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Mary Greenwell's Top Tips For Perfect Base Makeup

Makeup Artist Mary Greenwell Shares Her Secrets to the No-Makeup Makeup Look

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If you ask some of the most renowned makeup artists around the world what the most important aspect of any makeup look is, chances are most of them will say the base. We're talking skin care, foundation, concealer, blush, and highlighter.

However, achieving the perfect base makeup can require a few things: specific products tailored to your skin type, applying these products in the correct order, and, if you're lucky, learning from professional advice. Armed with these as guidance, you can ensure your base makeup is as glowy as possible. You'll also avoid pesky foundation dilemmas, such as makeup pilling (when moisturiser and foundation mix and turn into small balls of product), caking and dry patches, or tidemarks (when there's a defined foundation line on the jaw, which differs in colour to your neck).

Thankfully, we have the expertise of legendary makeup artist Mary Greenwell — who has worked with Princess Diana, Meghan Markle, Cate Blanchett, and Lily James, to name a few — to dish her best tips on achieving the best base possible at home.

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Prep Is Key

"There are a few steps to create a naturally radiant complexion, first starting with skin care that plumps and hydrates," Greenwell told POPSUGAR. She emphasised the importance of finding a routine that works best for your skin type to maintain a radiant complexion. If in doubt, keeping it simple is often the best route.

Before any base is applied, the skin must be clean. Greenwell currently likes Exuviance Gentle Cream Cleanser (£31, originally £46) to effectively remove makeup without stripping the skin. She follows this with 111 Skin Y Theorem Day Cream (£150) because it's extremely lightweight and works with most skin types, but if you're looking for something on a more affordable budget, we love Simple Water Boost Hydrating Gel Cream (£3). For those with dryer skin types, she likes Giorgio Armani Beauty Crema Nera (£280.50).

Prepping the skin for great makeup doesn't just happen the day of. Greenwell stresses the importance of having a good nighttime skincare routine to ensure the skin is well-looked-after. Her current favourite nighttime products are luxurious, to say the least. She uses 111 Skin Celestial Black Diamond Retinol Oil (£150) or Crème de la Mer Renewal Oil (£95), then for extra hydration applies Chanel Hydra Beauty Masque De Nuit Au Camélia Hydrating Oxygenating Overnight Mask (£54) over the top.

Spot-Treat Foundation

Once you've nailed your prep, it's time to start your foundation. Greenwell doesn't recommend just going straight in and applying product over your entire face, but rather spot-treating your foundation. Which, in short, means only applying it on the face where it's needed, such as on blemishes and areas with an uneven skin tone. Many makeup artists (including Meghan Markle's makeup artist, Daniel Martin) suggest taking this approach for an ultranatural finish. "I believe in only applying coverage where needed — if you don't need foundation, just use a creamy, flexible concealer. I like products with a natural satin finish like Iconic London Seamless Concealer (£22) that will lift darkness under the eyes."

The Best Blush Formulas

You've got your skin prep and foundation down, now for a bit of colour. "A soft wash of colour on the cheeks creates healthy radiance, especially with a liquid or cream blush," Greenwell said. She prefers to use cream formulas such as Iconic London Sheer Blush (£18) — just one of the reasons she has chosen to partner with the brand. This consistency is super easy to work with (Greenwell just uses her fingers for application), and it gives the skin a subtle flush of colour. Creamy formulas are great to layer with other products and are super easy to blend out if you're a little too heavy handed at first.

How to Create Natural-Looking Highlighter

Next comes many people's favourite product (particularly if you love a dewy finish): highlighter. Similar to blush, "liquids work well for layering when it comes to highlighter." Greenwell prefers formulas that have a pearlescent finish rather than a glittery one. She applies Iconic London Illuminator (£30) using her fingers to avoid an extreme finish.

If you like your highlighter to be a little more noticeable, "a light dusting of the Iconic London Luminous Powder (£30) over the top of the liquid highlighter adds extra radiance without the powdery finish, because the product is so finely milled," Greenwell said.

However, one of the difficulties when trying to achieve glowing skin is covering any redness, scarring, or uneven texture (so, basically everyone). Greenwell's approach is simple but effective: less is more. "I like to create more of a natural satin finish and add small amounts of highlight just to the high points of the cheekbone and brow bone for a natural radiance," and she avoids the nose altogether. "Radiant skin doesn't always come down to highlighter either — a gorgeous bronzer and blusher can create a lifted and luminous effect without the glitter and shine."

Creating Natural Makeup For the Royal Family

"Everything is down to subtlety when it comes to makeup for the royal family and creating a polished look that's not too made up," she said. Greenwell's key tip for this is using natural shades tailored perfectly for the skin tone, with just slight hints of colour to brighten the face. When it comes to blush, she uses a flush of pink tint with a lightweight formula that melts into the skin, working with the other base products to create a "second skin" effect. This approach applies to lip products, too. For example, Markle uses very strategic and lightly applied lip liner to create natural-looking, fuller lips.

Forget Fancy Tools

Although Greenwell has been a makeup artist to some of the most famous people on the planet, she doesn't rely on fancy tools. This means we can try to replicate some of her best tips at home without needing to buy a whole new kit. "My preference has always been to blend products in with the hands to create a custom coverage and a second-skin finish," she said. Greenwell uses a small concealer brush "to precisely add coverage where needed under the eyes or to target blemishes and pigmentation." If you just can't say goodbye to brushes altogether, she recommends the Shiseido Hanatsubaki Hake Brush (£59) to buff the skin for a "soft focus effect."

Exuviance Gentle Cream Cleanser
Exuviance Gentle Cream Cleanser
Buy Now
111 Skin Y Theorem Day Cream
111 Skin Y Theorem Day Cream
£150
Buy Now
Simple Water Boost Hydrating Gel Cream
Simple Water Boost Hydrating Gel Cream
£3.50
from boots.com
Buy Now
Giorgio Armani Beauty Crema Nera
Giorgio Armani Beauty Crema Nera
£280
Buy Now
111 Skin Celestial Black Diamond Retinol Oil
111 Skin Celestial Black Diamond Retinol Oil
£150
Buy Now
Crème de la Mer Renewal Oil
Crème de la Mer Renewal Oil
£95
Buy Now
Chanel Hydra Beauty Masque De Nuit Au Camélia Hydrating Oxygenating Overnight
Chanel Hydra Beauty Masque De Nuit Au Camélia Hydrating Oxygenating Overnight
£54
Buy Now
Iconic London Seamless Concealer
Iconic London Seamless Concealer
Buy Now
Iconic London Sheer Blush
Iconic London Sheer Blush
Buy Now
Iconic London Illuminator
Iconic London Illuminator
Buy Now
Iconic London Luminous Powder
Iconic London Luminous Powder
Buy Now
Shiseido Hanatsubaki Hake Brush
Shiseido Hanatsubaki Hake Brush
£59
Buy Now
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