Take me from "good" to "stunning" with hair/makeup tips and suggestions.
November 13, 2010 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Hair and Makeup Experts! Take me, a mid-twenties female, from "looking good" to looking like a *bombshell*. I'm decent at fashion/style, but there's something about hair and makeup I'm not getting right to look my best.


I am a mid-twenties female who is late to the hair/makeup/clothing scene (started a couple of years ago). Grew up a brainiac and not paying much attention to what I wore, etc. My mother is a professional who was far more invested in her work than her appearance until relatively recently, so I missed out on the lessons some women seem to learn from their mothers.

I'm told by people whose style I respect that I have a decent approach to style. I take care to accessorize. I pay very close attention to fit--I like fitted jeans, clothes, tops. I buy fewer higher-qualithy pieces of clothing that look great on me versus more cheaper clothing.

I could do a LOT better job with buying shoes, though.

I am 5'6 and 130lbs or so. I could stand to lose a few extra pounds, but I typically wear a size 4/6.

Area I need to work on:

There's something I need to work on with regards to hair/makeup. For example, I went to the opera the other night. In front of me and behind me were women my age (or maybe a little older) who looked camera-ready. They were drop-dead gorgeous. And I owned a dress very similar to one of the women, but their makeup and hair was perfect. By contrast, my hair had flyaways, looked flat and boring, and my makeup wasn't nearly as good.


Medium length hair (growing it out from a pixie for the first time in my life--I have never had hair this long). It falls just below my shoulders. I had bangs but they've since been cut into side bangs. I think I might look better with the actual bangs.

My hair is very fine and could almost ALWAYS use more volume.

I use Bumble & Bumble Shampoo and Conditioner, dry with hair-dryer, comb in damp hair. This generally produces decent results but doesn't last too long.

Suggestions for products? Better haircuts for the medium-length growing out phase? I'd like to see what I look like with long hair, as I've never had long hair. Suggestions for styling?

I'm told that I have a facial shape similar to Keira Knightley or Mandy Moore, if that helps.


Current morning routine is: Neutrogena sunscreen SPF 50, Neutrogena Healthy Skin foundation, and then followed by Neutrogena face powder. Neutrogena mascara. I typically don't wear lipstick.

At night I rinse with Neutrogena makeup-remover and then put on some Aveeno anti-aging cream. It's made my skin feel a lot softer over the past couple of months.


I admit to getting very little done here. I paint my nails myself sometimes. It shows.

What am I not doing right? There's something. I walk past women everyday who look drop-dead gorgeous and smashing. I think I have good material to work with as anyone, there's something I'm not doing right in the execution where my makeup looks blah and my hair looks limp and lifeless. Not to say I don't look decent and put-together (most of the time I do, and I'm not the type to go out the door without makeup and a coordinated outfit) but I don't look like a very well-maintained, kept-up woman.

And I also have an entry-level professional job, with a decent budget, but nothing too extreme.

Thanks so much AskMeFi
posted by Dukat to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (53 answers total) 94 users marked this as a favorite
I'm no everyday makeup expert, and I don't wear a lot of it, but you don't mention eyeliner. You might try that. It's really hard to give suggestions for particular makeup items when we don't really know what you look like. If you're willing to buy some department store-level products, go to a makeup counter and ask for them to do you up, then ask what they did. They will often make you a card of what they did and what products they used. I've never done this, but those I know who have found it helpful.
posted by elpea at 9:04 AM on November 13, 2010

Also, I would skip foundation and powder unless you have really uneven skin or a lot of blemishes to hide. Foundation is usually really noticeable (at least to me) and doesn't look as good as clean skin with a little blush. I think foundation makes most women in their 20s and younger just look older.
posted by elpea at 9:05 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I hate to say this, but here goes. I think the secret to great hair is a great haircut. And usually, the secret to a great haircut is paying a lot for it. Where are you getting your hair cut now? I would find a really good stylist and put yourself in his or her hands. My best haircuts have been when I gave the stylist some general guidance and then let him or her pick a style that would work with my face.

If you can't afford a really good haircut, I've had good luck with the cheap or free ones you get from apprentices at high-end salons. The cuts take a long time, though.

It sounds to me like you need to experiment with eye makeup. You may find that brown eyeliner works better than black. Subtle eyeliner and eyeshadow can make you look more put together.

I would get your nails done. You can take the polish off when it starts to chip. The polish isn't really the point of getting your nails done. The point is to have perfectly shaped, even nails.

(Full disclosure: I look like a schlubb. But I clean up well when I put effort into it.)
posted by craichead at 9:06 AM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Are you using any color on your face? With foundation and powder, your skin probably looks great but might look a little washed out. Blush or bronzer, depending on your skin tone, might be helpful.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:06 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think pics of what you mean by those ladies being perfect might help--would it be possible to scrounge around your own candid albums with friends out or celebrities who have the camera-ready make up and hair you're talking about? Because one person's perfect is another's way overdone, etc., some of this might be a matter of taste, and even if not it's hard to know exactly what it is you think is lacking in your make up.

Aside from that though, my all-purpose tips tend to be get the right moisturizer that really works at making you look fresh and dewy but not greasy, and lasts, eye widening pencils (you know, subtle white eyeliner looking crayons for the inner corners of eyes) to help you look magically more awake, a soft line when you line your eyes (use an applicator or small brush, NOT a pencil or liquid liner unless you know how to even it out softly reeeeally well), Frizz-Ease Secret Weapon finishing cream when you style your hair, to kill fly aways and sad looking split ends, and once a month or every two week deep cleansing and conditioning, and all-over exfoliation. Start at the foundation, getting your skin and hair as healthy looking and soft as possible before you even put on anything. (BTW, it's just me but when I party too much around the holidays the place you can really see the damage first is my hair--it goes limp and lifeless, matte. So limit alcohol especially, even if you don't smoke or do other bad things you'd be surprised how quickly drinking can make your appearance unhappy.)

And I swear by those face highlighters (Moon Beam or High Beam, depending on your coloring), which are sort of a twilight between nothing at all and foundation. They just make you glow and are really hard to mess up as they're so subtle.
posted by ifjuly at 9:12 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Well, if you tell us where you are located, we might be able to send you to our favorite hair stylists and aestheticians and so on.

Are you wearing any cheek color? Without that and some lipstick (it need not be barn red) you might look a little pale. Neutrogena has that, too.

The thing that makes the biggest difference for me is eyeliner. Pencils are pretty easy.

I also have baby-fine hair and it is thin. I've been with my hairdresser for 22 years, and right now we are doing "long layers." That might be a good growing-out idea for you. Keep in mind that long hair that is also very fine is a tough combo. Long layers enables me to have hair long enough to be around my collarbone (we've decide longer is not a good look for me at this age), and it has volume.
posted by jgirl at 9:12 AM on November 13, 2010

I agree with ThePinkSuperhero about color on your face.

I thought of another thing, though. What are you doing with your eyebrows? You might consider getting them waxed or threaded every month or so.
posted by craichead at 9:17 AM on November 13, 2010

I am nth-ing "invest in a great haircut" and "always wear blush or bronzer if you're wearing powder."

Here's another thing that will take you from "fine" to "bombshell" right quick:

I am 5'6 and 130lbs or so. I could stand to lose a few extra pounds

Let that way of thinking go. Live in the body you have and rock it like a particularly rocking hurricane. Body confidence is what separates the bombshells from the rest of the world. The myth of the "extra five pounds" is what keeps many a woman from freeing her inner sexpot.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:26 AM on November 13, 2010 [33 favorites]

It's really difficult to give makeup advice over the internet when we don't know what you look like and what your specific needs are. I would recommend trying one of those makeovers at department store makeup stations, and then tone it down a lot. They always put too much products on you, but at least it'll give you an idea of what is possible with makeup. Keep asking them questions about what/how they're doing, and then maybe get 1 or 2 products that would be important and good for everyday. Also, for hair, definitely get a professional haircut. Those people can give you much better advice than we can over the internet. If funds are short, go for an apprentice, or try a beauty school (I find that though it takes longer, it's still way better than Supercuts or something because their technique and attention to detail is much different). Maybe get a high-end haircut the first time to get the cut that's great for your face, and then get trims from cheaper places in the future? The thing with those high-maintenance women you saw was probably that they got everything done professionally, or at the very least, had years of practice. You don't need to go that far, but I think for things like everyday makeup and haircuts, it's worth it to shell out a bit more money for quality and good advice. Especially for makeup, these are products you put directly on your skin, leave on for hours everyday. Make sure it's working for you.

For makeup, you definitely need more color, such as a blush or bronzer. And eyeliner. They make a huge difference when applied correctly. The way you wear foundation makes a huge difference, and it's not something we can really give you advice on. Do you need foundation? Have you tried mineral foundation? It can give good coverage but still look natural is better for your skin. Also, are your eyebrows nicely shaped? That's another things that's commonly overlooked but can change how "done" you look. Are you exfoliating? Try a soft facial brush (not a scrub-- those can tear your skin).

Finally, as cliche as it sounds, how you carry yourself is important. Are you standing up straight, holding your head up, and walking confidently? That's really what makes someone a bombshell.

Good luck! There are also a lot of beauty forums on the internet that can give better advice than mefi. Try looking at those!
posted by lacedcoffee at 9:26 AM on November 13, 2010

Take a trip to the nearest Benefit counter. I've found that Benefit is the one that's going to make you look the most natural. MAC is good for some stuff, but if I let them do my makeup I leave looking like a MAC counter girl and that's not my style. Origins is pretty good too. Sephora can have the same problem as MAC, although they'll usually listen if you tell them you don't want to look overdone.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:27 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

1. Have you gone to professional make-up counters? I know they can be a fortune, but spending money on one or two basic items is WORTH it, such as foundation/cover up or blush. I LOVE Bobbi Brown make-up, very natural. That would be my first suggestion, get a good make-over. But be very resilient to the sales pitch, obviously, they are going to try to sell you everything they put on your face when, honestly, you CAN find good duplicates in drugstore cosmetics. I have no problem spending top $$$ on a good foundation that matches my skin correctly.

Also, lipstick is good way to look polished. You don't need vampy red to look photo-ready. But I would definitely add SOME lipstick. It will pull everything together.
Again, something a good make-up counter can do. It simply sounds like, according to your make-up routine, that you could use a couple of current little trendy things to spice up what you are currently doing. Maybe a new eye-shadow shade or technique that you've never tried? Eye shadow doesn't have to be about slappign one shade across your lid!

One other thing, make up has a tendency to fade/wear off throughout the day, regardless of the product (from what i've found) so you can consider about carrying a small blusher and brush with you to spruce up after lunch or whenever. It takes only a quick fresh pop of blush (not alot) and lip color to do the trick.

2. According to your hair description, if you have fine medium length hair, and you don't have any color on it, you honestly can - get ready - skip the handful of daily conditioner (I hear the gasps now!) or you can seriously cut back on the amount you use. Think of it as rubbing a very small amount with your hands, then "skimming" it over the top of your hair, very light amount is all that you need. Even if you are blow-styling your hair daily, this will be fine. Bumble and Bumble is a great product. Look for the lightest conditioner, or conditioning rinse, that you can find (professional product). It doesn't always have to match the shampoo, either. Sometimes I find a great shampoo, but the conditioner that goes with it is still too heavy for my fine, medium lenghth hair (that needs volume!)

Also, about the bangs, heck, you can always have bangs cut and try it out, because, as we all know, hair DOES grow back. And use a curling iron, flat iron. I say keep on growing it long to see how you like it and what it does at different lengths. Flat iron your hair then put it in a nice sleek ponytail. (obviously, the MORE heat styling you decide to do, then use a heat protection product/spray also).

And for fly-aways, you can always try a hairspray that will tame them. Once again, a spray that won't build up, won't give you helmet-hair, etc. and you can use and use as much as you want and gives great hold is Sebastian Shaper Plus. Also, HOW you spray your hair is important. Don't just spray all arund on the top (like our moms used to do and how we used to use the old Aqua Net). Spray in strategic spots - hold the crown of your hair up with your hand/fingers (my favorite) - spray away; in other words, you want to spray underneath your hair to help set. Also, don't be afraid to USE the spray, either! I've seen many women be very shy about hairspray. If you pick a good pro product that doesn't build up, you can be generous with it, especially the first spray in the morning that will help your style throughout the day.

There were several clients of mine who would have fly aways, but hair was too thin/fine for a finishing product, like a molding paste or shine product (OILS!), stay away from these!!! So I would use the hairspray as a "finisher". (btw, was a stylist for 12 years...) Bottom line: professional hair products are also worth the extra $$. I have used regular store products (Suave, etc.) here and there at different times and there really is no comparison.

3. Nails: eh, i'm in the same boat. I just do them myself. I say as long as they are clean and neat , you'll be fine. But maybe for special occasions, splurge on a manicure. Short and dark (rich jewel tones) nails are the trend right now.

Hope this helps!
posted by foxhat10 at 9:33 AM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'd echo those who said to go to a great stylist to get your hair cut. Let her know what kind of every day hair you want and what kind of going out hair you want. Let her know how much time, effort, and product you're willing to put in. Have her show you how to do it. Consider color as well. As a guy, I tend to notice great hairstyles far more often that well done makeup.
posted by advicepig at 9:35 AM on November 13, 2010

Do you have a Sephora near you? I've always had good luck walking into a Sephora during a less busy time (So, no weekends), finding a sales person that I think looks good and asking for her advice. This is how I picked my makeup for my wedding, actually, and I think I looked quite good :)

In addition to that, I'm seconding what people have said about more eyemakeup - eyeliner and shadows help with the "bombshell" look that you're going go for. As does lipstick or lip gloss. Don't underestimate the effect of color on your lips.
posted by echo0720 at 9:38 AM on November 13, 2010

Figure out your skin tone and undertones if you haven't already. Or go to a department store and ask someone at a makeup counter to tell you. This will open up what colors are more suitable for you ( though you're not limited to these shades, this is where you'd want to start).

Going to a makeup counter can be of benefit, but beware that some of them will overdo you. Bobbi Brown is probably a good bet if you wanted department store, as most of their products tend to enhance natural beauty and their color cosmetics are designed to work on most skin tones.

What is sometimes an invaluable resource is YouTube! There are many, many tutorial videos out there on all aspects of makeup by women and men with some impressive skills. I like EnKore, Panacea81, and the Pixiwoo sisters. Don't worry if you don't have all the products they have. Just pick up some techniques.

Makeup is also a learning process, like any skills. Like you, I grew up with a mother that didn't really use makeup and I was a nerdy late bloomer myself. I did always have a love for makeup, but I didn't really learn a lot of real skill at it until I was into my 20s. Even now, I'm still picking up tips and techniques. I have settled into some favorite colors and looks, but I'm also still experimenting. My next experiment may be false lashes (even though I've got plenty of my own). I'd just like to know how to do all sorts of things.

Even if you don't wear lipstick, a glossy lip may add a touch of refinement to your look. I like MAC Lustreglass, but often I wear Aquaphor on my lips in the fall and winter and it's glossy and protective. There are also lots of nice glosses available at the drugstore.

One more thing - invest in some makeup brushes. You really don't know how much of a difference they make until you start using brushes to apply your makeup. These need not be expensive. I personally love the ones from Sonia Kashuk at Target.

Hope this helps. MeMail if you'd like any more suggestions or recommendations.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:40 AM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

This book taught me so much about the basics of wearing makeup to achieve different looks for different occasions without ever looking over- or under- done. It's out of print but well worth buying used.

The author gives recipes for four types of makeup looks (and tips for clothing and accessories to match: Classic (for work, or any time you need to look polished and appropriate;) Glamour (for nights out on the town;) Earthy (which can range from natural-healthy to sensual and seductive;) Romantic (when you want to look sweet, fragile and pretty.)

The trick with the makeup, according to this book, is to pick a limited number of features to emphasize rather than trying to make everything pop at once:

For Classic, which is a good career look and goes well with tailored clothing, you'd emphasize well-groomed eyebrows, and lipstick in traditional, classic colors, and cheekbone enhancing blush. Eyes would be kept simple and subtle, maybe just a bit of mascara. Your hair would be kept in a neat style... a tidy updo like a smooth french twist, pulled back into a sleek low ponytail, or cut into a classic style like a smooth bob.

For Earthy, you would emphasize smoky eyes, fuller eyebrows and messy, unkempt hair. Lips would be kept natural, and if you're using blush you'd use it to create more of a sun-kissed flush rather than sculpting cheekbones. Clothes would be either casual (jeans & t-shirt) or gypsy-bohemian.

Glamour emphasizes eyes and lips. You'd do a more stylized, perhaps more colorful eye with shadow & liner, and bolder lips. Blush would be kept very subtle if used at all, to keep from looking clownish. This makeup goes well with trendy clothing and evening wear.

Romantic has all your features in more of a soft focus. Delicate eyeshadow, lightly applied mascara, rosy lips, rosy cheeks. Your hair would be softly feminine as well... loose curls, french braid, messy updo, tendrils. Clothes would be anything girly, lacy, soft, flowing, floral prints.

Before I read this book I had it in my head that a really polished makeup meant redrawing and coloring in each and every feature to fix flaws, cover imperfections, and add color; and I couldn't understand why, whenever I tried to look special I always wound up looking like I was wearing too much makeup. The tips in this book really opened my eyes to what it was I wasn't "getting."
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:41 AM on November 13, 2010 [25 favorites]

It's going to be hard for strangers on the internet to recommend specific products, blushes, etc without knowing more about your skin type and what you actually look like.

You say your mom never taught you this stuff. My mom never did either, but she did take me to the Clinique counter at the local department store when I was about 15 or so. I got a makeover and then my mom bought me some stuff.

You could go to the Clinique counter too, but it's pretty expensive. So I'd suggest doing the same but with a line that's less expensive (I'm still on Clinique 20 years later so I don't really know what brand that is). Tell the make up counter woman that you don't know anything about make up, and ask her to give you a makeover and to tell you what she's doing.

Here's something to know: every day looks should be different than evening-at-the-opera looks. You'll probably want to use heavier make up for evening--brighter/darker lipstick, heavier eye make up, etc. So when you go buy make up, you might start with a daytime look. Once you get comfortable with that, you can figure out what to buy for evening.

By the way, at 5'6" and 130 pounds, you are at a very healthy weight. Don't beat yourself up about this.

I'm also nthing the recommendations to get a great haircut and keep it up--usually every 8 weeks for hair that isn't super long. All this stuff--hair, nails, make up--takes a lot of time and maintenance.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:42 AM on November 13, 2010

Is there a particular celebrity whose makeup you often like, or, even if the colors aren't necessarily right for you, it's applied in the way that you'd like your makeup to look?

Let's say, Rihanna (that's just my example, you might be looking for someone with a more "everyday" look). Go to Youtube and do a search for "Rihanna makeup tutorial" or just "Rihanna makeup." That's assuming it would be easier for you to follow a video than written instructions. If you prefer written instructions, you can do the same search in Google and find tons of step by step instructions with photos.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:42 AM on November 13, 2010

BTW, forgive me if this is insultingly obvious to you already, but--make sure when you blow dry your hair you're not doing it while it's still WET, but damp. You will fry the fuck out of your hair if it's still wet. And you're using a thermal protecting spray when you dry it, right? That'll help. Don't go crazy with any of your hair products though--a little goes a long way, and if you have fine hair you'll weigh it down quickly if you use more than pea-sized amounts of anything. And, use the right brush--I have thick hair, but even I went 20+ years thinking a comb was enough. I recently switched to occasional blow drying now, which motivated me to get a ceramic round brush and the difference is huge, even for someone with already thick hair--my hair has waaay more bounce and looks way more polished/"finished" now. It really takes no longer than the simple part-with-comb-and-go thing I was doing before, and looks so much better.

Also, if you must have foundation, powder, etc. mineral make up gets rave reviews for making people look glowy and natural but still polished and camera-ready. It has a learning curve to it, but once you know how to use it apparently the chance you'll get that "makes you look older in a bad way" effect foundation causes sometimes as mentioned above is minimized.

Also way obvious but just case: you're good about washing your make up completely off (granted, gently) every time, right? And making sure your face is clean before bed. That works wonders for me, in terms of overall complexion happiness. My skin looks dull overtime if I get lazy about that.
posted by ifjuly at 9:43 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, yes, definitely, nthing ifjuly about washing face every. single. night. no exceptions. no excuses. AND keep up with the moisturizer and all that every. single. day. and night. no exceptions.
posted by foxhat10 at 9:48 AM on November 13, 2010

Personally, I think (most) women who look "camera ready" in more glamourous settings basically have to use a good amount of makeup. Definitely eyeliner (I like to dampen a slanted brush with a bit of water, pick up a dark shadow in whatever shade you like, then smudge it right at the upper lash line. This technique is called "foiling"). You can then use a similar (slightly lighter) shade to smoke out the line at the lashes, up into the eye-socket. (It's hard to explain here w/o pictures, but just google "smokey eye tutorial" or something and you'll get tonnes of advice.) I'm not saying you have to necessarily go all-out smokey, but the general technique is the same... just lighter shades/lighter hand.

I think, for big events where you want to look ah-may-zing, that you'll want both concealer and foundation, esp if you have undereye circles. I agree that mineral makeup tends to give the nicest coverage while looking natural, but that will depend on your skintype and preferences.

Blush is another vital thing, especially if you're using foundation (unless the foundation is very very sheer, it will tend to obscure any natural flush you have). It doesn't need to be strong, a subtle peachy pink tends to flatter most complexions. But otherwise, I find foundation+no blush to look kind of flat.

Lipstick or gloss really finishes a look, IMO. It's fine to stick to a not-loud shade, or just clear gloss if your lips are pigmented. The general rule is that if you do a strong eye, stick with a soft lip. Bold lips = subtle eyes. ("soft" and "subtle" don't mean "nothing", just a lighter hand.)

As for your hair, do you wear it down? I really love Living Proof's Full Thickening Cream. It goes in the hair before you blowdry, and tends to ... I don't know, not *thicken* remarkably, but it just makes it all good. Easier to style, soft to touch. Pricey, but if you have a Sephora near you, you can ask for a sample to try. You may also benefit from a root-lifting spray if your hair is really flat. And if you wear it straight, a flat-iron is wonderful for reducing flyaways. (Definitely use a shine serum/thermal protector beforehand. It's pretty hard/drying on your hair, but it looks so shiny and sleek after.) Shine serum in general is a girl's BFF.

Finally, I agree with the good advice here to get a really good haircut if possible (bring pics of celebs/friends whose hair you admire if you can!), and to go in for a makeover. Pick a makeup artist who has a look you like -- this is especially helpful if you can't fully articulate what you want to try. They did their own makeup, so if you think they look great, chances are they can help you look great!
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 9:48 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Because one person's perfect is another's way overdone, etc.,

I agree, so I'm just going to make suggestions based on what's worked for me. Foundation/bronzer can look very overdone, but I have a pretty uneven skin tone (curse you, acne!) and have found that light application of liquid foundation really evens things out. This really makes a difference in photos. As long as you don't cake it on (in which case you would look fake/wrinkles would become more obvious) it can brighten up your face by making things "cleaner"/less tired. I don't wear it anyway, since I hate the feel of it on my skin. If you have a nice even skin tone I wouldn't bother.

This might sound a little silly, but do you get a good curl in your eyelashes before you apply mascara? I have some friends who will apply mascara to lashes that just don't hold their curl, and their eyes end up looking hooded instead of open and bright. Also, try putting some color on your lips! I used to think that my chapstick was just fine, but having some color really makes a big difference. Make sure not to overdo it, though. Usually they say to focus on one (never have really heavily made up eyes AND lips).

I know this sounds trite, but I think the most important thing to improve your appearance is confidence, though. Not to say/imply you don't have any...but those women you see walking around who look smashing and gorgeous? It probably has a lot to do with the way they carry themselves. Asking for makeup tips is good because people generally feel more confident when they look better, but it works the other way, too. To me, people who really own who they are--regardless of how much makeup they have on or how perfectly coiffed their hair is--radiate attractiveness.
posted by sprezzy at 9:51 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

By the way, at 5'6" and 130 pounds, you are at a very healthy weight.

Absolutely! You might want to think about weightlifting. I guarantee that you will feel gorgeous while doing it and when not! It is a huge confidence booster.
posted by jgirl at 9:52 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

oops, I didn't mean to add that extra "though" to the last paragraph. Ignore that (and my numerous other grammatical errors).
posted by sprezzy at 9:53 AM on November 13, 2010

Can't comment on the makeup/beauty aspect of your askme, being a disaster area myself, but -

I am 5'6 and 130lbs or so. I could stand to lose a few extra pounds

You really couldn't. Try to break yourself of that thinking - when you say 'bombshell', I immediately think of Joan Holloway in Mad Men. Not because of her body, but because of her attitude and absolute confidence in herself. There is nothing more stunning and bombshell-riffic than a woman who walks around knowing she's made of fantastic and shows it. (Oh, and pull your shoulders back when you're walking, if you aren't already - it sounds so silly, but walking around with your head high and back straight just looks that much more rocking.)

Who wants to spend time thinking about the 'last few pounds'? Pfft - go on out, buy yourself a pair of hot shoes and show off your legs. 130 at 5'6 is ridiculously healthy. Don't even let it register on your radar.
posted by zennish at 10:03 AM on November 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

Nthing eyelash curler. Makes a big difference in eye shape. Wait long enough after your shower that lashes are totally dry, curl and hold for 10 seconds, apply mascara. Marvel at the difference.

I have fine long hair and cannot let it dry on its own or use a flat or paddle brush without it looking like beach hair. Maybe you're the same? Dry with a large barrel brush for super smooth and lots of body. Finish with a flat iron, curling iron, or hot rollers for occasions when you need more polish.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 10:12 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Excellent eyeliner suggestions here.
Beware, though:
Obvious eyeliner on the lower lashes veers perilously close to TrailerTrashVille. Keep it subtle!
posted by BostonTerrier at 10:15 AM on November 13, 2010

I see no one has suggested makeup alley yet. The reviews are honest and the people on the boards know that of which they speak, and are usually pretty gentle on beginners.

Definitely try them with any questions at all.
posted by R a c h e l at 10:16 AM on November 13, 2010

I often refer people to The Sartorialist, because you can see photos of actual well-dressed people who may or may not be in the fashion business.

Showing your waist to hip ratio is a good thing, if you're wanting to attract heterosexual male attention. If you're not especially curvy, there's ways to dress to fake curvy. If you have great legs, show them off--shoes that might seem weird to look at can actually add a great deal to your look once you have them on you.

Get a good haircut, maybe a semi-permanent color rinse, which will give your hair more body too.

Even if you don't wear nail polish, a manicure really enhances your hands.
Lipstick gives a focal point to your face--doesn't have to be superbrightpink but a color that's your lips but better can really add finish to your look.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:21 AM on November 13, 2010

Obvious eyeliner on the lower lashes veers perilously close to TrailerTrashVille. Keep it subtle!

I'm going to have to disagree on this. It really depends what you're going for, and lining on the waterline or at the lower lid can be wonderful ways to finish a look. It's also great when doing a smokey eye to have some color down there.

Personally, I tend to prefer some form of lower liner, as I feel it looks more finished and polished, but it depends on the rest of the look.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:22 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a great recommendation to give your hair some volume. I just picked up Pravana's Volumizing Dry Shampoo, and I LOVE it. (I actually have very thick hair, but I use it when I don't want to shampoo every day because my hair gets greasy.) But my stylist who recommended it has baby-fine hair, and she uses it to boost volume. Your question made me immediately think of her, and how awesome her super-fine hair always looks! The Pravana sucks up oil and gives your hair sort of a funky texture--sort of like cotton candy? But it makes it much easier to style and to hold style. My stylist often sprays it at the back of the head and under the top layers to "boost" those areas and give some depth. She also does some really gentle waves with a straightening iron (NOT a curling iron!) They're relaxed and look natural but help to keep her fine hair from hanging limply. I suggest checking out a youtube tutorial for making curls with a straightener and giving it a try!

For makeup, agree with everyone else about using some color. If you're not much of a lipstick person I recommend Almay Pure Tints lip balm in Nude. It's super smooth and moisturizing, and it has enough color to make me look put together but it's not shiny and doesn't look like I'm wearing lipstick. I have trouble finding it in my local drugstores but it's on ebay for about $4. I've also recently fallen in love with liquid gel eyeliner. I use some from Maybelline (don't remember the exact product right now) but it's gel in a little pot with a separate brush. It gives me lots of control and you'd be amazed at what a thin line can do to make your eyes pop!
posted by Bella Sebastian at 10:25 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Obvious eyeliner on the lower lashes veers perilously close to TrailerTrashVille.

Well... not exactly. They key to all makeup, especially on the eyes and definitely if you're not going with a liquid liner kind of straight and obvious definition, is blending. Blend your eyeliner, blend your shadows, blend your foundation on your jawline, etc.

I'm by no means an expert but I've been playing around with makeup since my mother lifted the NO MAKEUP EMBARGO of 1992.

First, figure out what looks you like and what looks right on you. You'll need to play around and experiment, maybe take your own picture near natural and indoor lighting and see how everything works.

Then check out YouTube for tutorials. Want a dramatic smokey eye? Want to figure out how to do your brows? There are girls showing you how. Most of the videos show you what tools you need to, which leads me to...

Get some decent brushes, tweezers, eyelash curler and magnifying makeup mirror. They don't have to be a set and they don't have to be super expensive either. Target has a brand called Studio Tools. They are relatively decent brushes at a good price. I have a Revlon eyelash curler that has lasted me forever.

Learn how to define your brows - you can use brow powder or a brow liner. It makes a huge difference on your face.

For specific brands/products, I can only recommend 2 right now. For an eye-makeup base, I use Urban Decay Primer Potion - a little goes a long way. For mascara, nothing has come close to LOreal Voluminous waterproof for me.
posted by jerseygirl at 10:36 AM on November 13, 2010

To learn the nitty-gritty of makeup application, there are lots and lots of tutorials on YouTube that go into extremely specific detail and often include product recommendations and reviews. Since there are so many to choose from, it's easiest if you have a specific look in mind. Then search around til you find someone whose style meshes with yours. Since I wear glasses daily, I've gotten some really great general tips from these types of tutorials, and there are many available for a huge variety of "looks".
posted by lhall at 10:41 AM on November 13, 2010

You know, I'm still working on this myself, and it's confusing, huh! It's like everybody else has this secret knowledge!

For me, it's even more critical that I know what I'm doing, 'cause I'm an actor, and especially for TV it's all about how you look.

So on the advice of an agent, I did what many people are recommend you do - I went to Holt Renfrew's (fancy shpantzy department store) and had an artist give me a makeover. We're talking:

Highlighter (for upper cheek bones, bridge of nose)
Eyeshadow primer (or a priming base colour)
Brown liner
Black liquid liner
Black pencil liner
Mascara (always after curling!)
Darker Eyeshadow for contouring
Lighter eyeshadow for highlighting
Eyebrow pencil (after combing them and pasting them down a bit with some wax - mine are shaped but can get unruly)
Lip Pencil
Lip Stain
Lip Gloss

And probably some other stuff I'm not thinking of. In otherwords, a SHIT TON OF MAKEUP. And I was like...okay, this is a great look for me, you know, if i'm about to star in a stage production of Cabaret, but...MAN that's a lot of makeup (and I bought a few things after getting this makeover from the artist--I'd agreed with myself that I'd spend $50 or $100 before I went in, and left with a few products I REALLY liked)

And then I went to work (I was hostessing at a restaurant at the time) and literally EVERYBODY said "Wow Stray, you look FANTASTIC, what's up? Like, SO GOOD" and I thought...huh. Maybe there's something to this.

Which isn't to say that I always do ALL that stuff...but when I'm trying to get 'Camera-Ready', I pretty much do... It takes A LOT of makeup to look even magazine-style 'Natural'.

But don't get intimidated, I really think you could add just a few things to your makeup routine: A bit of blush and Bronzer, a couple shades of neutral eyeshadow, a liner, an eyelash curler, and maybe a lipstain you can use under a chapstick.

There's also a ton of makeup tutorials on YouTube. I haven't watched them all, but the ones by Michelle Phan seem like a good start. Even if you don't do everything she says, it's good to pick up a sense of what you generally want to highlight on your face.
posted by stray at 10:42 AM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's hard to give recommendations when we don't know anything about what you look like, but this is some of what has helped me look more polished in the past year...

Try some kind of frizz-reducer. I used to use a more expensive brand but I've switched to a Garnier one that's a lot longer lasting and a lot more natural looking- even when I wear my hair down (it's wavy/curlyish), it stays together without frizzing, where before it would be a poof in a matter of a few hours. Without doing anything else, I started getting compliments on my hair from people.

In my experience, blowdrying your hair all the time without product is asking for frizzy, unkempt hair. Try wearing it naturally or using some kind of heat-protecting creme.

Also, I think the problem may be the makeup you're wearing. Very few people with normal skin actually need to wear foundation and powder every day- unless you have really bad skin, you can probably dab a bit of concealer on and powder over it and be fine. A full everyday face of foundation tends to get/look cakey and fake very quickly. I would try powder, eyeliner (not heavy- I only wear eyeliner on my top lid and the bottom 1/3 of my bottom lid) and mascara, with some kind of color on your lips- be careful of lipstick, it can be too much. If you're willing to invest an extra few minutes in the morning, try wearing eyeshadow every day- a shimmery shade on the browbone/inner eye and a darker shade on the outer eye blended can do a lot for being "pulled together".
posted by kro at 10:45 AM on November 13, 2010

Lots of great advice here. I personally just wanted to stress that you want to start with a healthy base: fresh, even skin, healthy-looking hair, well-groomed body. Keep your nails and cuticles trimmed, and your eyebrows well-shaped and filled in if necessary.

Most of what I'd say about makeup has already been covered, so I'm going to skip straight to hair, as it's been a recent topic of interest/research for me. Nthing getting a fantastic haircut. With thin, fine hair, a long style probably isn't going to work well on you. Depending on the texture of your hair, a medium, possibly layered cut may work best.

Please, please don't leave your hair unconditioned. You don't need to skip conditioning; you need to use the right conditioner. With the small amount of info available, I can suggest you look for a protein-based conditioner rather than an emollient-based conditioner. Your hair would also benefit from the occasional protein treatment. Proteins will help build hair volume and strengthen strands. In general, I'd recommend you get away completely from sulfates and silicones. The sulfates strip and damage your hair, and silicones coat and weigh it down. Sulfates are needed to remove the silicone, so it's a nasty cycle. If you're wanting to reduce dry fly-aways and limp hair, this would be a good place to start.

I don't know how much time and effort you want to put into finding the right products to get your hair to its healthiest state, but if you're interested in more info and links, please contact me via email.
posted by moira at 10:54 AM on November 13, 2010

The upthread advice about eyelash curlers is 100% correct, they make a huge positive difference in how mascara sits on the lashes.

Nails: I am very lazy and this is my routine where I fake the polish (pun!). I like to buff my nails and make sure they have a nice shape, and then coat them with clear nail polish. Then I ignore them for a while - they still look just as great well into week 2, even when the polish is chipping! It's an understated look that I appreciate for its simplicity and ease of upkeep, or non-upkeep, as is usually the case.
posted by pluot at 10:58 AM on November 13, 2010

I think you need to ditch the sunscreen on your face for everyday use unless you're going to be out in the sun for extended periods of time. I use Neutrogena too but even the dry touch line is still a little greasy and isn't a good base for makeup. I'm very fair skinned and terrified of wrinkles (I don't have any yet and I just turned 30). What I use most of the time is MAC Prep + Prime Face Protect 50 SPF. It's pretty pricey but that little bottle lasts a while because a little goes a long way and it makes my skin feels great.

Also, if you want to look photo ready, you need to stop wearing drugstore makeup. You get what you pay for most of the time. 90% of all drugstore makeup is crap. I think I've spent a small fortune on makeup over the last 10 years and have learned this the hard way. I'm seriously makeup obsessed. It's hard to give you advice on what brands to wear if we don't know anything about your skin and your skin type. Regardless of makeup, you need to have a good base. If you don't take care of your skin, it will show no matter what you put on your face.

I second the advice for getting your eyebrows waxed. It can get a little expensive but it's really not that hard to do yourself once you've observed how the salon does it. I do own eyebrows and have never messed them up.

In my experience, women love to talk about makeup (and I most certainly do). If you're in a social setting and see a woman's look that you like, ask her about it.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 11:41 AM on November 13, 2010

Oh, also ditch the Neutrogena foundation and powder, they're total crap (yes I have tried them). Go to either Sephora or a department store counter. You can try things anything before you buy it.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 12:03 PM on November 13, 2010

I have very fine straight hair, and it just hangs there if it's not styled. There are only a few styles it will take, a pixie cut being one of them. I suggest pinning it up into a French pleat. Here is how to do that with pins:

Take 6 bobby pins. Brush your hair back as though doing a pony tail. Then, holding the hair at the back of your head, sweep it to the left so that all your hair is now pointing to your left. Take two bobby pins and, at the base of your neck, pin them in an X. Continue upwards with the remaining two pairs of bobby pins until you have a vertical seam at the back of your head.

Now, sweep your hair to the right, so that the seam is underneath your hair and all your hair is pointing to the right. Fold your hair in half, with the ends of your hair on the underside of the fold. Keep folding until the fold is narrower than the back of your head, then take a bunch of V-pins and start jamming them in along the edge of the fold.

When you think you've done enough, add some more pins.

Add some more pins.

You may also want to get 2 or 3 geisha pins and use them as structural support at the *start* of the process.

Check all sides of your head with a mirror, smooth it over with a brush, and then spray. I find that Elnett's strongest-hold version is the best.

Make sure the colour of the pins is close to your own hair colour.
posted by tel3path at 12:26 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

The best makeup starts with good skin. :) Mario Badescu products are comparable pricewise to Neutrogena skincare, and are so much better. Fill out the online questionnaire and they'll send you generous samples of the right products for you.

The best cleanser I have ever used is Philosophy's Purity Made Simple. Gets the makeup off, leaves face clean but not stripped. After that I love Mario's Enzyme Cleansing Gel.

Go to a department store counter and get your foundation matched, and find out whether your complexion is flattered more by cool or warm colors for eyes, cheeks, and lips. I love both MAC and Bobbi Brown for makeovers, and find myself kind of averaging the two looks (dramatic vs. natural) into something that suits me.

Get to know one of the artists after you get good advice, and call to request him or her again when you're ready for another makeover/more help. Many of them love to share their knowledge. After the makeover if there is something you really love about your face, go over with them how they did it; they won't mind! But if you get a snooty artist, go back during another shift to find someone friendlier!

Finding a foundation can be a really personal thing. I love MAC foundations and can't wear Bobbi Brown well; I have friends who are the exact opposite. Samples are your friend. (Sephora will give you three samples per visit of anything you ask for.) Then you're not out $20-$40 if you buy the wrong foundation. Also both MAC and Sephora are great about returns.

Find a good person to shape your brows! As RuPaul says, if the brows aren't right, nothing else is right! Once they are shaped well you can do maintenance in between salon visits.

Nthing those who say get a good haircut. Also, the best product I have ever found for boosting hair volume is the Matrix Ampflify line. It really does what it says it will do, at least for me.

It takes a lot of time and practice to be able to do nails well, but many women I know who have learned the skills would now rather do their own than go to a manicurist! (Pedicures are another matter.) Someone mentioned Makeup Alley--the nail discussion board there is full of great advice. A profile there called "nailboardwisdom" contains everyone's best tips in its Notepad section.

Good luck and have fun!
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 12:46 PM on November 13, 2010

if you tell us where you are located

Not to mention, where you're located is going to make a big difference in terms of ideas like "perfect", "camera-ready", etc. I find, for instance, that I can tell whether a woman is a local or a tourist (I live in New York City) based on how much makeup she is wearing. The women from out of town wear more makeup during the day in sneakers and sweats than the biggest M.A.C. junkie in Manhattan would wear to the opera.

If on the off chance you live in a major US northeast city:

Makeup - I'm no expert here, sadly, and am myself trying to figure this out. Especially for "evening", as I have no plans to start wearing makeup regularly during the day. I'll Nth the idea that it all seems to have something to do with eyeliner.

Hair - a good SIMPLE cut works wonders, here. If you are not super into styling and maintenance, medium length, something in the bob family, with layers that flatter your face (a good stylist can do this without instructions from people on the internet). Bangs if they look good and you are the right mix of young/hip/indie-rock. I have hair that sounds a lot like yours - it's straight, with a tendency to flatness and flyaways. As my hair gets longer (YMMV on this) I find that brushing it again before going out at night is a huge help, if even just to redistribute the oils and smooth it out. I mainly aspire to clean and shiny and seemingly "thick", though I have no real control over the latter. If you are not the type to rock updos or hair accessories, avoid them.
posted by Sara C. at 1:38 PM on November 13, 2010

A great haircut is essential and doesn't necessarily cost a fortune. I've located great cutters in dives and bad haircutters in some top big-city salons. The best way to find a good haircutter is to stop people you see in stores and on the street whose hair looks great and who have similar hair/face shape as yours and get the name of their stylist.
posted by Elsie at 1:57 PM on November 13, 2010

Kevyn Aucoin books, rest his blessed, stylish soul. MAC, Bobbi Brown or Laura Mercier counters. Simple cleansers and moisturizers. Sephora, but do not get your makeup tips from the salespeople as they are not trained makeup artists. A crapload of cheapie NYX, Wet'n'Wild and NYC makeup to play with to learn the contours of your face and not waste the good products. Watch Ted Gibson on What Not To Wear US for hair tips. Dry shampoos and thickening creams and powders will help with volume.
posted by oflinkey at 3:12 PM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I find, for instance, that I can tell whether a woman is a local or a tourist (I live in New York City) based on how much makeup she is wearing. The women from out of town wear more makeup during the day in sneakers and sweats than the biggest M.A.C. junkie in Manhattan would wear to the opera.

Speaking as a fellow New Yorker, this is presumptuous and not necessarily the case. You'd probably be surprised how much makeup our fellow residents are wearing, even with a "natural" look. Sometimes that "natural" look takes moisturizer, primer, concealer, foundation, tightlined eyeliner, a swipe of mascara, a bit of blush, and a bit of tinted lip balm. And personally, I love makeup, especially bold eye makeup or red lipstick. I'll wear it out during the day, in jeans, in dresses, in sweats, to work, wherever.

The bottom line for the OP, of course, is to not make assumptions and to just go with what you feel. However, I've noticed lots of people fear a bold lip or fear wearing lots of eye makeup, but as long as you don't wear those both together (most times, but there's ways to break this 'rule' stylishly also), there's nothing wrong with it, even if you are just wearing jeans and sneakers.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:48 PM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

At 5'6" your BMI is 21. You are thin, perfectly a normal, and healthy weight. At a 4/6 size you are thin enough. Don't fall for this trap. You are fine fine fine.

Make up: when I was about 25 I paid to have a professional makeup artist do a make over. It was worth the money and very helpful. Also, have your eyebrows professionally shaped.

Hair: go to a really good salon (like Bumble and Bumble) and have a senior stylist do your hair. It will be expensive but you will get to see what your hair should look like. If you do this, give the stylist a idea of what you want then give the hair stylist free rein. A good stylist really does know how your hair should look better than you do. If you hate it, it is only hair and it will grow back.

Clothes: go to a good store and ask for a professional shopper to help you. Since you are still quite young if you just go for classic quality clothing you will look boring. You can have quality and still kick it up. Try trendy accessories to go with your classic good clothing.
posted by fifilaru at 3:50 PM on November 13, 2010

I have fine hair and bought dry shampoo for lazy mornings but found that dirtyish hair+dry shampoo+ hairspray looks pretty good. My hair is short, though, so it may be different for lon ghair.

I never used to wear anything on my lips because they're pretty big and it can look garish easily. However, I found that a natural color of one of those sharpie-like lipstain marker things works well for days I want a little extra color. I put on a very thin layer of lip balm, then "paint" my top lip, then rub my lips together. This is a very subtle color that looks like you aren't wearing anything, but is an improvement off nothing.
posted by elpea at 4:20 PM on November 13, 2010

the color is just uneven which looks bad

This is for this commenter, the OP, and anyone else who ever reads this thread:

Have fun playing with makeup all you want. But NEVER, EVER tell yourself that the person under all the powders and creams "looks bad". Real people with real skin don't "look bad". The other posters who've talked about weight were spot on, and that spirit extends to this.

Your skin does not look bad. You do not look bad. You do not need to hide yourself under a bunch of products in order to look "normal" or even "good". Period.
posted by Sara C. at 5:32 PM on November 13, 2010 [9 favorites]

You'd probably be surprised how much makeup our fellow residents are wearing, even with a "natural" look. Sometimes that "natural" look takes moisturizer, primer, concealer, foundation, tightlined eyeliner, a swipe of mascara, a bit of blush, and a bit of tinted lip balm.

I didn't say New Yorkers don't wear makeup or don't like makeup or whatever you're accusing me of saying.

But it's definitely true that in New York, a more natural look is preferred than in a lot of the rest of the country. I don't know how many products that involves for a typical woman. But I know the difference in the styles, because I'm from the South and I feel the Stare Of Naked Face Doom I get from women down there when I go home (even when I'm wearing what I would consider to be a full face of makeup!!!). The look is different. Regardless of how many products or whatever. Trust me on this.
posted by Sara C. at 5:36 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've found that there are no true shortcuts to "looking like a bombshell" as you put it. It takes a lot of effort for the average woman; not until starting beauty school did I realize how frequently the really put-together looking women get facials/waxing/haircut/hair color/manicures/pedicures done. Here's a bit of advice I've picked up; I hope you don't find this all too overwhelming or discouraging. There is a real difference between looking clean/tidy/pretty and having that head-turning look.

For makeup, you definitely always need to start with a primer and a good foundation and concealer. Application is key. Be sure to use a flattering blush (not to excess), have your eyebrows properly shaped and lightly filled in (many women skip this but it is quite important). Your eyeshadow should compliment the contours of your eye area as well as be a flattering shade for your skin tone.

A lot of women I know get their makeup done professionally for special occasions also, so don't think all those women are just waltzing out of their personal powder rooms looking so flawless.

If you're clueless on selecting makeup colors or applying... I know a lot of people who suggest so and so whoever on youtube but you can only learn so much from watching a million tutorial videos. Consult with a real makeup artist and have them show you how to apply makeup and help your pick colors that will suit you.

As for your hair, as others have mentioned a good haircut is key. A good color job makes a huge difference for some as well. If you have a hair stylist who is actually good at styling as well as cutting, ask them to show you how to style your hair with your next hair cut. If you really like the style, and they recommend a styling product or two, I'd highly recommend getting them. I know people like to think that people are just trying to get them to fork over extra money at every turn, but they do recommend those products for a reason.

With nails, unless you've become a pro at doing them yourself, get them done professionally for special occasions.

Nthing the confidence and posture advice.

Don't ignore the small details, like even skin tone (no farmers tans) and well moisturized skin (face & body). There's so much more but ugh, life is so short.
posted by french films about trains at 8:29 PM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

The secret to an extremely glamorous look is fake eyelashes. You watch true blood? Every woman on that show is wearing fake lashes. Same for Glee. They make the eyes look amazing. You can get lash extensions, if you are really obsessed with looking this way every day.
posted by ch1x0r at 11:26 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

You sound very similar to me, so I'll let you know what I've found that has worked for me:


If you have the complexion for it, highlights. Made a huge difference for me. Don't be afraid to go a little out of your comfort zone. It wasn't until I started going much lighter that people really started to compliment my hair.

Stop fighting your fine hair. I have thin, fine hair and was always trying every product under the sun to try get volume. Unless I had it done professionally, it would go flat in an hour or less (and the professional put half a bottle of hair spray and took 30 minutes to get it big, which I'm certainly not even willing to do on most Saturday nights out). So just embrace your fine hair and get a straightening iron. Make it flat and smooth. Add a little hair silk or other serum and you'll have nice shiny straight hair. Straightening is also great for our hair type because it takes 5 minutes, unlike for people with thick hair. Straightening is easy and the results generally last.

Makeup wise, I can't recommend Laura Mercier enough. I use this regimen: I don't usually use the primer, but it does give a nice effect. It's just tinted mostirizer, which is great because you don't have to be too careful applying it. Concealer for blemishes and under eyes (use the brush, it makes such a difference I had no idea) and then setting powder and your done. I also usually use this blush. Just smile, just slightly dab it on the apples of your cheeks and rub it in a little. It will take a minute or two to absorb in, so don't freak out if you look like a clown for a second or two. I find this to be a very natural look. People tend to think I have great skin and wear little to no makeup day to day, when in fact I have so-so skin and virtually never leave the house without at least some makeup on.

I just started using this for under my eyes and I really like it. It's pricey, but it's really nice and quick and easy to apply.

If you don't have great skin, get to a dermatologist. You'll probably end up saving money. I have mild/moderate acne and so I didn't think it was worth it to go. I finally did and couldn't believe I had waited so long.

Mascara and subtle eye liner tends to make anyone eyes pop. If you can't be bothered to use mascara everyday, look into lash tinting. It costs something like $30 and lasts for a month or two in my experience.
posted by whoaali at 3:23 PM on November 14, 2010

Go to Sephora, and ask to explain neutral make up to you. I had a lucky run in with a make up artist that taught me that a brown/pink shade (with my blue eyes) is amazing. In 2 years all I get is compliments when I put in the effort - and when I do it "palely" it just looks nice. If you have good skin, skip the coverup - I would love it if I could!

Hairspray can be great (Pantene) and not sticky and have your hair hold for more than 30 minutes. (6 hours... so not all day, but close and may depend on hair texture).

Good luck! Make up is a fun, and worthwhile adventure. And you know what? You can always stop using it for periods of time. Gives you a good appreciation of so many things (society, your skin, and use of morning time.)
posted by olya at 9:19 PM on November 15, 2010

I've watched a lot, and from observation, the most polished, put together women have the following look tricks going for them:

- even skin tone via a natural but effective base of foundation/powder
- great shaped eyebrows that match their hair colour
- healthy but natural colour on face (blush/bronzer/eyeshadow)
- great hair
- well-chosen accessories (for any outfit choice)

Some of the above require long term planning - a great haircut/colour, eyebrows maintained, good products makeup wise. When you have all these pat down, getting ready in the morning is a 15 minute job!

None of the above have to be over the top, or done to look artificial, but done well, can achieve a very seamless and lovely look that is natural looking too.
posted by shazzam! at 5:22 AM on November 16, 2010

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