There’s a lot to learn about makeup and beauty out there—even we’ll admit that it can be overwhelming at times. Whether you’re a veteran who executes a killer smoky eye on the regular or a beginner who struggles with foundation application, these 20 makeup tricks are absolutely key.
1. Tired of your foundation looking cakey and unnatural? To get fresh-faced, flawless skin, CoverGirl Global Creative Design Director Pat McGrath has a nifty trick: Put foundation all over your face, then use a tissue to wipe it off of your cheeks. This makes it easier to layer your blush on without it looking fake. “It brings life back to your cheeks and realness back to your skin,” she says.
2. When you’ve got naturally long, lush lashes, you don’t need a ton of other makeup to stand out. To get an enviable fringe, Chanel celebrity makeup artist Kara Yoshimoto Bua says to first be sure your mascara is no more than a month old—fresh mascara glides on easier and won’t flake. “Wiggle mascara in at the base of the lash and sweep outward and upward,” says Bua. “The trick to sexy natural lashes is to get the thickness into the base of the lashes and taper them naturally to the ends, as opposed to chunky, thick ends.”
3. Mastering a multi-use product will not only give you a pretty look, it will also help save you time and money on your makeup routine. “Everyone should have a great fuchsia cheek color that they can pop on their lips and cheeks,” says Revlon global artistic director Gucci Westman. Whether you’re fair or have a darker skin tone, Westman promises that pink works on everyone. “Choose a creamy, opaque pink with a bit of gold in it to brighten the face. Mix it with some moisturizer and blend on your cheeks,” she says.
4. Dark circles can make you look tired. To get a wide-awake look, try this tip from makeup artist Bobbi Brown: “Prepare the under eye area with a hydrating, fast-absorbing eye cream, which will allow products to go on smoothly. Apply a corrector to cover the purple or green tones in the skin, then follow with a concealer that is one to two shades lighter than your foundation. Finally, set the undereye area with a pale yellow powder to help it last longer and prevent creasing.”
5. There’s nothing more seductive—or feminine—than a bold red pout. “A hot, red lip is an essential part of every girl’s bag of tricks,” says L’Oréal Paris Consulting Makeup Artist Collier Strong. “Start with a very sharp lip liner, in the same color as your chosen lipstick. As you apply, smile a little so the lips are tight and the liner goes on easier. Fill in the lips using the side of the liner, then take a lip brush and apply the lipstick for precision. If you make a mistake, take a little concealer on a small brush and ‘erase’ it.”
6. Liquid liner is one of the trickiest products to master, but once you learn the right way to do it, you can create chic eye makeup looks in a flash. “An easy way to test out liquid liner is to first use a taupe eyeliner pencil to lightly trace a line just above your upper lashline,” says Avon Global Creative Color Director Jillian Dempsey. “This trick lets you make sure the lines are even and accurate before next applying the liquid liner directly on top of the ‘practice’ line.
7. You don’t have to be born with killer cheekbones when you can just fake it with this sculpting tip from celebrity makeup artist Mally Roncal: Sweep a sheer shimmer powder along the top of your cheekbones and just under your temples. Next, pucker up to find the hollows of your cheeks. Dust a deep nude blush in the sunken area just under the cheekbone. Smile and apply a peachy blush using the “cinnamon bun method”—use circular motions, starting at the apple of the cheek and slowly make larger circles with the brush. Voila! Instant cheekbones!
8. To score a red carpet-worthy smoky eye, celebrity makeup artist Jake Bailey says to start by lining the inner rim of your lower lashlines, working the eyeliner into the lashes. Close your eyes and line the upper lashlines, pushing the liner into the lashes so there’s no gap between your lashes and the line. Use your fingertip to smudge it in, then sweep eyeshadow across your lids and up into your creases, blending outwards and upwards towards (but not to!) your temple.
9. A bold brow is an easy way to create an attention-grabbing makeup look. “Comb your brows with a spoolie brush or clean mascara wand to see how they lay naturally,” says Clinique Global Colour Artist Jenna Menard. “Using a soft, slightly waxy brow pencil, shape the brow by using the thinner side of the tip. Then, take the flatter angle of the pencil and fill in the brow using short strokes that look similar to hair. Finish by blending a shimmery highlighter just below the brow bone to add brightness and lift.”
10. For multi-dimensional skin that’s neither too matte nor too dewy, celebrity makeup artist Troy Jensen applies highlighter before foundation. “I like the glow to look more natural, from within,” he says. “With full coverage foundation, it can tend to look a little dull or matte as the day progresses. Having the highlighter underneath gives that glow.” Whip out your favorite highlighter—which, if you’re anything like us, is probably Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat ($41, yslbeautyus.com)—and illuminate away, then go in with the foundation for total coverage that’s still radiant.
11. A healthy bronze glow like is always in style, no matter the season. To avoid looking like an extra on “Jersey Shore”, celebrity makeup artist Carmindy says to strategically sweep bronzer on your temples, along the sides of the face, and right under the cheekbones in a ‘C’ formation. She says, “Keep the bronze color away from the center of your face—too much bronzer on the center can make you look older.”
12. We can all look a little tired once in a while, which is why it’s critical to use light eye makeup shades to your advantage. A shimmery white or pale beige pencil brightens the entire eye area when used on the water line, and you can take it a step further by adding the same shade to the outer corner of the eye between the upper and lower lashes—it opens up the eyes and makes them look more almond shaped. “This is a dancer’s trick,” says celebrity makeup artist and founder of Susan Posnick Cosmetics, Susan Posnick. “Finally, try a pale shimmery shadow under the bottom lashes to keep eyes sparkling. Skip mascara on the bottom lashes. Mascara can cast a shadow, making the eyes look tired.”
13. An eyelash curler is your best friend. Sonia Kashuk, makeup artist and founder of Sonia Kashuk Beauty, swears by lash curlers as the key to making eyes pop. “Be sure to choose one that creates a beautiful upward curl, such as Sonia Kashuk Dramatically Defining Eye Lash Curler ($8.99, target.com), and with a delicate pumping motion, move from the lash base upward for maximum results.” And always curl before applying mascara, not after. When bare, “the eyelashes are suppler so the crimping of the lash doesn’t feel as damaging,” Kashuk explains.
14. Color-coordinating your lips with your cheeks creates a uniform look that appears natural, no matter what shade you choose. Runway makeup artist Hannah Murray goes so far as to use a lip crayon as blush for perfectly coordinated features. She takes a chunky lip crayon, like the deep wine shade of NARS Satin Lip Pencil ($25, narscosmetics.com) in Golshan, and scribbles it on the back of her hand as you would a paint palette. Then, she says, “Then I just take my finger and blend it into cheeks.” Matchy-matchy has never been so easy—or looked so good.
15. Every girl loves glitter, but once you hit a certain age, it can be tough to find a way of wearing it that looks appropriate. Lancôme makeup artist Diane Kendal has found the solution: Keep glitter confined to the center of the eye, and use a matte shade on the rest of the lid as a sort of boundary. “It’s literally just in the center, within the brown eye shadow so it doesn’t take over the eye—you just get a hint of it when the eyes open.” Skip sparkles on the browbone and corners of the eyes, where they can look too intense.
16. Take what you learned in high school art class and adapt it to suit your makeup needs. If color theory wasn’t your thing, no problem—we’ve got you covered. Celebrity makeup artist James Vincent‘s surprising trick involves using a darker concealer to hide under eye puffiness. “A darker color will recess something, or make something appear deeper and smaller. Darker colors create the illusion of pulling the puffiness back, making it look even with the rest of your skin.” On the other hand, using too-light concealer on under eye puffiness will draw attention to the area and make it stand out more.
17. “When applying foundation, remember it needs to finish looking smooth and blended into skin properly,” advises makeup artist Nico Guilis, but brushes may not always be the answer. In fact, she relies on her fingers to get the job done. “I always apply foundation to my skin with my hands, as if it is a moisturizer—it allows me to really press it into my skin without looking streaky or spotty.” Brushes have their place, but it’s always best to finish off the job by pressing your fingers into your face. The warmth from your hands heats up the product, making it easier to blend and allowing for a smoother, more natural finish. Whatever you do, Guilis says, don’t use a makeup sponge on a water-based foundation. “It soaks up product and doesn’t disperse well,” she warns.
18. For glossy, three-dimensional lips without the stick factor of gloss, try this red carpet trick that’ll blow your mind. Bruce Grayson, the official makeup artist of the Oscars, uses a slightly damp Q-tip to dab shimmer pigment in white, yellow, or gold on the center of the lips toward the inside to give a wet, shiny look without actually using lip gloss. Genius.
19. We’ve heard of mixing moisturizer in with our foundation for lighter coverage, but here’s one take on the trick that we’re gearing up to put into action every day: Cosmetic dermatologist Dr. David Colbert suggests adding two drops of argan oil to any foundation just before applying, mixing the oil with the pigment to blend the two. The finish of the oil helps even out light reflectance from the skin, so it’s especially good for occasions during which you’ll be photographed.
20. If you want the look of whiter teeth without undergoing a whitening treatment, Hollywood beauty pro and esthetician Scott-Vincent Borba relies on red lip stain—but not on the lips. “If celebrities don’t have time to whiten their teeth, but want a sparkling white smile,” he says, “I’ll use a red lip stain on the gum line. This instantly makes teeth look whiter.”