makeup for n00bs
June 21, 2005 9:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm in my late 20's and have never really worn much in the way of makeup. I'm looking for instructions with pictures for various makeup techniques (especially for eyes). Free or cheap is best.

I basically only want to explore this for my own entertainment and curiosity, so any type of look is fine, the more the better. I just have no idea what to buy and what to do with it, beyond the very very basic. I've been through a couple regrettable home makeup parties with friends, but those basically just encouraged me to buy whatever they were pushing that season without offering much instruction. Department store makeup counters are tempting, but the salespeople there terrify me. Any websites that have good instructions with visual aids? Any other resources? I've found many with instructions, but I need clear pictures to figure this stuff out.
posted by jheiz to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Check out (from the library if you really don't want to spend money) any book by Kevyn Aucoin - The Art of Makeup, FaceForward, or Making Faces. They are by far and away the best makeup books I've ever seen ... fun just to look at the amazing pictures, but you can also learn a lot from them. They go into detail not just about application of the makeup itself, but also the best tools to use to do the job right!!
posted by roundrock at 10:02 PM on June 21, 2005

I'd suggest you schedule a makeup appointment at a department store. They'll usually do your makeup for you for free, and often will give you instructions on how to do it along with a piece of paper telling you all your best colors. I really like Mac, which is at Nordstroms. Clinique is another good brand, at Nordstroms as well as other stores. You don't have to buy anything they're pushing either.

Another option would be to experiment with drug store brand colors on your own. Cover Girl has lightweight makeup that's inexpensive, and that would be a good place to start. Maybelline is also relatively decent considering the price.

If you have good, clear skin, you don't have to worry about foundation or concealer.

The lipstick you choose should depend on your coloring as well as how daring you're willing to be. If you're inexperienced with makeup you may want to start with something subtle so you don't feel too self conscious. I'd not worry about lip liner until you're more comfortable with wearing makeup in general.

The same goes for eyeliner. Leave that until you've mastered everything else with your eyes. Maybelline makes a good mascara for your eyelashes. I forget the specific product name, but it comes in a pink and green tube. Your best eyeshadow colors will depend on your coloring and the color of your eyes.

It's pretty complicated, now that I think about it. I learned most of this stuff reading Seventeen magazine when I was 14 years old. You could check out Seventeen's Beauty School. That looks like it's got some good makeup tips for beginners.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:03 PM on June 21, 2005

The department store people are really your best bet for learning this stuff. What I've found is that - perhaps contrary to what you'd expect - the fancier places generally have the most helpful and professional people. Go in with the expectation that you'll purchase *something* even if it's just a lipstick, and find someone who looks like they have a sense of style you like (not just makeup, but hair, accessories, etc) and just tell them that you've never really worn makeup and you'd like to see what options you might explore. It's their job to be nice to you and show you how fabulous you might look. Even though I never wear makeup other than lipstick, it's fun to go play dressup every now & then.
posted by judith at 10:05 PM on June 21, 2005

I enthusiastically second roundrock (Aucoin was the absolute tops, although Bobbi Brown has some nice books out as well), but the best way to learn to apply makeup is to look at makeup on others, and then play with it on your on face.

Get an Aucoin book, take some time when you know you are going to be in for the night, and try some products on. Buy the cheap stuff to start with if need be, just for a palatte of colors. Apply tons of it, layer it, pile it on, wash it off and start again. Learn your face, and experiement with creating the effect you want. Refer to Aucoin for technique when you are stumped on how to achieve something.

Forget what you have heard about what colors look best on your skin. Just try out as many as you want, in whatever shades you like. (And when you are ready for the good makeup, as it does make a difference, I say start with MAC.)
posted by oflinkey at 10:20 PM on June 21, 2005

If there is an Origins store around your or in your department store, you might want to try them. Their products tend to be more neutral, and their sales people have always been wonderful, plus nothing is too terribly expensive. Much less intimidating than Mac or Bobbi Brown.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:25 AM on June 22, 2005

Another vote for a Kevyn Aucoin book.
posted by SashaPT at 6:43 AM on June 22, 2005

I have family who worked closely with Aucoin (RIP.) He was the best in the business. Do not waste your time at a department store. Go get his books. They are gorgeous and the best way to learn about makeup from the master.
posted by gen at 6:49 AM on June 22, 2005

So how does one make an appointment at a department store counter? Do I just walk up and talk to them or do you usually call ahead? I'm fine with buying from them, I'm just scared to go up in the first place. I've always been a bit paranoid that people who devote most of their waking hours to cosmetics would look down on someone like me (walking up with either no makeup, or minimal makeup poorly applied). I know it's their job to be professional and make me want what they're selling, though, so I may just have to ignore my inner nervous-adolescent-dork and do it. If anyone has any more advice about these (seriously, hold my hand, walk me through what happens at a typical counter) it'd be appreciated.
I'll definitely check out the Aucoin books, thanks.
posted by jheiz at 7:08 AM on June 22, 2005

I'm like you. I wear very little makeup and am not that experienced with colours and application, however, I'll strongly second doing a makeup appointment with Mac. Don't let the colours or the salespeople scare you, they're usually very nice and patient, Mac salespeople in particular.

Don't feel pressured to buy whatever they use, just tell them that you want to wear it for a while before deciding if you want to get it. It's kind of like trying on perfume at a perfume desk - you don't want to buy it right away until you know how it smells a couple hours later, or in this case, how it looks.

Usually at the Mac counter they have one or two high chairs that people sit in while the salesperson applies the makeup. If they're not busy, you may be able to just walk up and ask if you can have a makeup session. If not, schedule an appointment. Tell them what kind of look you have in mind (you want glittery eyes and sultry lips or creamy skin and dark eyes) or a general idea of where you will be wearing this makeup (daytime look for work or evening look for the bars). Let them know you are a beginner. They'll ask you if you want neutral tones or if you want to go into some colour. Let them do their work. Afterwards, get them to write down the names of all the colors that they used (I'm not sure but they may provide a facial chart with the colour and name of the product). Walk around the mall, check yourself out, go home, ask your friends what they think, see how it feels on your face, see how long it lasts and how long it takes to wash off. You'll know what you feel comfortable with. Go back and buy what you like. If you didn't like the colour of eyeshadow, you can ask them to show you a different colour. Again, walk around, check yourself out, etc.

Be warned, Mac makeup is more expensive than what you would buy at Shopper's Drug Mart but it'll be worth it for the colour and quality of makeup and the salesperson's opinion. The way I see it is that I rarely buy any makeup so I like to go for quality stuff when I actually do.
posted by KathyK at 7:28 AM on June 22, 2005

I use Lancome, and the people at their counters are usually very, very nice. Seems the trend with them lately is to have a real makeup artist at their counters some few days out of the week. You can call them to see when the makeup person will be there and schedule an appointment. They don't care how you show up. I took my roommate for Intro to Makeup when we were in college, and everyone was very cool and nice to her, and she learned something.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:04 AM on June 22, 2005

I'd recommend going to Sephora if you have one near you. They sell a dizzying array of brands, and their makeup artists will use all kinds on you, so you're likely to discover what works best instead of getting one brand exclusively pushed.

I bet you can call ahead and schedule an appointment. Bring a trusted friend, if you can--she can get her face done too, which makes it a fun outing, and she can give you an honest opinion about how you look. Even the nicest makeup artists can be a little pushy, so it's nice to have a friend's support.

Speaking of which, I know the makeup artists can be intimidating, but speak up! Don't let them intimidate you into buying anything you don't love. Tell them what colors you like and whether you want an everyday work look or a going-out fancy look. And try wearing new products around for a day before you buy them--otherwise, you might find that they smear the minute you walk out the store. The colors will look different outside, too, and you'll want to know how they wash off. So at the very least, ask the makeup people to put stuff aside for you to buy the next day, or buy everything but wait to open the packaging (so you can return it in case you don't like it later that day).
posted by equipoise at 8:18 AM on June 22, 2005

My sister is a counter girl/make up artist at lancome, and I think that her/lancome's style might be a little overwhelming for someone who doesn't wear much makeup. I'm comfortable with makeup, but when she does mine, I sometimes feel a little silly, like I'm wearing too much. If you do go the route of the cosmetics counter (which sounds like a great idea to me!) maybe try Clinique. Their look is a little more fresh faced and their products are a little bit less expensive. Seriously, though-- Aucoin's books are incredible.

Oh! And there's how-tos on almost every makeup company page!

Here's my take on the basics, for what they're worth:
1. Start looking at people, looking at magazines. You've probably never noticed their makeup before. Start trying to. Then browse the aisles at the drug store and at the makeup counters. Familiarize yourself with the basic products and what they look like on models and ordinary people and see if you can breakdown what you like about a look and how you would recreate it.
2. If you have clear skin, try wearing:
-lip gloss in sheer but still colored shade. I prefer the ones that come from a squeeze tube, like lancome's juicy tubes. Urban Decay has a good line, as do most drugstore brands.
-a shimmery, sheer shade of eyeshadow that's either neutral or complimentary to your skin tone. I like covergirl's gold. Spread it LIGHTLY near your lashes on your lid to brighten things up a bit and draw attention to your eyes
-lash enhancer, which is more fool-proof and more subtle than mascara
-add a little blush if you want. Don't worry about concealer, foundation, or any of that at first. It take A LOT of experimenting, and most people don't really need. A tinted moisturizer with spf in a shade matching your skin is easy and utilitarian, and if your skin is oily, I little pressed powder never hurt, just don't cake it on.
3. Walk around in that for a few days, see how you feel. Experiment, have fun! Don't be scared or intimidated of makeup, and don't feel like you have to become an indentured servant to the beauty gods to enjoy playing with it.
posted by lalalana at 10:19 AM on June 22, 2005

Sephora will also give you samples of the makeup they use on you to take home and use for a few days before you buy. See details (and find a store near you) here.
posted by salad spork at 10:28 AM on June 22, 2005

Look for free gifts with purchase-- Lancome & Clinique in particular often have these. Since you're just starting out and will need to buy some stuff anyway, the more free product you can get to experiment with, the better. They will often have free trial-sized samples available, too (as salad spork said). You shouldn't need to do more than loiter near a counter that's not overly busy, and someone should offer you a consultation. Buy items one at a time, even if you like more than one product, so you can go back and get another consultation. Each consultant will usually give you different ideas and tips from the next, so the more the better while at this point in the learning curve.
posted by obloquy at 11:17 AM on June 22, 2005

The best all-around resource regarding makeup I have found has been Paula Begoun. She's a makeup artist turned consumer advocate (Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me is a very extensive and exhaustive list of product reviews, with breakdowns of ingredients, explaining what works, what doesn't, and why). Her book, The Beauty Bible, has a step-by-step complete makeup application with full-color photos, not to mention tons of info on skin-care routines and how to apply different types of products with what tools. Her style is conservative/businesslike, so she does not go in for bright colors or anything shiny or sparkly, and there is a great deal of focus on caring for sensitive or problem skin, but she does indeed know the ins and outs of what products you need, what you don't, and the best way to make use of them. Very thorough but more like a textbook than fun and trendy.

Her website, Cosmetics Cop, has a large section on makeup how-tos and troubleshooting, although not as many pictures as perhaps you would like, but certainly an enormous amount of detail in the descriptions. Here is a complete makeup application similar to the one in her book (without the full-face photos, unfortunately) and her page on eye-makeup designs.

Going to a high-end makeup counter is a great way to test products and learn techniques but do set your bullshit detector high, since of course the saleswomen are there to push as much product as possible. I hardly ever wear makeup and decided I needed to put together something nice when I wanted to look "dressed up". So I went to a Clinique counter and got a makeover. I ended up with some great stuff - I'd never worn blush before but it's part of my basics now, and a very good foundation (I almost never wear it but at least I know how to now when I want to, and I have the proper color) - but I also ended up with some real duds (eyelid foundation! totally unnecessary; and a couple colors of lipstick that looked nice enough in the store but clashed with my hair and skintone in natural light). Not to mention I have pretty nice skin and the saleswoman sort of disparaged it so she could push "some skin care products that you really need". Grrrrr.
posted by Melinika at 4:27 PM on June 22, 2005

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