Teach me make-up!
April 20, 2006 5:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm don't know how to put on make-up. Where do I go to learn?

I never learned what looks good on me or how to apply it. Plus, now that I'm applying for jobs, I feel like it would help me look professional, but I don't know what to do. If it helps, I'm a white female in her twenties, and I live in southern California near LA, so I can go there if I have to.
posted by stoneegg21 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: go to any cosmetic stores in a department store (or any cosmetic stores like pure beauty). tell them you're looking for a "professional look" and get a complete makeover done. while you're getting one, ask them what tools they're using and how they're using it. with each application (ie, foundation), ask them to stop and look yourself in a mirror so you know what amount is appropriate, etc.

you may have to buy some products, but i'd say it's the cheapest. either that or ask your friend to teach you how!
posted by grafholic at 5:31 PM on April 20, 2006

Go find the a kindly drag queen who looks amazing. There is no better person than a man who looks fab as a woman to help you learn the art that is makeup.

No, I'm not joking.
posted by FlamingBore at 5:32 PM on April 20, 2006

Do you have any female friends whose makeup always looks good, sleek, professional, not overdone? Ask them for tips. Failing (or even in addition to) that, the Clinique counter at your nearest department store. They'll be happy to hook you up and show you how it's done.
posted by Gator at 5:32 PM on April 20, 2006

That's "thee", obviously.
posted by FlamingBore at 5:32 PM on April 20, 2006

Something to consider: No makeup, but a clean groomed look (neat nails, hair pulled back, pressed clothing) will look more professional than poorly done make-up. I also learned to apply makeup as an adult, and I waited until I'd had a lot of chance to try it out on weekends and around friends before debuting it in a corporate setting.

Do you have any girlfriends that you can take when you go shopping or for makeovers? It's less threatening if you're there for moral support to each other, and it can be a lot of fun.
posted by raedyn at 5:37 PM on April 20, 2006

Depending on what you want, the cosmetics counter may be a bit overwhelming. (You may not want, for example, full foundation plus concealer plus powder plus eye shadow plus eye liner plus mascara plus blush....)

If you do, that's a great place to start. If you want more low-key, then actually a lot of women's magazines have monthly columns on makeup application. It's been a while since I looked for them, but I seem to remember Lucky being pretty straightforward with it; otherwise you may actually want to flip through some of the teen or pre-teen magazines to see if they cover what you're looking for.
posted by occhiblu at 5:38 PM on April 20, 2006

I was taught when I was a kid by a classmate of my mom's (she'd gone back to school as an adult, and somehow befriended a sorority girl). There's a lot to be said for just asking a friend whose makeup style you think would suit you and asking her to show you how.

Even if you wouldn't necessarily wear the same colors or all the same products, I think that would be a great first step: just ask a friend who you think makes herself look good. As a makeup girl, I don't think any less of my non-makeup friends, but if one of them were to ask me for advice, I'd probably cry with delight. And then I'd throw her in the car and drive her to Target.

You could also try cruising the cosmetics department at a nice department store, and getting someone there to do your face--Clinique and Prescriptives usually do fairly natural jobs, nothing too scary for makeup novices. But note that the products at department stores are significantly more expensive than their drugstore/discount store counterparts, and that even when you're not required to make a purchase in order to get your face done and a few words of advice, you might be pressured a little bit. But if you think you're up to the hard-sell, it's one way to go.

Also: Allure magazine focuses pretty heavily on beauty versus fashion, and has a monthly feature that details how to use different cosmetics--how to choose the type that's right for you, how to apply it, different techniques. They also cover things like grooming your eyebrows, different hair styles, etc. that can be pretty enlightening even if you're a big old girlie girl. You can get a 12 issues/$12 subscription and there's usually at least a buck's worth of useful information in there.
posted by padraigin at 5:40 PM on April 20, 2006

I am addicted to makeup. Positively addicted.

I think the best way to learn is to take the advice from above PLUS a 1) ton of cheap makeup to put on and play with when you know you are not going anywhere, and 2) a Kevyn Aucoin book. Honestly, he was the best modern makeup artist there was, and his books are so accessible and wonderful.

Just go to a drug store and buy a bit of cheapo makeup. The textures will be different from good makeup, but you can use the cheapo as a palette, and as a means of experimentation on your face. Stay in one night with a bottle of wine or whatever, and just pile it on-- any way you want. Make yourself look like Cleopatra-- mae yourself look like Marilyn Monroe. It will be a bit messy and unsure at first, but as you experiment and learn your face, it will go on better and better. Refer to Aucoin when you get stuck on how to do something, and for ideas.
MAC makeup s quality for upper-end makeup, and I rely on Rimmel for cheaper but quality.
posted by oflinkey at 5:56 PM on April 20, 2006

Consider Merle Norman or similar. They're not the latest trendiest cosmetics, necessarily, but the whole point is for them to be somewhere relatively calm and encouraging where you can learn to apply makeup. You'll be expected to buy stuff there, but they'll be pretty good about showing you how to use it properly.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:21 PM on April 20, 2006

Best answer: Speaking as one of the fabulous (ex) drag queens that FlamingBore mentioned:

Oh yes! What oflinkey said. The absolute best book on makeup in existence is Kevyn Aucoin's Making Faces.

Adding on: do not, under any circumstances, use sponge applicators for eyeshadow. Never! And don't stint on buying good brushes. MAC sell the best, in my opinion, but you can get almost as good for quite a bit cheaper. Make sure you're buying natural fibres, not synthetic. They provide better coverage, and wear out a lot less.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:22 PM on April 20, 2006

Take thyself right away to Makeup Alley.

You can chat with hundreds of other makeup-savvy women and read zillions of product reviews, which will keep you from spending money on poor quality, overpriced stuff (so you can blow it with style on lines like Mac, Stila, and Nars).
posted by macinchik at 4:27 PM on April 20, 2006

Bobbi Brown tends to be neutral/natural. You may want to check out their counter and products.
posted by 6:1 at 4:30 PM on April 20, 2006

I second the recommendation for Kevyn Aucoin. Making Faces has a section with pictures of made-up faces and instructions to reproduce the result. The book's Amazon preview has a ton of basic information -- if nothing else, browse through those sample pages.
posted by liet at 4:31 PM on April 20, 2006

If you don't want a lot of makeup (concealer plus foundation plus powder plus color and lipliner plus lipstick plus gloss and four things on your eyes) I recommend starting with Origins. The people there have always been really helpful and they listen when I say "I want something I can do for work and I have to be able to do it in 10 minutes or less and I have super sensitive skin so nothing can smell!"

Start with something easy so you get used to it!
posted by dpx.mfx at 4:54 PM on April 20, 2006

Thirding "Making Faces" by Keyn Aucoin. It's a great resource.
posted by SashaPT at 4:57 PM on April 20, 2006

Drag queens' techniques will get you noticed, but I doubt they're appropriate for the office.

If you wouldn't be too embarrassed, go to a department store and ask the Clinique ladies to make you over in a professional style. They're very good at explaining each step and telling you how to reproduce the look -- if you ask, they even have papers they write and draw on, then send home with you. Remember, you don't have to buy everything they offer!

On the other hand, you should have good-quality cosmetics, especially if you want to look professional. As you get more comfortable with makeup, you'll learn which products you can grab at the drugstore, and which you should probably pick up from a fancier or more expensive source. I think good concealer/foundation is worth any price, but your priorities may be different.

SoYouWanna has a good guide (with a lot of ads!). But the best guides I've found are Bobbi Brown's. She emphasizes "makeunders" -- "you should stand out, not your makeup." This is exactly what you want for a professional setting. Her general guide will probably be very helpful, but you should also look at the teenage version, since it may be more addressed to beginners.
posted by booksandlibretti at 5:09 PM on April 20, 2006

Our local beauty school offers services like manicures and haircuts. They also provide makeup instruction for something like $5 for a quick session. I imagine that would be a great jumping point.
posted by sian at 5:19 PM on April 20, 2006

Best answer: Go to a high-end department store and head for the Laura Mercier counter, and ask if you can schedule a makeover, or just generally ask them for tips. If you have lasted this long without makeup, I doubt you will need much to get the look you need, but I think they have the professional approach that you are looking for.
posted by lilboo at 5:30 PM on April 20, 2006

A lot of salons offer make up application classes -- I think the Aveda ones, do for example (you can search for locations on their web pages). You can ask for help at Sephora, as well. And I've heard good things about the Bobbi Brown book, but have never read it myself.
posted by echo0720 at 5:32 PM on April 20, 2006

my comma is totally in the wrong place in that sentence
posted by echo0720 at 5:33 PM on April 20, 2006

For Kevin Aucoin books, "Face Forward" is good, too, although it runs second to "Making Faces"
posted by bachelor#3 at 5:40 PM on April 20, 2006

I was exactly the same as you. I worked above a beauty salon and they did full makeovers where teaching you what products/colours and how to apply them was part of it. I managed to get it for free, but I think they normally charged about $100 (in Australia). It was VERY worth it.

However, the lady who did it for me claimed that if nothing else, a woman should wear mascara. If you can get yourself an appropriate colour foundation/powder from a department store as others have suggested, and some mascara, then you're half way there :)
posted by Sioneld at 6:15 PM on April 20, 2006

Ok, I cannot resist any longer. IANAMA (makeup artist), but I have done plenty of informal makeovers for friends.
I do not know what your coloring is, so take this cum granos salis...
My suggestions:
Bobbi Brown has a Bridal Palette which is simply a collection of classic colors and textures. Since the big problem with bridal makeup is that it can look dated if done in a fashion that is too trendy, the look for a wedding day should be conservative. This works well on the everyday face, then, as well. Bobbi Brown is quality makeup, and is designed to be more subtle than pop. This palette covers eyeshadow, blush and lips.
The industry standard for mascara is really Great Lash. Commonly referred to as the Pink and the Green.
You will need an eyelash curler. Revlon makes a good one.
As for liner, I never use it. I use a tiny tiny amount of dark shadow, pressed into an angle brush, and then pressed into my lashline, upper only, outer 2/3 of the eye. There is no sweeping involved-- simply press into the lashline. I use the same eyeshadow as a brow powder as well, (but I have dark hair), using the angle brush, and then a tiny comb to distribute evenly.
For coverage, I depend on MAC for concealer, and Bare Minerals for overall coverage. Bare Minerals is really pretty expensive, takes a bit to get used to, but it is honestly the best makeup I have ever used in terms of wearability, comfort and ease of application (once you get used to how to put it on). It really is weightless. If that is too much for you, then go with the Rimmel products for the face. The point of foundation is not to cover anything. It is to even out the skintone. If you have great skin, you can get away with nothing, with powder only, or with a sheer tinted
posted by oflinkey at 6:31 PM on April 20, 2006

"sheer tinted moisturizer". Huh. Don't know why that cut off.
posted by oflinkey at 6:34 PM on April 20, 2006

Best answer: I'm *just* starting to learn about make-up (I'm almost 27) and I'm getting tips from my roommate who claims to be addicted. Her tips so far:

- Invest in good make up brushes: They do cost a lot, I admit, but even I can tell an immediate difference in using her brushes and not those sponge things that come with the convenience store brands. The four that I bought as a "starter' are these:
Eyeliner brush - for applying, duh eyeliner. Yowza, yes, that Stila one is expensive but I swear by that smudger on the other end of the brush for making the liner less harsh. I used to use "chubby" pencils because I was always scared of liquid liners, but with the right brush, it's incredibly easy and clean! I am using Fluidline in "dipdown" and I love it. Last weekend I had a Stila girl use their Smudgepot in Emerald on me (using this exact brush), and I must say I'm fighting the temptation to buy that too!
Eyeshadow brush - for applying your eyeshadow colors. I used to just swipe one color on my entire lid, but my friend taught me how to coordinate colors on different parts.
Blending brush - Then you blend them all together with this one.
Brow brush - Some people use pencils for their brows, I personally like filling it in with powder because pencils seem too harsh for me as well. No link to the brow brush, because this brush and all the other brushes I got were from this kit (Christmas present that started this whole thing). My friend slightly grimaces at Sephora brushes but she said they are fine as a starter. ;) Obviously she's become somewhat of a snob.
Eyelash curler - Even with no makeup, I have been using Shu Uemura for years. LOVE IT.
And finally, make up brush cleaner to keep the tools in tip top shape. I mix it with a bit of water (to make it last longer) and pour it into a cleaned out travel size hair spray bottle. The spritzing makes for easy dispensing. Just squirt on a tissue and clean away.

I haven't officially calculated the total investment so far (I'm sure I'd faint) but I must say it's been worth it. I've actually gotten compliments on my make up like every other day for the past two weeks! So weird! Took some practice to get the hang of using all this, but I'm finding it all kinda fun!

- If you visit a department store make up counter, go to a high end store. She used to work for Lancome as a teenager at like Macy's or something and she said he had no training and half the time she just experimented on people who wanted advice. She recommends going to counters at Nordstroms and up.

- Take your time browsing between the counters. Pick a "consultant" whose make up you like. I've found Origins to be very subtle (too subtle for me) and MAC too be too much (very pigmented makeup). MAC's tools rock, but their make up is just too strong for me. I think I've settled on Stila. Very easy to apply, subtle, pretty, and clean. My friend also likes Lorac. I actually bought this kit and I'm using it everyday because the colors are so versatile.

As a makeup "newbie" I have to warn you, it truly is addicting! I totally understand how it can be so overwhelming. I'm really glad I have a friend who's into this stuff, so if you know anyone like that, ask them. I can personally attest they are just bursting to share their knowledge. :)
posted by like_neon at 9:29 PM on April 20, 2006

Put me down as a recent convert to the world of makeup in my late 20s, via MAC. It's true that it's like crack.

A helpful suggestion would be to visit websites like Spectra.net to look at other people's makeup ideas (or face of the day; FOTD). Most may be too colourful for the workplace, but you can at least pick up plenty of pointers about technique, colour combinations and placement, and tools of the trade.

You have to register to access the FOTD section, but it's worth it, as there's also an incredibly helpful step-by-step tutorial section.

Kevin Aucoin's books are a definite starting point.

For specific makeup suggestions,
-- good brushes are your friends (such as the MAC suggestion)
-- buy a sheer/light base (still on a search for the perfect one, every type is different on every person anyway) and a light blush (Nars' Orgasm is a good one).
-- I'll disagree with the poster above who suggested Maybelline's pink and green mascara. Lancome's Hypnose is by far the best I've encountered, but if you don't want to start off expensive, Maybelline's Full n Soft is good.
-- Neutral pinky-brown lipsticks are good (usually referred to as Your Lips But Better; YLBB). MAC's Viva Glam V is a workplace staple for me.
-- I am truly a MAC girl, so their eyeshadows are exactly what I'm looking for. Revlon's quads are a pretty good way of trying a range of neutral and muted colours. I will also agree that Stila are wonderful workplace shades and will last forever, but Stila is too expensive here in Aus. (If you wanted to look at MAC shades in more detail, this is a good gallery.)
-- Oh, and invest in a primer of some description (like Urban Decay's Primer Potion). It will be somewhat of a base for your makeup and stop it sliding around - and therefore ensure a professional-looking face for work.
posted by chronic sublime at 4:53 AM on April 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'll second makeupalley as a great resource, especially the product reviews section. Read enough, and you'll get a good sense of which drugstore products are a great steal, and which dept. store products are worth the splurge.

Some products that are always on the "best-of" lists:

- Laura Mercier foundation. The tinted moisturizer always gets the biggest raves; it's sheer and natural, and doesn't take a lot of talent to apply -- perfect for someone new to makeup. The oil-free formula also gets plenty of good press. Georgio Armani's foundation is usually runner-up to LM; it's at a higher price-point, but lots of people swear by it.

- NARS blushes. Orgasm is the perennial favorite, but all of their blushes are silky, highly pigmented (that means a little goes a long way) and come in a range of uniquely flattering shades. Runner-up: Stila's Convertable Colors, little compacts of cream blush that you can smudge onto lips or cheeks without much trouble.

- Stila eyeshadows. The classic color is Kitten, a pale, shimmery, champagney color that looks good on nearly every woman. Their shadows are usually very soft and blendable, and you can purchase just the shadow pans at a lower price point and put them into reusable palettes. Bobbi Brown gets raves for extremely natural matte colors.

- Maybelline and L'Oreal mascaras. Agree with chronic sublime that Great Lash is definitely not the best stuff out there; Maybelline's Full n' Soft and L'Oreal's Featherlash (discontinued at some drug stores, but still available) are two very natural formulas that are easy to work with. L'Oreal's Voluminous and Max Factor's 2000 Calorie are the go-to products for dramatic, movie-star lashes, but they take a little more effort to get right. Personally, I think that buying department store mascara isn't worth it; mascara only lasts about 3 months before it gets clumpy and makes you look like an oil tanker crashed into your lashes. A few dept. store formulas are better, but the drugstore versions have gotten so good lately, I don't think it's worth the extra cash on a regular basis.

- MAC lipsticks and lipglosses. MAC goes out of its way to provide a huge range of colors that suit women of every skintone. Quality formulas with no weird smells or tastes -- some of those dept. store brands are like wearing perfume across your mouth. Ew.

A word about eyeliner: This is the product that I see women get wrong more often than any other. Most women wear a shade that's too dark for them (i.e. black), and they wear it too heavily, and too far outside their lash line. Get thee to a professional for help picking the right shade in a soft, easy-to-apply formula.

Last thought: check out a Sephora store. They carry a lot of high-end brands, and can offer you a makeover/lesson that incorporates the best products from multiple cosmetics lines.
posted by junkbox at 6:26 AM on April 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

i'm new to it too, and some things i'd second from above or add:
.kevyn aucoin is awesome
.brushes are important. no matter how many types of eyeliner and eyeshadow i bought, or how many other applicator tools i bought (sponges, swabs, pads, whatever), i could NEVER, as an asian chick, get eye makeup to look right until i bought a good eyeshadow brush. it'll give you that subtle look that's impossible to achieve otherwise for your eyes.
.makeupalley is indeed great
.getting a shitload of cheap makeup and just experimenting endlessly for a while privately was indeed genius. i figured out what textures and colors i liked, and i was pretty surprised...a lot of it was very counter intuitive. it's not always like clothing colors...colors you think would look horrible look great, and colors gorgeous in the pot look garish or hideous or way too faded once applied. this is also how i discovered i hate eyeliner the categorized product and can only achieve a good "line" by smudging a bunch of short stubby fragmented lines into one semi connected whole line with soft eye shadow in a dark (relative to the eyelid and browbone shade) hue. this only took, what? 10 years of make up avoidance and a lot of failed stop-and-start tries with painful pointy hard pencils and leaking liquid liner, ugh.
.using a light sheer shimmery wash of eyeshadow on the browbone (whether you also put a color on the lid or not) is always flattering/brightening.
.favorite lines for subtle but pretty, decent quality make up: clinique, select bobbi brown (but everything's so yellow!), lorac, l'oreal paris (their limited edition seasonal wear infinite eyeshadow trio sets are the bomb, which baffles me because the normal wear infinite singles and duos tend to suck), maybelline new york, black opal, black radiance, iman, mac, stila, smashbox. as for cheapies, tropez and wet n' wild have some great colors every now and then. max factor too. almay's okay, especially for "i don't want to look like i'm wearing make up" chicks. not relevant i guess, but as for vampy glamourpuss makeup, nars and dior are fun.
.sometimes subtle "pre-makeup" things make a big difference. i never saw the point in bothering with eye makeup until i discovered eyeshadow primer, because it always disappeared immediately due to my oily skin. no more! urban decay's is the best, but it's strong (it'll be tough to get your make up off!)...l'oreal de-crease isn't as good, but i use it for every day somewhat lasting sheer wear. "setting" your makeup and priming your face for it makes a huge difference. i also recommend lash primer (smash box has an ok one, if a bit gunky). such a small seemingly invisible thing can make such a difference.
.i always wanted to use mascara, but hated constantly wondering if it was smudging in the rain or when i wiped my eyes. i wear clear mascara daily now. love it. but i'm in a minority maybe about that, for some reason...(i have dark thick lashes naturally though so...)

i'm sure i'm forgetting a bunch. i love knowing i'm not the only person who took this long to get at all into make up. cheers. have fun with it.
posted by ifjuly at 1:53 AM on April 22, 2006

booksandlibretti writes "Drag queens' techniques will get you noticed, but I doubt they're appropriate for the office."

I don't think the suggestion was to have drag queen-style makeup. But we do learn a lot--and learn it very fast--about how to apply, and important techniques for colour selection, highlighting or downplaying certain facial features, etc. It's very easy to tone down.

And yes... I can't believe I forgot to mention: one of the most important things with making your makeup look truly good is to take very good care of your face. That means following a steady regime (tailored to your skin type) of washing, toning, cleansing, etc. The healthier and properly oil-balanced your skin is, the better your makeup will stick in place.

And always remember: less is more. For a daytime corporate look, you really don't need much more than an incredibly sheer foundation, a subtly tinted lipstick (or even lip gloss), and mascara and a little eyeliner. Keep it subtle, keep it in neutral shades.

Don't try to radically change what your face looks like. Obviously drawn-on eyebrows, for example, will always look atrocious. Find a good esthetician who can wax them into the shape that's good for your face, and maintain with plucking (this really goes for boys, too. Yes! It is possible to get your eyebrows waxed without looking like a girl). Do not try to change the shape of your lips. A little subtle contouring with a lipliner can be a good thing--but remember how we learned to use crayons: stay within the lines! Rather than making thin lips look bigger by drawing the liner outside, work with shades that will help enhance what you've got. That's the whole point of makeup, really: enhance, don't recreate.

A great tip for making lipstick last forever: use your lipliner on your lips as well. Don't cover the whole lip though: figure out where you want them to look fuller (lighter), and leave those areas blank. Blot with a kleenex, but gently. Then apply your lipstick. Blot (again, gently) with a kleenex. Then! Lay 1 ply of kleenex over your lips, and with a powder brush, dab loose powder fairly firmly into your lips through the kleenex. Then apply a very light coat of your lipstick, blot very gently. This will give you lipstick that is practically tattooed on. Seriously, it'll last through just about anything.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:24 AM on April 22, 2006

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