Forget what you think you know about foundation—it’s come a long way since the cakey, masklike stuff your mom used to wear. “Modern ones feel as lightweight as moisturizer,” says celebrity makeup artist Troy Surratt, who has worked with Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez. “Celebs look so great on the red carpet because they’re usually wearing foundation. It makes anyone’s skin look flawless,” he says. Here’s how to get in on the miracle.

Step 1: Find your perfect color

“Test foundation on your jawline and check it in the daylight,” says CoverGirl makeup guru Pat McGrath. “The color is correct if it disappears without blending.” Finding the right shade at the drugstore can be harder, but Surratt gives this sneaky tip: “If you can’t afford to splurge on foundation, get a beauty adviser at a department store to help you pick the perfect color, and ask for a sample to take home. Then bring it to the drugstore and look for the closest match.”

Step 2: Prep your skin

For the perfect canvas, make sure your skin is clean and moisturized. “Wait five minutes before you apply foundation to let moisturizer sink in,” says makeup pro Rachel Goodwin, who works with Emma Stone and Jessica Biel. Primer is a skippable step unless your makeup has to last through a late night. Or use it alone on lazy days as a quick complexion smoother. “Primer can minimize pores and mattify your face,” says Surratt.

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