Everything You Would Ever Need to Know about Makeup
"All women really want the same thing: to look like themselves, only prettier and more confident" Bobbi Brown
Hello and welcome to this blog entry about makeup! In this unapologicatly long post, I will be covering everything you need to know about makeup products, brushes and other equipment. I will also share tips and tricks for applying each type of product. Applying beautiful makeup is really simple: it never takes me daily more than five minutes to apply makeup and achieve the perfect day look.
I will first cover common types of make up products available, so you can make educated choices when building your own ritual. I will also cover the type of makeup brushes and other supply to support you while using your products. Along the way, I will be sharing some make up artists' tips and tricks. Finally, we will build together your ultimate makeup pouch. With all this information in hand, I will guide you through a step by step guide on how to achieve your perfect day look in less than five minutes everyday.
I have always been big on skincare from a very young age. I must have been six or seven when I started rubbing my mother’s skincare creams into my face. I started wearing make up on, off when I was seventeen (eye kohl, lip balm...). But I got my first real makeup pouch much later than most of my friends. I was already twenty-one. I was in France, it was a beautiful summer day and I went to Monoprix. It got a glossy pouch with a mascara, an eyeshadow and a lipgloss in it, all from L’Oréal Paris.
Fastforward to June 2009. I was twenty four years old and had the job interview of my dream job at the time. I was in NYC back then, and as I had an acne outbreak, I needed some coverage. I went the night before my interview to the local Duane Read and picked randomly (oh boy!) a mineral powder because I must have read somewhere it was great. I found out years later that the shade made my skin look greyish-yikes! I still got the job but thinking about it make it grind my tooth almost a decade later.
I later went to Sephora and was sold an expensive liquid foundation I ended up using very little. I thought it was given me that perfect skin in a very unnatural way. I figured out that I should get lessons. I heard that MAC gives very good makeup lessons, that their staff are real makeup artists. I wanted to get a powder which would give me natural looks. So when I was in Berlin three years ago, I called and made an appointment with the MAC store on Rosenthalerstr. When I showed up on D day, I asked them to help a girl out who have no idea where to start. I also specified that I am after a natural look, the no-makeup, makeup look. The lesson lasted 1h30, the makeup artist did half of my face, and I did under her guidance the over half. I was given a chart with all the steps, and products and equipement used. It costs me 80 € that I was able to use toward buying products. The lesson was amazing and at last, I found my right shade of mineral powder that I still use to date.
I now work in the beauty industry and have come a long way since. Along the way, I took a course on personal beauty and got the great Make Up Lessons book of Bobbi Brown that I refer to often, including while writing this article. I also have the privilege of meeting and working often with some incredibly talented make up artists and they share with me many insider tips. Since that first lesson at MAC, I worked with numerous makeup brands, and learnt a lot about make up products and many technics about makeup application, including countering, smoky eyes, tighlining, eyeliner application etc. But my makeup pouch core have changed very little since for the last three years. After cleaning out my toiletries, my pouch is currently only filled with essentials. I still prefer for everyday a nude look, the no-make-up makeup look that takes me less than five minutes all in all.
I will be sharing here my insights about the different products out there: what type of products exist for all makeup axes (face, eyes, lips and nails), what do they do etc. I will also share with you my list of favourite products that I personally used for each category. Even though this blog is about simplifying your life and minimalist beauty, I am listing lots of products about my favourites so you can pick and choose what works best for your, your lifestyle and budget. In other words, you will find here all the information I wish I received few years ago when my clueless self went and bought that greyish mineral powder to cover her mild acne from Duane Reade-yikes again!
Let me insist here that great face makeup start with great skin: I have shared all my insider's trip for a great skin at any age here.
A lot of my makeup artists friends use a primer, but in my opinion, for everyday it is really not necessary. I once had one, but after realizing that I only used it once the day I got it to try, I got rid of it and never missed it. But foundation and concealer are (almost) must and blush is optional.
First, you should start by selecting the correct foundation shade for the skin tone. For years, I steered cleared from foundation, because I associated it with a pancaky makeup. But then I came to understand that the right foundation will make you look like you just got out of bed like that, that you are not wearing foundation at all! Depending on your skin type, condition and coverage you are looking for, you could get either get a stick foundation, lightweight tinted moisturizer, denser tinted balm, fuller-coverage liquid foundation, powder and oil-free formula. As for the right shade, I beg you not just to pick a color on shelf as my younger self once did. Also, try on your face, not on your wrist or somewhere else. You should also always test foundation in natural light. The ultimate test is that it is invisible: the correct shade disappear in the skin.
Second, select an under-eye concealer. Bobbi Brown recommends in her book that you go one ot two tones lighter than the foundation. One tone lighter is what works for me. You have to try and see what works best for you. Concealer is the one product that when chosen and applied correctly can instantly lift and brighten the face. A good concealer should perfectly blend into your skin, lightening dark circles and making you look better. Correctors are available for those with extreme under-eye darkness. They can be used in lieu of concealer, or together.
Third, pick a blush. It is used to create a healthy look. In my humble opinion, there are not necessary for a day look, but can add drama if you are going out or want to have a more sophisticated look. Blush formulas come into powder, gel, cream, cream/powder, chubby pencils, cheek tints and pot rouge. I would recommend powder that it is the easiest formula to use and it blends easily and work on all skin types.
The purpose of eye makeup (whether it is a simple black mascara or an elaborate smoky eye) is to make your eyes stand out. When done right, eye makeup can give the appareance of brighter, more beautiful eyes. I will cover here the essentials: brows, eye shadow, liner and eyelashes.
There is nothing quite like defining your brows to change your face instantly. I never tweezed or trimmed my eyebrows as I really believe in leaving my features as natural as possible, but I use daily a brush to define them, even on days when I am not putting on makeup at all. But if this is something that you would like to get done because it makes you happy and feel more beautiful, by all means, do it. But I would strongly advise seeing a professional to help you define your ideal shape. Once the brows have been groomed, it is easy to do your own upkeep.
Eye shadow helps accentuate the eye and makes eye color stand out. It is also used to correct eye shape. Eye shadow comes in many formulas and textures: powder, cream, and pencil, matte, sheer, shimmery, glittery, creamy, glossy... I would recommend that you stick to a simple, natural look for everyday. Pick shades that bring out your eye colors rather than shadows that make statement. You could also use an eyeshadow primer to make it last longer, but in my opinion, it is really not essential.
Eyeliner is a fantastic way to define and enhance the eyes. It frames the eyes, makes them appear larger, and really makes them stand out. Liner can also be used to change the shape of the eyes. Its application needs to be generous enough to be visible when the eyes are open to make the most impact. There several eyeliners formulations: powdered shadow, eye pencil, and liquid or gel eyeliner. Each has its advantages and specific application techniques.
Lashes open up and emphasises the eyes. Most lashes are transformed with the use of mascara. Extra black mascara is usually my first choice. Products choice include: mascara, curlers, and false lashes.
There are basically two types of mascara depending on what you are looking for: lenghthening mascara and tickening mascara. On one hand, lengthening mascara is a thin formula so it lenghens lashes in a way that look natural. On the other hand, thickening mascara, which formula is heavier, is designed to make lashes look fuller. Either of those two types of mascara could be waterproof and/or colored. I would like to add that even more than the formula, a mascara's brushes will determine your final look, so you can keep your brushes from more expensive mascaras and use them with cheaper formulas. You should of course clean the brush regularly to avoid any kind of eye infection.
A lot of makeup artists use and recommend an eyelashes curler but in my opinion, if you are going the simple way as I do, you don't need one. I have never owned one, but makeup artists have used it on my eyelashes a few times, and I am not convainced it is worth it. It is still a good makeup tool; because it can help with the illusion of bigger eyes and help curl and lenghten the eyelashes. But be careful, as if you do not use it with care, it can pull on eyelashes leaving them weaker at the roots. Also, when used warm, it can cause serious burns to the eyelid. In addition, you should never use it when the mascara has dried in your eyes, as this will break your lashes.
I cannot talk about eyelashes without touching on the ever so trending false eyelashes. I am definitely against false eyelashes, and would not recommend them any day because I believe that they cause more harm than good. For example, the glue that is used to secure false lashes to the natural ones may contain formaldahyde which is known to be carcinogenic; and overtime, your real eyelashes could be left sparse. If you really want to have fuller lashes, a natural remedy is castor oil that you put in an empty mascara bottle and use daily. A good friend of mine who used it for few months was happy with it.
Applying lip color is one the simplest of all makeup steps and is a great way to change immediately a look. Lip color applications range from simple, blotted-on stains to combinations of lip pencil, lipsticks, and gloss. When you use the right shade, it complements your natural skin tone and color of your lips. You can choose from a wide range of products formulas, which include matte, sheer, shimmery, and creamy lipstics, as well as personal favorites for everyday, glosses and balms. When choosing your lipstick, if you are wearing a blush, make sure, they are from the same family color, as if you are wearing an outfit in your face.
I personally use balms on my lips for everyday. I like good old West African shea butter. I have also been very happy with organic castor, jojoba and coconut oils in the past.
To create your very own shade of nude lips, here is a makeup artist trick: you can apply a bit of your foundation and put over some transparent gloss.
I am of the school of leaving nails clean and natural, especially as in my personal case, nail polish is not compatible with the ablutions I need to perform Muslim prayers: the polish creates a barrier between water and my nails. In addition, a very well known nail polish brand left me with yellowish nails despite the fact that the celebrity manicurist who did my nails used a professional base coat and that I kept the polish on only for four days. There are also so many chemicals in classic nail polishes, let alone gel and UV polish, that I would rather steer clear from painting my nails- to say the least. You can read more here from Dr Thu Quach of Standford University and the Cancer Prevention Institute of California.
Take five minutes to trim, file and buff your nail properly and you will be surprised of how great they look! On a side note, in Chad where I come from, women use henna to dye their nails in various shades. The intensity depends on the henna used and the lenght of the application time. I have also used it sometimes and find it absolutely beautiful! The only downside is that the dye is permanent and that you should let your nail grow out and cut it to get rid of the henna dye.
5/ Brushes and Other Equipment
Brushes are important and they can make all the difference in applying your makeup. You have brushes for pretty much every makeup step (face, eyes and lips). But in my opinion, unless you are a makeup artist or that you wear full faced makeup everyday (something I would not recommend doing!), you only need brushes for your foundation powder, blush and eyeshadow. Liquid fondation is often best warmed and applied by hands. Applying lipstick using your fingers also gives a more natural finish. Even eyeshadows can be beautifully applied by hands. If you are using a creamy blush, your hand or a sponge (or a combination of both) is a good technic.
Brushes do not need to be expensive. I would recommend that you choose synthetic brushes over natural ones, as the natural one use bristles from animal such as goat or poney. I have used both natural and synthetic brushes (only synthetic now), and the latest synthetic brushes do as a good job as the natural ones.
A makeup pouch is also a must to keep your products organized. I got mine as a gift when I purchased my cleansing oil make up remover from Shu Uemura. It is the only make up pouch I own. I love how it is both roomy to carry all my essentials and compact enough to pack with me when going out or travelling. You do not need to break the bank with getting your pouch. If you are crafty, you can sew one. Otherwise, most cosmetic shops such as Sephora or MAC sell pouches. Otherwise, I have seen some pretty ones at high stores such as Primark and H&M. But if you really want to go high end, I know a few people who swear by their Prada pouch.
Building and Maintaining the Perfect Makeup Pouch
Now that we have covered every type of products, brushes and equipment that exist under the sun, here are for me the ultimate makeup pouch with less than 10 products. You should also make sure that you do not keep any products for too long, as especially for mascara as you do not want to end up with an eye infection! Usually, you will find in products the shelf life, once open. It is an small sign of an open jar with a digit and an "M": for example "6M" means that you should get rid of the product within six month of first opening it .
You should also wash your makeup brush and sponges at least once a month with warm water and baby shampoo.
Step-by-Step Guide to Applying Makeup
I would like to add here that before beautiful makeup starts with beautiful skin. I would strongly advise that you have a look here at my article (another unapolegetically long one) on skincare. Below, I am listing the products in the order I apply them.
1/Concealer- I use MAC Mineralize Concealer NW45. I like how this concealer blend in perfectly with my tone and brighten immediately my face when I apply it. It is together with mascara my favourite makeup product.
2/Foundation- I use MAC Mineral Powder Mineralize Skinfinnish in Deep Dark. As I am extra careful with my skin, I actually need very little coverage and often don't wear skin makeup at all apart for some concealer. I love the slighty bronzed look that Mineralize gives me.
I use the sponge for my powder MAC's when I am on the go. I love the fact that it is compact enough to fit inside my powder pack. My favorite brush for applying powder is Urban Decay Karma. It perfectly blends and applies powder on skin and I love the fact that it is vegan! Once a makeup artist used on my skin the beauty blender, and even though I never owned it, I must say that I was quite blown away. So this would be something I would recommend, especially if you are using liquid foundation and don't want to use your hands.
3/Blush- I use MAC Pro Long Wear in Stubborn. This is such a cool product that make me look immediately so pretty. It gives me that instant glow as if I have been working out intensively or spent an afternoon in the sun.
4/Eyeshadow and liner- My go-to eye shadow is the Urban Decay Palette. I love the beautiful design and even more the gorgeous colors! My absolute favorite one that comes out almost nude in my skin tone is hustle. People of Urban Decay, please if you are reading this, would you make a single eye shadow out of hustle? Thank you! I use the make up brush that come with it or sometimes my fingers.
If you are feeling more like an eyeliner, then L'Oréal Paris Color Rich Le Khôl Eyeliner in black is all you need. I love its budget-friendly price as well its versatility as it can be used both in the inside or the outside of the eyelide. I actually love wearing it inside my eyelide when I want to intensify my gaze and to play the saharan look with the kôhl. Otherwise, Bobbi Brown makes excellent eyeliners as well. In general, I would recommend that depending on your coloring, you stick to classic colors such as black, dark grey or brown.
5/Brow Brush- Brows are now the big trend and there are plenty of product offers out there. I have used for years Lancôme Crayon Sourcils Noir 040, and I am very happy with it. I like its low maintenance. I must confess that especially when I am travelling, I also often simply use my mascara to brush my eyelashes, so if you do not want to get a brow brush, just use your mascara brush (current or old). You simply have to be careful not to overdo it as the mascara brush may leave too much product in your brows. One way to set it off is to remove excess product with a tissue before applying it to your brows.
6/Mascara- I use False Lash Wing, from L'Oréal Paris. I really love the winged out, fluttery look it give my lashes. Another favorite is Maybelline Colossal Mascara that gives you more volume and the price is unbeatable! Maybelline despite being a drugstore brand is actually one the best mascara makers in the market.
7/Lipbalm, lipstick or lipgloss - Some good old shea butter is a great natural and cheap way to fight dryness. You will be left with supple, plump and well moisturized lips. I like to use it as part of my nightly skincare routine to nourish my lips. In my experience, contrary to foundation and sometimes eyeshadow, I do not see a bit difference between the cheap lipgloss and lipsticks and the high end ones. So if you find a great color that suits you regardless of whether it is at Kiko, NYX, Boots, CVS, Monoprix, Sephora, DM or Rossmann, Douglass, just get it. If you do not find the color you like, just mix them up- that is how I came up with my very own perfect lipstick shade: by mixing Yves Saint Laurent and Urban Decay Vice that I wear in the picture illustrating my articles about colors. It gives my lips that rich red color with purple undertones that beautifully complement my natural skin and lips colors. Some other favorites are Yves Saint Laurent Gloss Volupté for glossy, shiny yet natural lips in shade 01, Clarins Eclat Minute Embellisseur Lèvres in shimmer pink 01 and Estée Lauder Pure Color in Cherry Fever. L'Oréal Paris Color Rich also makes affordable lipstick in both classic and matte finish. Of course, makeup artists brands such as MAC and Bobbi Brown offer great range of colors and finishes. Do not hesitate to go to Sephora or a department store and try, try, try till you find the perfect shade(s)!
8/Nail Polish - You know my opinion about nail polishes and that I prefer to leave my nails au naturel. But if you must, I am a strong believer of having a natural look. For days I do wear a nail polish, the beautiful nude color of Essie's Mademoiselle is a my go-to color. If you are fan of red, OPI makes beautiful shades of classic red. You should also always use the base coat and a top coat to protect both your nails and your color.
I hope this helped you understand all the products to cover all your makeup needs and that you can now apply your own makeup in less than five minutes. But remember that makeup is only necessary as long as it makes you feel more beautiful and confident!
What are your thoughts about make up and products? Do you have any tips that you would like to share regarding makeup products, brushes and other equipement? What are your favorite products? How long is your make up ritual taking you now? Please comment below and do not hesitate to share this article. Do not miss out the article about everything you need to know about skincare and to suscribe as well!