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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Make-up basics for beginners

Firstly, a disclaimer - I'm no pro, nor do I claim to be one. I'm just sharing a bit of my experience from my own solo make-up journey (hand-in-hand with Youtube make-up videos). And sorry, no piccies.


I basically started wearing make-up just because. My interest was further encouraged when I discovered the existence of visual band the GazettE. I learned my first look from a Japanese pop magazine, then I started my make-up journey on Youtube, watching videos from MissChievous & Michelle Phan, then moved on to many various Youtube gurus.


I had basically only some of the things I needed when I first started using make-up - eye shadows, eyeliners, brow pencils. My mum can't do much eye make-up because any heavy eye make-up she applies melts, so we only have make-up stuff from relatives, which are minimum 5 years old each.


Take note, though. Make-up products should be treated like food - they have expiry dates. So keep in mind that whatever products you buy, you will use it up by it's expiry date, though it's highly unlikely that anything serious would happen if you used old make-up. I did, and so far nothing bad has happened to my skin, however different people's skin react differently to different situations.


For equipment, here's what you'll need to get started:

  • One or two eye shadow brushes (try to avoid the sponge applicators that come with smaller palettes), preferably one flat and one fluffy - the flat one to apply color, the fluffy one to blend
  • An angled brush - for lining, brows, and rough line work (you could get a regular flat-topped paint brush, then trim it at an angle to get basically the same thing)
  • One medium and one large face brush - the medium one for blush, the large one for powder
  • Foundation brush/cosmetic sponges - for foundation work (if using liquid/cream)
  • A magnifying mirror - this helps monitor small details when you're applying make-up, however a regular mirror would also work
  • Lash curler - the traditional type or heat ones, it's entirely your choice, go with whichever one you're more comfortable with, but keep this in mind - heat lash curlers use up battery, but is more compact when travelling; traditional ones are prone to getting dirty and are harder to store while travelling, but needs replacement less frequently
  • A stiff brush/lash comb - to blend brow product and comb through lashes after mascara

That's it. Where brushes are concerned, you might want to watch out for the brush hair types - there are three types of brushes - natural hair, synthetic hair, and dual fibre brushes, which combines natural and synthetic hairs. Natural hairs are better in terms of texture, durability, color pick-up and blending, but they're a bit pricier than synthetic hair brushes.


Try to purchase all make-up products from reputable places, like specialty boutiques and pharmacies/drugstores, rather than from unknown, never-heard-of shops. Where natural hair brushes are concerned, inquire about the origin of the natural hair - squirrel, horse, etc. It's better to get magnifying mirrors which come with an attached stand and can be adjusted in terms of angle.


The make-up products that (I think) you need:

  • [OPTIONAL] an eye shadow base - most cream products in a beige tone would work for this in general (recommended: Urban Decay Primer Potion, shu uemura Creme Eyeshadow in Beige, Smashbox Photo Finish Primer)
  • 3-pan shadow palette, preferably in brown (light, medium, dark), for basic shadow and contouring
  • a colorful-ish 12 color palette for color (or any other colored palette of your choice)
  • a separate true black and/or dark brown eye shadow (for lining)
  • a black and/or brown eyeliner (pencil or gel)
  • a brown/grey/black brow pencil or a brow powder + stiff brush
  • mascara (preferably black, your choice of volumizing, lengthening, or both)
  • foundation (in a shade that best suits your skin tone) - powder, liquid or cream (whichever is easier, I started with a powder, but it gave a very cakey finish; cream foundations are best for dry skin)
  • a skin-toned blush that will double as blush and contour
  • transluscent/beige face powder (fine particles, light coverage, loose or cake, to set liquid/cream foundation)
  • lipstick (preferably with moisturizing formula) - rosy pinkish skin color (for color but still mild enough for most looks)
  • pinkish/clear lipgloss
  • a good, non-stinging make-up remover (preferably water-based - oil-based removers are better for removing heavy make-up, however there are now water-based removers on the market that has the power of oil-based removers, but are as gentle as water-based removers)

Some people may disagree on my choice of what a beginner should have, but I find that these are my essentials. Whatever make-up you put on, you'll have to remove it COMPLETELY, usually as soon as possible, i.e. right after you get home from an event. If you have another event with a few hours in between, I would recommend removing the make-up, giving your skin some breathing time, then reapply.


With this basic set, most of the basic looks can be achieved. The shadow base, should you opt to purchase it, will help with three things:
  1. make the applied colors more saturated and vibrant, as more shadow particles adhere to the cream product as compared to a bare eyelid
  2. help reduce creasing - the base acts as a barrier between your lid and shadows, therefore preventing any oil from your lids from smudging, and eventually creasing on your lid (creasing is a phenomenon where shadow particles move from their original location and gather at your crease due to oil secretion on the lids)
  3. help shadow colors last longer - bases are usually fairly oil-resistant, therefore any oil and/or sweat that is excreted near/on your lids will not affect the shadow particles, and the base acts like a glue for the shadow particles

The 3-pan palette in a brown shade would be very suitable for natural looks, where just a hint of definition is called for. The color palette will help with adding color to the basic looks. However, 3- to 5-pan palettes in other colors would be a good investment as well as they have readily complimenting colors and application is very simple.


Black and/or brown shadows or eyeliners. Black for the more dramatic looks, brown for a more natural finish. Whichever you choose to use (pencil, shadow, gel, liquid, cream) depends on the finish you are looking to achieve. Opt for waterproof ones if your liners tend to smudge (help liners last longer by going over the line with a bit of powder product.


  • Using eye shadow will give a soft, natural look, perfect when you want your eye shadow to be the main highlight of the eyes. Shadow lining usually gives a more smokey, suggested line, rather than an in-your-face line.
  • Pencil liners are great for thick liners, and gives more intense color than shadows. Opt for a softer, creamy formula, because excessive pulling by a hard eye liner will damage the skin around your eyes. Pencil liners are extremely useful when tight-lining and lining water lines. They're also useful when you're doing dark looks, such as anime and visual kei-themed eye make-up, which sometimes requires a huge amount of black (the cream formula of the pencil liner will help any black shadow adhere better).
  • Liquid liners are used typically when you want to achieve intense, precise lining. There are two types - the conventional ones and the "eye pens" or "eye markers", which are sort of like a tapered/sharp pointed felt tip pen that is used for eye lining. Depending on the formula, the liner will dry matte or leave a sheen on the applied surface, and sometimes needs some time to dry after application if not it will "print" on your eyelid.
  • Gel liners are by far the most versatile - precision of the liquid liner, but can also achieve soft, smokey looks. It's basically the liquid and the pencil in one. Gel liners also last longer than other liners, and are even more suitable for those dark lid looks, as gel liners provide super intense color.

Eye brow grooming and filling are basically completely up to you, but it would be most flattering if they were groomed to their natural shape - just grab some tweezers and pull out the stray hairs that grow below and above the brows. Careful not to tweeze too much, because they might end up looking too thin. For some guide on how to groom your brows if you haven't done it before, click here and here to see roughly how to do it.


Filling your brows is pretty simple - I prefer powder to pencil, but when I'm in a rush I just grab a pencil, smack it on then blend it out. For the most natural lashes possible, choose a shade of color that it two shades lighter than your hair color (for dark hair) or two shades darker (for light hair). Be sure to try not to have too much color on the inner part of your brows if you have thick brows like me, if not it'll look way too unnatural.


Mascara should be simple enough to understand - you curl, you apply, then comb out any excess clumps. The thing about mascara is that you basically can't live without it, well it applies for me anyway. Even if it's just some beige shadow, I NEED mascara.


The reason why I'm so reluctant to do eye make-up when I'm in a rush is because these are my basic steps: prime, shadow, liner, mascara, brows. Doesn't seem a lot, but I'm really fickle when it comes to application - I want it just like that, and any mistakes will lead to complete removal (sometimes). I can't apply eye liner without mascara, and I can't apply eye shadow without eye liner, and some of the stuff I need are in my mum's room, so I'll be running back and forth while doing make-up.


I have two shades of foundation - one darker that I bought by mistake and one lighter. I use the darker one, which has a slight orangey undertone to conceal my dark circles. I use the lighter one for my whole face, and the good thing is that it doubles as a concealer. Finding a foundation that matches your skin tone is a real plus because it will save you some money from buying concealers.


Just always remember to start from the middle of your face for optimal natural looks, and blend everything out properly so that you don't get a streaky/patchy face. If you're using cream or liquid foundation, always remember to set it with powder so that it lasts longer and doesn't smudge.

  • Powder foundations work best with smooth skin, and it can double up as a setting powder when applied with a large fluffy brush. Using the sponge puff to gently press the product onto your skin can also help reduce the appearance of large pores (click here to see video).
  • Liquid foundation are applied with a wet sponge, a foundation brush or a stippling brush. Look for one that is waterproof, and do some research before you select a foundation - each foundation range differs from the other, and contain different ingredients which results in different finishes (sheer, dewy, matte). You also need to pay attention to the coverage that you are looking to achieve (full, medium, light). If you're using a sponge to apply this, make sure that it's is wet, because it will soak up more foundation than you're actually applying. Stippling brushes help achieve an airbrushed look.
  • Cream foundations are more emollient in texture, and are perfect for those with dry skin or are constantly in cold, dry conditions. Application is basically the same with liquid foundation.

Now blush and contouring are purely personal choice, but I find it more natural looking if you have some color on the cheeks after foundation because sometimes it can flatten the face and make it look really pale. I personally don't like to use blusher, because I have uneven skin tone and random red patches on my face with lots of little oil-seeds and blackheads, so any blusher that goes on will result in me looking as if I'm suffering from a skin allergy.


However, blusher will look extremely nice when you apply it correctly and blend it properly, especially when you're doing sweet looks. Select a suitable color, then using a blush brush, or even better an ANGLED blush brush, apply this along your cheekbones. Don't know where they are? Just feel your cheeks - you will feel a bone that protrudes horizontally.


Pick up some product on the brush and TAP OFF THE EXCESS. Layer on the color to the desired intensity (not too instense!) rather than suddenly having too much color. Mentally draw a line from the end of your eyes down to the cheekbone, the apply from there, sweeping the brush from the starting point toward your hairline, going slightly upwards.


Blend the product well after cleaning any excess powder from the brush. Try to avoid applying blush too close to the nose and eyes - you want a healthy blush, not a skin problem.


Contouring means to shape and define the features of your face, as well as to alter the shape of your features. Contouring is completely optional, though I would personally prefer contouring over blusher. There are a few places that are common in contouring:

  • Cheeks. Make a fish face, then starting from the ear, sweep the contouring product with a blush/face brush toward to the mouth, but not too near the mouth. This helps slim the face.
  • Nose. Nose contouring is most flattering for photography and may sometimes be too unnatural for reality. Start at the inner part of the brows, lightly run the product down the sides of the nose. What brushes you use depends on the effect and shape that you are looking to achieve. Just keep in mind that all product should be blended well.
  • Jawline. If you feel that your jawline is not defined enough, use a fluffy brush and blend the product along the jawline, starting from behind the ear, sweeping down to below the actual jawline.

For face make-up, I learned a lot from these two videos from MissChievous. Face Basics Part 1 and Part 2.


Lip color can be considered important, but I personally don't use much of it. Opt for a rosy pink/nude color that matches your natural lip color, and invest in a good lip brush for much better application. Try not to apply it out of the natural lip line if you have plump lips, because that will make your lips look even plumper, unless that's the effect that you're going for.


Your lip color should always be proportionate with your eye and cheek make-up. When apply make-up, pick one feature (cheek, eyes or lips) as the key to the whole look, and make that feature the most intense, if you want. Intense eyes, cheeks and lips look really weird and unnatural, unless you're doing special effects make-up.


Gloss can be used in place of lipstick, or can be used layered on lipstick for a shiny finish. You could go over the lips completely for a glassy look, or just in the middle for a more 3D, juicy-lips effect. If you have one particular lip that is thicker than the other, apply gloss on the thinner one to balance the lips.


Make-up is versatile, but it comes with a particular set of rules. Some rules can be broken in different situations, but it would be best to comply to most of them. Again, I apologize for the lack of pictures.

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