A lovely friend of mine, Zoe, asked me to help her up her makeup game before she starts looking for new jobs to boost her confidence and ensure she was looking professional for interviews. We can be as feminist as we like but the little bit of extra effort can go a long way to first impressions in interviews, IMO.
But good lord, it’s overwhelming isn’t it? If you’re not much of a makeup wearer and you head into Priceline / CVS or Mecca / Sephora or the makeup / fragrance area of a department store it can be terrifying and off-putting. Everyone wants to sell you something. It’s hard to know what you “need” and what is just adding to someone’s sales statistics without really helping you.
Well I am here for you my friends! A few disclaimers before I start. I’m not an expert. I’m just a woman who’s into makeup. I’ve never worked for a company that makes or sells makeup. I make mistakes and I try to learn lessons. I’ll definitely try to use those lessons to make this post as helpful as possible! Also, I’m going to try to make this Australia friendly and drugstore friendly (because who wants to spend a billion dollars when they’re just starting out?). When I posted on Facebook a lot of the responses were from my friends back home. Apart from Bourjois (appears to be available at Walgreens online and Sears though?), all the products mentioned are also available easily in the USA at any drugstore or K-Mart etc and prices adjust down accordingly. Finally, all of this is just my opinion. Some of this stuff may not apply to you, and that’s fine! Feel free to take bits and pieces from this or just tell me to get in the bin entirely, it’s fine!
Ok, let’s get started. Here’s what I think a basic makeup collection needs:
- Foundation, CC cream, BB cream or tinted moisturizer
- Setting powder
- Brow powder, crayon etc
- Lipstick, balm or gloss
Let’s talk about these things a little bit. I will probably go further in depth in future posts, I don’t want to make this one too long.
Bases are so personal. Maybe you already have one that you like, maybe you don’t know which one is best for you. So take all this advice, as usual, with a grain of salt.
BB cream is a general term for a souped-up tinted moisturizer. They were formulated in the beginning in Korea for women who had just had laser resurfacing, to help their skin to heal whilst also providing some coverage for the damage and redness. It then leaked into the Western world as a “better” tinted moisturizer. They usually have more coverage. BB stands for “Blemish Balm” but for copyright reasons, most are just called BB or other weird names like “beblesh balms” etc. CC creams are very similar except they are also “color correcting”, so if you have a lot of redness or pigmentation these could work really well for you. Foundations sit on top of the skin (for the most part) rather than sinking into the skin like BB / CC creams or tinted moisturizers. They will usually have more coverage.
If you’re the kind of person who hasn’t really ever worn makeup and you’re a bit scared that you’ll end up looking like you’re wearing a mask, then something like a BB or CC cream could be just what you’re looking for to add a little bit of coverage and polish to your skin. I have a BB cream from Skin79 (one of the original Korean brands) that I love, but it’s a little bit light on my skin so I have to mix it with something a little darker. I have a CC cream that I absolutely love and wear all the time, and recommend to a lot of people. I also have some foundations… several… okay so I have a problem. But we know this!
So what do I recommend for a beginner? Something like the Bourjois 123Perfect CC cream is a fabulous start. It’s light, it’s easy to apply and to blend (more on that later) and it has a matte finish without looking cakey. It’s pretty bloody wonderful actually, and you can pick it up for about AU$25. Check out the comparison pics below:
Before & after CC cream application
So as you can see, it’s nothing crazy. It’s not a thick layer, it’s not super unnatural, it just evens things out a little bit. This is without powder or concealer or primer – just moisturizer and the CC cream. I do recommend setting this with a little bit of powder. It’s nice stuff. I apply this with the Expert Face Brush from Real Techniques, which is a really reasonably priced brush line you can get at Priceline. I really recommend picking this up, and I will talk about other brushes I like as we go along.
Some might not think this is a necessity. And that’s totally fine of course, but for me it is essential to cover up those little leftover bits of redness and discoloration, and for under my eyes. Not only for the dark circles that almost all of us are subject to, especially as we age, but for the little bit of melasma I have (hyperpigmentation, it’s hormonal) in the under-eye area. There are a couple of great ones you can get at drugstore prices, and they are both Maybelline. One is the Fit Me concealer, which reminds me a lot of the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer (a much pricier product) and the other is the Age Rewind concealer. These both have applicators, I discussed the AR one in my packaging post and the FM one has a doe-foot applicator. I apply straight from the applicator to my face (with the exception of the AR, the sponge applicator can be a lil germy) then blend with clean fingers if I’m in a rush or a small brush like the Real Techniques contour brush (NOT the sculpting brush!). Both these concealers are around the $15-18 mark.
If you are like me and you are oily or combination, your t-zone probably lets you down as the day wears on. An important thing to remember is that absolutely no makeup will last all day. It’s not possible, particularly if you’re oily/combo. If you want your makeup to look perfect all day you’ll have to touch it up. Period. But using a setting powder particularly in the oily sectors will really help, and I always do this. My go-to powder brush is the original Blush Brush from Real Techniques because it’s big and fluffy and soft. You want something for powder that is not going to move around all your hard work with concealing and foundation placement. I find that “pressing / patting” the powder on to be the best way to ensure this doesn’t happen, rather than sweeping or swirling the powder on. I hope that makes sense! My ultimate drugstore favorite is the Bourjois Healthy Balance powder. It smells divine and is super finely milled and the packaging is tiny so it’s easy to carry with you. It’s about $20 from Priceline.
Now that I’ve concealed and powdered, time for another comparison. Today I used the Age Rewind concealer and the Healthy Balance powder.
Before and after concealing & powder
So you can see that my under-eye area is looking a little smoother and my skin looks a lil brighter in general. Going okay! This is about 2 minutes work so far, not including ~*selfie time*~ of course. I’m trying to keep the light and poses as similar as possible and that’s actually kinda hard! Moving on.
Now that we’ve evened out the color of the skin we need to add a little bit back in, exactly where we want it. This was probably the trickiest part for me because I don’t own a lot of drugstore blushes. Mainly because I wore the same two blushes for like 2 years. MAC Style and NARS Deep Throat. So the two drugstore (Australian anyway, I have four Milani blushes which is a super cheap brand in the USA) blushes I have aren’t great examples for this post, one is a taupe cool-contour color and the other is a cream blush. Cream might be a little bit advanced (unless you have dry skin in which case it’s a great option – hit me up for more info). So I’m going to use MAC Style today which is a really nice peachy/rosy color that doesn’t look too unnatural.
Everyone has a different way they apply blush. For me, the apples of my cheeks are actually quite close to my nose so I find if I place it there, it makes me look ruddy rather than naturally flushed. So I actually just suck my cheeks in a tiny little bit to define the shape of my face, and then blend the blush diagonally backwards on the part of my cheek that starts about in line with my pupil – does that make sense? I hope so! Silly face diagram for demonstration purposes:
Blue… Steel? D:
I want to interject here to talk a little about bronzer. I am a bronzer noob, a literal bronzer babby. So I’m going to skip it today. I know there are some that swear by it. I’m learning to apply it at the moment, and I find that the “C” shape application (edges of forehead, down the temples, under/on the cheekbone) to work best. I know some people have much more advanced techniques and if you are one of them then please continue with what you’re doing. In a little while when I’ve experimented more I’ll do a post but bronzer isn’t something that I feel is an essential component of makeup so, moving on. Here’s another comparison.
Before and after blush application
No clownish granny circles to be seen here, just a bit of color back into the cheeks. Sorted? I think so. Moving on to the eyes.
Personally, I like cream eyeshadows. Maybe not all the time, but pretty often. If you have extremely oily eyelids then maybe stick to powder shadows (and make sure you use a primer, though I’m not familiar with drugstore ones). But creams work for me and I’m a little oily so I recommend giving them a go. I really like, like, REALLY like, the Maybelline Color Tattoo 24 Hour Eyeshadows. I think they are pretty magical and I have them in quite a lot of colors. The one I think is the most wearable without being super boring is called “Bad to the Bronze”. These are about AU$12-13. Other great colors for those just starting out are “Creamy Beige” (in the limited edition Leather range), “Barely Branded” and “Tough as Taupe”. I apply these to the mobile lid with my finger because I think this is the best way to get enough product on the lid, then I blend out the edges with a fluffy brush like the Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush (I swear I’m not sponsored by RT! I just really like them!). So let’s have a look at the difference between just placing with a finger and then blending it out. You can also blend with your finger but I think a brush is quicker and makes for a more smooth blend.
Before & after blending a cream eyeshadow
In this case I’ve used “Bad to the Bronze”. I just love it so much. I just blended the edges out so it’s not so harsh – you can see what I mean above. Let’s move on.
Most people’s go-to eyeliner is black, and if that’s what you like best then that’s fine but in the last year I’ve really been converted to brown eyeliner. It’s dark enough to still have definition, but a little bit less harsh and stark than black. It’s perfect for daytime and work, IMO. Eyeliner is another thing that’s quite personal. Some people only like it on their waterline, some like to place it on the outside of the lashline. For work/daytime, I think it’s best to just add a little bit on the inside of the lashline and then use a q-tip or something (a small brush perhaps) to blend it out. You don’t have to blend it but if you apply it then think “AHHHH it’s so darkkkk” you can soften it up this way. I would also recommend only doing this for the outer 1/3 or outer 2/3 of the lashline, unless you have wider-set eyes and want to give the illusion of bringing them a little closer. I have the total opposite problem, so I find that when I put eyeliner right in the inner corner it’s too dark and makes me look squinty. I actually don’t have any drugstore eyeliners, I have discovered! I have heard great things about the Rimmel Exaggerate waterproof liner in Rich Brown and I think that’d be a good one to grab, it’s about $12. I used the TooFaced PerfectEyes liner in Espresso today.
Yet another very personal choice here! Some people like lengthening mascaras, some like volumising ones. Some people like some clumpiness, others like a straight comb-through. Some people like small brushes some people like big.. you get the picture – feel free to experiment, because HOORAY drugstore mascaras aren’t very expensive and they don’t last very long. There are a few different application techniques. Some people use the “place wand at base of lash, wiggle side to side while running up the lashes” technique and it’s a good one. Some use the “place wand, then blink without moving the wand itself” technique, I find this one to be kinda risky. I would say a good thing to do is to wipe a lot of the product off if you feel that your mascara wand is loaded with too much product. I would say lower lash mascara application is also totally a personal choice and although I have applied a little bit today, I don’t always especially for daytime looks. I have used the L’Oreal Voluminous Miss Manga mascara in Black Noir today, but I recommend figuring out for yourself which mascara you like best. Remember to switch them out at LEAST every 6 months, (preferably 3), they get unsanitary pretty fast. NEXT!
When I first started filling in my brows, I was so startled every single time I looked in the mirror. They seemed so dark and just too much. But trust me, you need to do this. It really frames your face and finishes off your look! Today I have used the Australis Oh Hai Brow kit with the Anastasia Beverly Hills brow brush. I love this brush because it has a spoolie on one end and an angled eyebrow brush on the other end:
Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Brush
You want to use the spoolie to give your brows a brush through to make all the hairs go in the same direction then lightly touch the other end of the brush to the powder (whichever one suits your brow shade) and then just start slowly adding color to the brows. I could go really indepth here about where to add color, how to fill in gaps etc but it’s so complex and really it’s just something that you figure out as you go along. Don’t worry if you can’t get both brows to look the same. Speaking of which, I took the below picture to show the difference between a done brow and one that’s left undone.
Pretty big difference huh? And hey, maybe you prefer the undone brow. That’s okay. There aren’t any rules here. I just know that since I started doing my brows, not only have I been getting more compliments but most importantly *I* have been happier altogether with my makeup. Other ways you can do your brows include with a crayon, a tiny tip is best like the Anastasia Beverly Hill Brow Wiz, or its cheap alternative the NYX micro-brow crayon (not totally sure if this is available in Australia yet). I find this to be an equally easy way to fill in brows but it’s totally up to you. The brow kit from Australis is a great place to start and it’s $17 or so for 3 powders, a wax and a little teeny brush and tweezers.
Ok, enough talk, let’s see where we’re at so far with shadow, liner, mascara and brows:
Before and after eyeshadow, liner and mascara application
Coming together now huh? Ok so, lips.
There’s a concept in lipstick that is like the holy grail for individuals and it’s called the “MLBB” colour. This means “my lips but better” and means a natural but polished look to the lips. It means what it says basically. This might take some trial and error. You can “try” lipsticks on if they have a tester by winding the bullet all the way out and holding it up to your lips then looking in the mirror. It might be a liquid lipstick in a tube, in which case you can just hold up the tube. If you are like me and your lips are quite pigmented, your MLBB shade might be more pink than you would expect. For me, the ColourPop Lippie Stix in “Lumiere” is a good example of a slightly bolder “MLBB” shade and costs US$5 (shipping worldwide is available). I have a NARS shade that is perfect too but it’s MUCH more expensive. If you don’t want to use lipstick, stick with a balm stain (Revlon make lovely ones!) or even just a balm. I’m not a gloss girl, I find them sticky and … wet. I just don’t like it, but if you do then you probably already have a favourite! So let’s take a look at just balm, then with a good MLBB shade for me, the NYX matte lip cream in “Stockholm” which is easily available in Australia for about $10, as well as the ColourPop shade mentioned above which is a bit bolder.
Balm only, NYX “Stockholm”, ColourPop “Lumiere”
I’m going to post another more indepth look at lipsticks and different ways to wear them. But for now, let’s look at an overview of a before we started vs. now.
Before and after makeup application
Now, you might prefer the before. That’s totally fine of course. It’s no problem. I don’t mind being makeup-free. But the after turned out pretty nice too IMO. This is a pretty basic work / daytime look for me (I left Lumiere on for this look). You can also see that the light has changed since I started typing this post, it’s getting later in the afternoon now and I’ve photographed as I’ve gone along.
I usually finish off with a setting spray if I know I’m going to be wearing it all day. Some people don’t like these and feel that they’re full of bad stuff and maybe they are, but I think they’re pretty great and I always notice when I haven’t worn it. I’m not sure about drugstore equivalents in Australia, I know the L’Oreal Infallible range has one but when I left Australia it was not yet available. If it is, pick some up, it’s meant to be fabulous!
So that’s it for now. More detailed posts about some individual components to come, if you guys think that would help.
I’m sorry this post turned out so long! Let me know what you think. What was helpful, what wasn’t, what would have been if I’d only thought to include it.