegan, cruelty-free, and totally clean.
If your products don’t check these boxes, start collecting cosmetics that are a better fit by subscribing to Kinder Beauty. For as little as $23 a month, you get curated boxes packed with high-quality beauty products that are as supportive of the planet as they are of you slaying your look.
Layering makeup like a pro
Learning how to apply makeup and layer it like a pro isn’t as difficult as it seems, and with a bit of practice, you’ll be a total rockstar. We can’t wait to see the gorgeous looks that you create with your new makeup skills (and your new vegan products)!
Sources:Benefits of Mineral Sunscreen: 6 Reasons to Switch | Reader's Digest
Get our Kinder Beauty Box