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Let’s be honest: Who among us doesn’t pine after baby-soft, perfectly poreless skin?
Though “perfect” skin may be unattainable, keeping a few techniques in your pocket can’t hurt.
The steps below may make it possible to reduce the appearance of fine lines, scars, and wrinkles, leading to that highly coveted creamy smooth look.
Whether it’s a tried-and-true skin care regimen, how often you wash your hair, or the cosmetics you’re curious about, beauty is personal.
That’s why we rely on a diverse group of writers, educators, and other experts to share their tips on everything from the way product application varies to the best sheet mask for your individual needs.
We only recommend something we genuinely love, so if you see a shop link to a specific product or brand, know that it’s been thoroughly researched by our team.
The first step to getting a smooth look with makeup is keeping your canvas, aka your skin, as healthy as possible.
While it’s tempting to splurge on pricey foundations and powders, a thought-out skin care routine is a top priority.
Start by focusing on your skin concerns and tailoring your routine to your unique needs.
Uneven skin can be caused by a number of factors, like:
- UV damage
- nutritional gaps or overly processed foods
- lack of sleep
- lifestyle factors, like smoking
Skin care isn’t an instant gratification game.
“Your skin takes, on average, around 27 days to regenerate. So, even with the best skin care treatments, there’s no quick fix,” says Amish Patel, an aesthetics practitioner and skin care expert at Intrigue Cosmetic Clinic. “Daily commitment is required with a good skin care routine and quality skin care products.”
Even though adding a great serum or cream to your routine can improve the appearance of your skin over time, it will never give you overnight results.
“UV damage is one of the most common culprits for uneven looking skin, which shows itself in pigmentation on the face, fine lines and wrinkles, and eventually age spots,” says Ross Perry, MBBS, of Cosmedics Skin Clinics.
A simple way to prevent sun damage is to make SPF a nonnegotiable part of your skin care routine every single day.
Another common skin concern that causes unevenness is acne.
“This doesn’t just affect your teenage years,” Perry says. “It results in enlarged pores, breakouts, and, quite often, scarring.”
Aesthetician Lauren Turner agrees.
Both of these scars are examples of atrophic scars that result from acne lesions.
For active breakouts, try using a targeted cream or gel with salicylic acid along with a vitamin E serum, like CeraVe Acne Control Gel.
If your breakouts persist, you may benefit from visiting a doctor or a dermatologist.
As for scarring, serums that contain niacinamide, AHA, or BHA are a good place to start.
In order to keep your skin healthy, try “a vitamin C serum of at least 10 percent and a good retinol of 0.5 to 1 percent at nighttime,” Turner says.
Diet and lifestyle
Lifestyle factors can also give your skin the appearance of unevenness.
“Diet, drinking, smoking, and dehydration will all show up on the skin,” Perry explains. “Quite often, you can expect congestion, oily areas, and dull-looking, lackluster skin that… looks uneven and tired in appearance.”
To instantly improve your skin’s natural appearance, follow this formula:
- Wash your face twice a day so skin is clean, and products can better penetrate into the skin.
- Get 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Reduce environmental toxins if possible.
- Avoid nicotine, excessive alcohol, and highly processed foods when possible.
Patel says it’s important not to underestimate the importance of healthy choices when it comes to skin smoothness.
“Few of us can truly ‘cheat’ by just using topical products or aesthetic treatments. Ultimately, your lifestyle choices can and do come into the equation and have a direct impact on your skin,” he says.
While makeup and skin care can definitely help improve the skin’s appearance, nothing works better in the long run than a healthy lifestyle.
When you’re experiencing uneven skin tone, you might be looking for overnight results. Luckily, a few makeup techniques can make a huge difference in the short term.
Instead of layering on powder in the hopes of airbrushing away your imperfections, the key to a smooth look lies in using minimal makeup along with a very precise technique.
“A very natural look and tinted SPF is the best beauty hack,” Turner says. “It eliminates the need for heavy foundation but also provides that glowy skin and, most importantly, protection from the sun to prevent premature aging.”
The bottom line
Keep it as natural and subtle as possible on the base, drawing more attention to your lips and eyes.
Step 1: Start with a primer
Give yourself a smooth canvas to work with by using a primer.
“A primer, especially one with added SPF, is really going to help with makeup looking more flawless on the skin,” Perry says.
Primer has several jobs, including:
- smoothing out fine lines
- soothing dry patches
- evening out skin tone
- minimizing pores
- controlling shine
Primer can act as “a barrier between your makeup and skin” that keeps your skin from becoming clogged throughout the day, Patel says.
Scarring, enlarged pores, or fine lines? Opt for a gel primer that targets pores and fills gaps in the skin, leaving a smoother surface, like TULA Skin Care Brighten Up Smoothing Primer Gel.
Redness or rosacea? “A [tinted] primer can disguise redness and blemishes by using color-correction technology,” Turner says.
Step 2: Use a lightweight foundation and a heavier concealer
Instead of coating your face in a high-coverage foundation, opt for a super lightweight foundation and a heavier concealer instead. That way, you’ll be able to create a natural look while still covering up areas that have pigmented scars or age spots.
You can even find foundations and concealers that contain active ingredients to help prevent further breakouts or skin problems, Patel says.
Step 3: Finish with a light powder and a setting spray
To finish off your smooth, natural look, use a light dusting of powder on shiny areas of the face — but only if you need it.
“If you have dry skin, powder can make skin look more uneven and highlight fine lines, particularly around the eye area,” Perry says. “For combination skin, a little powder on the T-zone will help reduce oily and shiny areas.”
Opt for a setting spray that will hold your makeup in place without emphasizing uneven areas overdrying the skin, like NYX Professional Makeup Matte Finish Setting Spray.
On the other hand, some makeup techniques can actually make things worse. One makeup application technique to avoid, according to the experts, is baking.
Baking is a technique that involves applying a thick layer of translucent setting powder over your foundation and concealer anywhere on the face that can crease.
- under the eyes
- on the forehead
- smile lines
The powder is then left in place to set for around 10 minutes before being swept off with a brush.
Many beauty influencers claim that the process gives you a flawless, poreless, airbrushed finish. In reality, the technique can leave you looking cakey, dry, and even more uneven than before.
This is because powder tends to sit in all of those uneven areas of the skin, like fine lines or acne scars, making them look even more prominent.
Plus, Perry adds, this technique can create more skin problems down the line.
“If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, then this amount of makeup is really going to play havoc with congestion,” he says.
While a careful, precise makeup technique along with a persistent skin care routine can help you feel more confident, keep in mind that the airbrushed look you see on Instagram might not even be real in the first place.
“Sadly, filters and photoshop play a huge role in unrealistic images of celebrities, actors, and models sporting perfect skin, which quite often is almost unattainable,” Perry says. “We need to start being a bit more honest in what ‘good skin’ actually looks like.”
It’s important to remember that real, living skin *does* have bumps, lines, marks, and, most importantly, pores. These “imperfections” may be a source of frustration for you, but they may be signs of beauty and uniqueness to everyone else.
No matter what kind of skin you have, you don’t have to cover up to be beautiful.
Getting smooth, flawless skin may have more to do with your lifestyle than an Instagram makeup technique.
Taking good care of your skin starts with eating lots of fruits and veggies, staying hydrated, and minimizing environmental toxins when possible.
Still, there are some short-term things you can do to help your skin along.
Use primer to get your skin ready and go for a light makeup application with emphasis on the lips and eyes. Avoid “baking” your makeup, so you don’t highlight uneven areas.
And remember that your uniqueness is a part of your beauty routine, too.
Meg Walters is a writer and actor from London. She is interested in exploring topics such as fitness, meditation, and healthy lifestyles in her writing. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, yoga, and the occasional glass of wine.