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How to Prep Your Skin Before Applying Makeup

Written by Stylist Monica

Photo: Amelia J Moore Photography

Applying makeup is fun and being able to show off your creative skills is everything! Foundation, contour, blush, eyeshadow and lipstick are some of the many steps you’ll have to take to create a flawless look. However, what many women don’t think about are the steps that should be taken to prepare the skin before applying their makeup.

Skincare is an important regimen for many women and should be done 1-2 times daily. Preparing the skin will ensure that your makeup goes on smoothly and evenly, and most importantly, it will help your makeup last all day and stay in place! As I always like to say, “The better your skin looks, the better your makeup looks.” For the best possible end result, take the following steps before applying your makeup!


First things first: Choose a face cleanser that is suitable for your skin type. Whether your skin is oily, dry, or combination, you are guaranteed to find something that works for you. It’s very important to apply makeup to a fresh, clean face!

Before applying your makeup, grab your favorite cleanser that supports your skin type. Wet your skin by splashing some lukewarm water onto your face. Using a dime-sized amount of product, massage your cleanser gently all over your skin. Do this for around 60 seconds, moving your hands in a circular motion to allow your cleanser to foam up and have enough time to really work. Rinse thoroughly using lukewarm water, then pat your face dry with a clean towel. You don’t want to rub the skin as this may irritate your face, leaving it red and sensitive. 

Photo: BeatBox Portraits


Many women overlook using a toner, but it should be as important as cleaning your skin and deserves to be added as a step in your beauty routine. The purpose of a toner is to wipe away any leftover dead skin cells, makeup, or other bacteria that your cleanser might have missed.


I highly recommend avoiding toners that list alcohol as the main ingredient, as these are typically too drying for skin. Grab a cotton pad and squeeze a bit of toner onto it, then gently swipe it all over your face. I personally like to start from the center of my face and move the cotton pad in an up-and-outward motion. The idea here isn’t to scrub the skin, but instead, to gently wet the face with the toner. At times you will notice some leftover foundation on the cotton ball after applying toner. This is evidence that you didn’t get all of your dead skin cells or leftover makeup off with cleanser alone!


Personally, this is my favorite thing to do in my own skincare regimen! Once or twice a week, you should exfoliate your skin to get rid of any build-up. If your skin is red and feels raw or sensitive, you are probably irritating your skin by exfoliating too often. On the other hand, if your skin looks dull and doesn’t feel buttery smooth, you probably need to exfoliate a bit more often. 

You can exfoliate using your fingers or a gentle facial exfoliating brush. Gently massage the exfoliator cleaner into your skin using circular motions. Always be sure to clean your face brush thoroughly and let it air dry before using it again. If you reuse it without properly rinsing it off, you may end up rubbing old bacteria all over your face next time. This could cause your face to break out—no thanks! Keep in mind that not all exfoliators have the same grain, and a smaller grain isn't necessarily less effective than a scrub with larger grains. I prefer to use gentle exfoliators with smaller grains for my face and thicker, larger grains for the body. 

Photo: Tara & Ryan Photography


Women often have a hard time choosing the right moisturizer for their skin type. I have struggled with this issue myself! With that said, I always recommend getting a sample before buying an entire jar of moisturizer. My favorite stores for buying skincare items are Sephora and Ulta, where you can find a range of low and high-end beauty products that fit your skin type and budget! Ideally you will have two moisturizers: a lighter-weight version with SPF for the day, and one for the evening that is a bit thicker and heavier. Before applying your makeup, you will want to use your day time moisturizer. I highly recommend choosing a day time moisturizer with at least SPF 15 to protect your skin from the sun.

The best way to apply your moisturizer is to gently press the moisturizer into your skin using your finger tips. Allow the moisturizer to soak into your skin before you move on with your makeup prep routine. Give it a good 3-5 minutes to make sure that your skin is ready for your first actual makeup step: primer.

If you struggle with breakouts and/or have oily skin, look for an oil-free moisturizer that is non-comedogenic. These are recommended by dermatologists and are great for helping prevent clogged pores. You can look for thicker creams if you have dry skin, but keep in mind that a thicker cream will most likely also give you a more dewy look. Most women with dry skin honestly prefer this—it creates glowing, brighter-looking skin without looking sweaty!


After following these steps and preparing your skin, you can continue to apply your makeup as you normally would. Always keep in mind that the better your skin is prepped before applying makeup, the better your makeup will look in the end...and the longer it will last! This has yet to fail me, and I know with repetition and consistency you will see the difference and never want to go a day without missing any of these steps!


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