How to Get Airbrushed Skin without an Airbrush

Whether you’re getting dolled up for your next Zoom meeting or heading out for a socially-distanced date night, we’re all still sporting our favorite makeup looks from time to time, even amidst a global pandemic. The airbrushed skin makeup look is a huge trend that everyone is always trying to achieve, but most folks don’t have the time (or the money) to invest in an expensive airbrush machine.

The reason that airbrush makeup foundation is so popular is that it basically looks invisible on the skin. “Airbrushed skin implies an ease and weightlessness, almost as if there was no makeup used,” explains Sébastien Tardif, an internationally-acclaimed makeup artist and founder of Veil Cosmetics. “It is a form of perfected no-makeup makeup foundation/concealer that actual airbrush makeup can create—it's like it's been sprayed on without any thickness felt or perceived on the skin’s surface.”

Thankfully, you don’t actually need a pricey airbrush kit to be able to achieve a flawless airbrush makeup look. “It is all about having a round, fluffy head hair makeup brush that enables pigment to spread, without streaking or wasting product,” explains Tardif. “You want to place the color pigment first to the face, then tap in place, or brush up, brush down, or in a circle until makeup has blended from view but has concealed imperfections.” Below, Tardif walks us through simple steps to achieve the airbrush makeup look with a brush.


First, you need to prep the skin.

To start off, Tardif suggests making sure that there’s no dead skin, dryness, or dry patches left on the face, so that makeup can glide onto the skin seamlessly. “I don’t bake concealers and foundations, but I do like to ‘bake’ my skincare on a complexion that requires a face oil or balmy moisturizer to give it a chance to penetrate into the skin and melt away those dry patches and flakes,” explains Tardif. “I then remove and buff the excess moisture and dead skin cells using a sponge.”

Next, you’ll want to apply a primer to smooth out any fine lines, wrinkles, and imperfections—this is key to achieving an airbrush makeup look without an airbrush. “I love using our Sunset Light Primer Serum to achieve an airbrushed look because it adds a bit of that moisture and extra glide into makeup, especially if it's not an oil-free foundation (I like to pre-mix some Sunset Light with foundation so it is my mixing base),” says Tardif.

The primer will help settle the foundation smoothly without leaving a sticky, oily surface, which is a problem with more oily types of foundations. “These types of oily foundations tend to just reflect too much light, and then you’ll feel like you need to use a powder and it will move later on during the day,” explains Tardif.  “Sunset Light acts as a skin regulator or foundation regulator in the sense that it will keep the oil/moisture needed in place, keep the cushion that was needed for a dryer skin type, and then leave you with a nice, smooth surface—the blurring and smoothing is the ultimate tool for an airbrush-like complexion.”

Next step: apply the correct foundation.

To achieve an airbrush makeup look, you want to choose a foundation that will look weightless on the skin. “I love to use liquid foundations or concealers that are water-based, which is key to getting everything to blend and sit pretty on the skins’ surface—you won’t need powder later because a powder finish will kill the illusion of skin,” explains Tardif. “Liquid formulas, like the Sunset Skin Liquid Foundation and Complexion Fix Concealer allow me to keep it all very fresh-looking, giving that radiance that skin would naturally have, because powder never ends up looking like radiant skin, no matter how translucent they say it is.” Unfortunately, most wax-based or full-coverage foundation formulas end up needing powder to be set or have a powder finish to them, which never looks like skin nor gives an airbrushed effect.

Don’t forget your tools.

When applying your water-based foundation and concealer to achieve an airbrush finish, you want to use a fluffy-tip type of brush, like the Dual Ended Concealer and Foundation Brush. “I like to put the makeup on the back of my hand first or apply a small amount to the face, and then dab it into place with the desired tip,” says Tardif. “For more detailed work, I will use a smaller rounder fluffy tip, and if I want a more liberal application, I use the larger fluffy tip—that way, it doesn’t leave any streaks.” This allows you to repeat the process for another layer (if you desire), without looking thick, like a heavy layer of makeup.

This type of brush, with a fluffy head of hair, is crucial to achieving an airbrush finish look because it doesn’t streak the foundation, unlike regular flat foundation brushes. “Flat foundation or concealer brushes always leave a trace or trail around them or within the brush stroke itself,” explains Tardif. “Even the stippling that you could do with a foundation sponge leaves marks or prints, without mentioning the never-ending sort of tapping required. Whereas with the fluffy-tip brush, it just disappears as you go along.”

Touch up if need be.

If you do find that you need a bit of a touch up throughout the day, opt for a lightweight mattifying product over the heavy setting powders. “Airbrush makeup implies that it looks smooth—if you’re in need of a little touch up because your skin got a little oily later on in the day, the Automatte Mattifying Balm will not separate makeup that's been applied, unlike a touch up with powder,” explains Tardif. “Ultimately, Automatte is a universal mattifying balm because it goes on completely clear and keeps the complexion intact, without looking like you added on another layer of makeup to the skin.”

Bottom line: You can easily achieve the airbrush makeup look without an expensive, time-consuming airbrush machine—all you need are the right tools and techniques to nail the no-makeup makeup look.

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