How to "even out your skin tone?"
August 3, 2018 11:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm 30 years old and I decided to learn how to wear makeup!

On makeover shows like What Not to Wear and Queer Eye, the makeup people are always saying "I'm putting this on you to even out your skin tone." What are they referring to? Is it foundation that they are putting on the person? Concealer?

Also, for someone who's never used that before, where do you recommend starting? Any recommended brands? I prefer something powdery rather than liquidy.

Also, where online can I go to learn how to do "contours"? I know basically how to apply eye liner and lipstick, and that's about it. Any easy starter guides out there for someone who always resisted wearing makeup but wants to have a more adult looking appearance?
posted by winterportage to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Youtube is where you learn to do makeup now. Cora is my personal favorite, and she's got tons of videos on every topic and a ton of looks.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:54 AM on August 3, 2018

Youtube is my go-to for all things foundation and contour. Watching makeup tutorials on youtube is like eating potato chips, you can't stop at one. Wayne Goss is my favorite - good tips and brand recs.
posted by the webmistress at 11:56 AM on August 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

You can go to Sephora for free color matching and "mini makeovers" - what this means, essentially, is they'll find a color that matches your skin, you tell them your goals, and they work with you to find a good product and show you how to use it. If I were you, I'd go in and say "I have no idea what I'm doing, but I want to learn how to apply foundation." Also they're generally very helpful as the employees tend to be passionate about makeup. You can always try samples, and I've learned a lot just from having them put makeup on me (for free). Plus you get to see what different things look like.

I started (in HS) with powder, and now absolutely hate it as a base. I use liquid foundation with a brush, a bit of bronzer and blush, and just started using a setting powder over top. Works like a charm, takes 5 minutes, and I always look put together.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:02 PM on August 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hello from someone who is also pretty new to makeup!

So, there are basically three types of things this can refer to:
1) Concealer. This is what you would use on dark circles under your eyes, or zits. It's usually fairly thick in texture and will be much lighter than your skin. I use this one for my undereye circles.
2) Color corrector. If you have very, noticeably red areas of your skin, or if your undereye circles are a bit blueish, you can use a special type of concealer that has the opposite tone. They use this a lot on Queer Eye and it's often what they're talking about when they say "even out your skin tone". I don't use it.
3) Foundation. This is what you use all over your face to get an even "base" skin tone before putting on other makeup. This comes as either a powder or a liquid/cream. It's usually pretty light in texture. Bare Minerals is a very popular powder foundation.

I really like Marlena Stall (Makeup Geek) on YouTube for tutorial videos. She is careful to explain everything and not assume any prior knowledge. She has a contouring tutorial here.
posted by capricorn at 12:04 PM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes, to answer your most simple question, the thing you put on to even out your skin tone could be concealer (for example, under eyes), foundation, a tinted moisturizer, or a BB or CC cream. It kind of depends how much evening out you want, and how much coverage you want.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:05 PM on August 3, 2018

Welcome to makeup! It is a lot of fun.

Makeup Alley is a great source for product reviews.

You might also want to check out r/MakeupAddiction, I think they occasionally have threads where people post pictures of their made-up faces for feedback on colors and technique.
posted by Lycaste at 12:06 PM on August 3, 2018

Er, and what I mean by "opposite tone" is complementary colors.
Blue skin under your eyes - use a peach/orange color corrector
Red, blotchy skin on your face - use a green/blue color corrector
posted by capricorn at 12:07 PM on August 3, 2018

Contouring is a trend. You don’t need to learn it. A little foundation or BB cream applied with a sponge, eye and lip of choice, and a light brush of blush on your cheekbones so they don’t look the same color as your face, is perfectly fine for a regular adult who is not an Instagram model. If you have dark or veiny undereye area, you might want to learn about concealer, too.
posted by matildaben at 12:10 PM on August 3, 2018 [16 favorites]

I think you want a BB cream or a foundation. BB creams are kind of like a tinted lotion - they go on light, and can do some basic evening out of skin tone. Foundations are a little heavier (generally). Concealer is even heavier, often used on small spots instead of the whole face because it would look cakey.

I think you should decide what you want the makeup to do, and that will help narrow your options. Do you have specific issues you want to cover up? Do you have a specific look you're going for?

I would also go into a store like Sephora or Ulta. You don't have to do a whole makeover if you don't want - you can just say you're looking for a foundation that does X, and they'll make recommendations and color-test a bit on your skin. Color matching with foundation is really important, and it can be hard to tell in the bottle - it's worth going somewhere that they have testers.

Also, re: contouring - this is definitely a trend and even most heavy makeup wearers don't contour. It's kind of popular right now because of youtube and instagram, but it's hard to pull off and often looks better in photos (or on film). For now, I'd put that in the 'fun to try out, but not a basic makeup skill' box.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:15 PM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

1) Evening out skin tone:

This does refer to a face/skin base product, usually foundation. However, there are also variations on foundation called things like "tinted moisturizer", "BB cream", etc. Within foundations, there are also many variations of texture - as you mention, powders, liquids, creams, etc. The commonality among all of these is just that you buy something that is roughly the color of your skin and apply it as needed, which covers up redness, discoloration, uneven-ness, etc. Concealer is very similar, but it's typically used for more direct coverage needs - covering one pimple, or dark circles under the eyes. Because of that, concealer is sold in smaller quantities (because you're using less each time) and typically is higher coverage. When referring to "coverage", you may see light, medium, or full as descriptors - usually, someone just getting started in makeup is going to prefer a light to medium coverage. That means that rather than being a mostly opaque layer of makeup, it's going to be slightly translucent. Allowing some of your own skin to show through makes it look more natural/less like "makeup", especially if you are just "evening out a skin tone" - that usually implies that there's not a ton of acne or anything that you want to fully cover.

As far as actual product recommendations, Mac can be a good place to start because they have a wide range of products and shades, and they have a powder foundation I like a lot called Studio Fix+. The classic/oft-recommended powder foundation is from Bare Minerals, which you may have seen before - it's a loose powder in a jar, compared to the Mac one which is a pressed powder in a compact. Bare Minerals also has pressed foundations now as well, though. I would suggest, if you're able to, go to an Ulta/Sephora/Mac near you and let them know you want a powder foundation so that you can try them out in person. Matching your skin can be really hard without prior experience, and employees at makeup counters are happy to help you try different things before you buy. If you go with a powder foundation, you will need a brush to go with it, so keep that in mind when shopping, but most any brush will be fine to start with. I personally prefer tinted moisturizers for my light coverage, since I find they feel much more comfortable than other products - if you decide to go that route, I really like the Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer.

Note that the products I've recommended above are more mid-range/high-end price-wise (between 20-40 USD); I do think it's worth trying that level of product out in a makeup store because they can give you free samples or even apply it for you to test it out. But if that's not in your budget to actually purchase, there are many drugstore options as well that will be cheaper (usually 8-20 USD). I'm not as familiar with those, but if you search for reviews (see below for more on finding those) you can definitely find recommendations.

2) Contour

I actually would recommend not starting with contour when you're new to makeup - it's really hard to do well for every day, and if you do it subtle enough that it's not over the top, it doesn't make a huge difference for most people. I'd recommend starting with some other basics like blush, eyeshadow, or brows as easier ways to get into makeup. You definitely don't need contouring to have an "adult looking appearance", so you may never need to learn, but it will always be there if you find you enjoy makeup (which is the only reason I ever contour!).

3) Resources for getting started

I highly recommend watching YouTube videos on makeup - I find it much easier to follow along when you can see the person. You might start just searching "beginner makeup" on youtube and find someone whose video has a decent number of views and look somewhat like you and watch their video to see if you like them. Lisa Eldridge and Pixiwoo are two channels you'll probably get a lot of recommendations for here because they are really skilled makeup artists who don't go over the top (which is a risk with some youtubers, who do much more dramatic makeup daily since it photographs well, but it wouldn't look as good in real life), but if you're not a fair-skinned white woman their tutorials may not be as useful for you.

Similarly, you may also want to keep an eye out for people who also have similar needs or preferences (aside from similar skin tone/eye shape/etc) - if you have oily skin, watching videos of someone with oily skin is going to be more useful to you than someone with dry skin, since they'll probably have similar reactions/concerns as you would. If you wanted to post an update with more information about yourself (e.g. skin tone, skin type, if you have certain things you want to cover up with foundation, etc) we could probably recommend specific people to watch/follow for their insight that would be similar to you.
posted by jouir at 12:19 PM on August 3, 2018

You mentioned Queer Eye and also mentioned "how to even out your skin tone" and I watched the first episode, "You Can't Fix Ugly" last night (the only one I've ever seen). The groomer guy applied a green stick to even out the subject's red skin tones. This is very similar to the one he used, and it's a game changer if you have too much redness in your skin for whatever reason. Also works a treat on the occasional broken capillary redness anywhere on your face (or body).

As with all makeup-y things, practice applying and blending (and removing some if you have to!) before deploying in public.
posted by the webmistress at 12:58 PM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Recommending the green E.L.F primer as a starter move for evening out skin tone.

Contouring takes a hellaton of practice and is more geared toward photo/film/performance than every day wear.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 1:06 PM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Other things about skin tone that I've noticed the Western makeup community focuses on less is the kind of uneven skin tone that is created by hyperpigmentation of the skin from sun exposure or other issues like melasma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation/erythema (acne scars), and things like that. After moving to Europe from Japan, I'm constantly taken aback by the sun damage on people's faces and how the blotchy tans around their foreheads and cheeks aren't considered something that their makeup should address.

If you look at different areas of the face in isolation, you'll notice that they're often quite different colors, and that can be caused by flushing, broken capillaries, sun tan, age spots, whatever. There are a lot of ways to reduce the appearance of those differences, and they can depend on the types of issues you want to address (do you want to cover red inflammation, blue under eye circles, or brownish tan areas?), how you want to address them (powder, liquid, cream, gel, etc.), how long you want the results to last (are you planning to reapply product later in the day?), how thorough you want coverage to be (low, medium, high), and so on.

I know you said you prefer something powdery rather than liquid, but I'm 100% an advocate of getting your sun protection as solid as possible first, for three reasons. First, sun protection is vital for preventing both skin cancer and acceleration of the signs of aging like wrinkles and age spots. Second, reducing the intensity and frequency of age spots means your makeup has to do less work, which means you need to worry about it less. Finally, when or if you do get a pimple or simply a scratch on your face, reducing the injured area's exposure to UV radiation will reduce the amount of redness or scarring that it leaves behind. If you can find a good sunscreen and a BB cream with a little extra SPF and a light texture, it will help your skin stay protected and probably be less drying than a powder product. Otherwise, a mineral powder foundation is a great, simple solution. As suggested by others, you can try adding a little blusher or bronzer to keep the results from looking too flat. Otherwise, a light application will suffice.
posted by wakannai at 1:35 PM on August 3, 2018 [7 favorites]

wakannai made me realize that I should be applying more sunscreen, especially to the scars leftover from my pimples. Grah!

Yes, in Asian skincare, it's far more important to take care of your skin so that you can have a lustrous canvas to put any additional makeup on. Having light makeup helps highlight the luminous quality of well hydrated skin.

My skin is really good according to quite a few folks, the most I have is a few red pimple scars that are faint and one of my cheeks is redder than the rest due to a sunburn that I'm still healing. I make sure to use Vitamin C serum, niacinamide and ceramides, and tinted physical sunscreen to cover it. I just linked to the three that I used, but feel free to check out /r/skincareaddiction or /r/AsianBeauty to find whatever product you think better suits you, it's very YMMV. Sometimes when my skin is feeling really gunky, I use a BHA 2% Liquid to help turnover skin cells to make things look more vibrant - some more info for how to choose chemical exfoliants.

When I went to Sephora to get my first makeup test, I met a very friendly and very earnest store assistant who listened to my concerns about wanting a cruelty-free makeup brand, went to go check out the brands that were cruelty-free, and then recommended me a few choices. They also asked me what type of coverage I was looking for and I was able to have a good conversation with them. They don't work based on commission, so they're there to just help you out. I have NC25 Asian skin, so I was recommended the Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream Wheat 4.5 with a Sephora brand brush, and a light pink blush with a little bit of peach for my skintone. I regret not getting samples of the blush and I don't remember the name, I was too tired and just wanted to go home by that time but the sample size is plenty big. So go when you are feeling down to explore and have energy to take notes and learn a few things. They can also demonstrate how to do certain techniques on your face.
posted by yueliang at 1:52 PM on August 3, 2018 [6 favorites]

Also, I think something that is the single largest change in your look is defining your eyebrows. I think I look fine with my eyebrows in my natural state, but when I really want my features to be defined and highlighted, I just fill it in a little bit with the pencil in short, gentle strokes and it helps out a lot.
posted by yueliang at 1:59 PM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of face powders to even skin tone, hide flaws, or reduce shine. Powder foundation is so much faster and easier than liquid, and you don't need to use nearly as much care to get get it smooth and even. The downside is a powdery look, which is easy to remedy. Liquids can give a nicer finish if you find the right ones, but most of the time i prefer powder.

The powders you want will be called powder foundation or 'powder with coverage,' as opposed to sheer ones meant for setting makeup or blotting oil. (Regarding makeup, 'coverage' is the ability to conceal.) Some can only be used with a dry puff, and others go on beautifully with a damp cosmetic sponge. The ones that can be applied wet can also be used dry. All the medium-coverage ones I've tried can also be used more sparingly for light coverage.

There's an inexpensive one from Palladio that's very good, though there are only a few shades. One place it's sold is Sally's beauty, a chain store. Unfortunately, you can't try it before you buy. Clinique has a nice one with medium coverage called Superpowder which is especially good for dry skin and not good at all for oily skin. If your skin is oily, the Stay Matte powder is okay if you want minimal coverage and good oil absorption. MUFE (Make Up For Ever) Duo Mat can provide medium coverage and contains no oil; the finish is very matte. MUFE also has Pro Finish, also medium coverage, which has a more natural (not as dry-looking finish. This one can be applied wet or dry with different results. Sephora's site has info on how to apply it wet or dry.

Some people knock powders for looking too powdery. But you can eliminate that powdery finish by either patting it with a damp cloth, or spritzing it with water and patting dry. If you finish in this way, you can really load it on and still look unpowdery. In the eye area, don't apply a lot because even water can't make that look good.

If you have redness or pink in your skin, you might look paler after applying any foundation. You can compensate by applying a subtle bronzer or some blush. Bronzer and blush have 'rules' for where to apply it, but you can also dust it lightly all over the face.
posted by wryly at 2:51 PM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Forgot to say: If you're at a store trying on makeup, ask for a mirror and go look at it in natural light. This is a must. And it's okay to say you want to wear it a couple of hours before deciding.
posted by wryly at 2:52 PM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

The lovely Lisa Eldridge has done a whole foundation course Which tells you everything you need to know about buying, picking and applying foundation. So this may be a place to start. She also has covered all the other things you ask about.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:13 PM on August 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Agreed that trying makeup on and leaving it for a couple hours is important because it will show you if a foundation/BB cream etc. oxidises badly or not. If you go with powders this may not be a big problem for you, but some brands of foundation will turn orange while sitting on your face and it's not a great look. I personally use BB creams because I find them a lot more natural looking and forgiving than foundations overall (easier to apply, won't cling to that one patch of dry skin on your face argghh), though they still turn orange sometimes.

Most makeup stores will do makeup lessons, as far as I know. Youtube is great, but you can't ask it questions and get real-time answers. I know Smashbox (where I live at least) do this thing where they'll do half of your face then you do the other half while they give you tips.
posted by BeeJiddy at 3:20 PM on August 3, 2018

I started late and found BB creams more forgiving on technique. In general I would agree with getting your eyebrows done and then pick one feature (lips/eyes etc). I tend towards lip gloss and eye shadow but others may pick lip stick and minimal eyes.
posted by typecloud at 5:17 PM on August 3, 2018

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