You’re beauty savvy. You know the trends, the brands – even the names of a few celebrity makeup artists. Your makeup bag is as eclectic and star-studded as a Hollywood after-party, with luscious $30 lipsticks and luxe Chanel compacts rubbing shoulders with good old Maybelline mascara. But in the privacy of your boudoir (okay, the family bathroom) can you honestly say you apply products like a pro?
In the spirit of back to school, let’s start with a pop quiz.
First, apply your makeup as you usually do. Then grab a hand mirror and step outside into daylight.
1. What’s the first thing you notice? Your skin, or your makeup? If your foundation doesn’t match, it can look thick, gray, orangey or chalky. Does it blend seamlessly, or end like a mask at your jaw line?
2. Does your concealer do its job and conceal flaws, or does it announce its own presence by being too light, too dark or too glaringly obvious? For instance, have you replaced those under-eye circles with reverse raccoon eyes?
3. Does your blush look like your real color rising to the surface? Or does it look overly bright and unnatural?
4. Do your lashes look soft and defined? Or does daylight reveal lumps and clumps of mascara?
5. If you’re wearing eye shadow and liner, do they subtly harmonize to bring out the beauty of your eyes? Or does your liner look harsh, uneven, or veer upward at the corners? (Only Halle Berry looks good as a Catwoman!)
6. Does your lipstick define your smile and make your teeth sparkle? Or does it look too bright, too dark or garish? Does it feather at the edges? Worse still, do you have a visible outline of dark liner? (Repeat after me: the ’70s are over.)
LESSON ONE: FOUNDATION AND CONCEALER
As the name implies, this is the foundation of your look. Get it right and everything else will look better. Get it wrong, and everything else will look worse.
The first step is choosing the right shade and formula (oil-free or moisturizing, liquid, compact or stick). Although the beauty aisle of your drugstore is crammed with excellent concealers and foundations, begin your search in a place where you can touch, sample and experiment: your local Sephora or department store. Once you find the perfect foundation, you can check out the lower-priced “mass brands” to see if you can match it, bottle to bottle. (For instance, the same company that makes Lancome also makes L’Oreal and Maybelline.)
Makeup Artist Leza Ann Rawlins offers some very smart advice on choosing foundation.
“Never sample the color on your hand or cheek and rub it in. Instead, apply a one-quarter to one-half-inch vertical strip across your jaw line and let it dry thoroughly, since foundation will dry two to three times darker than the color in the bottle, once it oxidizes,” Rawlins said. “If the dried foundation matches the area, you’ve found your perfect color.”
Think your skin is oily, but find oily-skin formulas too dry? As Makeup Artist Margina Dennis explains, “getting the right formula for your skin type is part of the challenge of getting your makeup to last. I find that many people think they have oily skin, when they don’t. Skin will produce oil when it is dehydrated. So if you don’t have large pores and skin the texture of an orange peel, then chances are you are not an oily skin type!”
Most pros recommend experimenting with warmer, yellow-based foundations for the simple reason that they look more natural than pink-based foundations, on almost every woman.
For concealer, choose a shade just slightly lighter than your foundation. Again, go for a yellow-toned shade vs. a concealer that is overtly too white. Consider purchasing two similar shades. In summer, when your skin is darker, you blend them together to get your perfect match.
On days when you’ve gone for a run and your skin looks flushed and gorgeous, you can get by with very minimal foundation. Dab on concealer where you need it, and apply a good moisturizer with sunscreen. (Pro tip: mix a bit of foundation with your moisturizer for do-it-yourself tinted moisturizer.)
When you want that flawless, perfectly made-up face, follow these simple dos and don’ts:
Do apply concealer with a specially angled concealer brush. Fingers work fine, but they can’t dab concealer into the corner of your eye, or beside your nostril, the way a good brush can.
Don’t rub off concealer in an attempt to blend it in. Pat or brush it on, and if it matches properly, let it be.
Do wait a few minutes after moisturizing before you apply foundation.
Don’t neglect basic skincare. Leza constantly reminds her clients to cleanse, tone and moisturize skin twice daily and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate by drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day.
Do use concealer on your entire under-eye area, especially the corners of your eyes.
Don’t cover pimples which concealer; this will actually draw more attention to them. Dab on foundation instead.
Do set your makeup with a dusting of loose powder (at home) or a pressed powder compact (on the go). Avoid translucent powders; contrary to their name, they can look chalky and unnatural. Choose a yellow-toned powder and dust it on with a big poufy powder brush or with a velour puff, using the technique Leza calls “the press and roll technique.”
LESSON TWO: BLUSH BASICS
When shopping, look for shades that resemble your own natural color when you’ve run up a flight of stairs. It’s fine – and fun – to have more than one shade in your makeup collection. Some days, you’ll want to go natural. At night or on days when the blahs hit, brush on a slightly brighter shade for an instant lift.
Margina achieves a natural look by layering powder blush over a cream or gel blush.
“Start by applying the cream or gel to the apple of the cheeks – the highest, roundest part of your cheeks when you smile,” Margina said. “Then apply a coordinating powder color with a brown undertone to your cheek bones and set it all with powder.”
Do toss away the tiny brush that comes with powder blush. Invest in a good blush brush. It should be large and very rounded.
Don’t let your blush clash with your lipcolor. For instance, don’t wear bronze-toned blush with a very pink lipstick. This mistake is more common than you think!
Do touch up your blush throughout the day. It will give you an instant lift.
Don’t wear blush around your eyes. It looks unhealthy.
Do play with bronzing powder. Brush it on wherever the sun would kiss your face for a lovely, natural glow.
LESSON THREE: EYE MAKEUP
Depending on your style, your schedule, and your mood, you can go very natural or really make a statement with your eyes.
Most women need at least three shadow colors: light, for highlighting, up to the brow. Medium, for the eyelid. And dark, for contouring in the crease, or applied as liner with a damp brush.
On casual days, you can apply a flesh tone over your lid.
“At night,” Leza Rawlins adds, “I love to intensify the colors using deep, rich browns, wines, grays, greens or black. Any of these colors can give you a smoky look.”
Most of us can’t think straight in the morning, let alone apply a straight line of eyeliner. Margina Dennis has an easy trick to perfect liner every time.
“Hold the eyelid taut and use a thin, firm flat brush to apply your liner,” she said. “Press the brush right at the base of the lashes. If you want a thicker line, go back over the area right above it.”
Applied correctly, eyeliner can open up and emphasize your eyes, especially i
f they are deep-set. Are your eyes close together? Don’t line them corner to corner. Start mid-eye and line to just the outer corner.
Contrary to popular belief, most women can wear black mascara. However, blondes who want a natural look can choose brown, which also works well to fill in brows.
Always apply mascara from the base of the lash to the tip. For top lashes, use a rolling upward sweep. On days you expect to cry (weddings, Mondays, dates fraught with drama) choose waterproof mascara. On hot, muggy days, water resistant is a better choice.
Do experiment with different colors. Step back frequently from the mirror to get the true effect.
Don’t pump the mascara wand into the tube. Doing so can introduce air and dry out your product. Instead, twist the wand in the tube-and be sure to swipe off the excess mascara at the tip of the wand, before applying.
Do experiment with eyeliner-liquid, soft pencil, or smudgy powder.
Don’t apply eyeliner to the inside rim of your eye. It’s not only dangerous, it makes your eyes look smaller.
LESSON FOUR: LIPCOLOR.
Most women choose shades from the same color family every time: pink, red, neutral or berries. Maybe this season, you’ll experiment! Try toning down or amping up your favorite color with lip pencils. Add a gloss of pink to that safe neutral. Or try red lipstick, tamed down with a swipe of brown.
Do try applying lipliner AFTER lipstick, as Bobbi Brown suggests.
Don’t line your lips with a darker shade, or draw beyond your lip line to attempt the illusion of larger lips. Neither trick works in the real world, where most of us, unfortunately, live.
Do remember these simple guidelines: dark shades make lips look smaller. Light shades make them look bigger.
Don’t wear lipcolor too scarily dark for your skintone. You know who you are. Stop it.
Do experiment, play and express yourself! If you’re stuck in a beauty rut, go shopping with a girlfriend and ask her to pick a shade or two for you. You may be very pleasantly surprised.