Applying makeup correctly and having flawless, long wearing results starts long before you put the first hint of color on your face. Preparation using the right products for both cleansing and moisturizing as well as the proper concealer and foundation is key in order for you to achieve overall success. We will explore the 7 essential steps in flawless makeup application, recommending the best products for each step as we go. From cleansing to adding the final touches, you will have a flawless complexion in no time.

Step 1: Cleanse To start, pick a quality cleanser that will gently exfoliate the skin, this helps clean deep in your pores and remove dead skin cells from the surface. This also allows for all other products to go on smoothly and evenly, preventing blotching or clumping of in any particular areas of your face when it is time for makeup application. A great exfoliating cleanser, for all skin types, is Peter Thomas Roth’s Botanical Buffing Beads. This product is gentle enough for use twice a day without stripping your face of its natural oils.

Step 2: Moisturize Next, you need to apply a great moisturizer that is well-suited for your skin type. If you have dry skin, look for a product that has a time-release component and will keep renewing itself throughout the day. If you have oily skin, look for an oil-free moisturizer that will not make your skin too oily. If you have combination skin, look for an oil-free moisturizer and a moisture booster to use on the drier areas of your face. This will help each area of your face stay hydrated at the correct levels all day long. A great moisturizer for dry skin is, Philosophy’s Hope In A Jar for dry, sensitive skin. I recommend Kinerase Clear Skin Moisture Light, for oily skin, it leaves a nice dewy finish on the face. Finally, for combination skin, Oasis Face Hydrating Treatment and Oasis 24 Hydrating Booster by H20+ are my picks for an effective moisturizer and hydrator. *Tip: The best time to apply your moisturizer is immediately after you have washed your face and patted it dry slightly. Your face should still be damp when you apply the moisturizer; this is when it is absorbed best.

Step 3: Prime or Mattify After you let the appropriate moisturizer soak into your pores for a few minutes (at least 3 minutes) then it is time to put on your primer. A primer helps with preparing your skin for makeup application by making your face smooth and even as a painting canvas, in terms of texture. This is a great choice for someone with dry skin, because it is water-based and also hydrating to the skin, which will prevent your makeup for looking ashy. However, if you have combination or oily skin, a mattifyer would be a better choice for you at this step. A mattifyer is a product that also evens out the texture of your skin for makeup application, but has the added benefit of absorbing excess oil. This is important so your makeup will never look oily and greasy. A primer I like is Vincent Longo’s Water Canvas Base Primer, it keeps your makeup from feathering or creasing because of its water-gel base. For a mattifyer, Peter Thomas Roth’s Anti-Mattifying Gel provides great results and helps makeup wear smoothly for hours.

Step 4: Camouflage This step is optional because it is only for those of you who have severe hyperpigmentation of the face, severe acne scarring, or extreme bags under one’s eyes. Camouflage is just that, it is a camouflage that is more serious than a concealer and is used to completely hide an issue on someone’s face. If you need to use this product, just dab a bit, with a makeup wedge, on to the exact spots you need it. With the makeup wedge, gently blend the camouflage in, feathering it toward the edges of your face. Since this is a heavier product, you do not want to use a lot. A camouflage that has received rave reviews is Benefit Cosmetics’ Erase Paste. It is great, because not only does it hide; it also brightens by reflecting light off of that area of the face.

Step 5: Conceal A concealer is also an optional step, but one that more of you are likely to use. Concealers work well for hiding minor facial issues, such as age spots, slight hyperpigmentation, acne scars, etc. As with the camouflage, you only want to use a small amount. I recommend using a concealer brush for this step, as the small brush is very precise and you will be able to put it exactly where you want it. Just dab a little in the areas that you need it and then blend it into your skin with a makeup wedge. If you used a camouflage first, then gently go back over those areas and blend again. You do not want your makeup to look as if it is standing up off of your face. A concealer that I use faithfully is LORAC’s Coverup, they have shades for a wide variety of complexions.

Step 6: Foundation Next is the foundation, this is the product where many get confused, since there are so many different types. For dry skin, a liquid foundation or crème foundation will work best. To apply, get a clean makeup wedge and dab a generous amount (but not too much!) on your forehead, the bridge of your nose, chin and cheeks. Next, start to blend the foundation, in a small dabbing motion, into your concealer and into the rest of your face. You should constantly be working in the direction that is toward the outer edges of your face. NARS Liquid Balanced Foundation or Laura Mercier’s Silk Crème Foundation are sure bets. For combination or oily skin, an oil-free pressed powder would be best. Repeat the same steps as above, except use a foundation brush instead and go in a swirling motion toward the edges of your face. In either case, when finished applying the foundation, lightly dab excess off of your face using a makeup puff or cotton balls. This will give you a more natural look. LORAC’S Oil-Free Wet/Dry Powder Makeup is a great choice.

Step 7: Highlights “Highlights” is what I consider to be the remaining parts of makeup application. This includes eyeshadow, mascara, blush, lip gloss, and/or lipstick. These items can be put on in moderation or not at all, as they are only the icing on the cake.

For eyeshadow, less is always more, especially if you are new to makeup. Using a soft eyeshadow brush, gently sweep your eyelids with a color you have chosen. Once you have dipped the brush into the eyeshadow, gently tap the excess off before applying to your face. COLORON Professional offers eyeshadow sets in various color palates, which is very useful when you want to find a shade that is just right for you. For mascara, choose one that matches the color of your hair for the most natural results. Dior DiorShow Mascara is a celebrity favorite because it volumizes, lengthens, and curls lashes all at the same time!

For blush, just a hint should be added to the apple of your cheeks. This is the part of your cheek that sticks out when you smile. Using a blush brush, lightly sweep your brush through the blush, tap off excess, and then gently glide across the apple of your cheek. LANCOME BLUSH SUBTIL-Delicate Oil-Free Powder Blush is a red-carpet staple, because it is nearly impossible to put on too much blush with this product.

For lips, lip gloss is best, it provides a softer finish and longer wear. I do not recommend lip liner, even if you have thin lips, because it can run and make you have an off-center lip line. My pick for lip gloss is CARGO’s XXX Shine Lip Gloss, it adds just enough color and stays in place for hours. From cleansing to highlight, I know you are well on your way to applying makeup like a pro. As with anything else, makeup application takes practice and with time you will get better and more efficient. Don’t give up if you don’t get it the first time because soon you will have the flawless complexion of your dreams.