Ask Belle: Starting Out with Makeup
Jan 29, 2013
First, I love your blog, and I especially enjoy your beauty advice for the professional woman. I’m 35 this year and I don’t wear makeup at all beyond a little coloured lip balm for weddings, etc. Now that I’m getting a little older I’d like to do something to look more polished at the office but I don’t really know where to start. Using your archive for advice, I’m going to narrow my start into the world of makeup to mascara, tinted moisturizer, eyebrow grooming, blush and maybe a lip stain?
Any advice or suggestions that you have would be much appreciated. Having missed the makeup boat in my teens, I feel like I’m at a real disadvantage here.
Thanks again, Melanie
Six months ago, this question would have left me aghast. “Who doesn’t wear makeup?,” I would have said. But over the past few months, I’ve met a number of women of all ages who either never started wearing makeup or who only wear it for special occasions.
When the New York Times published an article entitled “Up the Career Ladder, Lipstick in Hand,” revealing that women who wore just the right amount of makeup to work were seen as more competent and trustworthy, I sent it to almost a dozen colleagues, friends and relatives. But if you’ve never worn makeup before, it can be difficult to know where to begin.
In college, I applied my makeup with a trowel. But as I grew older and had less time to spend primping, I pared the process down to something I like to call Everyday Plus. It is a basic makeup routine with just a little bit more polish.
1. The Base Layer. I like NARS Oil Free Pro Prime ($32) because it holds makeup like liquid Velcro. Even in the humid D.C. summers, my makeup never moves. I also have friends who swear by Make Up For Ever HD Perfecting Primer because it comes in special formulas to combat ashiness, add radiance or conceal rosacea. If you’d like something a bit cheaper, Maybelline makes an Age Rewind primer for ($9) and Smashbox sells their Photofinish Primer for ($15).
On top of the primer, I like a light foundation like this Clinique BB Cream ($37). I’ve also used this Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer ($43). And if you want a starter kit that includes all of the essentials (primer, tinted moisturizer, concealer and powder, plus brushes), try this Laura Mercier kit from Sephora ($65). Like the idea of a kit but need more coverage than a tinted moisturizer provides? Try this Mercier kit with cream foundation and pressed powder plus all the rest. (This book would also be great for traveling.)
I apply the primer and foundation with a press and wiggle motion that I found on Birchbox’s website. It helps give skin an airbrushed look even when it’s less than perfect.
2. Conceal. I use Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage concealer ($30) with her special brush, which acts like a laser to cover acne and other spots. I’ve also used Benefit Boing concealer ($20), it’s pretty good too. Not cakey, blends well. Need something under-$10? Try Revlon Photo Ready Concealer.
I only have one tip for applying concealer: pat, don’t rub or smear. Patting on concealer will help it stay in place and cover properly, rubbing it on will only move it around.
3. Blush. A little pop of color on the cheeks wakes up the face and makes everyone look more rested and a bit lighter. I like Bobbi Brown’s Pale Pink blush ($25), just a pop on the cheeks with her specially-made blush brush ($50) is just what I need in the morning. If your wallet needs something friendlier, Ulta makes some nice brushes for a nice price, and I’ve always liked Sonia Kashuk makeup from Target.
4. Eyeshadow. When you’re just starting out, the smartest thing you can do is buy a palette of shades that you like. You need a light shade for a highlight, a slightly deeper shade for a base and a darker shade for accent. This palette from Stila ($39) has everything you need. Urban Decay also makes a great palette of earth tones for $50. NYX makes a lip and eye palette for $25, and Nordstrom makes an Urban Decay-like palette for $19.
If you don’t need a palette, I use Stila Oasis as a base (it’s a light gold shimmer), Stila Chinois for a highlighter and Stila Poise as my accent shade. As for application, I use something similar to this guide found on Pinterest. I use my fingers to apply, the ring finger since it’s the weakest, but I’ve been thinking about switching to brushes since I read that using your fingers can weaken skin and exacerbate wrinkles.
5. Line and Define. Once the eyeshadow is on, I line my eyes (only the top lid, because I have under eye darkness). I use a liquid liner, but for beginners, I think a pencil, esp. a retractable one, is easier. Choose the shade based on the look you’re trying to achieve. For maximum impact, choose black. I like the way dark purple coordinates with my regular purple shadow. And if you prefer a natural look, try grey or brown.
As for how to wear it, I like a light winged look. Some women who want something natural looking tight line their eyes to give them just a bit of definition but it can be intimidating because it requires getting very close to the eye. If you’re clueless about liner make an appt. at a local Sephora or beauty counter and ask a pro how to teach you to match your eye shape.
The one element that most women overlook when doing their makeup is the eyebrows. Filling them in can really frame the face and define the eyes. I love the YBF pencil because it allows me to draw small, fine strokes. For more information on how to line them properly, click here.
Lastly, you add a coat of mascara, I like Max Factor, but it’s not available in the States anymore. CoverGirl LashBlast is my second choice. I think very black mascara looks best on most women, and with a little wiggle, you can catch every lash.
6. Setting. Once you’ve done all of this hard work, you want your makeup to stay in place right. Not having perfect skin, I apply a bit of mineral pressed powder at Step 2, but it’s too much makeup for most. So I recommend a little translucent powder at the end to hold it in place like Make Up For Ever Diamond Powder ($25) or Revlon Photo Ready ($13). If you hate powder but still want a smooth, matte, stay-all-day finish, you can try Mally Poreless Face Defender for $40. It’s my next makeup purchase.
This makeup routine sounds like a lot to some people, but it takes me exactly nine minutes from start to finish. Eleven if I have a lot of acne that day. And it looks like one step above every day natural makeup, I’m done but not too done up. But every woman has to find her right process, so if this is too much for you, feel free to pare back a bit or add, if you think it’s not enough. Just don’t add too much, the study mentioned above found that there was a fine line between professional and too glamorous.
If you have any tips, tricks or favorite products that you want to rave about, leave your thoughts in the comments.