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How to apply stick foundation, the travel-friendly face base


Westman Atelier’s Vital Skin Full Coverage Foundation Stick is popular for its ability to replace both liquid foundation and concealer. Photo (detail) / Westman Atelier
Westman Atelier’s Vital Skin Full Coverage Foundation Stick is popular for its ability to replace both liquid foundation and concealer. Photo (detail) / Westman Atelier
Stick foundations are a godsend for fast makeup application that offers full coverage, just where you need it.

While we often think of foundation as a liquid formula, stick foundations were actually some of the first developed. These thick, emollient foundations were commonly used in theater and performance as stage makeup, thanks to their coverage and staying-power.

As time went on formulation innovation improved and more worthy options were created. In the 90s stick foundations were popular, with Bobbi Brown’s creamy, spreadable, stick foundation a best-seller that is still sought-after today. Its formula has been updated since and now includes light-diffusing particles for a flattering finish that helps control oil and shine.

Stick foundations are great for on-the go coverage, as they pack easily with no risk of messy spillage and application is a breeze without using foundation brushes or other tools. No need for a concealer either, the long-wearing cream sticks generally offer dense full-coverage pigment so a little goes a long way. The shape makes it easy to apply just where you need it, just swipe on and blend with fingers or a brush to achieve full coverage that stays in place well.

The Best Stick Foundations 2024

The Best Stick Foundations (L-R): Anastasia Beverly Hills Beauty Balm Serum Boosted Skin Tint; HOURGLASS Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick; Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick; Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation & Concealer Stick; Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Wear Stick Foundation

This precise application is particularly useful for targeting specific areas that need more coverage, such as blemishes, redness, or uneven skin tone. Doing double duty as a facial contour product, deeper shades can be used to sculpt and define facial features.

One new arrival that has impressed us with its modern, more lightweight formula, is Anastasia Beverly Hills’ just-landed Beauty Balm Serum Boosted Skin Tint. Coming in a wide stick form, the foundation is packed with skincare ingredients and feels silky to apply. It has a more subtle velvet finish and is more sheer and blendable than previous stick options.

Other popular stick foundation options include Hourglass’ Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick, Westman Atelier’s Vital Skin Full Coverage Foundation Stick and Lancôme’s Teint Idole Ultra Wear Stick Foundation.

How to apply stick foundation

Start with a clean, well-moisturised face. This helps create a smooth base and ensures the foundation adheres well to your skin. If needed, apply a primer suited to your skin type to improve the foundation’s longevity and create an even surface.

Choose a shade matched to your skin-tone. Using the stick foundation, draw lines or dots directly onto your face, starting with a small amount as you can build it up as you go. Focus on areas that need more coverage, such as the forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin.  If the foundation feels too stiff, you can warm it up on the back of your hand before applying. This makes it creamier and easier to blend.

Use a dense foundation brush to blend the foundation. Work in circular or stippling motions for an even finish. Pay extra attention to blending around the hairline, jawline, and nose to avoid visible lines.

If you prefer, you can use your fingers to blend the foundation. The warmth can help melt the product into your skin for a natural look.

A damp beauty sponge can also be used to blend, pat and press the product into the skin, rather than dragging it.

If you have oily skin or prefer a matte finish, set your foundation with a translucent or setting powder. Use a fluffy brush to lightly dust the powder over your face.


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