Makeup Basics Part Two — Makeup Application

This is part two of my three-part series on makeup basics. The first article is here & covers skincare. Here is the email that started it all:

Being a guy I don’t usually wear makeup, but on occasion when going out I’ll throw some mascara on and maybe some nail polish. I like to be exuberant at times and was thinking of getting some eye shadow too. But in honesty I know next to nothing about the basics of makeup. Can you enlighten me?

Dear Soon-To-Be-Enlightened,

Hello again! Hopefully now you have a skincare routine which, as the name implies, you are practicing routinely. The next step is to go to a department store & talk to the sales consultants milling around the makeup counters.

My absolutely favourite brand is M.A.C. Cosmetics. I am always impressed by their products & it is a rare occasion that I will use something from another company. You should see my makeup drawer, it is an exercise in branding. Anyway, go to a counter that appeals to you. Every company has its different strengths & weaknesses, but you should only buy from a counter where they make you feel good & are helpful. There’s nothing wrong with getting them to test some products on you & then going away & seeing how long they last. Foundation, for example, often looks different on your skin in natural light than it does under the harsh lighting in a department store.

After I have gone through my skincare routine (cleanser, toner, moisturiser), I ALWAYS apply a primer to my face. My favourite is by M.A.C. (surprise surprise), but Napoleon Perdis does a good one too. I honestly don’t know how I survived without it, it is absolutely incredible. I can’t explain how it works, it’s too tricky for me to understand, but the effect is that it will smooth out your skin, giving you a wonderful base to work from & stopping your pores from absorbing your makeup — meaning it will last longer without needing to be re-applied. I use a face primer, but you can also buy primers for the eyes & lips. I haven’t used them, but I imagine the formulation is slightly different.

For Women:
You will want concealer, foundation, powder, mascara & blush to start. Eyeliner, lipstick & eyeshadow are optional extras & come in every colour of the rainbow. Once you start experimenting further with makeup, you will also want a few really good brushes. They make all the difference when it comes to how you look. They are expensive but worth it. Trust me on this!

The way you apply it will depend on the sort you buy, but you should use either a (slightly damp) wedge-shaped sponge or a makeup brush to make it look flawless. You don’t need to put it all over your face if you don’t want to — just dotting it on the areas you want to cover will do the trick. Be sure to blend your foundation well (especially around your chin, nose & hairline) & don’t use too much. It’s better to start with too little than look like you’ve applied it with a spatula!

You can apply this before your foundation if you like but I find that it tends to get wiped away if I do it in that order. I don’t use a lot of concealer normally, only to cover up blemishes & I usually put a bit underneath my eyes to disguise any dark circles I might have. Again, the key is to blend. When buying concealer, a lot of people buy it in a colour which is too light to hide spots or dark circles, then wonder why they look blotchy. Go darker!

After the foundation & concealer, set with powder. Just take the powder puff & apply it softly to your face.

Dip your brush in your blush. Look at the fullest part of your cheek. That’s where we’re aiming for. If you’re still not sure, suck your cheeks in to see where your “apples” are (no, I don’t know why they’re called that). Stroke your brush across this area & back toward your temples. Once you feel like there’s enough on, take a cotton ball & blend it in so it looks natural — a big streak of blush is nasty & probably not the look you’re going for.

It is amazing what an eyelash curler will do. So buy one! When I use one in conjunction with a liberal coating of mascara, I have had people ask if I’m wearing false eyelashes. (This is a good thing, since I’m terrible at applying falsies.) Curl your eyelashes — only the top ones (!). Go slow, be gentle… It hurts to catch your eyelid by mistake. I curl my eyelashes three times before moving onto the others. When you take the wand out of your tube of mascara, dab it on a tissue to get off the excess. Then take the wand & slowly move it from the root of your top eyelashes to the end. Initially you will blink like mad while doing this, but just go slowly. Work your way from the inside (nearest your nose) to the outside. Then repeat on the other eye. To do your bottom eyelashes, just lightly dot mascara on the ends of your lashes — too much & you will look tired & cracked-out.

Eyeliner, eyeshadow & lipstick are all fairly personal things — everyone does these things in a different way. I have met very few people who wear eyeshadow the way I do — I find that (with the exception of a couple of shades) shadow all over my eyelid makes me look tired, so I wear it just around the outside of my eye, more like a liner than anything. The point is that you should experiment with what works for you. I recommend booking yourself in for a makeover at a counter. Get the most bang for your buck by asking lots of questions & getting tips so you can recreate it at home.

Also, if you’re wearing lipstick, you should also buy a lip-liner in a matching colour. This will stop the lipstick from bleeding & looking messy. Apply the lip-liner first, then follow up with lipstick. Some people say that if you apply liner slightly outside your natural lip line, this will make them look plumper… but some people say this will make you look like a ridiculous clown. Proceed with caution my darlings!

For Men:
Thank your lucky stars, it’s much easier for you, as (unless you’re a drag queen) you’re probably going to want to wear less makeup. I went to my local M.A.C. counter this morning & spoke to a makeup artist & got some tips for men. She said that a lot of men go in there & buy concealer & bronzer, so don’t feel shy!

Remember to go through your skincare routine first (cleanse, tone, moisturise) & once your moisturiser has soaked in (give it five minutes), smooth primer all over your face. Leave this about five minutes as well, then onto the good stuff!

I suggest you use M.A.C. Select Tint SPF 15. It’s very lightweight & practically invisible to the eye — you’ll look much smoother but no one will know why. It’s oil-free, so for those of you with troubled skin (prone to breakouts or ouchy red shaving rash), it should be very easy to wear & present no problems. Another great thing about it is that it has SPF in it, so it’ll help protect your face when you’re out in the sun. When buying this stuff, I strongly recommend going to a makeup counter to get the right colour. Tempting though it may be to buy it online, do it properly, otherwise it’s a complete waste of money. There is nothing worse than foundation which is the wrong colour!
To apply, squeeze a little of the foundation onto a brush (I like M.A.C.’s 190 Foundation Brush, but at $75 Australian, you might want to buy a cheaper one) & blend it across your face. Don’t use too much, & if it starts to look too heavy, feel free to take it all off (use some toner on a cotton pad) & start again. I usually start on one cheek, work my way down to my chin, then do my other cheek, nose, forehead, & around my eyes. The most important thing is that you blend it in well, which basically just means you need to use the brush a lot — don’t slap it on, rub it in. This will prevent you from looking like a bad transvestite. Yay!

If you still have some blemishes after applying your foundation, or dark circles under your eyes which you want to hide, concealer is your next step. I like M.A.C.’s Select Cover-Up, since, like the Select Tint foundation, it is essentially invisible. If you use these two products in conjunction you will look flawless & delicious.
To apply, put small quantities (as in, VERY small quantities) of the concealer on a brush designed specifically for the purpose. (M.A.C. does a Concealer Brush, but again, it’s expensive. Worth every penny, but expensive, so if you can’t quite splash out on a great brush just yet, you can buy them from pharmacies for a fraction of the price. You can always upgrade later!) Press the brush against whatever you’re trying to hide, then blend the colour in well. Simple, & you’ll get better with practice.

This is an optional step but in terms of setting your foundation so it doesn’t slide off, it’s a good thing to use. M.A.C. has an incredible Blot Powder, which will do the trick while also helping to prevent shininess. It’s a good thing to carry around with you. I always have it in my bag in hot climates, especially if I’m going out dancing. The other great thing about the Blot Powder is that it doesn’t add any extra colour or visible weight, so if you’re going for the of-course-I’m-not-wearing-makeup-what-are-you-talking-about? look, it’s perfect. Just press the puff against your face: cheeks, nose, chin, forehead.

If you’re concerned that your eyebrows are a bit wild, you could try M.A.C.’s Brow Set in Clear, which will help stick down all those little stragglers that escape when you’re caught in a gust of wind.

If you want to get a bit more experimental with eyeliner, eyeshadow, mascara or anything else, I recommend talking to a professional! Most makeup counters will do a makeover for very little money (& the fee can usually be put toward products, too). There are so many different ways you can wear makeup, so don’t be afraid to experiment & learn from someone with an arsenal of brushes & colours!

Extra For Experts:
Drag Queen Makeup 101!
Wikipedia’s entry on cosmetics. sells a variety of products for men. (weirdest name ever) has a huge range of discounted cosmetics — very good service. your online beauty mall.
“Men belly up to the makeup bar” — article from the Chicago Tribune.
“Men develop enthusiasm for makeup” — article from The Press.