Cosmetics 101 help needed - Australia
September 5, 2012 3:15 AM   Subscribe

I need help working out what cosmetics to buy for a basic make over and how to learn to apply them. Also looking for explanations about what different products are 'for'.

I somehow missed learning how to choose & apply make up. How can I learn to do this without going to a lot of trouble, and what constitutes "the basics"?

I'd prefer not to try make-overs in stores. I have shyness issues and would have difficulty saying 'no' to the sales pitch.

Recommendations of specific, good value products available in Australian stores would be helpful.

The array of products is completely baffling. I don't even know how to apply foundation (and what sort?), or lipstick. How do you choose a colour? I've tried applying it to my hand, but nothing manufactured is ever exactly the same shade as skin is it? I don't know what powder is for, or why mascara is so important. Does it take a lot of practice to apply lipstick without looking like a clown, or to use eyeliner without poking your eyes out?
posted by JeanDupont to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a femme friend around the place. Most of my makeup knowledge comes from friends who I think look pretty. You can maybe get them to shop with you too.

And it's like everything else, it takes practice. Not too much to get from "a three year old did it" to "fine" but a lot to get from "fine" to either "unnoticeable" or "awesome".

Most women who wear makeup do so every day. That is a huge amount of pactice that ladies like us do not have. But we can get the basics easily enough.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:36 AM on September 5, 2012

I can't recommend any how-tos, but if you need a website to help you choose products, Temptalia has swatches and reviews of almost everything. Their awards are a good guide to products.
posted by inkypinky at 3:37 AM on September 5, 2012

Also, your local library will have how-to books, and the MAC counter will be a good place to visit.
posted by inkypinky at 3:58 AM on September 5, 2012

Searching YouTube for "foundation tutorial" brought up at least a dozen, the first of which was by Michelle Phan; I would recommend that one for learning how to apply. As for learning to choose - start at the bottom of the price range and work your way up. Your generic foundation is a water-based liquid, and you would not use an oil-based liquid unless your skin really is extremely dry, even after moisturising (let the moisturiser sink in for 10 minutes before the foundation).

To choose a colour, make a light vertical stripe across your jawline and do this with several shades, then go outside into natural daylight and look in a mirror. The closest match is the one that seems to disappear into your skin. Keep trying this until you find the best match. Take some baby wipes with you, of course.

I think one of the companies - Revlon? I'll check - has a device for detecting the undertone colour of your skin. (Prescriptives used to do this, when they existed.) This is extremely important and probably the most important piece of information you need. Maybe not so much for foundstion, because it only goes on in a thin layer, but zit concealer really does need to be an exact match for your skin tone and you won't find that without knowing your undertone. Most foundations and concealers are yellow; my undertone is blue-red, which makes it very hard for me to get an exact match in zit concealer.

Zit concealer and under eye concealer are two different things, though you might not know this from the way people talk about it. Zit concealer needs to contain a lot of pigment and be very opaque, but if you put it under your eyes the effect is gummy. Under eye concealer should be a light highlighter kind of texture. Also, don't believe anyone who tells you zit concealer should be a shade lighter or darker than your skin, or that it should go on before foundation. Foundation first, then zit concealer, then powder.
posted by tel3path at 4:17 AM on September 5, 2012

Also looking for explanations about what different products are 'for'.

A very bare-bones basic -

Foundation is a way to subtly even out your skin tone as a first step, if you need it; say you have red and blotchy patches on your face for some reason (I have this myself; I have burst capillaries around the nose). It can also be good as a sort of "primer" for anything else you put on.

Concealer is for any skin flaws, like spots, pimples, etc. you want to further cover up. The best tip I got is that this should go on AFTER you put on foundation. It should be dabbed on sparingly, in layers (rather than a big gob on from the first go, the way I used to do it).

Blush is to give your cheekbones a little more color if you need it. The best way to put it on the right place is - smile really big, then put it lightly on the "apples" of your cheeks (the bits that bulge out when you smile).

Powder is if you have shiny or oily spots anywhere (forehead, nose, etc.). This dulls the shiny bits.

Lipstick is self-explanatory. Lip gloss is a sheer-er, lighter type of lipstick and you may prefer that if you're looking for a subtle look. Lip pencil is used to sort of outline the lips first if you're doing a lot of lipstick.

Eyeshadow is used to sort of "frame" the eyes by giving your eyecolor some contrast and the structure of your eyes a little definition. You may prefer not to bother with this during the day (I sure don't).

Mascara is used to emphasize your eyelashes. I also don't wear this as my eyelashes are just fine.

On an average day, I usually just wear foundation on the spots I need it and concealer, and maybe lip gloss. That's it. If it's a special occasion, that's when I go for the blush and eyeshadow, and even so it's only subtly.

Others will have better explanations for how to put on eyeshadow and mascara. But that's a "what these all do".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:19 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've had to learn a lot of this for my upcoming wedding, although I was probably starting from a slightly more experienced place than you. I more or less understood the "basics" (i.e., "why we do the things we do" or the purpose of the more common products), but I don't usually wear makeup, and when I have it's been limited to a mascara, (maybe) eyeshadow, blush, lipstick combo—and usually only lipstick. To improve upon that, I mainly searched the Internet for various articles and videos. (There is a lot on YouTube.) Like you, I am shy, and I wasn't really keen on the idea of an in-store makeover, although honestly that would probably be the best option. Reading and practice have gotten me to a point where I'm satisfied I won't look like a total fool for my wedding.

I can't help too much with specifics, but I can try to answer a few of the questions you've raised:

—For foundation, you're looking for something close to your skin color. It won't be exact, but you can blend it in. Basically, I gather that it's meant to help give you an even skin tone. Different foundations (and different methods of applying those foundations, I think) have different "coverages," which I've taken to mean that they will let varying amounts of your skin show through.
—Powder is used to "set" foundation (or can be used in lieu of foundation, it seems). I gather that means that it will just keep everything on your face longer.
—Mascara will darken and lengthen your lashes, bringing attention to your eyes.
—Lipstick: I'm not sure what you mean by looking like a clown (unless you mean staying in the lines of your lips—in which case, practice will help), but I suspect you might be picking the wrong colors. Again, my reading has been geared toward dealing with my wedding, but I like the whole "enhanced natural" look rather than the "clearly wearing makeup even from afar" look, so I've settled into a much more neutral tone than I used to wear when I was younger. Basically, my lipstick is now just a shade or two darker than my lips normally are. In my case, I've gone wish a pinkish (I'm fair-skinned, blonde, and blue-eyed), but there are better options depending on your skin tone.

I'll end by saying that after my recent makeup-exploration, my "minimal" makeup (i.e., if I feel like bothering with makeup, which I still don't most days, this is the baseline) now consists of lipstick and eyebrow liner (plus tweezing, but I do that already anyway most of the time, and it's not makeup exactly). Those two things make me look more pulled together without taking up much time at all or breaking the bank. If I wasn't working from home, I'd probably be doing that every day.
posted by divisjm at 4:26 AM on September 5, 2012

And I'm sorry, to get specific on makeup stuff I'd suggest a mineral powder foundation to start with since it's easy to apply, takes a heavy hand to look bad but accomplishes a lot, as far as foundation goes. Technically I think you're suppposed to start with moisturiser/suncreen, then a primer, then concealer (maybe the other way round?), then foundation, then powder. But I go with moisturiser/suncreen, a primer, then powder. I'd use mineral foundatiion instead of the primer and powder but I hate carrying the mineral stuff and I get shiny enough to need touch ups. Which is why I carry pressed powder in my bag.

Colour wise it can be hard, but get the closest you can and I think err on the side of lighter rather than darker.

Mascara really does darken the lashes and make your eyes look bigger and whiter. But I find it stings like fuck a lot of the time, and since I rarrely wear makeup I have retained an eye rubbing habit. So I only ever wear it for special/photographic purposes. Oddly enough eyeliner is easier for me to deal with but I still suck at putting it on.

I rarely wear lipstick, even for fancy occasions, because my lips are pretty pouty and bold already, and as long as it's a tinted gloss they look fine.

So my basics for a special event: moisturiser (with suncreen if outdoors) all the way to my decotellage, primer on my face, blending down my neck, then eyeliner on my lower lid, slight catseye point and outer edge of my upper lid, blendingit in, then a light eyeshadow over my eye socket with a darker eyeshadow over the eyelid itself (and an even darker one on the outer edge and crease again, if I'm going all out) and then mascara and only after that and associated tidying of black smears will I do powder. Then a slick of red tinted gloss and I'm good to go.

For less fancy I omit most/all of the eyeshadow, the mascara and the primer. Just a swipe of eyeliner, a bit of powder and a bit of gloss. It's enough to take the death pallor out of photos without needing much time of effort. And can be done in the car if there's enough traffic.

But it depends a lot on you. I don't do the foundation thing because my skin hates it, but other women have that as part of their basics. I don't even own concealer! So my suggestion is biased towards my basics - mineral foundation/powder, pencil eyeliner, one or two of the eyeshadow duo/trio things, tinted lipgloss and mascara. Your skin tone is what will dictate colours (I'm pale as fuck with dark eyes, middling brown hair and dark glasses so I tend to go with black liner./mascara but I've been considering brown). I wear glasses so the eyes don't matter as much as for some, which is another factor. Then just screw about at home until you find something you like.

And if you wear it out be prepared for weird commentary. Some people notice and compliment, others don't notice but do the "something different" dance and others will be dicks. Most people won't, but there is usually at least one.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:33 AM on September 5, 2012

Foundation: you put it on your face, all over and remember to blend down your jawline. Some people use sponges, or brushes and some people just use their fingers. I prefer fingers, dispense a small amount of product and rub it on your face, one area at a time (left cheek, right cheek, forehead, chin, nose ). For areas needing heavier coverage you can take a small amount and dab it on instead of rubbing, dab gently until it blends nicely and you have the desired level of coverage (for small areas there is also concealer which can be used above or below foundation). You should have a basic idea of your skin tone, try a small streak of each shade close to your own and pick the best match - use either the back of your hand or the inside of your arm, depending in which is the best match for your face

Powder: can be used to 'set' liquid foundation or on its own for a lighter/more natural finish

Lipstick : IMO the easiest to use is the kind that comes in tubes. It isn't difficult at all, hard to describe really, you just do it. Line the tip of the 'bullet' up with your cupid's bow (the little v at the top of your lips) then trace down one side of your top lip then the same with the other side, then do your bottom lip.

Mascara: if I could only have 1 item of makeup it would be mascara but I like to enhance my eyes, if your lips are your best feature you might prefer to go easy on the mascara. Mascara, darkens, thickens and lengthens your eyelashes. You can't really go wrong with a black, waterproof mascara. I like to do my mascara and eyeliner before my foundation because its easier to clean up smudges. Your first time you will almost certainly get mascara on your face, my eyelashes are so long/curved that if I look up slightly before it dries I get mascara smudges under my eyebrows.

Eyeliner: IMO is optional, it has the highest learning curve for the least benefit. I usually just apply a little eyeshadow with a small, (sometimes damp for a more dramatic effect) brush

Eyeshadow: There are thousands of tutorials on how to apply eyeshadow to achieve different looks. I would go for pressed instead of cream or loose as they're easier to use and hard to get all over your face

In terms of choosing colours/styles, the best place to start would be to look at pictures of models/celebs with similar colouring to yours (hair/eyes/skin). Find a few that look good and look for similar shades to what they're wearing. You can also google 'get the look', lots of brands/magazines now do a full look on a model or recreate a celeb's look and write up a mini tutorial on how to achieve the look and exactly which products/shades have been used.

Ultimately, if you've made it this far without makeup then you probably don't 'need' it. Stick to light natural looks to begin with. If you have good skin, a light powder/tinted moisturiser, clear mascara/eyelash primer and nude gloss will enhance your natural beauty without looking too makeup-y
posted by missmagenta at 4:38 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sure, you can find a lot of tutorials on YouTube, but sometimes any teen with MAC brushes is suddenly a guru. Lisa Eldridge has a Basics video series that could help you out. Here's her video on foundation.
posted by pimli at 4:42 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

Lisa Eldridge videos are my go to for this sort of thing. Her basics section provides good intros to what products are and how to use them and the everyday looks section gives an idea of how to put together a cohesive makeup 'look'.
posted by kitkatcathy at 4:45 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you are new to make up, you probably don't want to go full Bozo from jump street.

I'm 50 and I wear a pile of makeup, but it doesn't look like I wear much at all. I can tell you what to get, how to choose it and how to wear it.

First of all, don't go all crazy at first. Don't belly up to a counter at a department store and buy a bunch of stuff.

DO get your eyebrows professionally arched. (Waxed, threaded, tweezed, whathave you.) This is HUGE.

I like drugstore brands. If your skin isn't all that sensitive, it's a good place to start out. Once you get good, and you get the bug, you can move to stores like Sephora.

1. BB cream. These things are amazing. Lightweight, sheer, they do 5 things. Moisturize, protect with sunscreen, reflect light, cover and even skintone. I use Garnier, but everyone makes one. You don't have to worry too much about matching a shade, just get the right intensity. They usually come in Pale, Fair, Medium, Dark and African Princess.

2. A cream blush. I use Tarte. I have a peachy one now, but Blushing Bride gives a beautiful glow and works on nearly all skin tones.

3. A dusting of mineral foundation. I'm blessed to have an Eastern European complection, so I don't have a lot of lines, or wrinkles or stuff like that. I do a quick swoosh of this stuff and voila, no problems. No special techniques required.

4. Powder Blush. Get as pale a shade as you can get for your skin. Not too pink, red or obvious. When you brush it on, do it only on the apple of your cheeks. You don't need big blobs or blotches, use a big, fluffy brush and just lightly get it on there. You should look fresh, not made up.

5. Loose powder. Get a Kabuki brush and lightly dust your face with powder.

6. I do a subdued eye. Just enough to get them to poke out from my glasses. I use a white pencil in the inner corner. This widens my eyes. Then I use natural browns, the lightest under the brow, the middle one across the lid, and the darker color in the crease, edging slightly half-way to the brow. Then I do a quick line of liner. You can get these dirt cheap. Get a dark brown one. Smudge. Done.

7. I don't use mascara daily, it bugs me. I use an eyelash curler. Maybelline Great lash is sort of iconic.

8. Lipstick. Pick a shade one color darker than your natural lip color.

That's my 5 minute and out the door routine. I don't look like I'm wearing make up. I look polished and natural. As you can see, I put it on with a trowel. Look for coupons and then use them in conjunction with store specials to get the best prices.

In the states, I like All Cosmetics Wholesale.

In Australia, I might use Smart Poppy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:31 AM on September 5, 2012

Sorry, I disagree with a lot of the advice here. Not that I'm an expert--far from it--but makeup is something that is so easy to get wrong. It depends on your features and your coloring. When searching for YouTube tutorials, find someone who looks like you or who demonstrates on someone who looks like you.

If you don't want to go to a department store cosmetics counter--I've never felt pressured to buy, btw, if they are offering makeovers I just say upfront that I'm not interested in buying today and some have still been amenable--hair salons sometimes have a makeup artist on staff. The one near me charges $30 US for a 15 minute consultation/lesson and $60 for an application (ie for an event). Make an appointment and say you need advice for a basic day look.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:32 AM on September 5, 2012

If you have one near you, I strongly recommend Sephora. They are fantastic at this kind of stuff and aren't wedded to one brand like the ladies at the department store cosmetic counters. They also have kick ass stuff (I'm now a total fan of Benefit cosmetics because of them). I felt really comfortable in the store because their salespeople are so nice and non-judgmental about my lack of basic cosmetic knowledge. You can also try any product in the store. Seriously.
posted by Leezie at 6:32 AM on September 5, 2012

Nthing Lisa Eldridge's videos. She is good at explaining what it is you are trying to achieve, with the foundation basic video for example - you're evening out your skin tone, not trying to change the colour. Ignore the product recommendations if you like since they tend to get expensive or very specific.

There is indeed a baffling array of cosmetics out there and I also hate the consultant counters and prefer to browse. You're going to buy some duds as you figure out what you like and don't like.

My tip would be to buy a cheap thing, e.g. a lipstick and then figure out what it is you like and dislike about it. Is it pink, red, brown or purple? What about the consistency, is it sheer or matte? Is it a traditional lipstick in a bullet or is it a stain, a liquid, a lipgloss? Does it last, is it too drying? Taste horrible?

I've bought a whole bunch of cheap lippies that have helped me figure out that I really like a frosty purple toned lipstick, that I get frustrated with the feel of most lip glosses and liquids, cool nude shades make me look like a corpse but I can get away with some warmer versions. It's much easier to avoid buyers remorse when you've already figured out what to avoid.

Good luck and have fun, I've gone from daily bare face to fully made up each day over the past few years and I've had fun doing it.
posted by Ness at 6:58 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also disagree with a lot of the advice here. I write a makeup blog and read dozens of makeup blogs daily, but I'm sure some would disagree with my advice too!

I think if you have a friend whose makeup style you like, that would be a great place to get advice. If you don't, I'd watch some Lisa Eldrige videos to get started - she has a whole "basics" series here.

Regarding brands, Australia has very inflated prices on most brands. The brand Illamasqua - one of my favorite brands - recently slashed their Australian prices to bring them in line with the rest of the world, which makes them cheaper than comparable brands, so you might want to check them out.

Unfortunately I can't really help with specific products - there are lots I love, and lots of inexpensive ones, but I don't know Australian prices. I read the Australian blog Makeup and Macaroons - here's a link to her Budget Brands tag to look through.

One thing I wish is that when I started buying makeup, I had carefully bought just a few high-quality items, rather than lots of cheaper items. Buy carefully and slowly. High quality doesn't always mean high price - read reviews online. I like Temptalia and Makeupalley (free registration required), or you can just google the product, for example Illamasqua blush review.

Have fun!
posted by insectosaurus at 7:12 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Foundation is a little "advanced" for a beginner. It needs skillful application and a perfect match with your skin to look good.

Two alternate suggestions: (1) "tinted moisturizer", which is basically a more sheer foundation; it looks a lot more natural and (because it's thinner) not show mistakes as easily; or (2) if you do find a foundation whose color is good but the consistency is too thick, just mix it with your regular facial moisturizer - any drugstore brand with sunscreen will do, I've successfully used Eucerin, Aveeno, Olay.

Do you like phone apps? I enjoy Paula Begoun's "Beautypedia" app, it has reviews of a ton of products, that way when I'm at the drugstore and thinking "oh yeah I wanted a new lip gloss" I can check the ratings right there and choose one that she vouches for in her "top picks" category.

Some drugstores have a free return policy, which is fabulous when you're trying stuff out. I believe CVS has it and I know Rite Aid has it. Target doesn't.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:24 AM on September 5, 2012

Another thing, re application of makeup:

1. Blush: throw away the little brushes that come with a blush compact. You can't do a good job with them; it'll look like lines. Use a big fluffy brush you buy separately. I like foundation brushes for this more than "blush brushes." You can get them at Target, Sephora, wherever. I like the Sonia Kashuk ones at Target.

2. Eyeliner and lipstick: for some reason, even though it looks like these could be applied in a single swoop motion, it almost always looks better for beginners to dot it on one bit at a time. Eventually when you're good at it you can do it in a swoop.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:29 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

The world of makeup can be scary to wade into, as you've discovered. Just start slowly! Don't worry about using full-on lipstick to start, just get some pretty gloss that you can apply without a mirror (I like Clinique Almost Lipstick). Try tinted moisturizer and a basic concealer rather than full foundation. Get a light/neutral eyeshadow and a brown-black mascara.
posted by radioamy at 9:11 AM on September 5, 2012

Honestly this is one of the things that if you want to make up a full face it is going to take practice, but you can get there slowly. I only got into make up at the age of 40. I watched a LOT of youtube videos. Then I'd suggest you do what I did practice, practice practice. Know you are going to suck the first few times you use makeup but keep on practicing.

Go visit a Myers or DJ's and get a make over done by a professional, you might have to pay for it. Tell them what sort of make up you'd like be it a nice light easy to put on look or whatever. Watch them closely ask lots of questions if they do something you like on one area, say they picked a good lip colour you like buy that one product and take it home and practice, when you feel confident add another product. I quite like Clinique make up as the price and quality point is good for starting out, though if you are at the experimenting stage and just want to practice then supermarket brands aren't half bad.

I would suggest a really good way to start out is with a light tinted moisturiser or BB cream as these blend really easily and are hard to put on too thickly and are easier to colour match.

A good mascara, I'd go a water proof one as it's easy to smudge it until you get used to wearing it. Honestly mascaras are very personal choice due to brush types an the like, so if you have problems using one brand be prepared to try a few until you find one you like and it's easy to use.

A make up remover to remove the mascara at the end of the day

A lip gloss or 3.

Then put all the goop on your face. If it looks good great, if not wash it off and try again. Keep practicing and it gets less scary.

Get the hang of those and you can move on to eye shadow and blush and foundation and concealer (try these on at a department store first to find colour matches). These are easier areas to make mistakes but hopefully by the time you feel confident enough to tackle them you'll realize the secret to putting on good make up, if you get it wrong it all washes off and you can try try again until you get the hang of it before you ever step outside.

Makeup goes on easier over a nice base so get a good moisturiser and cleansing routine you like and get your eyebrows shaped/plucked.

Remember, even the most avid makeup user buys products they don't like in colours that don't suit and wonder why the heck they bought them. If this happens don't give up just keep trying and experimenting. It took me maybe 3 months to feel confident that the make up I was wearing didn't look like a clowns and now 4 years later I have fun trying out all sorts of looks, something I would have sworn I'd never do if you'd asked me in my 30's.
posted by wwax at 12:25 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

What do you want to achieve by wearing makeup? Do you want to minimize blotchy skin or blemishes? Then practice applying concealer and tinted moisturizer (or BB cream, to throw another new term at you, sorry (it's easy to apply like tinted moisturizer, but with more coverage)). Skin shiny by mid-day? Get some pressed powder. Are you trying to look more professional at work? Play with lip colour and maybe a little eye makeup.

Try asking your girlfriends if they have any old makeup they don't use anymore, or go to the drugstore, buy a bunch of cheap stuff and just play with it. Learning what colours and products work best for you and how to apply them takes a lot of experimentation and practice, practice, practice. Beauty blogs and YouTube videos are a great resource, so as others have suggested, find someone who shares your colouring and face shape (important!) and watch and learn.

Oh, and I wouldn't go full-face right away, either. You'll feel weird wearing makeup at first anyways. Pick a problem area or the product you're most attracted to and work on getting comfortable with that. Good luck!
posted by Rora at 5:23 PM on September 5, 2012

Where are you located in Australia? If in a major city, try contacting a local TAFE that has beauty courses as they usually provide cheap make-up services where you can learn about products without feeling pressure to buy. Got a local Avon/Nutrimetics rep in the family or workplace? Organise for them to do a demo in your house with a bunch of friends (takes the pressure off).
posted by travellingincognito at 3:57 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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