I started really “getting into” makeup in early 2016. I wore makeup on and off before in my life, but my skills were mediocre at best. For comparison, here’s a photo of what my makeup looked like back in 2015:
No, for reals, here is a photo of me in late 2015. You can see that I don’t have smooth foundation application, my eyeliner is wonky, my brows aren’t great, and my blush is a little too much.
Now, for comparison, here are a couple looks that I did within the last couple of months:
I even felt confident enough to do my own makeup on my wedding day last November.
Nowhere near perfect, but I think my skills have made significant progress. I have really loved using makeup as a creative outlet and hobby, and I have learned a lot during this time of working on my knowledge and skills. The following are some tips that have helped my own makeup skills go from mediocre to pretty awesome.
Skin care! Your makeup will not go on properly if you don’t do proper skincare, especially moisturizing, even if you have oily skin! You can check out this post for more details on my skincare routine for oily/combo skin with aging concerns.
BROWS. Having really nice (and bold) brows just changes your whole face and makes you look put together even with minimal makeup elsewhere. Get them shaped or shape them yourself, and then fill and define with a good product. One mistake I used to make (and still do sometimes because I’m using up old products) is using a brow shade that is too warm and reddish. My favorite brow product is Anastasia Dipbrow in Ash Brown. I apply this with an angled brow brush and then blend and groom with a spoolie (my brow brushes have spoolies on the other end). This product is a little expensive but I swear to you it will last FOREVER. I’ve barely dented mine and I’ve had it for almost a year. It’s easy to overdo this product, go light at first until you get the hang of it.
CLEAR LIPLINER! If you line your lips JUST OUTSIDE the lip line with a clear lipliner, this will prevent your lipstick from bleeding or migrating outside the lines. Urban Decay, Rimmel, and Sephora’s store brand all make good clear lipliner. (Side note: I once had an Ulta employee tell me that they had never heard of clear lipliner and that the product did not exist. Until I found it on the shelf. O.o)
Dermaplaning (otherwise known as shaving your face). That old myth that if a cis-girl shaves her face it grows back thicker is JUST A MYTH. Using a small, inexpensive eyebrow razor to shave your cheeks, upper lip and chin (this is known as “dermaplaning”) not only removes the peach fuzz, but exfoliates your skin as well, allowing for smooth makeup application. (This is, of course, if you want a bare face! Nothing wrong with facial hair!) Do this in a downward motion, the direction of hair growth. You can get a six-pack of good eyebrow razors for this purpose here.
Quality products: Regardless of price, using quality products is the way to get the look you want. Read reviews, test products in store, and make sure you’re using the best stuff you can get. It makes makeup a joy and a luxury. As I said—this is regardless of price!!! Many of my favorite products are drugstore-level—I think the biggest difference between drugstore and mid-range or high-end brands is that drugstore products have more unpredictable quality. Some are AMAZING and some are GARBAGE. This holds true for mid- and high-end products as well, but it’s more of a problem with drugstore brands.
BLENDING. You need to BLEND THE SHIT OUT OF EVERYTHING. Blend, blend, and when you think you’re done, blend some more. Having obvious lines between colors is a no-no—good blending makes your makeup look seamless and beautiful. When I blend my contour/blush/highlight, I use small circular motions to gently “buff” the product in; when blending eyeshadow, use a small blending brush so that you are only blending the EDGES of the color. If you use broad strokes over the whole area it will end up muddy.
Use a light hand and build up product rather than starting with a lot. For most of my products, I just TOUCH the brush to the product and start from there. It is much easier to add more than try to deal with the hot mess when you put on too much. This can be a issue especially when you start using higher quality, more pigmented products. If you’re used to cheap eyeshadow, the mid-range stuff is really easy to overdo.
Choose long-wearing products. You don’t want your lovely artwork to start chipping away within two hours! Some of my favorite long-wearing, bulletproof products:
- Estee Lauder Doublewear Foundation
- Kat Von D Lock-It Powder Foundation
- L’Oreal Double Extend Beauty Tubes Mascara
- Beauty Bakerie GELato Eyeliner
- Beauty Bakerie Lip Whip
Know your undertones and match your base products well. Your foundation should match your neck and chest, not your face, and not your wrist. You may decide that you look best in color cosmetics that match your undertone, but in my experience, with color products it’s not important that they match your undertone but rather that the coordinate or complement each other well. I enjoy doing both warm-toned and cool-toned eye looks, but I always make sure that my blush and lipstick are warm or cool to go with the eye look.
Don’t feel like you need to do EVERYTHING to be on-trend or do makeup “right”. Do things the way you feel that they look best on YOU. For example, I never line my lower lash line or put eyeshadow under my eye because it just does not look good on me, and I only lightly contour my cheeks—nose and under-chin contouring looks awful on me.
You have no flaws, you’re perfect just the way you are. You just might have some things that don’t go with a look you’re trying to achieve. For me, I have a lot of ruddiness on the lower part of my cheeks–not at all where blush/contouring would look good. So I cover up the redness so that I can create a look that I like. I also have a large bump of scar tissue in my right eyelid because of a terrible bout of periorbital cellulitis (while it was not caused by makeup, this is why I am SUPER careful about not sharing eyeliner or mascara, not using questionable cheap eye products, and by adhering to the rules about getting rid of mascara in 3 months). This means that I’ve had to figure out ways to do my eyeshadow and eyeliner that are different from the standard recommendations to achieve a similar effect. What I’m trying to say is, do what works for you, and don’t think of it as covering flaws. Think of it as artistic expression!
White Eyeshadow Base: To make vivid colors “pop”, apply a white eyeshadow base before you apply the color. NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk is the most popular I’ve seen, and is what I use (it’s in a fat pencil).
Color Inspiration: If you’re looking for new color combinations to make the most of a new palette or you’re not sure which colors go well together, search “color palette” on Pinterest and you will find a lot of unexpected color combos that look great together.
Learn from experts! So much of what I’ve learned in the past year has come from the r/makeupaddiction on Reddit. I also love looking at beauty blogs, Instagram, and especially Youtube. My favorite Youtube channels are Wayne Goss, Kathleen Lights, Stephanie Nicole, Kimberly Clark, and Tati. Search Youtube for “makeup tutorials” or “GRWM (Get Ready With Me)” videos to get tips and ideas.
My darlings, I hope this was helpful! Have a beautiful week!