A make up newbie, I am not. No, I’ve been playing with make up ever since high school. Back in the days, where our largest mirror was actually pretty small and in a dimly-lit corner and there were no Youtubers to guide a keen, but poorly-instructed 14-year-old me.
I’ve had some seeeeriously bad looks. My parents were always working so there was NO ONE to pull me up on my porn-star brows (razored off by a shitty mcshitson korean make up ‘artist’), my spidery lashes, my panda-like smudgey eyeliner, my too-sparkly Caboodles lipgloss… hoooly shit. If I could go back in time and throat-punch dumb little me…
But alas. I cannot. And thank goodness there was no Snapchat back then, cos I can only imagine what the boys would’ve uploaded behind my back 😂🙈 (“porno brows is back. Im callin her PB from now on lololol” “holy shit dem eyelashes tho #spiderman”). Someone would’ve screenshotted it and posted it to their meme account on Instagram for sure. DANG am I stoked I was born in the 80s.
Wow what a tangent – it apparently doesn’t cut me up inside one bit 😂 But if there’s any way forward, it’s by imparting some lil nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned the hard way over the past 15 years. If you’re a make up newb, there’s just four basic principles, I think, that are critical to an overall ‘tidy’ appearance. They’re the two B’s and two L’s: Brows, Base, Lashes and Lips. Sit tight and hold onto your butts, cos this is a long one.
Rule no.1: Brows Brows, Baby
If your hair is dark, go 1-2 shades lighter; if your hair is light, go 1-2 shades darker MAX, otherwise the end result can be quite jarring.
Your brows should FRAME your eyes and eye make up (if you’re doing a dramatic cat-eye, same goes: extend out your brows just a tad).
No need to go full-on with the whole Instagram brow look either. Just lightly fill them in with a pencil or powder – doesn’t matter which.
Fill in gaps, even them out and follow your natural brow line. Less is more; if it’s looking too chunky and severe like you’ve used a Sharpie, use a spooly (the stiff miniature toilet brush looking thing) to blend out any harsh lines and touch up again with more pencil/powder if you’ve removed too much pigment. Small, light strokes work best – like you’re drawing on individual hairs.
Step back from the mirror, double check with the front-camera on your phone if you can, to make sure they’re even-ish. Don’t stress over them; the idea is to just frame the eyes, the nipples of the face (name that movie).
If you’re aiming to get a nice arch in there, point your pencil/brush from the corner of your nose through your pupil. Wherever your brush hits your brow, that’s where the arch should be. Do the same thing for the corners of your brow if you’re after a ‘perfect’ brow.
Rule no.2: the Base
You don’t need to go straight to full coverage if that’s not what you’re used to. You can literally just cover up any imperfections with a concealer if you’re after a simple, tidy look (or you’re in a rush to get out the door!). Just set with a teeny bit of pressed powder afterward so the concealer doesn’t slide off.
If you’re wanting a little bit more coverage then you probably want either a tinted moisturiser or BB cream, or foundation. To give the formula more staying power, it pays to cleanse, tone, moisturise, then lay on some primer. Think of when you want to paint over an old wallpapered room: strip, prime, then paint, right?
If fine lines are starting to be a bit of an issue, I recommend a facial oil (after moisturising and before priming) to really plump up the skin – a little goes a long way. I’m currently using a very pungent one from Antipodes but in the past I’ve enjoyed Trilogy and Sukin facial oil as well. Just use a teensy lil bit on areas where it’s dry and you find foundation doesn’t sit as nice.
Next up is the primer. Any primer that leaves your face smoother than a baby’s butt is a winner. Doesn’t have to cost the earth. I really liked my last one from Elf Cosmetics and before that, two different Body Shop ones – one of which I think they discontinued? I really hate when brands do that to my heart – sucker me in, then cut me up with their sudden no-notice, no-show, dick move (I’m still salty, Maybelline Dream Mousse concealer).
I’m currently using a NARS primer but I honestly still like my Body Shop ones better – it has a more silicone-y finish which I find better for resting foundation/bb cream on top of.
Now the paint. What does your skin want? Something hydrating? Something matte? Ugh sometimes there’s just way too much to choose from! But whatever route you choose to venture down, my best tip is this: choose your applicator wisely.
While you can use your fingers for sure, a buffing brush and/or sponge can be the difference between smeary/cake-face and an airbrushed-looking face.
Real Techniques brushes are cheap and generally fool-proof. Sponge-wise, I’m gonna go rogue here and recommend something you prob won’t hear from a beauty vlogger/blogger…
This lil baby is actually meant for cushion compacts (bb cream compacts) but you can buy these separately as a refill for those compacts and I use them for applying any BB cream or foundation. There’s heaps of different brands to choose from and I chose the cheapest one cos they’re pretty much all identical to each other – they all have one dark navy side. Anyway, these are super easy to use and ensure a light and even coverage.
I just put a little bit of product on my palette (the back of my hand 😅), and dab sparingly on my face. Dab dab dab. Dab dab dab. Easy peasy. I also use it to blend out my contour or any blush that’s too bright. It’s my BFFEEE (bestfriend forever and ever and ever and everrrrr). It essentially works like a Beauty Blender but it’s way cheaper and way more sanitary cos you keep your fingers solely on one side.
If you couldn’t tell already, I’m a BB Cream sort of girl – I’ve tried loads of different foundations and I haven’t really found one that I’m truly obsessed with. I find them too cakey, too dry, too oily, too EXPENSIVE… Out of all the different ones I’ve used (Lancome, Bobbi Brown, NARS, L’Oreal, Maybelline, Rimmel etc), I’ve liked the Revlon Colorstay Stay Natural one best, but honestly to this day, nearly 15 years later, nothing beats a good BB Cream for me. I’d say my two faves are the Missha and Etude House one. The Missha one has insane coverage. I’ve also enjoyed the IOPE Cushion Compact immensely too – it’s just a bit pricier which stops me from enjoying it TOO much hahaha.
I mentioned pressed powder before. Don’t use the puffs that come with the compact cos the amount you get on them, combined with when it oxidises on your skin once you’ve pressed it on, generally means you’ll be left with an orange circle on your face. Nope nope nope. Use a really fluffy brush (nothing with dense, tightly-packed, short bristles), swirl, dust off the excess and lightly press onto any areas where it tends to get oily: forehead, nose, upper lip and chin. Less is more.
Rule no.3: Lashes
Unless you’re blessed with long, full, dense lashes, all you need is an eyelash curler and mascara.
If you’ve got very short, lightweight, sparse lashes that naturally point straight down like mine, you will probably benefit from a waterproof formula vs a regular one. Regular mascaras are too wet and heavy for my sad and sorry lashes, causing them to droop and lose any curl I’ve put in. A waterproof formula is drier/tackier in consistency and won’t mess up your curl (you just have to work quicker before it dries fully). If you still want more oomph, you can always layer a regular, wetter, non-waterproof formula on top once that base layer has dried.
Rule no.4 aka the Finale: kissy Lips
No chapped lips. Wear lip balm. Maybelline Babylips is my fave for its cheap but powerful moisturising goodness. I have them all over the house and crevices of my car. You don’t need to go crazy with the lip colour either. A tinted lipbalm is just fine. If you hate touching up lipstick throughout the day, lip pencils, lip stains and lip crayons are the best solution – though the darker the colour, the more likely it’ll need some touching up during the day.
My absolute favourite lip crayons are the NARS Velvet Matte lip pencils – particularly the shade Dolce Vita which is a nice muted red. It’s staying power is unbelievable considering it goes on like butter and doesn’t crackle or strain against any lip movement. Yes, it’s pricey, but I buy mine off Strawberrynet (when they have stock) so they work out to be CHEAPER than what you would get per milligram in a $13 NYX lip pencil.
I’ve made more than 20 purchases (36 to be precise) off Strawberrynet, so I automatically get 10% every purchase. Also, if I hang out for one of their frequent sales, I can get another 10% off. So often times when I’m buying my NARS lip pencils, instead of paying $42 in store, I only pay $28 online. SO worth it.
Here are some honorable mentions in the lip department:
Phew so that’s that. If you managed to stay til the end, kudos to you. You’ve got some stamina on ya. I really, really wanted to share this info with someone – dudes, this is like 15 years of terrible terrible looks and I really feel like I’ve now got this honed down to something simple and do-able, by anyone’s standards. Anyway.
Hope that was somewhat enjoyable, hopefully informative? No? Well at least you got to look at some purdy make up stuff right? Doesn’t it make you wanna play with make up and sit in good lighting with the pretty snapchat filters and take selfies and be like DAAaamn. Just me? What. I do it for poor ugly duckling 15-year-old me with porno brows ok.