An Introduction to Makeup: Types of Makeup
If you know nothing about makeup, or if you're learning about makeup and you need a review of the basics, then this is the post for you. Consider this your ultimate introduction to makeup and the world of various makeup products.
Below we've listed every type of makeup, along with a quick description of what it is, and how it's used. There are over 20 makeup types in all, and we discuss each in detail, and then, alllll the way at the bottom, we talk about the order of makeup application.
There is a lot---seriously, a lot---of information here, and it will provide you with an incredible base of knowledge about makeup. If you can't read it all in one sitting, that's totally fine---stop reading and come back later.
Product #1: Moisturizer
So, this is not technically a cosmetic, but it's an important part of any makeup routine, so we're going to include it, and we're going to include it first, because it's one of the first things you should do after cleaning your face in the morning.
A moisturizer is any mixture that protects skin by keeping it hydrated. It's kind of the super-hero of your makeup collection: it can keep you from developing wrinkles, retain the water and oils in your skin so that the wrinkles that you do have don't look exaggerated, and it provides a reliable base for your makeup (and we'll talk more about that in a second). It creates a protective layer on your epidermis---that is, the top layer of your skin---to keep moisture and oils in.
Basically, there are two different types of moisturizers: the kind you wear before you put on your makeup, and the kind you put on at the end of the day, before you go to sleep (and, technically, there are a TON of different skincare products you can put on before you go to sleep, but we'll keep it simple for the time being).
As with all things makeup, you have roughly four thousand options when it comes to purchasing a moisturizer. You want to choose a moisturizer depending on whatever skin issues you have: cosmetics companies make products for oily and/or acne-prone skin, dry skin, sensitive skin, and aging skin. There are non comedogenic versions and organic varieties. They also make moisturizer with sunscreen, which, if you're putting it on at the beginning of the day (which you should), will protect you from harmful UV radiation from the sun.
Remember before, when we said that moisturizer provides a reliable base for your makeup? That's one of its most important aspects. Just like a good foundation, moisturizer keeps your face in place. It doesn't matter if you have the most expensive makeup in the world---if you haven't prepared your skin to wear makeup, it won't sit right. In fact, as Allure states here, most professional makeup artists spend just as much time preparing their models' skin (that is, cleaning it and moisturizing it) as they do *actually applying makeup.* That truly shows how important it is to moisturize properly.
Product #2: Primer
Up next in our introduction to makeup: primer.
There are a couple of different kinds of primer---lip primer, eyelid primer, and mascara primer---but here we're referring to foundation primer. That's what most people mean when they say "primer."
Primer is applied after your moisturizer, but BEFORE your foundation (that's why it's sometimes called a "foundation primer"), and it's another superstar in the magnificent drama that is makeup. It has two main purposes: to provide a smooth base on which your makeup can rest, and to dramatically increase the longevity of your makeup.
But---and this is why primer is a lot of people's favorite makeup product---it can do a lot more. It can:
- Seal pores. No matter how big or small your pores are, foundation makeup makes pores less visible.
- Smooth fine lines. By filling in gaps in your epidermis, it makes your skin appear flat and smooth.
- Help solve pigmentation issues. Some foundations have skin-care ingredients, and can correct dark spots over time.
- Reduce redness and cover acne. Foundations vary greatly in the amount of pigment they contain, and some can be used to cover rosacea and blemishes. Others have salicylic acid, that magical, oil-and-bacteria-absorbing stuff that fights acne and pimples.
- Shields your face. You are under constant barrage from dust and debris, and foundation products your skin from any unwanted materials floating your way.
- Keep you looking great in extreme weather. If you live in an atmosphere that is hot-and-humid or cold-and-dry, primer keeps your makeup right where you originally applied it.
It sounds like something that does all this would be thick and oppressive-feeling, but that's another wonderful thing about primers: they're usually lightweight, and very easy to apply.
So how does it do all that? There's a lot of chemistry involved, but basically, primer is manufactured with a firm-ish consistency that fills the minute crevices on the surface of your skin and gives you a satin-y smooth look, while at the same time, blocking the sweat from coming through your pores, thereby leaving your makeup untouched.
Primers are sold as creams, gels, and powders, although most people like to use the cream variety. They can be further split into two kids: water-based primers and silicon-based primers. The silicon-based primers do a better job of creating a smooth-skin appearance, but some people have allergic reactions to it, so those with skin issues should look for a water-based foundation. There are a lot of variations with primers---there's mattifying primer, tinted primers, non comedogenic, and so on---but those are the two main varieties.
If you're looking for a primer, you should find something that suits your own unique skin conditions. To keep things simple, there are two kinds of primers: the type for normal-to-dry skin, and the type for oily skin.
(One quick additional note: above, we mentioned lip primers and eyelid primers and mascara primers. Those serve the same function as a foundation primer, in that they prime the lips and eyelids and eyelashes, and allow makeup to stay put a lot longer. We'll discuss those primers in the sections below.)
Product #3: Foundation
Foundation (which people sometimes refer to as "base") is a flesh-colored makeup that's used to covers blemishes and flaws, but most importantly, to create a single, uniform skin color on the wearer's face. Many people seem to think that foundation is only for women and men who have some skin discoloration, but that's not the case---foundation is an important component of any makeup routine.
"Slow down, MakeupArtistEssentials.com," you may be saying. "That sounds a LOT of work. I need to use a moisturizer, a primer, and then a primer---before I even put any other kind of makeup on?"
First of all---you've been paying attention! Good work.
Second of all---that's correct, and here's why those three items are so important: the three products basically work together and provide a one-two-three punch. Moisturizer keeps you from destroying your face every day by using makeup. The primer smooths over any wrinkles and craters in the face, and allows the foundation to stick to it. Finally, the foundation provides a solid base that keeps your makeup from sliding off your face and onto the floor. With these three items, you're ready to make yourself truly fabulous.
So how do you choose a foundation? They're available as liquids, creams, or powders (although powder foundations are less and less popular, it seems), and most often---almost always, in fact---you're trying to choose a shade that is very close to your natural skin color (after all, it can be very embarrassing when the color of the foundation on your face doesn't match the color of your skin on your neck). The names of colors vary greatly from brand to brand (and that is true for, like, every kind of makeup ever made), so you'll have to find a shade that looks right on you. Keep in mind that the color of a foundation in a bottle may look very different in the bottle than it looks on your skin. As with most things related to cosmetics, you'll need to experiment with a couple different products to find one you like. It's a rare thing to pick a foundation and find that it's PERFECT for you. That's not really how makeup works; often times, it's a process of elimination. You try a bunch of different products until you find one that you like.
Here's how it shakes out:
- Sheer foundation has very little pigment in it, and it's almost transparent (or in some cases, totally transparent). It doesn't hide blemishes or discolorations, but can even out the skin tone between different regions of the face. Sheer foundation contains about 7% to 12% pigment.
- Light foundation is a liiiiiiiiiiiiitle bit darker, and contains about 13% to 17% pigment. There's not much of a drastic difference between "sheer" and "light"---you'll still see some blemishes, freckles, scars, etc.
- Medium coverage is much heavier---usually somewhere around 18% to 24% pigment---and can cover redness, freckles, some blemishes, and some scars.
- Full coverage is anywhere from 25% to 50% pigment---in other words, very thick---and can hide most anything you want to hide. You obviously want to be careful with full coverage foundation, because it's got to match your skin color, or else it'll look splotchy and odd.
Once you've chosen a foundation, you'll need to apply it. Depending on the type you choose (liquid vs. cream vs. powder), you can use brushes, sponges, or your fingers. Some people swear by brushes; others love sponges; many just use their hands. There's a lot of debate about the best application method, but whatever you use, you want to avoid streaks (that's a problem with using your fingers), not rub bacteria all over your face (which can happen if you don't replace your sponges frequently enough), and keep from irritating your skin (which can be an issue with some brushes).
As with most beauty products, there are a range of options available, and you can find non comedogenic foundations, organic types, cruelty-free/vegan varieties, and so on.
Product #4: BB Cream, aka Beauty Balm Cream
Aaaaaaah BB creams, the beauty product we all love to hate. The only thing we love to hate even more is CC cream, and then, of course, DD cream. So what are these products, and why do some women absolutely rave about them?
BB creams are fairly new to North American markets. The product was very popular in many Asian markets (particularly South Korea), but it wasn't until 2011 (in other words, fairly recently) that cosmetics companies starting developing and selling BB creams in the United States and Canada and other Western countries.
So, BB creams are a match made in heaven for a lot of people. If you hate the process of moisturizing + priming + adding foundation + etc., BB creams are a great time saver. They're also affordable---there are, of course, high-end options, but there are plenty of good quality, drugstore brands that are very inexpensive. They come in cream form (obvs), so you can apply with your fingers, a brush, or a sponge. You can layer it to get a fuller coverage or a smoother, more porcelain-like look.
There's one thing we'd like to suggest: if you're here because you'd like to become a makeup artist, you don't want to rely too heavily on BB creams. BB creams are kind of a shortcut and if you're going to be a makeup artist, you need to master your technique. It takes time to master each of the types of makeup, and if you're using BB / CC / DD creams instead of moisturizing, priming, and adding foundation, you won't be building the skills you need to be a professional.
That said, if you're here to simply learn about makeup, check them out. They're not super-popular---it's estimated that less than 5% of American / Canadian / Western makeup users use BB cream---but the people we know who like BB creams are kind of obsessed with them. It may take a while to find one that matches your skin tone and moisturizes affectively, but hey, that's makeup. No matter how great a product is, it might not work for you, so you have to experiment until you find what works for you.
Product #4.1: CC Cream, aka Color Correcting Cream
This one is pretty easy: a CC cream offers all of the same things as a BB cream, but also includes compounds that aid in color correction. If you have any skin issues related to color or shade---i.e., redness, sallowness, dark spots, discoloration---CC cream might be for you. Most cosmetics companies have a CC cream product, and prices range from "inexpensive" from "woah, very expensive."
Product #4.2: DD Cream, aka...?
Some people say that DD stands for "Daily Defense," and others say that it stands for "Dynamic Do-All." DD cream has---you guessed it---all the components of BB cream and CC cream, but the big selling point of a DD cream is its anti-aging properties. DD cream diminishes fine lines and wrinkles, and keeps new ones from forming.
Product #5: Setting Powder
There's a lot of confusion about powder. What do people mean when they say "powder"? There's setting powder, loose powder, pressed powder, finishing powder... what are these things, and why do they matter?
Most of the time, when people refer to powder, they're referring to setting powder, which is a product that you use after your foundation. It's a mattifying cosmetic, and it's a great base for you to apply bronzer, blush, and whatever else comes next. It can be translucent or it can have a tone that matches your skin color.
Setting powder comes in two varieties: loose powder, which is easy to use but doesn't travel well (so you keep it at home and use it there) and pressed powder, which is easy to use and DOES travel well (so you bring it with you when you're out).
Finishing powders and HD powders aren't used as much, and there's a lot of debate as to when to use them and why to use them, so we've written a separate post about them.
Product #6: Concealer
The next item in our introduction to makeup: concealer.
Everybody WANTS perfect skin, but let's be honest: very few people have it. And those people who DO seem like they have perfect skin---well, very often, they're just really good at using concealer.
We haven't done any official studies, but we're willing to bet: if we interviewed 1,000 makeup artists and another 1,000 women who use makeup every day, and we asked them to name their favorite makeup product, we're guessing every single one of them would say "concealer." It's like the makeup version of your best friend: it knows all of your facial flaws but keeps them secret, and helps you look and feel flawless. It hides acne, blemishes, dark circles, scars, rosacea, broken blood vessels, and whatever else you don't want the world to see. It is---and we're not exaggerating---the absolute best thing ever. OK, fine, we’re exaggerating a little bit. But concealer can be very effective.
So what is it, exactly? It's a thick cosmetic---thicker than foundation---that provides spot-coverage for blemishes and skin imperfections. It's heavily pigmented, but comes in a range of colors to match any skin tone (and that's very important, as we'll discuss in a minute), and usually produced to be very long-lasting, so your skin imperfections don't decide to jump out in the middle of the day. There are several different types that are available:
- Liquid Concealer. This is perhaps the most common variety, and liquid concealers come in a range of coverage options, from light to medium to full coverage. Use it for normal skin, combination skin, oily skin, acne-prone skin, and sensitive skin. If you have acne, this is a great option, because it's less likely to lead to further breakouts (whereas a creamier concealer might do so). You can apply with your fingers or a wand or a sponge, and there are options for matte, satin, dewy, and shimmer.
- Cream Concealer. Good for normal skin, dry skin, and combination skin. Cream concealer usually comes in a small pot or palette, and it works really well for dark rings under the eyes, because it usually provides a fuller coverage than liquid concealer. Also good for sensitive skin, but bad for acne-prone skin.
- Cream-to-Powder Concealer. This is less popular than the other types of concealers, because it doesn't offer the same coverage (it's a light-to-normal coverage product) and it's a bad choice for people who are prone to any kind of acne. If you have normal to dry skin and you're looking for light-to-normal coverage, it can be a good choice.
- Stick Concealer. If you have normal to dry skin and you're looking for medium-to-dark coverage, this is your best bet. It's a creamy semi-solid (kind of like a lipstick would be) and it's fantastic for very dark circles and more severe discoloration. If you have acne, be careful using this---people with acne tend to like stick concealer because it can cover just about anything, but using it can be a bad idea, because the thickness of the cosmetic can clog pores and actually create further breakouts.
(Keep in mind, sometimes you'll need more than one type of concealer. If you have a couple of different problem areas, you may want to purchase two different kinds---for instance, if you have dry, dark circles under your eyes, you'd want to use a creamy concealer with a moisturizer, but if you also have a pimple on your cheek, that creamy concealer with moisturizer might elongate the life of that pimple. It's not uncommon for people to use different concealers for different facial areas.)
Once you find a concealer that's a match for your skin type, you'll want to get the right tone. Many makeup artists suggest finding a concealer color one shade lighter than your foundation; just be careful not to go too much lighter, because again, you want to make sure that you have a uniform skin tone across your face.
Product #7: Contour
Contouring used to be a kind of "secret technique" that was only used by makeup artists on runway models. But, thanks to the internet and hundreds of millions of YouTube instructionals, the secret is out.
Here's how it works: a contour is a powder or liquid or pencil that is (ideally) one shade darker than the skin, and usually matte in finish (in other words, not shiny; flat). It is applied to various areas of the face---usually at the cheekbones, by the jawline, at the top of the forehead, and along the nose---to create the illusion of shadows and depth on the face, and define the facial structure. Skillful use of contouring can create a more "angular" look---that is, high cheekbones and a slimmer nose and chin---and, let's be honest, the "angular" look has been popular for most of recorded history, so contouring is a pretty popular technique.
(Quick note: The complement to a contour is a highlighter, which amplifies the light that hits your face, and deepens the shadows you've created with the contour. We'll discuss highlighters in the next section.)
There are a couple of things you need to keep in mind when you're choosing a contour:
- Get a matte product. Contours are not supposed to be shimmery; they're supposed to provide depth, and any kind of shimmer would defeat the point. Finding a matte contour shouldn't really be difficult, because most contours are matted anyway.
- Get the color right. Ideally, you're looking for a contour makeup that's one shade darker than your normal skin tone. Any darker than that, and your contour will make you look very, very strange. Many women who are new to makeup think that a darker contour will result in more effective contouring, but that is NOT true. At all. A contour that's too dark will make you look like a crazy person.
- Get the right tools and apply it properly. If you're using a cream, you can use your fingers. Your fingers will heat the product so that it melds perfectly onto and into your skin. If you're using a powder, there are plenty of brushes that work wonders. Make sure you apply well, because---we've mentioned this before and you probably know what's coming---it's allllllllllll about blending. You want to make sure that the contour is blended perfect with your skin.
- There are substitutes available. A darker-toned foundation can be a good substitute for a contour, as can a concealer that's the right color. And, many people use a bronzer, instead of a contour. Our advice is to be careful with bronzer---or, to simply NOT use bronzer for contouring. Here's why: contours are created to mimic skin tones, and bronzers are not. Bronzers tend to, well, make you bronze! They include reds and/or oranges, so it's very difficult to get the look you're going for. BUT! There's another, more important reason: contours tend to be matte, and bronzers tend to have a little bit of shimmer, which is not what you're looking for. If you're looking to create the illusion of a shadow, you don't want any shimmer in it. You want it to be matte. So, if possible, stick to proper contouring products when contouring, or if you absolutely want to use bronzer, make sure it's a matte formula.
- Facial shapes are important. Contouring is more of an art than a science, and every facial shape will require a different strategy. The way you contour a round face will be different than the way you contour an oval face, and so on. Cosmopolitan has a great post on how to contour for different facial structures.
Most cosmetics companies sell contouring kits, and they usually come with a number of different shades, so you can experiment until you find something you like.
Product #8: Highlight
Highlighter is like contour's sister, but she's a little more upbeat, a little more bright, a little more sparkly, and she gets a lot more attention.
Men and women who are new to makeup don't always understand a highlighter's appeal: if you've just made yourself look sleek and angular, why would you want to mess with that look?
When done right, highlighter is makeup that attracts light and creates a warm, glowy look. Using just contour will make you look angular, but it creates a mattified look that can be a little flat.
There are a TON of different highlighters you can buy, and they're available in liquid, cream, and powder. Some have shimmer, some don't (we'd advise against using shimmer---highlighter is supposed to make you glow and look alert; adding sparkle is a little much).
So how do you choose a highlighter? You're looking for something that is juuuuuuuuuust about the color of your skin, with just a little bit of shine. Select a color by looking first at your skin color---skin tones are usually divided into:
- Pale to fair skin
- Fair to medium
- Medium to dark and
- Dark to deep skin tones.
If you have pale to fair skin, a pearl shade can look fantastic; those who have a medium-to-dark complexions will often opt for a warmer, golden tone. As with all things makeup, you don't want to overdo highlighter, or you'll end up looking like a neon sign.
There are a bunch of strategic ways to use highlighter: You can apply it under the brow bone to make your eyes look a little lighter; you can add it over blush on your cheeks to make yourself look a little more vibrant; and you can add it to the inner corner of your eye when you're sleepy to make yourself look alert. StyleCaster has a great post on different opportunities to use highlighter, and if you're creative, you can probably come up with more.
One quick, additional note: some people use highlighter BEFORE they contour; there's a lot of debate about that. We like to use contour first and then add highlight, because it's a way to keep from adding too much contour (if you've added too much contour, the highlighter can dampen it a bit), but like everything else with makeup, you need to find what works for you.
Ok, one more quick, additional note: highlighter is very frequently used when contouring, but you can use highlighter all on its own. Technically, you don't need to contour before using a highlighter. That may seem obvious, but a lot of people who are new to makeup assume (reasonably!) that because the two go together, you always need to use them both. Not the case.
Product #9: Bronzer
A bronzer is a "use every day"-type product that gives a little color and glow to the complexion. It's provides a little highlight for the cheekbones, and makes the wearer look healthy and vital. If you're feeling a little sallow or dull, bronzer can have a nice effect, and it'll provide you with a nice sun-kissed look.
Bronzers aren't too difficult to select; basically, you're looking for something one to two shades darker than your normal skin tone. If you have fair-to-normal skin, try to find a light-honey-colored bronzer. If you've got medium skin, looking for something rose-colored or gold. If you've got dark skin, you'll want to find something amber. As always, experiment, and see what works. Ask your friends if the bronzer you're using is too strong, because that happens a LOT. Also remember that your skin color changes during different seasons, so if it's winter and you're pale, take that into account; if it's summer and already looking a little bronzed, be aware of that, too.
Equipment is important, and you'll need to choose the proper brush. You're aiming for something soft and large, and you want to stay away from very dense brushes (like Kabuki brushes), because dense brushes tend to pack a punch, and you'll probably end up using more of the makeup than you need. Stippling brushes are good for this purpose---they have bristles that are layered, and they regulate the amount of cosmetic that you're adding to your face. (Stippling brushes are kind of miraculous, by the way---the bristles at the tip of the brush are thin but the bristles are thick at the bottom of the brush, making it difficult to overuse makeup).
You'll hear a lot of makeup artists talk about a "3" shape when it comes to applying bronzer. That may be a little confusing. In essence, you're trying to accent the parts of the face that the sun would normally hit---your forehead, your cheekbones, and your jaw---so you'd start your brush at your forehead, sweep back over your temple and then forward at your cheekbone, and then sweep back over your cheekbone and down your jawline. The motion, effectively, ends up being a giant "three" shape on your face. Here's an image that shows the technique.
You'll need to be careful when apply bronzer, because using the wrong color---or over-applying---can give you an odd orange glow, or simply make you look like you have dirt on your face. Not what you're shooting for. And, as always---blend, blend, blend. Because bronzer is a strong color tone, you need to make sure that it fades gently and fully into the different areas where you've applied it. Watch for streaks.
What else? A lot of people get a little confused between contour and bronzer, but we addressed that in the "Contour" section.
Product #10: Blush
For a lot of people, blush is their absolute, #1, favorite makeup item. It's simple, it's easy to use, and it's colorful. It's a fan favorite.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different blush colors, and they're available in liquid, cream, or powder.
Well... that's only kind of true. Remember how we just said how you can get blush in a liquid, cream, or powder? By a wide majority, most people use powder. It's just kind of the way it is, and it makes sense---if blush is one of the last things you'll put on, and you've already put on a liquid or cream primer, foundation, concealer, and so on---you're going to want to use a powder instead of using more liquids or creams. And, because you'll be using a powder, you're going to need a good brush, so we'll start there. (UPDATE: Ok, we're wrong---plenty of people use liquid and cream blush. We'll write a post about it soon. 🙂
Blushes usually come with a brush, but those brushes are usually meh, so we recommend tossing that brush and getting your own. Buy something that's not too flat but not too round, sized about the width of your cheeks when you smile, and reasonably soft. Ideally, you'll find a brush that kind of looks like one of those pencil gnomes you get when you were a kid.
Once you've bought a fantastic, fabulous brush, you'll want to apply in one of two places:
- Along the cheekbones (but NOT below the cheekbones, as that can actually make you look kind of jowly), or
- On the "apples" of your cheeks. To find your apples, go to the mirror and give yourself a big smile, and there you go---the apples of your cheeks!
As always, blend and blend and blend. It always looks strange when someone has a perfect circle of blush on each cheek, so make sure that doesn't happen to you.
As for the colors you should choose, it all depends on the tone of your skin. Here's what we usually suggest:
- Fair Skin: the classic---soft and pink blushes. Nothing too bold
- Medium Skin: try rose shades, and experiment with orange-ish or peachy tones
- Olive Skin: look into warm colors, like reds, plums, purples, and reddish-browns
- Dark Skin: you have a wider range of colors you can choose from, and you should look into olives, apricots, reds, reddish-plums, reddish-browns, and purples
Product #11: Eyebrow Pencils (and Gels and Powders)
We'll start with eyebrow pencils: eyebrow pencils are magical little things that can make thin eyebrows look lush and strong and beautiful. If your arches are a little bit weak, you can sharpen them; if your brows are patchy or run thick-to-thin, you can fill them in; and if you have any kind of scarring from a cut or from acne, you can do a little resurfacing.
We say "pencils," but you can color your eyebrows using gels and powders. Gels are great for creating a brow shape, and powders are great for people who already have a solid brow but want to add some extra density to it.
Pencils do seem to be the most popular option, though, because they provide incredible versatility. As we said, pencils can be a lot of fun.
Of course, whatever eyebrow product you're using, you want to make sure that the color you choose matches your natural eyebrow color. If you're using a powder, you may need to combine powder hues to get the shade you're looking for.
We'd also suggest you buy a spoolie. These look kind of like mascara wands---they've got soft bristles and a tapered top---but they're built specifically to brush brows into place and keep them in line. Use a spoolie when you're just starting to shape your brow, and then when you're done, to even out any color pigments you've added to your brow.
Another thing to keep in mind: all pencils are not created equal. They're not, and you have a wide variety to choose from. There are superfine liners that allow you draw fine hairs onto your browline; medium pencils that allow you to do corrective work; and larger models that you need to use with great care.
Lastly, like all aspects of makeup artistry, you want to be careful to not overdo eyebrow application, and you don't want to go too arch. You're trying to look glamorous, and not like a movie villain. If your friends are asking why you're angry all the time, you may need to tone down your eyebrow game.
Product #12: Eyeshadow
As far as makeup goes, eyeshadow is by far the most emotive. Other types of makeup can be a little bit bland (foundation is vitally important, but it doesn't really razzle dazzle you), but eyeshadow---you can go as subtle or over-the-top and exciting as you want. Eyeshadow can make you glamorous, or seductive, or colorful, or adventurous, or simply joyous. Eyeshadow is IT.
This section could become VERY long, but we'll try to keep it short, and stick to the basics.
Eyeshadow is usually a powder, but can be made as liquid, cream, mousse, or pencil. That one is pretty simple. The most common type is powder, and that comes in two varieties: loose and pressed. Loose eyeshadow have a lot of color pigment and really add some color, but they can be difficult to work with. Pressed eyeshadows are more common, and are pretty easy to use---they're not very messy, and they blend pretty easily.
Sets are usually sold with a couple of different colors. Some are sold as two-color sets, others as three-color sets, and still others are four- or five-color sets. There's usually a light, an intermediate, and a dark shade, and many sets have colors all across the spectrum. Because there are many different regions of the eye (and we'll talk about that in a second), light hits the eyes in unique ways, and you'll want to use different shades on different parts of the eyelid.
The different color shades sold in an eyeshadow pack (usually called an eyeshadow palette) are for use on different parts of the eye:
- The lightest shade usually goes on your brow bone
- The shade that's a little bit darker than the first shade usually goes on your eyelid
- The shade after that goes to the crease of the eyelid (see below if you need an explanation of what the crease is) and
- The darkest shade goes on the eye's outer corner
The eye has a number of different areas.
- Highlight/Brow Bone: The area riiiiiiight below your eyebrow; you can feel the curve your bone
- Contour/Crease: The area between the brow bone and the eyelid
- Eyelid: You know where your eyelid is
- Upper Lash Line: At the end of your eyelid; the part your eyelashes are attached to
- Outer V: The part of your eye closest to your ear; this is where you upper lash line meets your lower lash line
- Inner Corner: The area of your eye closest to your nose; it's this is where you upper lash line meets your lower lash line, right by the tear duct
- Lower Lash Line: At the end of your eyelid; the part our eyelashes are attached to
- Waterline: The shelf above your lower lash line that meets your actually eyeball---be careful here!
If you need a visual to help you get an idea of each region, you can check out this image. This is a super-helpful diagram, and we had to go all the way to Web Archive to find this photo!
You'll need to pick out a specific kind of brush. Because the eye is a complicated place, you'll need to get different brushes for different jobs. Large brushes sweep on pigment, precision brushes create specific looks, blending brushes mix colors, and liner brushes add color to the water line. If all of this sounds overwhelming, don't worry! It's actually all pretty simple, and we have a few posts that explain how to use each brush.
So, there's a lot to learn with eyeshadow! But those are a few of the most important things to keep in mind.
There's one other thing about eyeshadow that we need to mention before we wrap up this section: eyeshadow primer. We talk a little bit about it in the "Foundation Primer" section, but eyeshadow primer is a little different.
As the name suggests, eyeshadow primer is made specifically for use on the eyelids. Like foundation primer, it keeps eye makeup in place for a long period of time, but it ALSO protects the skin of the eyelid. As you would imagine, the skin on the eyelid may be the most delicate skin on the entire body, and you can buy eyeshadow primers for dry skin, chaffed skin, oily skin, and wrinkly skin. Most people apply eye primer right after applying foundation primer.
Product #13: Eyeliner
Eyeliner is a cosmetic applied across the lash line, which is the area of your eye that grows eyelashes. The cosmetic comes in many colors, and is used to give the eye depth and make it appear more dynamic, and when used with eyeshadow, it makes the eyes appear defined and vibrant. It's available in liquid, powder, gel, wax, and pencil (with pencil being the most popular), and depending on what kind you use, it can be angular and defined, or soft and smudgy.
We'll discuss each eyeliner option below, but before we get started, there's something important we should share: If you're new to makeup, the idea of putting an eyeliner pencil to your lash line may seem a little scary, and that is TOTALLY OK. After all, the lash line is a very, very sensitive part of the body! And it's right next to your eyeball---another very sensitive part of the body! So, if you're a little freaked out at the thought of applying makeup to such a sensitive area of your face, that's totally normal. If it helps, you can ease into it: the most popular eyeliner option is a pencil with a very soft tip, but if that seems a little horrifying to you, you can use liquid or gels (and we'll tell you how, below).
Also, keep in mind that millions of women and men all over the world apply eyeliner to their lash lines every day, and they're fine. No problems. With a gentle hand a little practice, chances are pretty strong you'll be able to apply eyeliner too.
So let's talk about your options! We'll talk about the scary option---pencils---first, and then get to the less intimidating ones.
Eye pencils usually come in darker shades, and they have a soft tip that you can sharpen to your own specification.
There are a couple of reasons why the classic eyeliner pencil is a fantastic option. The first? Control. Pencils allow you to be very precise with your application of eyeliner, but they also allow for you to flub things up a bit. Liquid eyeliners are SUPER precise, and pencils allow you to make small mistakes without ruining your application. The second: that smokey eye that we're all so in love with. Pencils can be blendable and smudgeable, and that's a huge help when you're trying to create a smokey eye. Third: it's actually the easiest option, once you figure out how to use it, and it doesn't take as much time to apply as other types of eyeliners.
They're not perfect---you'll have to sharpen it again and again, and it'll never be as precise as a liquid eyeliner---but they're easy to use and every cosmetics company has dozens of options.
Liquid eyeliner is bold, dense, and unmistakable. It's more precise than pencils, and you can use liquid to make very thin or very thick lines, and dial the dramatic all the way up to 10 if you like. Because it has such specific properties, there are some fantastic looks you can create with liquid eyeliner, and it's perfect for cat eyes and Goth/vampy looks.
Most of the time it's packaged in a gorgeous little bottle that includes a petite brush with a super-sharp tip, or as a fine-tipped marker that you apply directly to the eye. It's almost always applied on the upper lash line, and because it's both dense and wet, it requires a VERY steady hand---and a lot of practice. Don't be surprised if your first couple of times using a liquid eyeliner gets very messy---it's happened to all of us!
One word of caution: a lot of women and men who are new to makeup think that it's easier to learn about eyeliners using liquid eyeliner, as opposed to pencil eyeliner---in fact, the opposite is true. Because pencils are smudgeable, and because liquid eyeliner is pretty unforgiving if you mess it up---it's easier to learn about eyeliner using pencils. As we said---be gentle, and be careful, and you'll be fine.
Because eyeliner can take a while to dry, and it does have a tendency to shift around a little bit, you want to make sure that you've used an eye primer, to make sure it stays put---and that's doubly true if you have oily eyelids.
This is another product that is a ton of fun, because you can get creative with it. It's fantastic for some creative looks (and it's superb for a smokey eye), and if you live in a humid climate, it's a good choice because it's a little less prone to smearing.
Powder / Cake Eyeliner.
This is the softest and least defined of all your eyeliner options. It produces a soft, blendy, blurry look---so if you don't like the strict lines that a liquid eyeliner provides, and you want something even more blendable than a pencil, powder/cake is your best bet.
We have less to say about powder eyeliner, because it's not as common as the other eyeliner varieties. Sephora, which sells dozens of everything, only sells one kind of powder eyeliner, and it’s actually khol: Terracotta Khol Loose Powder Eyeliner. The actual product is gorgeous, though---the bottle looks like an ornament.
Before we finish up with eyeliners,
- For eyeliner, you need a very precise hand. For many other makeups, you're blending the product, or spreading it across a large area of your face (think "foundation" or "blush"). For eyeliner, you'll need to concentrate, because it's easy to make a mess of things. That's why it's easiest to put your elbow on your vanity or makeup table or whatever flat, steady surface you're using.
- Don't overdo it on the bottom lash line. That's a very small area, and it's one of those "less is more" areas.
- Don't use liquid liner on your lower lash line. I think we mentioned this earlier, but it's a no-no. Liquid liner tends to run all over the place, and it'll get in your eye.
- As with all things makeup, you really, really want to make sure you're applying eyeliner symmetrically---especially if you're going for a more dramatic look. If you apply brush unevenly, it might not look that bad, but if you apply eyeliner unevenly, it'll look like your eyes are very different sizes, and that can be a very strange look.
Product #14: Mascara
Let's talk lashes! Mascara is another one of our favorites. It's an eyelash enhancer, and it can be used to lengthen, thicken, darken, or curl. It's available in a range of colors, and it's usually sold as a liquid, a cream, or a cake. And, thank goodness, there are waterproof formulas if you're planning to cry or get stuck in the rain.
Liquids are the most common type of mascara, so we'll go with that. Ultimately, you're looking for length (mascara can make your lashes look much longer), volume (a good mascara can make your lashes look fuller), and color (mascaras, obviously, make your eyelashes dark and smoldery-looking). You're trying to avoid clumps and over-layering.
There's a lot to think about when you're applying mascara, so here are some pointers:
Use Mascara Primer. Just like the other primers, you apply mascara primer before applying the cosmetic, and it keeps the product in place for way longer than it would normally stay, AND it makes the lashes look thicker and more voluminous.
Use a Steady Hand. If you're new to applying mascara, get comfy in front of your mirror and lean your elbow on the table / countertop / whatever. Go slow and be gentle.
Pick Your Wand. Mascara wands can be very different, and that makes a difference. You can use different wands to get different looks. Some help you curl your lashes (those are usually curved wands), some are good for shorter lashes, some are good for long lashes. There are wands with long bristles and short bristles, bendable rubber wands vs. stiff silicone ones, wands tapered down to a point, etc.
Don't Blink! One great trick is to keep your mouth open while applying. For whatever reason, keeping your mouth is wide open keeps you from blinking. Weird, but true.
Don't Overdo It. There is a limit to how much mascara you can pile on to your eyelashes. It's your job to find that sweet spot between "not enough" and "way too much." Seriously----if you use too much mascara, you can literally see the clumps on the eyelids, and that's a little gross. Even if there rest of your makeup is perfect, if there's too much mascara on the eyelids, you'll look crazy.
That should give you some guidance, but there's one last thing we need to mention:
Believe it or not, you have to be careful with mascara! Here's why:
- It goes bad. It's true! It actually expires after two to five months. Using expired mascara can lead to bacterial infections, and you don't want that.
- If you use it incorrectly, it can make your lashes fall off. Yes, for real. If you don't take your mascara off before you crawl into bed, it can actually cause your lashes to fall... off. That's terrible, so be careful! We don't want that to happen to you.
- Waterproof mascara isn't an everyday kind of thing. Waterproof mascara adheres to lashes because it's sticky, and because it's sticky, it can get tugged in every direction. Too much tugging, and your lashes loose strength and fall out.
- Don't curl your lashes after using mascara. This is the same principle as the last tip---if you curl your lashes after adding mascara, they get tugged every which way, become weak, and fall out.
- Your eyelashes are just little hairs---so take care of them! We don't think of eyelashes as little hairs, but that's what they are, and they need to be moisturized.
Product #15: Setting Spray
You've just learned about a tremendous number of makeup products! You may be wondering: how on earth do all these different types of makeups stay on a person's face? That's where setting sprays come into play.
It's the laaaaaast step of the makeup process (aside from lips), and it has one purpose: to keep your makeup on your face for a long time, and to keep it from moving. It keeps your makeup products from melting, shifting, fading, or (God forbid) cracking. This isn't the most widely used product, but it seems like the more serious you get about makeup, the more you like setting spray.
If you're ever in a situation where you're going to be very hot and sweaty or you need to keep your face on for a very, very long time, setting spray is your best friend. And, as you might have guessed---makeup artists who do weddings LOVE setting spray.
The spray itself feels kind of nice---it's more of a "gentle misting" sort of thing, than an actual spray. Even aside from the practical use for setting spray, it's kind of a nice way to complete your makeup routine (although, it's important to note, a lot of people use setting spray after their face and eyes are done, and before their lips. We talk more about order of application below).
Product #16: Lipstick (and Lip Liner and Lip Gloss)
This is an easy one, right? Lipstick is lipstick. Super easy. The first piece of makeup that people reach for when they start using makeup is lipstick.
It's seemingly the most obvious makeup tool, but is that true?
Nope! It might seem like the most accessible cosmetic, but there's actually a lot going on with lipstick. Here's what you need to know.
First, the basics: lipsticks (as well as lip stain, lip liner, and lip gloss) add color and tone and texture to the lips. There are thousands of very high-end options, but there some incredibly excellent drugstore versions available, if you're willing to try new products and experiment.
The come in three finishes: matte, satin, and gloss. They're usually waterproof and come as sticks, although there are varieties that you can apply with a brush, a rollerball, or your fingers.
Here's a quick description of each finish:
Matte. This is smooth and NOT shiny. It usually appears as a solid color and doesn't reflect any light. Matte colors are usually pretty classic---red, pink, crimson, rust, and so on---but there's a lot of variety. They may tend to dry out the lips a little bit (or a lot, sometimes), but they're gorgeous and almost always fashionable.
Creamy. These have a liiiiiittle bit more shine than the matte variety. They can bleed a little bit, so you need to give your lips a quick look throughout the day to make sure the product is still in place. There may be a little more variation in color.
Satin. Shiny! Glossy! Gorgeous! There are plenty of reds and pinks and bold colors, but you'll see a lot of lighter tones.
If you're looking at lipsticks, here are some things you'll want to keep in mind:
- Think about you lips and your dryness level. Lipsticks are created to suit people with different moisture needs. If you've got super-dry lips, buy a lipstick that promises to keep your lips hydrated. It's a sad fact, but a lot of lipsticks that promise to keep your lips hydrated won't actually do so, so you need to try new products until you find one that does.
- If you don't want bright colors, go with nude lipsticks. Nude lipsticks are meant to mimic your natural skin tone, but perhaps provide a little color. Try to choose a nude shade that's just a liiiiittle bit darker than your natural shade.
- Matte lipsticks and cream lipsticks don't always do a good job of hiding any of the wrinkles or lines on your lips, so if that's what you're looking for, go for a satin / glossy lipstick.
Product #16.1: Lip Primers
We've already mentioned the importance of foundation primers, eye primers, and mascara primers, and just as important are lip primers. They do three things:
- Hydrate the lips. This is super-important, because so many varieties of lipsticks dry you out. "Hydrate as much as possible" is kind of secret commandment of makeup---makeup is actually pretty harsh on your skin, so always be thinking, "Is there a hydrating version of whatever it is I want to buy?"
- Decrease feathering. This isn't as much of a problem as it used to be---lipsticks have come a long way---but it still happens, and it's something to look out for. A good lip primer will keep feathering on lockdown.
- Keeps your lipstick on for the long haul. More than any other part of your face, your lips are constantly moving, and that means your lipstick will be wearing down. A lip primer will keep your lipstick in place for as long as possible, and keep it as bold for as long as possible.
Product #16.2: Lip Stain
Lip stain isn't nearly as nearly as popular as lipstick, but we should probably mention it. Whereas lipstick is a product that goes directly onto the lip, lip stain penetrates the lip and actually stains it. That sounds a little harsh, but the benefit of lip stain is that it truly lasts for a long time, and it's a lot less likely to rub off. After all, it's a stain! It stains your lips! It's not going anywhere.
It's usually sold as a liquid or a gel, and just like regular lipstick, it can seriously dry you out (so be sure to moisturize your lips before using it). There are fewer color options available than regular lipstick, but they're always available the classic lip colors, which would be red and pink (and peach).
On the plus side, it doesn't have that weird taste that lipstick can have, and it won't get on your teeth.
If you're interested in lip stain, we'd suggest mastering lipstick first. Baby steps.
Product #16.3: Lip Liner
Lip liner is another superhero on team makeup. It can:
- Provide a great outline for your lipstick, to make sure that you're not overdoing it during application;
- Fill in uneven areas on the upper or lower edges of your lips, and make them appear fuller, rounder, or even plumper; and
- Keep feathering to a minimum.
It can even be used as a solo product to accentuate the shape of the lips. In a word: awesome.
It's usually sold as a pencil or in a tube.
If you're looking to buy a lip liner, there's only one unbreakable commandment: your lip liner must be the same color as the lipstick you plan to wear. That's the most important thing. So, if you're buying a lip liner, make sure you know what color lipstick you're going to use. If the crossing brands, do your best to find a similar tone.
Product #16.4: Lip Gloss
Last but not least, lip gloss.
If lipstick is all about adding color to the lips, gloss is all about adding a lustrous shine to it. There's a whole range of finishes available, from metallic, to glossy, to glittery. Some lip glosses are flavored, and taste like vanilla or strawberry, and how fantastic is that?
There's one very big negative to lip gloss: it's sticky, and your hair WILL get stuck in it. That's a huge pain.
If you can get past that, though, or simply manage to stay out of the wind, lip gloss is a fantastic finish to your lips.
Order of Makeup Application
This is a question that we get a LOT, and here's the absolute, 100% correct, final answer: everybody applies makeup in a different order.
Seriously---everybody does this differently.
But, if we had to say was the most common order is, we'd say this:
- Eyeshadow Primer
- Setting Powder (some people use this right before the setting spray; also---not everyone uses setting powder, but we figured we'd include it anyway)
- Contour (note: a lot of people skip the contour and use a bronzer to contour, then highlighter and then blush, OR bronzer, blush, then highlighter)
- Eyebrows (some people do brows after eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara, to make sure they match)
- Setting Spray (some people do this before lipstick; some others do it after lipstick)
Honestly, you'll have to find what works for you. Seriously. Go to MakeupAddiction on Reddit (Reddit can be awful, but the makeup subreddit is actually really good) and you'll see dozens of conversations about the order in which people apply makeup, and---surprise---no two people use all the same products and apply in the same order. The only part of the routine that seems to stay the same is that most everyone moisturizes, and then uses primer and foundation and concealer. Some people do their eyes after they do their concealer; some leave their eyes for the end.
If it helps, here's one way to make sense out of the order of makeup application:
You use moisturizer to take care of your skin. Simple.
You use primer to prepare your skin for makeup. Also pretty simple.
You use foundation to create a sort of blank page for you to put the rest of your makeup on. Foundation will even out any inconsistency in shade, and leave you with a uniform facial skin tone. And that's a good thing, because it gives you a blank canvas on which to add color to your face. If you stopped after applying foundation, you'd look dull and blank, and if you tried applying color to your face without first making your skin one even color tone, your makeup would look uneven and blotchy.
You use eye foundation to get your eyes ready for eyeshadow, and lip primer to get your lips ready for lipstick.
You use the rest of your makeup to give your face color. Contour and highlighter will add dimension and depth to your face by creating the appearance of light and shadows, and bronzer and blush will add color.
You use a setting spray to keep everything together.
That may be a simplistic explanation, but it's a good start, and it's a helpful way to think about things.
If you're still here, you are absolutely amazing! This may be the longest post ever written, and you just finished it! Good work!
Seriously, good work. This post is un-believe-ably long. We tried to make it shorter, but we wanted to include everything we could about makeup.
Feel free to re-read any sections you like, and because we'd like this to be the ultimate beginner's guide to makeup, if you have suggestions on how to make it better or easier to read, let us know! Either leave a comment or jump over to our "Contact" page.
Again, good work, and happy makeup!