Learning how to apply makeup isn't as simple as it seems—and watching complicated YouTube tutorials can only make you more confused. Does foundation go before or after concealer? Should you put your eyeshadow on first or last? The truth: It’s pretty much all up to personal preference. But after years of talking to beauty consultant and talking to makeup pros, I’ve found a layering technique that works perfectly. For example, Fill in a brows before putting on foundation, since it’s one of the most important steps in the full routine. (So if your rushing at the end of the makeup routine, at least your brows will be done.) Also put on setting spray before mascara because you could ruin one too many makeup looks with runny black streaks doing it the other way around.
I recommend this same application sequence before you go out, but don't worry—you can remove and add steps as you see fit. For instance, spend more time in areas like brows and highlighter, but you might want to focus your efforts on your eye makeup. I also edit based on how much time you might have. If you only have five minutes? Then you priming, concealing, adding some blush and highlighter, and putting on a quick brow. If I’ve got an entire hour to prep, then you can go all out. Really, you can customize this guide to fit your needs. Consider this a makeup beginner’s outline to layering your makeup, step by step.
Step 1: Moisturize or apply a primer.
Kardashian favorite Mario Dedivanovic says using a hydrating cream before makeup helps all the powders and products you apply on top sink into the skin, making your makeup look less cakey. Since I prefer a dewy makeup look, Spray your face with a mist like MAC Prep + Prime Fix+ ($26). Then massage in an illuminating primer or oil like Farsali Unicorn Essence ($54). You don’t have to use a product that is marketed as a primer; any moisturizer will do.
Step 2: Fill in brows.
Always start your makeup look with the most time-consuming element. Like, your brows(others like to do eyeshadow first, but if your pretty clueless when it comes to eye makeup). First, use a pencil to fill in sparse areas with hairlike strokes. Currently I’m liking the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz pencil ($21). Stop here if your in a hurry. When your being extra, Add a powder or pomade to really define the ends of my brows, where there is basically no hair. For this, I use Kat Von D 24-Hour Super Brow Long-Wear Pomade ($19). Finally, lock it all in with a gel, like It Cosmetics Brow Power Pomade ($24).
Step 3: Apply foundation.
If your don’t like to use a lot of foundation, follow makeup artist Faye Lauren’s rule of thumb: Focus on the areas you want to even out and leave the rest of the face foundation-free. So, apply your foundation starting at the center of your face: Around the nose, the eyes, and on my forehead, but leave the area around your jawline only lightly covered. This prevents from getting brown makeup stains everywhere when you put it on your hands on your chin throughout the day (that’s my thinking pose). Use a sponge or brush to apply your foundation, because you'll hate having your fingers dirty with product.
Step 4: Cover dark spots with concealer.
Carmen Williamson, a makeup artist at Joanna Czech Dallas, previously told SELF that the best way to layer on concealer is after foundation in order to make sure your makeup blends together and that you don’t overdo it. This method works best for most because you get the kind of brightening you need for any purplish-black dark circles. Use a shade that is a bit lighter than my foundation under the eyes. Also apply a little concealer to your lids to act as a primer for when you wear eyeshadow.
Step 5: Add eyeshadow.
You know those YouTube tutorials with eyeshadow primer and four shadow colors? Maybe you can’t do all that. So just pick one shade that reflects your outfit or your mood and put it all over your lids. Sometimes try to get fancy and do a darker color in the crease of my eye, but that’s only if your planning to be in a dark place (like a club or ballroom) where no one will notice my eyeshadow ineptitude.
Step 6: Finish off the eye look with liner.
I’m not a huge fan of complicated eyeliner looks (are you sensing an eye theme here?). So use a very fine pencil like the Marc Jacobs Fineliner Ultra Skinny Gel Eye Crayon ($24) to outline your waterline (that’s the area underneath the lashes). When you do eyeliner on top of your lid, You might be bound to mess it up. So, keep a stiff, angled eyeliner brush like the Trish McEvoy #50 Angled Eyeliner Brush ($29) to blend it out into a more natural-looking—and mistake free—line.
Step 7: Add blush to the apples of cheeks.
Blush is one of my favorite parts of applying makeup because a few swipes and automatically look more put together. It probably has something to do with the fact that blush is usually the first colorful thing you add, whereas everything else is pretty neutral. Try to always use a powder blush in a bright vibrant color like orange or bright fuchsia. But first, swipe a little setting powder under your eyes to set the concealer and down on your cheeks. This was a tip I learned from makeup artist Fiona Stiles.“If you try to apply a powder blush over liquid foundation, the pigment will streak and be impossible to blend,” she says. so apply the blush on the apples of your cheeks (that’s the best placement for my square face shape). You may like to apply blush before highlighter because, as Stiles also told me, sometimes the shimmer in your blush is enough.
Step 8: Apply highlighter.
Highlighter is one of the go-to makeup items. When you only have five minutes to do makeup, do brow, concealer, blush, highlight, and a lip. Start with a cream or liquid-based highlighter like Glossier Haloscope ($22) on your cheekbones and browbones as well as down your nose. and stop here if I’m just doing my makeup for a day at the office. If it’s a night out, add a powder like Nars Highlighting Powder ($38) on top to elevate my shine at least two levels.
Step 9: Apply contour.
There’s much debate about what if contour should be first or last in the cheek trifecta (blush/highlighter/contour), I say you should do it last. That’s mostly because it’s got to be a very special occasion for some to contour. Use a stick like the Fenty Beauty Matte Skinstick ($25) to get the defined lines on my cheeks, forehead, and nose (the right tool is the key to getting a contour that isn’t too muddy). Then, use an angled brush to blend it all in.
Step 10: Swipe on a statement lip.
On lazy days, skip straight to this step. Sometimes a lip has got to be enough. cover my entire lip with liner to help your lipstick last a lot longer—a pro-approved tip learned from my mother. Over that, Add a layer of matte liquid lipstick in a color that matches the liner pretty closely. Then apply a lipstick color that works well with the lip liner shade.
Step 11: Set your entire face with setting powder or spray—or both.
Makeup artist Hector Simancas likes to use both setting powder and spray to keep makeup in place, and I take a similar strategy. you could just use powder, like Maybelline Facestudio Master Fix Setting + Perfecting Loose Powder ($7), in the T-zone and underneath the eyes. Then, spritz with your favorite setting spray, Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray ($32), to make sure you maintain the dewy look I like.
Step 12: Finally, put on mascara.
Mascara is the very last step because I've found that if you put it on before your setting spray it usually ends up streaking down my face. So also make sure to keep Q-tips handy to easily clean up inevitable stray smudges without ruining all you work.