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On a daily basis I meet women who, for various reasons, opt not to wear any makeup on a daily basis. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Not even a coat of mascara, and barely a swipe of lipgloss. Some say that they don’t have time, and rush to make it out of the house and to work every morning. Others are afraid of looking too cakey or made-up, and opt instead for a fresh face. But more often than not, I’m hearing from women who simply have never learned the basics of makeup products and application, and have no idea where to begin!

Taking myself and my personal love for cosmetics out of the equation, I can understand how overwhelming the world of makeup may seem for a newbie. Walking up to a makeup counter in a department store, or even down the beauty aisle at CVS, there are simply way too many options! Foundations in every hue and formula. Varying textures of lipstick. Liners in pencil, gel, and liquid form – oh my! But, fret not. There are a few quite simple products and tips you can use to segway into wearing clean, everyday makeup.

Prep: Primer

Prior to applying any type of color to skin, it’s critical to prep the face. After moisturizer (which, contrary to popular belief, is a must-have daily skincare step), primer should be the next product you grab. Think of foundation primers like the base coat that you apply before nail polish: it smoothes the surface, allows the color to be more true, and gives your products longer wear. Have you ever hurriedly painted your nails without a base coat, only to find ridges, chips, and faded color just a few hours later? Primer prevents similar effects from happening to the skin. With it, you’ll find that your foundation and cheek color are easier to apply and last far longer throughout the day. No more wondering where your powder and blush disappeared to by lunch hour.

Application Tip: Apply a dime-sized amount with fingertips over the entire face. Allow product to soak in for a couple of minutes before moving on to foundation.

Try: Napoleon Perdis’ “Auto Pilot” Pre-Foundation Skin Primer, Laura Mercier “Foundation Primer”, Smashbox’s “Photo Finish Light” Foundation Primer.

Imperfections: Concealer

Even those with flawless skin will wake up at times with sleepy eyes or an unexpected blemish here and there. On days like this, concealer is our best friend! As we know, concealers come in a variety of colors and formulas, but it is important to select the right product based on your skin type and tone. Those with very oily skin, for example, will want to avoid extra creamy concealers, as they will crease and run throughout the day. We must also consider that each woman may easily need at least two different types of concealer, based on her specific concern. The product that works best at concealing under eye dark circles is not the same product that will be used to conceal acne scars and other blemishes on the face. Under-eye concealers are typically a shade or so lighter than our natural complexion to highlight, and more hydrating for that delicate, thinner skin. Concealers for face tend to be a bit thicker and drier in consistency, and match the skin exactly.

Application Tip: Concealer brushes allow you to be more precise with application, especially under the eye. Sweep product into darker valley beneath the eye, into the tear duct, and directly under the lower lash line. Blend and fade outwards. If necessary, gently use the tip of your ring finger to further dab and blend the product.

Try: M.A.C. “Studio Finish SPF 35” Concealer, Bobbi Brown “Creamy Concealer”, Estee Lauder “Double Wear Stay-in-Place” Concealer SPF 10, Laura Mercier “Secret Camoflauge” (for skin only – not under-eye)

Skin: Tinted Moisturizer

For those who choose not to wear foundation for fear of looking “too” made-up or cakey, tinted moisturizers are an easy, no-brainer way to even out skin tone. Unlike a full-coverage foundation, tinted moisturizers offer hydration and lightweight, sheer color that still allows your skin to breathe. There are different varieties based on skin type (normal, oily, dry, etc.), and most even offer sun protection as well.

Application Tip: Though you can apply tinted moisturizers with fingers, try using a damp sponge instead. Wet sponge, squeeze out excess water, then apply product. Press and roll sponge into skin and sweep over eyelids (which are often naturally discolored). Because sponges are porous like our skin, they allow the product to soak in more naturally without leaving traces or streaks.

Try: Bobbi Brown Oil-Free Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15, Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20, Stila “Sheer Color” Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20

Setting: Translucent Powder

Translucent setting powders are the perfect way to finish off the look after applying face makeup. As the name indicates, these powders are sheer and colorless, and come in either pressed or loose form. For oily skin types, try using a matte pressed powder, which will absorb oil and reduce shine throughout the day. Press into the skin with a velour puff and dust away any excess. Regular skin types may prefer a loose powder applied with a fluffy brush. Those with dry skin may be skeptical of powders in general, but there are several illuminating powders that, when applied with a duo-fiber finishing brush, can create the illusion of dewiness and luminescence.

Application Tip: To avoid leaving traces of powder on deeper skin tones, be sure to tap excess product off of the brush or sponge prior to application. Also, don’t forget to set under-eye concealer! Pat translucent powder beneath the eye to avoid pesky creasing and smearing.

Try: Lancome “Translucence” Mattifying Silky Pressed Powder, M.A.C. Mineralize SkinFinish, Bobbi Brown “Sheer Finish” Pressed Powder (Darker skin tones, try “Golden Orange”!)

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  • mina

    Thank you for this! I would wear more make-up but I have a really hard time figuring out what shade is right for me. I have a lot of weird pigmentation on my face(my forehead is a whole shade darker than the rest of my face). Could you perhaps list some cheaper alternatives for darker-skinned women as well?

    I hear Black Opal is nice.

    • Bronze

      @Mina,

      I wouldn’t go cheap on foundation. It is your face. You need the best chemicals man can whip up so to look your best. That said, I would seriously give Fashion Fair a try. I know it sounds old fashion but believe me, I spend $56 on foundation but gave the $23 dollar granny brand a try and they are awesome! Even if you just buy their face powder—it will be money well spent.

      Next to diamonds….make-up is a girls best friend. And like any good friend, you must invest time learning about make-up. Go to any fine department store, spend $40 on something and load up on samples. Ask a new girl who is dying to make a sale…give you a foundation consultation. Have a new make-up artist give you a make-over. (please ti) but most of all……explore….there are soo many brands…and if you need help w/application go to YouTube videos and type…..eye shadow tutorial.

      Good luck.

    • My Mom says Fashion Fair is good but that it left a scent on her skin. Did you experience the same? I ask because I’m considering Mac or Fashion Fair.

    • Bronze

      Armani face fabric, Dior Nude, Nars, Clinque, Lancome……try and try again. I know you youngins love you some MAC but for problematic skin; acne, sensitivity…try Bobbi Brown or Dior….I know they sound expensive but it is worth it. This is your face we are talking about. Get testers and wear for a day or two b4 u buy. If you have a Nordstroms…..go there 1st because they will return an item no questions asked. Only shop at fine Department stores…they really convey how important make-up is. This may all sound silly but foundation is the foundation to make-up. It is transformative. Anyone who disagrees with your quest…..dump them and run fast….

    • Debbie

      Hi Mina,
      My dad has the same issue. His forehead down to the tip of his nose and the top of his cheeks is darker than the rest of his face. My nickname for him is “batman.” Anyhoo….I sent him to my dermatologist and his complexion is evening out now. You should do the same too. Try and see a derm that specializes in skin of color. That should be able to help you.

      Also, Bronze’s comments are on the money.

      Good luck and have a great holiday.

  • I am the girl you described in your first paragraph. I’ve avoided make-up so long, but now I’ve begun to consider wearing it because I have ance scars that I want to conceal. My question though is IS THERE ANY MAKE-UP OUT THERE FOR NOT ONLY OILY SKIN BUT ALSO SWEATY SKIN? Yes, I know it sounds gross, but I perspire more than the average female, and I am afraid of applying make-up in fear that it will run and drip. Also, you mentioned that one should not go for the cheap brands of make-up; so is there any one brand you recommend for brown-complexed women (including the oily and sweaty)? My friend suggests Mac, but after searching their website, I see they are extremely expensive.

    • Bronze

      Believe me……you wouldn’t buy cheap tampons/pads that crunkle and break apart….so please..if you make any investment…it has to be your face. That said, I strongly recommend Estee Lauder Double-wear. yes it is full coverage but believe me—as a party girl who sweats to death….the foundation will stay on your skin and not your clothes. It has a built in primer so you don’t have to buy that. If you have health insurance I strongly suggest you book an appt w/a dermatologist and get a perscrpition for Tazorac. If you have money…..get a laser treatment for acne scares. Waaaay tooo many options out there for you not to have beautiful clear skin. I suffered for 20 years with blemish and acne but had laser hair removal/Tazorac and my face is as pretty as a babys bottom.

      Get on the internet and Google, Google Google,, YouTube and Google. Research, Google and read. You don’t have to suffer 20 years like I did…good luck and sorry for the typos.

  • Emmanuela Fakeh

    Just began a professional training in esthetics and would like to know as much as possible. So interested in the field.