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Ten Best Tips For Applying Makeup

Updated on February 19, 2016
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Raye loved playing dress-up so much that she went on to study costume and makeup for her BA, then got an MFA in surface design.

Modern Makeup

The advent of color films and professional makeup was what tipped the practice of wearing makeup from something that only more affluent members of society did on special occasions to something that just about anyone could access. The glamor of Hollywood actors and actresses in the 1930s and 1940s got everyone interested in looking like a movie star and the first modern cosmetic companies were born.

Now most women and even some men wear makeup on a daily basis. I studied costuming and stage makeup in college. Most often, the makeup done for theatrical purposes is "corrective youth makeup" which is a fancy phrase that means "making everyone look as young and aesthetically attractive as possible." This Hub offers up a variety of tips and tricks I've learned over the years for how to apply makeup that work for both everyday and special occasions.

An Eyeshadow Collection for Beginners (or Experts)

252 Ultimate Eyeshadow Palette
252 Ultimate Eyeshadow Palette
The ultimate eye shadow collection, and totally affordable too! Be ready for any look, any outfit, and do it without breaking your budget. Having a selection like this available and a set of brushes, and your shading skills will get better in no time as well.
Here I am, made up for a special event, the Portland Vampire Masquerade Ball.  My makeup that night matched my blue-purple hair.
Here I am, made up for a special event, the Portland Vampire Masquerade Ball. My makeup that night matched my blue-purple hair. | Source

Before You Start

Tip #1 - Allow Yourself Enough Time

There's nothing that sets up a makeup disaster better than being in a rush and not really knowing what you are doing. Applying makeup is a skill, and as with any skills, it takes some practice to learn to do it well and quickly. You never know when something is going to go wrong, and when makeup goes wrong it might be something simple or something that requires starting over entirely. If you are going to try something new with makeup, or use a new product that is really different than whatever you've used before, do a makeup practice run ahead of time.

Tip #2 - Start With a Clean Face

Makeup goes on best over clean skin. Washing your face about a half hour before you are going to start putting on makeup is recommended as then your skin can relax after the washing. This will not only let your skin tone return to its normal shades and tones (hot or warm water will change the appearance) but it allows the pores to close back down, which keeps makeup out of them. Don't do really harsh scrubs, as these can really open up the skin surface and allow the oils and chemicals of makeup to get into the pores, which leads to breakouts later.

Tip #3 - Know What You Are Doing With Your Hair Before You Start Your Makeup

If you have to do hair styling as well as your makeup, know what you are going to do with it before you do any makeup. Be sure that anything you might do to your hair as far as washing or wetting it is done prior to doing makeup, as one wrong splash could ruin it. Some hairdos require curlers or putting the hair up in some way, and if all you'd need to do is take the hair down and quick style it, then you'll want to do that prior to your makeup. Also, make sure you have a way of keeping your hair out of your face while you do your makeup.

The Best Makeup Teacher I Never Had

Face Forward
Face Forward
One of my most favorite makeup books in my collection. All sorts of looks and effects demonstrated and explained clearly. Aucoin is a master of the 'no makeup' look. He died far too young but left a wealth of clearly explained instructions for how he worked his makeup wizardry. If you want to be able to put on makeup and look like it's just your own beautiful, natural face, this is THE book to get.

Have What You Need Ready Before You Start

Tip #4 - How To Get The Best Points On Eye And Lip Liners

Keeping your eye and lip liners in the refrigerator will harden the makeup, and makes it easy to get a super point when sharpening, which is a classic makeup artist trick. However, cold makeup drags and catches when you go to apply it, so they need to be room temperature for actual use. If you are doing fancy makeup in the evening, put those liners on a shelf in the fridge the night before or morning of the big event. Sharpen them before you go to wash your face, and then let them sit out and they will have warmed up appropriately by the time you go to use them.

Tip #5 - Have A Well-Lit Place To Apply Your Makeup

Even though you may wind up in a dimly-lit restaurant or club, have a well-lit location to do your makeup. When I was in high school, my mom kept all her makeup in the bathroom, but would bring it out in a little basket to the kitchen to makeup her eyes, as there was a mirror on the wall there that had much better light. Being able to see what you are doing makes for a cleaner and more even application. You don't want to look like a painted clown if you make yourself up in dim light and then find yourself standing someplace bright. Put the makeup on in good light, and then check it in more dim light to see the effect if you know you are going to be out someplace darker. If you need to make the look more bold, you can always add more easily. Removing too much makeup is much more difficult.

Natural Looking Makeup

Makeup Basics

Tip #6 - Skin Tone and Foundation

"Foundation" is the name given to the base layer of makeup that goes on to even out skin tone. Done well, it's literally invisible and done poorly it can looked streaked, caked on, flaking off or like some sort of clown makeup. This is one of the hardest things to do well in applying makeup and is worth taking the time to find a tone that matches your skin, and then practicing putting it on. I recommend foam, triangle sponges or your fingers. Remember, just like the old advertising slogan, "a little dab'll do ya." Don't forget to blend it down onto your neck and out to the ears if you want to avoid the clown face look.

Tip #7 - Blush

Here's another area where a little is better than a lot. Blush is most often a powdered makeup that most people think is for adding color to cheeks, but really it's about shadowing and contouring the cheekbones and sides of the face. Again, practice makes perfect. Done badly, blush comes off looking like some sort of warpaint accident or an 80s New Wave flashback.

To Learn The Basics For Every Style Of Makeup

Stage Makeup (10th Edition)
Stage Makeup (10th Edition)
This is THE stage makeup bible, and was the text book from which I learned while studying makeup and costume in college. Covers EVERY single instance where you might do makeup from everyday looks to making you the best dressed on Halloween. There are even beginner instructions for latex effects and some wig-making.

It's in the Details

Tip #8 - The Eyes Have It

I think the biggest thing that people mess up when it comes to applying eye makeup is to overdo it. My mom jokes about eye shadow 'garage doors' that you see on some ladies. You know the look: they blink and it's like a brightly-colored garage door slammed down and then up again. The other eye makeup mistake that's often seen is too much or too heavy an application of eyeliner. Lining all the way around the top and bottom lash line of the eye shrinks it down. Skip the bottom all together for daytime looks, or only put eyeliner on the outer one-third of the lower lash line. And blend and soften your eyeliner with a fingertip. Save those really dark and bold eye lines for nighttime.

Tip #9 - Lovely Lips

The best lipstick can be like foundation: people don't really notice that you are actually wearing any. Picking a lipstick shade that is like your own lip color but a bit darker can offer a very realistic and subtle effect. Beware of bright pinks and oranges, they can look tacky all too easily. Beware super shiny gloss finishes as they can draw undue attention to the lips. Much like other bold effects, save this for low-light situations or holiday parties.

Tip #10 - Less Is More

Applying just a little makeup is usually a better choice than applying a lot. Running short on time? Just powder your face, line your eyes, brush on a touch of shadow, apply lipstick and go. You can use the exact same makeup for daytime work and a night out dancing, just by applying it lightly for day, and then doing a quick but bold touch-up in just minutes.

Neutral Palette Makeup


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