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With makeup, you don’t always get what you pay for.
You can spend hundreds of dollars on beauty products—and believe us, we’ve been there—but that doesn’t guarantee professional results. That’s not just our opinion, either. One 2016 study showed that professionally-applied cosmetics affected appearance much more than self-applied cosmetics did (no word on whether that study was published in the journal No Duh).
To find out how makeup artists get a flawless, camera-ready look, we decided to reach out to a few professionals (naturally). As it turns out, we’re not so much buying the wrong products as we are using them the wrong way.
Whether you’re a makeup newbie or you already have a talent for your contour palette, these tips can make a big difference. For instance…
Preparation is key.
Before we get to the experts, we’ve got to talk about moisturizing. Think of your face as a canvas: You can have all the best products in the world, but if your skin is dry and dull, you’re going to have issues.
Of course, this won’t come as shocking news to most makeup aficionados. However, while there are hundreds of moisturizers, toners, and serums on the market, there’s one product that’s absolutely indispensable: sunscreen.
When you go outside sans sunscreen, you’re not just risking a sunburn. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that 90 percent of skin aging is caused by exposure to the sun. People who use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher everyday have fewer signs of skin aging than those who don’t sport the ‘screen.
You might not like the oily feel of sunscreen, especially on your face. The good news is that many brands make face-specific sunscreens that won’t leave an oily base. You can also purchase makeup foundations that have sunscreen built in.
If you want professional results, prime your face.
“Always use a primer,” says Marissa Hohner, makeup artist and owner of Sugar Skull Makeup in Chicago. “Primers allow your foundation and makeup to have a long-wear application on your skin throughout the day.”
If you’re not using a primer, you’re probably not getting the results you want. Primers even out your skin tone, minimize the appearance of pores, and help smooth out skin imperfections. They also give your makeup something to hold on to, ensuring a better all-day look.
If you want your look to last, you can’t skip this step.
“Allow your primer to seep into your skin for a couple of minutes until it feels a bit tacky to the touch,” says Hohner. “This will ensure a longer-lasting wear for your foundation throughout the day.”
That works because many primers use silicone-based polymers like dimethicone, the same types of silicones found in hair conditioners. Just as you let your hair conditioner sit in place before you wash it out, you’ll need to give your primer some time to work.
Patience is key. Primer takes time. If you rush through and refuse to wait, you won’t be getting better-looking makeup, you’ll just waste expensive primer.
Incidentally, dimethicone-free primers are available, and they’re sometimes a better choice for people with acne and other skin conditions. If you’re noticing a reaction from your primer (or any other cosmetic product), speak with your dermatologist.
There are a few key tricks to using foundation and concealer.
After your face is moisturized and primed, it’s time for the foundation and concealer.
We could easily write an entire piece on foundation and concealer, as there are dozens of high-quality products on the market. To get professional results, you’ll need to do some experimentation to figure out what works best for you and your skin. It’s also important to decide on a look and matching your application to achieve the desired outcome. One pro-ready option: Switching to a beauty sponge.
“Pressing your foundation and concealer into your skin with a damp beauty sponge will give you more coverage and an airbrushed look,” Nashville makeup artist Corrine Towery tells HealthyWay.
As with everything in the world of cosmetics, moderation is key.
“Don’t overdo the foundation,” says Hohner. “If you cake on too much foundation, your skin can look muddy and cakey. A buildable foundation will allow you to start with a thin layer and then add upon that layer with additional product … in trouble areas that may need more coverage.”
In other words, take your time. Hey, we’re starting to notice a pattern here.
Bake your face.
No, this doesn’t involve any kitchen appliances. When you need your makeup to last all day, it’s time to “bake.” That term has been frequently used in the drag community for years—and, by and large, their makeup looks fantastic—but recently, we’ve seen it pop up in more mainstream outlets.
To “bake your face,” you’ll cover your foundation and concealer with a translucent powder and let it set for five to 10 minutes. The heat from your face will set the makeup, creating a creaseless, flawless, long-lasting look. Pretty cool, right?
Baking is especially helpful for treating any areas that are prone to wrinkles.
“By using a light-weight, loose, translucent powder to set your under-eye concealer, you will prevent your concealer from creasing and accentuating any crow’s feet or fine lines under and around the eye,” says Hohner.
It takes a lot of time and effort to look great. Don’t risk any breaks or cracks.
There’s a trick to making your lips pop.
Just as you need to prepare your skin before applying makeup, you need to make sure that your lips are in great condition before reaching for the lipstick.
“Any flakiness should be removed prior to a lipstick application,” Artistic Director for Osmosis Colour Mineral Cosmetics Alejandro Falcon tells HealthyWay. “[After moisturizing], use a lip liner to shape and outline your lip area. I usually fill in the lip liner halfway inside the lips for a more precise look.”
If you want your lips to appear fuller, use a little bit of highlighter.
“Grab your favorite liquid illuminator and apply it to your cupid’s bow vertically,” says Caitlin Picou, makeup artist and owner of Kismet Cosmetics. “This makes your top lip pop. Take it further by applying the same illuminator to the inner parts of your lips, as well.”
Want someone to get lost in your eyes?
What’s that saying…the windows are the eyes of the house? It’s something like that.
In any case, you can command a room with your wicked winged liner and flawless smokey eye with this foolproof eye makeup process.
“Start with a cream eyeshadow base to intensify the staying power and the pigments in the shadow,” says makeup artist and founder of Formula Z Cosmetics, Zach Dishinger. “After you apply the base, line your eyes with eyeliner and blend it on top of the cream base. Next, move on to your powdered shadows.”
Mascara can take your look to the next level, but it’s not always easy to apply. The brushes can be unwieldy, and if you say that you’ve never accidentally poked yourself in the eye, you’re either remarkably coordinated or lying.
“Place a finger or a makeup sponge behind the lash to prevent the mascara from smudging on your face or eye area,” says Dishinger.
What if you make a mistake and apply too much? “Let the mascara dry completely,” Towery says. “Once it’s dry, take a clean Q-tip and wipe it off. It won’t smudge and ruin your makeup.”
When your favorite tube has run out, always save the brush.
“Keep the wand and use it with cheap mascara to save some money,” says Towery. “Mascara is mascara; the wand is what makes the difference.”
Some cosmetics are remarkably versatile.
“If there are colors you don’t use in your contour and highlight palettes, use them as eyeshadows,” says Towery.
Pretty much any cosmetic can work as a highlighter, although you’ll want to check before putting a product near your eyes or lips if it’s not designed for that express purpose. We’re big fans of the eyeshadow-as-lip-liner movement, but some intense colors have mineral additives that we’d rather not consume accidentally.
Finally, don’t assume that the most expensive brands are worth the money.
As we mentioned earlier, you don’t need to buy the most expensive beauty products to see the best results. Cheap mascaras are essentially the same as the expensive ones (other than the brush), and you can easily find decent makeup for $10 or less.
“Drugstore products are a great way to save money. Not everything is amazing, but there are hidden gems,” says Towery. “Instead of having trial and error and wasting money on random products, look up reviews and tutorials on YouTube on products to see what to buy. Some of my holy grail products are from the drugstore.”
Here’s more on drugstore beauty products vs. their high-end counterparts.