You can watch every YouTube video on how to apply makeup that’s in existence, but your success hinges on more than blending skills and makeup application tricks. While those are important factors, we’d argue skin prep is equally as important in achieving a stunning makeup look. If you already use a face primer, this news likely isn’t a shock to you. However, there’s more that goes into prepping properly; it all goes back to your skincare routine. In This Kiehl’s guide, we’ll not only explain why this all matters but also reveal how to prep skin for makeup. Read on so your makeup can look better than ever.
Why Is Skin Prep Important Before Makeup?
It’s an undeniable fact that the past impacts the present, and that’s how we recommend you think about skin prep. What we mean is, what you do before application affects how your makeup looks. It’s pretty straightforward. For example, if you layer new foundation and blush on top of makeup that’s lingering from yesterday, you aren’t going to get a smooth finish. With proper cleansing, however, you can make this issue moot.
Here’s another possible scenario: You apply products directly to oily skin, and they end up slipping away throughout the day. Oil-removing toner followed by an oil-free moisturizer, on the other hand, can help keep your shine under control. The bottom line is, with the proper prep, your makeup will last longer and look smoother.
How To Prep Your Skin For Makeup
On days you wear makeup, your skin prep and skincare routine should be one and the same. That way, you aren’t adding a slew of extra steps to your morning routine. Below, we’ve broken prepping for makeup down into five simple steps.
1. Start Fresh
Every skincare routine starts the same, but it isn’t due to a lack of originality. Rather, it’s just a fact that you need to begin with a clean canvas. Forgo this step, and you’re applying skincare products (and, later, makeup) on top of dirty skin and dead skin cells. Now, you can see why cleansing is always the kickoff to skincare and skin prep.
For daily cleansing, we recommend Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser. Formulated with aloe and fairly-traded Amazonian white clay, it gently removes dirt, oil, and toxins while helping to visibly minimize pores. It also exfoliates, detoxifies, softens, and leaves skin looking healthy and fresh.
To ensure no impurities are left behind, you can follow it with a toner or essence. One option we love is Milk-Peel Gentle Exfoliating Toner. It gently exfoliates and dissolves impurities while replenishing the skin’s moisture levels for a more refined, clearer complexion.* The formula with lipo-hydroxy acid, 23% emollients, and almond milk is non-irritating and safe for all skin types, even sensitive skin.
*Results based on expert grading in a clinical study of 44 panelists, age 30-50, after 4 weeks of use.
Ferulic Brew Antioxidant Facial Treatment with Lactic Acid
Alternatively, incorporate an essence into your routine with Ferulic Brew Antioxidant Facial Treatment with Lactic Acid. This treatment with ferulic and lactic acids not only removes dull surface skin but also primes skin to help better receive the serums and moisturizers that you’ll apply next. Plus, it offers anti-aging benefits, helping to visibly reduce fine lines.
2. Focus On Your Eyes
Your eyes are often the focus of a good makeup look. Think about all the products that are eye-centric: eyeshadows, liners, mascara, brow pencils, et cetera. As such, the skin surrounding your eyes is deserving of its own skin prep. How else will this area shine like it’s supposed to?
Avocado Eye Cream
Avocado Eye Cream is our best eye cream formula to wear under makeup. This Kiehl’s cult classic provides all-day hydration and helps de-puff and brighten. The nourishing formula with avocado oil and shea butter perfectly primes your skin for under-eye concealer, helping it not settle into lines.
Kiehl’s Tip: Don’t rush through eye cream application. Take a small amount of product and rub it between your ring fingers, then tap it onto the eye area. Don’t tug at the skin or quickly rub on the product—even if you’re running late.
3. Apply a Hydrating Serum
Hydro-Plumping Hydrating Serum
Lightweight moisture is a key part of prepping for makeup, regardless of your skin type. Use a hydrating serum to help your makeup go on smoothly. Depending on the formula you choose, it can also help improve skin texture over time, giving you a more even base for your makeup. Try Hydro-Plumping Hydrating Serum, which is formulated with glycerin and epidermal hydration filler. It helps visibly plump the skin to smooth the appearance of uneven skin texture and fine lines while also improving the look of dullness (something that never complements a makeup look).
4. Choose The Right Moisturizer
Applying makeup to dry skin is a recipe for disaster, which explains why moisturizer is a must for those dealing with dryness. But it’s important even if you have oily skin. In that event, the right moisturizer can actually help minimize shine. Case in point: Ultra Facial Oil-Free Moisturizer. In addition to hydrating, it helps keep your skin shine-free for up to 24 hours. Further, it offers an instant cooling effect and helps visibly reduce pores over time.
If oiliness isn’t a concern, we recommend our fan-favorite Ultra Facial Cream instead. This moisturizer with olive-derived squalane and glycerin provides instant and lasting hydration, balancing even the skin’s driest areas with 2.3X more moisture. It also has an ultra-lightweight texture that won’t feel heavy under your makeup.
While we’re on the topic of moisture, it’s something your lips need too. Especially if you plan to wear lipstick because it will cling to any dry spots. Use Lip Balm #1 to soothe and smooth dry lips. It has a moisturizing formula with squalane and vitamin E and is available in three scents (cranberry, mint, and mango), plus an unscented variety.
5. Finish With SPF
If there’s one step you absolutely need to follow before you can focus on how to apply makeup, it’s using sunscreen. This non-negotiable part of your routine is responsible for defending your skin against damaging UV rays and, with certain formulas, pollution. As the last step in your skincare routine, before you’ve applied any makeup (including skin primer), smooth on your SPF. Reach for Super Fluid Daily UV Defense SPF 50+ to help protect your skin from environmental aggressors, including UVA and UVB rays and pollution. The formula with vitamin E is suitable for all skin types, non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores), and leaves behind a matte finish.
Do You Need To Use Face Primer?
If your skin is properly prepped, your makeup will apply smoothly without primer. With that said, it doesn’t mean we think you should skip priming altogether. Face makeup primer helps the rest of your products (foundation, concealer, and so on) last longer without fading or creasing, which is something skincare typically won’t do. Priming is an especially important step if you have greasy skin, as the oil can shorten the lifespan of your makeup. To ensure your look looks amazing and stays that way, follow your sunscreen with skin primer. Smooth a small dollop over your face, then apply your makeup.
Kiehl’s Tip: When wearing primer, come time to remove your makeup, we recommend double cleansing. First, use an oil cleanser to wash away your primer, foundation, and other makeup. Then, follow with a foaming cleanser to get completely clean.