Skin Balancing Tips from Makeup Artist Aliesh Pierce

Have you noticed that there are areas of your face that are darker or lighter than others? For some women, the inside of the face can be lighter, and for many of us, the areas that get more exposure to the sun can look darker. If this happens to you, you may have also noticed that when you use your normal foundation shades, it doesn’t adequately correct the discoloration. But there is a technique that, instead of correcting variations in skin tone, works with your skin’s multiple tones for balance and a more natural look.

Skin Tone - Skin Balancing Tips
How to Use Makeup to Even Out Your Skin Tone. Skin Balancing Tips from Makeup Artist Aliesh Pierce. Photo: Laflor/E+ (Getty Images)

When you use just one shade that matches the majority of your skin, the shade that matches one area will not lighten or darken the other. (“The lighter areas will look muddy with a dark foundation and darker areas turn ashy [with a light foundation],” says makeup artist Aliesh Pierce, “at least that’s what I find with brown skin tones.”) It’s a good idea to have two shades on hand anyway since our skin tends to get darker in the summer and is lighter during the winter months.

The technique that follows is to not used to make light areas darker or dark areas lighter. “I work with what’s already there, what’s natural,” says Pierce, author of Treating Diverse Pigmentation, a book in a series for professional aestheticians, “balancing the two colors, so there’s less of a separation.”

1. Find the right two shades of foundation. To balance the uneven skin tone, you’ll need two shades of foundation (one lighter and one darker than your skin tone). Some makeup artists use these foundation shades to correct opposing areas of skin discolorations, but Pierce tries to “harmonize” the colors. “I mean we’re all two-toned,” she says. “This approach just minimizes the difference.”

First, do the stripe test – apply three foundations that are close to your skin tone in a line starting on your cheek and down to the jawline. (This is same the test that is usually done to find the foundation that matches your skin tone.) This will help you determine the foundation shades you will need to minimize the skin discolorations.

Pierce sometimes uses three different shades of foundation to harmonize the tones in the skin. She uses BB creams so that the skin shows through and adds contours or low lights with a cream or powder. While a typical approach might be to use a shade to lighten the darker areas and a dark shade to deepen the lighter areas, Pierce does the opposite.

2. Apply the lighter shade to the lighter areas on the face. Pierce uses a light color in the center of the face – the forehead, down the nose, under the eyes and nasolabial folds (laugh lines).

3. Apply the darker shade to darker areas. Pierce uses the darker shade along the hairline (where we often get discoloration from the sun) and under the cheekbones to contour the cheeks. On the chin, she uses a mix of all three colors.

4. Blend the areas well with a damp sponge to avoid any demarcation lines.

If you have dark circles under the eyes, you will need to color correct with the right pigments that cancel out the color under the eyes, says Pierce. Often women try to correct this darkness under the eyes with regular concealer, but it’s really the deoxygenated blood underneath the thin skin that makes the area look bluish-gray or green. So you need to cancel out this color with an orange-based concealer/color corrector and then go over the area with foundation.

5. Finishing touches. Once the skin is even, you can use foundation or powder in your natural shade. To finish the look, Pierce uses a mica-free high definition (HD) powder with mineral particles of silica to avoid muting the vibrant tones of richly pigmented skin.

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