Take me from Nottie to Hottie.
July 18, 2013 12:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm a beauty noob. Make me into a beauty pro. Who can teach me how to hair and makeup?

I think I'm OK at hair and makeup. I, unsurprisingly, was a a stone cold geek growing up, and didn't really start thinking about these things until law school. I'm a 28 year old medium-to-light skinned South Asian. This is my head. I am the only child to immigrant Muslim parents, and had unusually mean-girl nerd-girl friends growing up. My mother basically does not wear makeup and I have never in my life seen her leave the house with her hair in anything but a bun. My hometown friends told me I was a slut for wearing dark makeup (black eyeliner). They (as WHITE girls, of course) wore nonslutty brown eyeliner. God, they sucked. Anyway, this is how I emerged into young adulthood knowing how to do two things to my head: put a eyeliner and a little brown eyeshadow, and laboriously straighten my natural loose curls with a flat iron.

In my late twenties, I have grown comfortable enough to add: red lipstick (that's beach hair, not how I do my hair). I also usually wear bronzer since I have gained some weight, apparently all in my goddamn cheeks. I have tried to read about this and buy makeup (mainly MAC and Nars). It just never seems to look right. I know I should, like, "shade in the crease and blend" and stuff, but I never look like the end result of these tutorials. When I was younger, I thought cheap makeup was the problem. Now that I am buying a bit nicer stuff, I think I am the problem. The few times I've asked friends to do my makeup for me, I end up IMMEDIATELY washing it off. I don't know if I've just become accustomed to the way I do it. I think they generally have put very shiny, pearlized shadow over my eyes such that I feel like a brown girl with white girl Barbie makeup. It has been depressing. I've ventured to Sephora and department store makeup ladies, but this has not really been fruitful either. I asked a Nordstrom lady to help with the dark circles under my eyes, for example, and she said "nothing will." Um. Thanks. Bye. The Sephora ladies are awesome, but the two times I've tried them, I wound up just looking the same as I came in, just under a fuckton of foundation.

Hair-wise, I either . . . put my hair up in a bun, or pull it down over my shoulders, either straight or air-dried curly. I don't know how to do anything else. ANYTHING else. I see other women with cool different styles. I am never one of them. I own sprays and serums and gels and pomades. I just don't know what the hell to do with them. I have tried in vain to follow many youtube tutorials, it just never turns out right. I have no idea what I'm doing wrong.

Can you help me, internet? I have vaguely hipster style tastes, if that helps. You will pry my bangs away from me when I shrivel up and die. I am an unmarried, childless attorney, so I can't look too alternative, as much I would love to. But it does mean I have disposable income to spend on fancy products/whatever if necessary.
posted by anthropomorphic to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Where do you live? Perhaps a MeFite could recommend a good hair salon for you. The right stylist will give you a cut that works for your hair and your lifestyle and will teach you how to style it.

I think with makeup you need to build up slowly. Try adding a little concealer and a light tinted moisturizer, with a little powder.

If you go to a department store counter, try something like Clinique that is more about "skincare" than makeup. Most of their products are very light/natural. Maybe stalk the counter until you see a woman working there who is also South Asian and can understand your skin needs. MAC has fun products but they're very loud.
posted by radioamy at 12:16 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd pay for two (or more) consultations - one with a makeup artist and one with a hair stylist. They should both be able to assess your skin/hair and teach you what products to use and how to use them. The people who work at the stores do the free consultations with the end goal of selling their merchandise. Paying someone just for the education aspect should mean you'll get more information and less marketing.
posted by Beti at 12:17 PM on July 18, 2013

Find a beauty shop where the folks appeal to you and approach how you want to look. Make an appointment for a hair consultation. Explain that you're a novice and that you want to know what to do with yourself hair-wise. Tell them what you're willing to do and what you're not. (I will blow my hair out, I will not wear wigs.)

You can either get a make up lesson at the beauty shop, but you'll typically be expected to buy some make-up from them. Or you can go to a cosmetics counter in a department store, Clinique is good, Mac is as well (much more vividly colored.) Estee Lauder, MAC, Origins, Prescriptives and Clinique are all part of the same company. Prescriptives will custom blend foundation for you.

Be sure to discuss what you like and don't like with your Make-up person. I like BB creams instead of foundation. I don't like mascara. Etc.

Also, it's worth all the make-up in the world to get a proper eyebrow arch. So do that FIRST.

I find as I get older, less make-up is better. I have crap-tons of it, but I pretty much use the same stuff every day.

Get some slap and play with it. Get a few looks going. Day, evening, sexy funtimes.

I always admire the way drag-queens do their make up...
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:21 PM on July 18, 2013

I agree, find a salon whose style seems to reflect yours (or something that you aspire to) and get your hair did! If you want something a little different let them know you are feeling daring! That is kind of what I did with my last hair cut and now I have my favorite haircut ever. Sometimes they aren't bluffing when they tell you about certain products that will be good for your hair. If you can afford it, let them tell you what you need and how to use it. I've pretty much done the same thing with products recently and have had a lot more success than I have in the past.

@Ruthless Bunny - Also love drag make up.
posted by Quincy at 12:40 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fwiw, I think your beach hair pic looks great, and you are already doing a good job. Nice sunglasses, lipstick, and top!
posted by htid at 12:40 PM on July 18, 2013 [11 favorites]

You can find some helpful suggestion in the following subreddits : Make up addiction and beauty.

We have similar skin tone and I've had luck with Bobbi Brown and Clinique.
I also avoid the cheaper make up brands as I found they never worked for non-white skin tones, but I recently received Olay Total Effects (light to medium) in one of those make up box subscriptions and found it provides nice light coverage and seems to match my skin tone quite well-I was shocked.

A suggestion for trying on make up is to go out into natural light to see how it looks-department store lights can be misleading. Go in with a freshly washed face, no make up and be very clear what you are looking for-dark circles reduced and a light weight foundation.

For hair, I have had great luck at the Aveda Academies, find your city and then look under guest services.
They discuss what you are looking for and make recommendations.

Good luck!
posted by Snazzy67 at 12:41 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Quick tips:

- if you need to get your eyebrows done as a first timer, either got Benefit's Eyebrow Bar or Shu Uemura's counter. If you want to do threading, afaic this is still best done by South Asian ladies. In any case, if you have no clue on your eyebrow shape and can't guess, go to professionals and then just maintain the shape. that goes a long way in looking 'made up'.

- for everyday neutral, i suggest dark grey/midnight blue eyeliner (kohl or crayon) instead of black.

- for the dark eyecircles, aside from the usual dietary advice, my feeling is go seek advice from drag queens, because they seem to use magical industrial grade stuff. for the every day though, I'd say just use the concealer at the larger area of your under eye sockets but not completely up to your lower lid. It's possible part of your aggravation is your under eye creases? Rock it to your advantage, so the strategy should just be balancing the discolouration so it shades evenly to the rest of your face. that's my $0.02

- as for your hair, you're blessed with lovely curls so the key is find someone who does curly and wavy hair really well. then you could at least get a cut that would look good without your head being ironed half to death.

- your undertone is more yellow than the pink that is typical for caucasians, so that's probably why you've been dissatisfied.
posted by cendawanita at 12:52 PM on July 18, 2013

As a fellow desi girl, I recommend you google "Desi makeup blog" because there are a few of them. Get your eyebrows threaded.

And practice makes perfect. Look up Michelle Phan's YouTube channel. While her features and coloring are different, she does an amazing job showing off techniques like blending.

Get a bunch of makeup remover, a mirror, brushes, and practice putting on makeup.

By the way, I don't use a ton of makeup. I definitely love eyeliner and mascara and brow gel and shimmer/luminescence powder/cream. I have a subscription to both birchbox and ipsy so I get a ton of samples every month.

Also, anyone who tells you wearing makeup makes you look slutty is an idiot. Makeup is fun and artistic.
posted by discopolo at 1:05 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

It looks like there are some good South Asian beauty blogs out there that might be good places to start, especially for product recs.

An Indian's Makeup Blog

Indian Makeup Diva

Desi Girl Does Makeup
posted by MsMolly at 1:08 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can't speak for the hair stuff--other than to say you are lucky enough to have GREAT hair to work with--but I've always felt a little make-up challenged myself and Lisa Eldridge's tutorials have been a GOD-SEND. Her coloring is different than yours but I think she's worth checking out anyway because it's really her techniques that are important and those can be used by anyone. Be prepared to spend a bit more time on your make-up than you'd expect to but it's worth it--I've gotten compliments (e.g. "You're glowing!") on my make-up on the days/nights where I've applied it while following along with one of her tutorials. If I recall, she also has a video on there about under-eye circles too.
posted by lovableiago at 1:09 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

You’re so pretty! You’ve got beautiful skin and hair; I can’t see you really needing to wear foundation or much makeup at all. And your hair looks great both straight and wavy. Here are a few suggestion I can give you as a fellow South Asian with similar hair and colouring:

Use a concealer that is lighter than your skin, but ONLY on the undereye circles. Light powder over the rest of your face is probably all you need.

Black eyeliner is good, but don’t wear it on your lower lashline. Unless you’re going for a nighttime, smoky eye look, eyeliner should be worn on EITHER the top or the bottom, not both. I usually wear black eyeliner on top. For lighter/casual days, I’ll wear dark brown liner on my lower lashline.

The red lipstick looks fantastic on you, but don’t be afraid to vary it. Try some berry-ish shades and also some brown/orange shades for a change.

Hair: I also struggle with following hair tutorials but what I’ve found helps is buying some cute accessories. Just a simple headband with a bun or high ponytail makes a world of a difference. Maybe buy some hair pins, flowers, headbands etc. I used to flat iron my hair for years, but in the past year I have embraced my natural waves and I’m getting a ton of compliments. I am basically following the curly girl method. If you want to know more about what I do specifically, memail me.
posted by yawper at 1:41 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

To build on lovableiago, Lisa Eldridge is universal in technique, and does tend to use models with very light skin, but also has done tutorials for women of lots of skin tones in the past. She does use high end like Dior, Chanel, and the like, but she also uses drug store brands as well. Lots of Revlon, ELF, NYX, and Maybelline.
posted by oflinkey at 1:42 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

You're effing gorgeous!! Nottie my ass.

A few thoughts:

1. You absolutely need to learn how to do a dramatic winged liner to go with your red lips if you don't already do that. I think it'll look great on you!

2. Have you considered looking up a South Asian makeup artist for a lesson or two? You've probably seen how made up South Asian brides are and maybe it terrified you, but those makeup artists would know the best techniques for your hair, bone structure and skintone. You just need to learn application tips, then use stuff, colours you're comfortable with.

3. Less is more and it's okay. When I first got into makeup, I felt like such a failure because I could never achieve the dramatic eye makeup looks in magazines and YouTube tutorials. I'd taken lessons with a makeup artist and I knew the basics, but it was so boring! I wanted a smoky eye, I wanted a dramatic transformation, not a subtle enhancement of my features. After years of this, I realized that I looked better with lighter makeup (it's less of a hassle too), and as long as I looked better and less haggard, that will do. Check out Makeup Box on tumblr--her step-by-step eyeshadow tutorials are really simple.

4. Having good brushes REALLY helps. It was a major game changer for me. All of a sudden, all that crease blending and outer-v shading made sense; my blush placement became so much more precise. Good natural hair brushes are not as expensive as you'd think and are a worthy investment. At the very least, a flat brush to laydown colour, a pencil brush or smaller flat brush for detail work like the outer-v, a fluffy blending brush, and a liner brush.

I'm afraid I have no suggestions for hair because I'm just as hopeless. But I'm a big believer in getting blowouts for just about any occasion.
posted by peripathetic at 1:46 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Did you book with Sephora? If you just chat with the ladies they can't help too much but if you call ahead and book an actual appointment, they give you 1/2 hour consult on eyes, lips OR foundation. Free! Ask them to teach you how to do Smoky Eye.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:47 PM on July 18, 2013

Oh, and good brushes are a must, as peripathetic has noted. A very, very good, cheaper brand is EcoTools. Really well-made, stands up to abuse almost better than my MAC brushes. I covet the Suqqu brushes Lisa Eldridge uses, but at 250$ a pop for some of them, I will not be getting those brushes any time soon.
posted by oflinkey at 1:48 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

For my professional life I like what makeup bloggers call MLBB, MSBB--"my lips but better," "my skin but better," etc. I think that is a good way to start with makeup; that is, enhancing your features subtly. You're really rocking that red lipstick, though!

Brows are super important, and keeping them shaped and groomed and filled in can help you feel and look your best without wearing a lot of additional makeup.

Came here to suggest Bobbi Brown's line, too. Her stuff is so good for creating a look that doesn't scream makeup or is heavy, but just looks pulled together and polished.

A BB cream or tinted moisturizer may be more comfortable for you than a foundation. The new Tarte BB cream is fabulous and lightweight, but it comes in ridiculously few colors. At Sephora they will happily give you a sample, though.

Your skin looks really nice, and you might just want to wear a dusting of natural finishing powder with a big fluffy brush. NARS makes powder in a good range of shades; so does MAC. I wish I could recommend a highlighting powder in a shade that would be good for you--one of the MAC Mineralize Skinfinishes might look super nice on you and give you a bit of a non-sparkly glow without giving you the feeling of lots of makeup.

As far as lips go, the Revlon colorburst lip butters are smooth, lightweight, and pleasant to wear but also give a pretty pop of color. Korres Mango butter lipsticks feel nice, too.

Good luck :)
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 2:07 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Experimenting with makeup a lot has been tremendous for me. I have learned a lot just by spending time with different kinds of makeup and trying out different looks and products and colors.

YouTube is really helpful, too. I found a few women who look like me doing makeup tutorials, and watched them and follow along with similar products that I own. I also use YouTube to search for specific items I own (like, for example, a particular Urban Decay palette) and try the tutorials out.

I also really like Birchbox for experimenting with makeup. It has helped me figure out what shades work and what textures I like and I've gotten some interesting stuff that I never would have tried otherwise.
posted by k8lin at 3:28 PM on July 18, 2013

There are beauty books geared to non-white women. (example) I think that would help.

Also, "David Kibbe's Metsmorphosis" can help with things like what hairstyle would be flattering. I have curly hair. I sympathize. As others have suggested, find a stylist who knws curly hair. It makes a diferrence.

Also, you are quite lovely as is. You do not need much help. That might be the real reason other women have given you hell and called you a "slut."
posted by Michele in California at 3:40 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

A few things I noticed:

-ditch the eyeliner on your lower lids - you're not drawing the features up from the circles.

-Maybe try a little more eye shadow coupled with the eyeliner on the top lid only to draw the attention up from your dark circles?

-Drink more water.

-Groomed eyebrows go a long way. See a professional for a wax and then keep it up with plucking yourself.

What you are basically looking to do is highlight the center triangle of your face - imagine an isosceles triangle upside down with the 30 degree angle on your chin. The area inside of that, you want to highlight. The two lines up are highlighted with bronzer. That's not an instruction manual, but that's the gist of what most makeup artists are trying to do, create highlights and shadows effectively.

I think you're gorgeous. This is Metafilter; people are not lying to you when they say this.
posted by Unangenehm at 4:59 PM on July 18, 2013

Agreeing with those who say you're not really a nottie at all. For someone who thinks they don't have skill, you are not at all the train wreck I was expecting.

I like the idea of finding a good hairstylist and makeup artist to learn from. That said, do you have a specific look you're trying to achieve? Spend some time on google and pinterest and find pics of what you aspire to. Professional help will be far more effective if you have a goal to show them. Also, once you have some ideas to emulate, just start...trying to do them. Trying and failing. Experiment - it will help you improve.

Finally, I've had really good luck with makeup alley as a supplement to beauty advice and blogs. Sometimes products people swear by suck for others. Makeup alley has people disclose skin tone, type, age, etc, so you can weigh advice on products based on people who self describe to be similar to you.

Side note: I don't know if skin tone will match, but benefit boi-ing industrial strength concealer is the jam.
posted by amycup at 8:04 PM on July 18, 2013

Practice. Dedicate some time to just practicing. Plan on practicing and washing off so you can go wild with trying new things and not have to worry about that date with friends in a few minutes.

Not everyone (imho pretty much no one) really needs foundation and you look like the type that does not need it at all. Of course makeup counter ladies want to sell you it because its one more product line to have to test out and buy! If you get another consultation it's ok to tell them you would prefer not to use foundation.

Take any make up "rules" with with a huge grain of salt. I can't tell you how many rules I break and I feel pleased with the way it turns out and get compliments. So many of those rules change so quickly anyway and many often apply to only certain types of skin or eyes or face shapes.

You can clearly rock the red lipstick, but don't discount just gloss or a neuteral colored lipstick. Bright and exciting can be fun to shop for and fun to use, but more "boring" colors can really emphasize a persons natural beauty. (The hardest thing for me is putting down the super fun brightand going with more toned down stuff).

I find it works best when I do use brighter colors, to emphasize one part. Eyes or lips.

Many an appt with a good hair dresser. It's ok when you make the appointment to ask if they work with your type of hair. My hair gets really funky when wet and I found someone willing and used to cutting dry hair. I get much much better haircuts from her than anywhere else. The trick is to ask ahead of time.
posted by HMSSM at 8:50 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Stylist magazine over here in the UK has a beauty writer who is Asian. She gives some skintone specific advice here. They have a regular feature where the beauty writers try out a specific trend each week, so you get to see it on the Caucasian girl and the Asian girl and it's interesting to see how it looks on different skintones.

I am ridiculously pale so I can't really advise you, but in a country where a large proportion of us are Asian, I'm really surprised nobody has brought out a range of make-up specifically aimed at south Asian skin. There are a few Asian women's magazines here, like Asiana, so one of those may have tips as well.
posted by mippy at 3:31 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

1st, you're drop-dead gorgeous.

If you get your eyebrows done, tell them to be conservative. A lot of women end up with tiny eyebrows, which has been in fashion, but is starting to look dated.

Get fashion magazines, and tear out photos of women you think look great. They usually give the details of the makeup, and you can take the picture and buy similar makeup, or ask up a makeup professional to show you how to replicate the look. You probably want to have a conservative lawyer look as well as a glamorous look.

The other thing you need is confidence. Your hair looks fantastic in the beach picture. You're pretty, and you're smart, and I recommend trying new makeup incrementally so you can get used to it. Take pictures, and you'll be able to decide what makeup you like. Get some recommendations for a hair stylist who works on your type of hair, and try a few new looks. Again, take pictures so you can choose what you think suits you. But, seriously, you are lovely, especially smiling and happy, and once you really know that, your confidence will be the best beauty aid you could ever have.
posted by theora55 at 6:17 AM on July 19, 2013

I'd lose the undereye makeup in the first picture because it looks a bit teen-goth. But IMO you look great already.
posted by vanitas at 3:51 PM on July 19, 2013

I'm very late, but I want to strongly second Makeup Alley as a resource. If you post a reasonably well-lit photo and ask for specific advice, they'll all tell you you're beautiful and give suggestions. By specific, I mean asking about eye shadow colors or where to place your blush to de-emphasize fullness, or "I've tried these foundations and they're awful; what should I try next?"

I'm white and my foundation shade is "in between" the prevalent yellow and pink bases. After a bunch of tries, I found a "skin twin" on Makeup Alley -- someone who's the same shade as I am. She and I compared notes like mad and both learned a lot. People there are quite helpful to newcomers. If you don't get enough answers, repost your question at a different time of day with the note, "reposting for more answers."

I had a very hard time with eye shadow. I finally found good advice: blending is a lot easier if you start with a powder or shadow that's a close match to your skin. Then add a lot of each additional eye shadow, placing it very precisely. After that, use a soft brush blend with small circular motions. A light application is impossible for me to blend. (To keep from going crazy, practice on your inner forearm.)
posted by wryly at 7:27 PM on July 19, 2013

I don't recommend Sephora's makeup people. They do their own and some of them look like they could use a lot more training.

Go to MAC. MAC is amazing with skin tones and I met an amazing makeup person there once (she was East Asian and totally gets how skin tones vary).

Be careful though. Some of the Sephora and other beauty counter folks like to pretend they know what they're doing. They don't. They're pretending to be experts. Tell them if something doesn't seem right.
posted by discopolo at 12:33 PM on July 20, 2013

You are gorgeous, girl. However as a fellow brown skinned Asian girl who grew up in remarkably similar circumstances (awful mean friends, mum who doesn't wear any makeup) but who has now managed to get some semblance of makeup knowledge down, I have news for you.

We have STRONG features - which means we don't need much at all during the average day! Play up your strong features. This means a great skin base (you want yellow based foundations - I like Becca, Nar's, Bobbi Brown, Giorgio Armani). If you need concealer under your eyes, go with Becca. Then minimal eye makeup - I do waterproof mascara and just black or brown eyeliner on the bottom liner lid. Then a gorgeous blush - Nar's Orgasm is just great for our skin tone, or Mac desert rose if you want something less shimmer. Bronzed can make our skin look dull or worse, frosted, go the blush, I promise, it is subtle but wondrous. Then, lips either neutral, or great news, we can do a bright lip SO well as you've figured out with the red.

For occasions, we can do a basic smokey eye (I paid a makeup artist to teach me using stuff I already had). But too much shimmer or Colour makes us look ridiculous because we already have such strong features! So I tend to keep it simple here.

Hair - gosh, I wish I had learnt this earlier, but products make all the difference. Everytime I got a haircut, I would watch so carefully when she styled my hair for technique. You'll get the hang of it. Trust me, you have amazing hair.

Seriously, I don't know how old your are. But I spent a large part of my twenties feeling just like you even though I look back on photos and know I actually looked pretty damn alright. It was my teenage friendship traumas that counted towards me feeing ugly, no matter what I did. And the fact that I lived in a country where my look wasn't valued due to my dark skin and heritage. Now I wish I hadn't wasted any time worrying about it. Not because looks don't matter, but because oh gosh, you are NOT UGLY and in fact drop dead gorgeous.
posted by shazzam! at 10:52 AM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

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