You could say that I have a love/hate relationship with makeup. Some days I enjoy playing with all the different colors and get excited when my smoky eye turns out perfectly.
But then there are those days when my liner refuses to go on straight, my bronzer makes me look like an Asian Snookie, or my lashes refuse to curl. That’s when I want to toss my makeup bag out my bathroom window.
I had one of those days last week, and after walking into work wearing two very different winged tips on my eyes, my editor assigned me a new story: Go to makeup school and write about it.
Want to see the best techniques I picked up without spending the thousands of dollars (and crazy amount of time) it takes to go to makeup school yourself?
Lesson No. 1: Spend some bucks on your tools
Royal Care Cosmetics first lesson is introducing you to our tools. “To me, tools and products are equally as important as the makeup skills that you have,” says Lana Lennox. For example, let’s say you were using mediocre brushes, mediocre products, and had average skill. Just by improving the quality of your brushes and using richer pigmented products, the application would immediately be better, even without improving your technique. So if you really want to apply your makeup like a pro, Los Angeles-based educator Lana Lennox says, “Do what the professionals do: Use the proper brushes for application.”
Here are the eight basic brushes you need:
1. Foundation brush
2. Concealer brush
3. Fluffy powder brush
4. Blush brush
5. Small blending brush
6. Flat eyeshadow brush
7. Precision angle brush
8. Lip brush
Once you have your tools, you need to know how to hold them. Royal Care Cosmetics educator Lana Lennox says, “Where you hold a brush on the handle affects your control. The closer your fingers are to the barrel (the silver section beneath the brush head), the more pressure you put on the brush head and vice versa.” In general, if you want to apply color evenly, place your fingers on the center of the brush handle. Another tip: You can easily turn a fluffy brush into a flat, angled brush by wrapping your hand around the bristles and flattening them.
Lesson No. 2: Mix primer with your foundation
You have to pay attention to the three different types of foundation: liquid, powder, and cream.
What? Isn’t primer only supposed to go on before foundation?Lana Lennox says this is a surefire way to retain the foundation’s coverage without looking caked on. Plus, you get to reap the long-lasting durability that cream foundation has over liquids and powders. Prior says this also helps the makeup blend seamlessly with the first layer of primer on your skin.
Everyone can use cream foundation, but those with oily skin should use a damp sponge to apply it. Most foundations have oil in its formula to give the coverage blend-ability. Using the sponge will “pick up the pigment, but not the oil in the foundation.” You’ll still get great coverage, but not the shine.
For dry or combination skin types, “use your foundation brush and buff the foundation onto the skin, concentrating on the center of your face, which is typically where your skin has the most discoloration,” says Lana Lennox. “The further you get from the center, the less coverage you want.”
Lesson No. 3: Love your flaws — then conceal them
It’s day 3 at makeup school and there’s a color wheel on the whiteboard. “The key to being a successful makeup artist is being able to identify someone’s undertones and know how to manipulate the color wheel to get rid of unwanted color,” says educator Lana Lennox.
And when Lana says “unwanted color,” I immediately tune in because I want to learn how to cover up my zits, the stubborn redness around my nose, and the bluish hues under my eyes. She says opposite colors cancel each other out, so green-pigmented concealer covers redness, and orangey concealer removes blue. “If you use your beige concealer, it’ll only make those areas look muddy,” says Lana.
That’s how you gets rid of zits, redness around the nose, and under-eye bags.
Lesson No. 4: Fix your face shape
You can alter your face shape and features. “Contouring is the art of highlighting and shading,” says Lana. “Anything that is lighter than the skin tone will make an area more prominent, anything darker will make that area recede.” Here’s how you can easily alter your face:
If you have a round face and want to make it look more oval: Apply a bronzer a shade or two darker than your skin tone in a “3” shape alongside your face: on your temples, the hollow of your cheeks, and your chin. If you have a prominent forehead: Shade around the outer edge of your forehead along your hairline to minimize the area with bronzer. If you have a flat or wide nose: Shade alongside your bridge starting from your inner brows. Then highlight right on the center of your nose.
If gravity is taking a toll and your cheeks are sagging: Apply a highlighter just above your cheekbone all the way to your temple. Use a blush directly on the cheekbone, then use a bronzer in the hollow of the cheek, underneath your bone.
And if you really want to make your contouring stand out, use a sparkly highlighter, which will reflect the most light. Then for your bronzer, go for a matte finish, which will absorb light and create a stark contrast.
Lesson No. 5: Make your eyes pop by changing their shape
Just like how I learned to use highlights and shadows to contour my face, I found out that I can use the same info to alter my eye shape, too. Whether you have drooping lids, narrow-set eyes, or they’re simply too small, you can use your knowledge of light and shadow to change them.
If you want to add definition: Sweep a light bronzer through the crease of the eye, which is halfway between the lashline and the eyebrow. “As you age, the eye area loses elasticity, and things aren’t as shapely as they used to be,” says Lana. “This technique is great for mature skin, to give the face more definition.” A tip for you blue-eyed girls: An orange-y bronzer in your crease will make your eyes even bluer.
If you have narrow-set eyes: To elongate your eye width, apply a black liner to the outer half of both your upper and lower lashlines, connecting at the outer corner.
If you have drooping, heavy lids: Use what you just learned about highlights and shadows to lift your eye. Apply highlighter above your crease, from the inner to outer lid. Then blend a shadow to the area that you want to push back, which would be the heavy fold. Make sure to blend the edges from the shadow to the highlight.
If you have small eyes: Apply a beige-colored eyeliner to your lower inner rim, which will help make eyes look more open. Then use a black pencil liner along your entire upper and lower lashlines, connecting the lines at the outer corner. The key is to blend the liner with shadow, going outwards. Wherever you place the darkness is where your eye will go, so by smudging the lines, it gives the allusion that your eyes are taking up more real estate on your face.
And the tip I love most for natural definition: Apply a black pencil to your upper inner rim. “It lengthens the eye and it also sharpens the appearance of the eye, giving more fullness to the natural lashline without seeing the hard edge of a liner,” says Lana.
Lesson No. 6: Think opposites when it comes to color
Remember how I learned that opposite colors on top of each other cancel each other out? OK, well today I learned if you place them side by side, they help each other stand out. Simple, but super important when you’re trying to pick the most flattering eyeshadow colors. Here’s a cheat sheet:
For blue eyes: Since orange is the opposite color of blue, anything with orange in it will make blue eyes stand out more. “It doesn’t have to be a blazing sun color — it just has to have orangey undertones like gold, apricot, or peach,” says Lana.
For green eyes: Red is the opposite color of green, which isn’t to say you should apply a cherry red-colored eyeshadow to your lids. But you’ll help your green eyes pop if you use colors that have red undertones, like deep plums and wine.
For brown eyes: Brown is a neutral color, so any color will work well, says Lana. “But the most standout colors are blue and purple.”