by Caroline Goldstein
Makeup is built to last. But even longwear formulas are prone to fading, smearing, and, in some scenarios, may seem to vanish completely over the course of the day. That’s especially true if your habits are fade-, smear-, and vanish-inducing—that’s you, face-touchers, phone-cradlers, lip-lickers, and frequent criers. But beyond habit, our skin itself frequently defies our best-laid plans. Our natural oils can break down base makeup over the course of a long day. If you have naturally watery eyes or oily lids, mascara and eyeliner is bound to transfer or smudge. And if you have any fine lines around your eyes, forehead, or mouth (i.e., if you’re a human being), then you’ll probably discover some amount of creasing in your foundation and concealer.
As annoying as these minor makeup meltdowns can be, they’re not really a big deal. With some smart priming and touch-up tips, you can prevent these meltdowns from happening at all, and easily mitigate the damage when they do.
Start With Skin
Proper makeup application starts with proper skin care. Everyone’s pre-makeup skin care routine differs depending on their skin type, but we should all have a good cleanser, toner, eye cream, moisturizer, and lip balm in our arsenals.
If you’re down to add another step, pat on a serum. During the day, I alternate between a radiance-boosting vitamin C serum and a quenching (but non-greasy) hyaluronic acid serum. And if you’re planning on applying a matte lip color later, it’s a good idea to use a nourishing lip scrub to slough away dead skin cells that can clump under intense pigments or drying formulas.
Top everything off with a lightweight, non-drying SPF. I like Image Prevention+ Daily Matte Moisturizer SPF 32+ for curbing shine on oily skin, or Prevention+ Daily Hydrating Moisturizer SPF 30+ if your skin needs some extra hydration.
No matter what products you’re using, wait a few minutes after applying your skin care before you go in with your makeup. That allows the products to absorb into your skin and prevent smearing, especially if you’re using facial oils as your moisturizer.
Prep + Prime
If longevity is your goal, primers are non-negotiable. Primers give your makeup an even canvas to smooth over and stick to (and stay stuck to all day). At the same time, they can target specific skin concerns, whether that’s mattifying oil, minimizing pores, calming redness, or blurring inconsistencies in your skin’s texture. If you have dry skin, then opt for a priming moisturizer, like this one from Glossier.
And don’t sleep on eyeshadow primers! They’re a must if you have naturally oily lids, or if you’re wearing cream, gel, or liquid shadows or liners. Urban Decay Primer Potion is a classic, but I’ve found NYX eyeshadow primers to be good, budget-friendly options.
Lock It In
After you’ve prepped, primed, and applied your makeup, take some extra steps to lock in your work. As a general rule, dusting powder over liquid protects runnier formulas from smudging. First, sweep a translucent setting powder over your oily T-zone, then under your eyes to set liquid foundation and concealer. (Or you can make like a Kardashian and bake your makeup for even more lasting power.) Following that powder-over-liquid rule, it’s also an option to run a powder eyeshadow over gel or liquid liners, or powder eyeshadow over cream formulas.
Finish everything off with a few mists of setting spray, which keeps your makeup on lock without shifting it around. Shake the bottle, hold it six to eight inches from your face, and spray the product in an X and a T formation over your entire face.
These priming and application methods should keep your makeup exactly where it is—but if you do need to touch up your work, there are some best practices you can follow.
First, soak up any excess oil with blotting papers, rather than applying more powder, which can cake up and crease. If you do encounter any creasing, gently smooth over the offending areas with a damp makeup sponge or your foundation brush. And over the course of the day, spritz your face with a soothing face mist to keep your skin hydrated and your makeup looking fresh (and you feeling awake).
Caroline Goldstein is a commerce beauty writer for Bustle Digital Group, and her freelance writing has appeared in HelloGiggles, Refinery29, Men's Health, and other publications. Based in New York, she received her MFA in Fiction from New York University, where she taught creative writing to undergraduates and wrote her first novel.