Finger Painting for Adults: Why Applying Makeup Without Brushes Is Smarter Than You Think

We all know the rule: Don’t touch your face. In fact, we’ve always viewed makeup application with your fingers as amateur hour—not to mention potentially rife with dirt, bacteria, and blemish-causing oils. But after a chat with makeup artist Daniel Martin, who works with celebs like Kate Bosworth and Greta Gerwig, we’re changing our tune. “The advantage of using your fingers instead of other tools is better placement and control with the products you’re working with,” says Martin. Here, he shares his tips for making the most of your own two hands.

Wash Up

“Applying makeup with your fingers doesn’t necessarily mean you’re spreading bacteria around—just make sure your hands are clean beforehand,” says Martin. To give dirt the boot, try Caldrea Hand Soap in one of its many intoxicating scents. And as for any oiliness getting in the way? “The ‘oil’ on your fingers isn't enough to interfere with product application,” Martin says. Phew.

Pick Your Products

Some products lend themselves well to finger application, while others get the most mileage from a brush, so choose wisely. “Fingers are best for blending cream products rather than powder finishes,” says Martin. So reach for cream versions of eye shadow, blush, and lipstick (as well as foundation and concealer), and let your body heat do the rest. We’re fans of using our hands with Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal Eye and Face, BECCA Beach Tint, and Jouer Crème Eyeshadow. “What makes the products blend better when using your fingers is the warmth it generates to the slip and movement of the product,” explains Martin.

Exert Control

Finger application also lets you control intensity more easily than with a brush. By starting with a small amount of creamy concealer on your fingertips and building layer by layer, for example, you’ll avoid slathering on too much and ending up with the dreaded reverse raccoon-eye effect. (You’ll waste less product that way too.) Martin recommends treating your fingers as you would your brush: “Make sure you dab off any excess product on the back of your other hand before applying to the designated area on the face.” While he doesn’t recommend applying powder-based products with your fingers (they tend to trap excess), you can still use your digits to blend and smudge after application—especially if you apply too much. This technique is especially great with shimmery shadows, like those in Cynthia Rowley Beauty’s five-shade Eyeshadow Palette.

Lastly, if your germophobic tendencies prevent you from putting down the brush, Martin recommends trying synthetic bristled brushes like the certified organic brushes in Antonym Cosmetics’ Eye Kit to replicate the effects of natural, do-it-yourself finger application. Happy blending!

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