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"Skin Prep 101: The Essential Steps for Flawless Makeup Application"

Flawless makeup doesn't start with the first swipe of foundation or stroke of eyeshadow. It begins days, weeks, or even months before that. You probably know what I'm about to say next but flawless makeup starts with a great skin care routine. Your makeup will never look exactly how you want it to look if you don't invest time into taking care of the canvas that is your face. And for those women who are mid-life, like me, it becomes even more important. Fine lines, texture, and dryness all factor into how makeup lays against your skin and unfortunately those are the exact issues we start to face as we get older. In this blog I'm going to give you a basic guideline for the steps I do each morning prior to applying my makeup. Each person's skin is unique so the exact products and formulas I use may not work for you, but hopefully this overview will give you a starting place to begin building your own skin prep routine.

Cleanse. I know this might sound obvious, but it's super important that you begin with clean skin. Even if you washed your face the night before, you need to remove any dirt, oil, or excess product from your skin. I recommend that you choose a cleanser specifically formulated for your skin type. Wash your face in warm (not hot) water and rinse thoroughly, pat dry.

Exfoliate. This is one of the most important steps for aging skin. As we age the rate of natural skin cell turnover slows down. The dead skin cells collect on the top layer of skin, called the epidermis, causing skin to look uneven, more textured, and sallow. You may also experience dry flaky patches and clogged pores. Exfoliating is the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. You can choose physical or chemical exfoliation and you'll want to incorporate either into your routine 2-3 times per week. I only exfoliate in the evening, but I wanted to mention it here because it's crucial to implement regular exfoliation into your skin care routine for a more flawless makeup application. Removing those dead surface cells will help your skin care products absorb better and allow your makeup to go on smoother.

Tone. Using a toner will help restore the pH balance of your skin. Some cleansers can overly dry your skin so this step can be beneficial. If you have dry skin consider a hydrating toner. If you have acne prone skin look for a toner with salicylic acid. A toner can also help remove any residual impurities, dirt, makeup or oil. It also helps to prep the skin for the next step in your skin care routine. If your cleanser already contains a toner (such as Mary Kay's TimeWise® 4-in-1 Cleanser) you will not need to add a separate product.

Target. Once your skin is thoroughly cleansed this is the perfect time to add a booster or serum. Boosters and serums are designed to target specific skin concerns. I limit the amount of products I use in the morning prior to my makeup application. Layering excess products on the skin, especially products that contain hydration, may cause your makeup to break down faster. I stick to 2 boosters in the morning - one for hydration and one for brightening - and save my serums for my evening skin care routine. It's important to wait for each product to absorb into the skin before applying the next step. You'll need to wait approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute in between boosters. And depending on how thick or thin your serum is you may need to wait anywhere between 1 minute up to 4-5 minutes before your skin is ready for the next product. A rule of thumb is to apply your products in the order of thinnest consistency to the thickest or heaviest. Wait until the skin no longer feels tacky before applying the next step in your routine. And make sure you're not applying too much product. The product should absorb into the skin. If you still feel excess product sitting on top of the skin after 10 minutes, you've likely applied too much or you may be using the wrong formula.


Eyes. The skin around your eyes is different than the skin on the rest of your face. It is much thinner and more delicate. Plus it doesn't contain many sebaceous glands leaving it especially prone to dryness. Daily movement such as squinting and sun exposure can increase fine lines and wrinkles. And many factors can cause undereye circles and puffiness. Regular moisturizer is not formulated to address these specific concerns so I always recommend that you add an eye cream into your daily skin care routine. Gently pat a small amount of eye cream under the eyes and around the outer edge. Depending on your skin type you may want to apply a small amount of eye cream to the brow bone but if you struggle with oily eyelids and plan to wear eyeshadow you may want to avoid applying eye cream to the lids in the morning and only do so in your evening skin care routine.

Face. Once your boosters and/or serums are sufficiently absorbed into the skin it's time to apply a moisturizer. Choose a moisturizer that is formulated for your skin type. Even oily skin needs hydration. A daily moisturizer can help maintain your skin's moisture barrier, improve skin elasticity, and prevent environmental damage to your skin. Apply moisturizer to the skin on your face, avoiding your eye area, and massage it in. Wait 5-15 minutes before applying your makeup. This will allow the moisturizer to absorb into the skin. If you apply your makeup too quickly the products in your moisturizer can break down your makeup and cause separation. After I apply my moisturizer I usually take those 10 minutes or so to get dressed for the day, let my dogs out, or make a cup of coffee. Just find a task or two that will help fill the time so you're not just standing around waiting.

Protect. One non-negotiable in your skin care routine should be wearing SPF daily. Experts recommend an SPF of 30+. Choose a broad spectrum to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. There are a few ways you can include SPF in your morning routine. One is to apply a mineral or chemical sunscreen after your moisturizer. If so, you'll want to wait an additional 15-20 minutes for the product to absorb before applying makeup. You can also look for a moisturizer that contains sunscreen if you want to save time and prefer fewer steps. Whichever option you choose, make sure you're applying enough product. According to Johns Hopkins's Medicine "To protect your face and neck, you’ll need about a half teaspoon." The same article also states that "Makeup is not enough to protect your skin — even if it has a high SPF. You would need much more makeup than you typically use to reach the labeled SPF." Therefore, I would recommend you focus on adding your sun protection with your skin care products rather than relying on the SPF that's listed on your foundation.

Special Concerns

Oil-Control. Excess oil can cause makeup to break down and separate. As I stated earlier, make sure you're choosing the right skin care formulas for your skin type. If you have very oily skin choose products that are specifically formulated for oily skin. Wearing emollient products that were designed for dry skin will not work well under your makeup. If you have a great skin care routine but still struggle with excess oil you can choose to add an oil mattifier or mattifying primer on top of your moisturizer before you apply your foundation. This will create a barrier between your skin and the makeup, helping the makeup to last longer and reducing shine. If you need extra help throughout the day you might like to carry oil blotting tissues with you. These are specifically made to remove excess oil and shine without disturbing your makeup.

Dryness. If your skin is especially dry you can add a hydrating primer or face oil after your moisturizer. However, I would be careful to not apply too much of these types of product as excess amounts of oil will cause your makeup to break down and separate. Another option would be to choose a foundation formula that contains moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid. A hydrating facial mist might also be a great solution if you struggle with dryness. A mist can also be added throughout the day on top of makeup if you need a quick refresh.

Sensitive Skin. Even those with sensitive skin should follow the steps of cleansing, toning, moisturizing, and protecting their skin. Focus on finding products that are specifically formulated for sensitive skin. Take time to learn about different skin care ingredients and pay attention to the labels and formulas of the products you choose. You may want to consider working with a beauty consultant, esthetician, or dermatologist depending on your specific concerns and level of sensitivity. I would also recommend introducing one product at a time which will make it easier to note which product or ingredient is irritating your skin if a reaction occurs. For serious concerns or reactions, discontinue use and contact a dermatologist.

Primer. Foundation primers are often touted as an essential step in makeup prep. However, I have personally found that with the right skin care steps I don't need to add primer into my daily makeup routine. I would recommend that you focus on the steps I've outlined above and if you're still struggling with your makeup going on smoothly or lasting all day then experiment with adding a foundation primer and see if it helps. Those with very textured skin, such as those with acne scarring or pitting, may find that a primer helps create a more even, smooth surface for foundation but for most people you may not need one. If you do choose a primer make sure to pay attention to the formulation. Not all primers are created equal. There are gripping primers, hydrating primers, and mattifying primers. Choose the right formula based on your skin's needs. You'll also want to match the formulation with the foundation you are using, for example a silicone primer with a silicone based foundation. Other types of primers target specific areas of the face such as eyes or lips. If you have oily eyelids or uneven skin tone on the lids a primer can help but if you don't have either concern you may not need one. In place of a lip primer you may just need a lip liner to help your lipstick stay in place. I'm not suggesting that no one needs primers but just because a product is available or you see influencers using them doesn't mean it's right for everyone. Figure out what works for you.

In conclusion, great makeup starts with great skin. Focus on building a skin care routine with products that are formulated specifically for your skin type and concerns. Once you know exactly which products you plan to use, decide how long you will need to prep your skin for makeup each morning. Make sure to allow time for each product to be absorbed before moving onto the next step. Layering products too quickly or using too much product will likely cause your makeup to pill, apply unevenly, separate, or break down quickly. Building a skin care routine takes trial and error, time, and patience. Don't get frustrated if it doesn't happen overnight. Once you begin to focus more on your skin than your makeup you will start to love your makeup even more. Ready to build a customized routine but not sure where to start? Email me to schedule a one-on-one consultation

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