First off, when I say that this is the #1 makeup rule that I never break, I want to be quite clear:
This is my rule.
I shudder to think at all of the “rules” I followed for years, because I read them in Cosmo or Allure or from a celebrity makeup artist, only to realize they were all wrong for my coloring/skin type/ features, etc.
(For example, cult-favorite Nars Orgasm blush is not universally flattering on everyone.)
Anyway, the point is that this is what I’ve found worked for me, but it is by no means a universal beauty law!
I’ve learned the best makeup rules are the ones you make for yourself.
And here’s mine:
I’m not talking fine lines, as in laugh/frown lines or wrinkles. They come for all of us, and I’m doing my best to embrace them.
I’m talking about lines created with makeup. For example:
That muddy-brown line beneath the cheekbone euphemistically referred to as contouring.
I didn’t always shun the lines! In my early 20s, when I was trying to figure out how to disguise my teenage overplucking of my eyebrows, I would totally draw my eyebrows with an eyebrow pencil.
Ad I tried for a solid year to master the art of the winged eyeliner a la Holly Golightly.
My contour game was strong in 2015.
And in 2017 I embraced a “perfect” lipstick look, pencil and all.
In the past year or so though, I’ve realized how harsh all of that can look. Maybe it’s just me getting older, or perhaps me getting wiser, but I have come around to the thinking that the prettiest makeup is the softest makeup.
That said, I’m still not a bare-faced kind of gal. While I respect that plenty of women love being bare-faced and insist every woman looks better without makeup, I will happily agree to disagree. 😘
Here’s how I create a polished makeup look without any harsh lines:
For the most part, I’ve gotten rid of all pencils in my makeup collection. They’re pretty much the root cause of most harsh lines in the makeup world!
I do make an exception: I have a black pencil eyeliner that I use to darken my lash line.
But I do not, ever, take that black pencil and draw a line of any kind around my eye. Instead, I use it to fill in the gaps between my eyelashes on my upper lashes to fake the illusion of a thicker lash line (my lashes are long but super thin).
I like doing this on the underside of the lash line, but if that freaks you out because it’s too close to your eyeball, you can do it from above the lash line.
Just make sure you’re using short little strokes to darken the lash line, not plunking the pencil down in one corner of your eye and dragging it across your lid to the other corner.
If you like a bit more definition around the eye than that (and I totally do), you can still add color around your eyes—just use eyeshadow instead of eye pencil.
I use a dark gray or dark purple shadow, which looks best with my coloring, but dark brown eye shadow is also a great option. You’ll also need an angled or smudge eyeliner brush; look for something that’s small, with relatively short bristles for precise application. Any of the four smaller brushes from this set will do the trick.
Line your eyes the same way you might with a pencil (as subtle or as smoky as you want) Because you’re using a softer brush and a powder, you’ll end up with a much gentler everyday look than if you used any sort of liner.
I’m still paying the price for my teenage over-plucking of my eyebrows, but I’ve swapped the eyebrow pencil for the much more natural looking brow powder.
Instead of drawing or shaping my brows with a pencil, I use an angled brush and brow powder to fill in any sparse or over-plucked areas. After I’ve added the powder, I’ll use the “spooly” end of the brush to comb through and distribute the powder more naturally.
Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder is considered the Holy Grail for this, and I used it for years and love the formula. But, I never quite found the right color (everything was either too warm or too black), and the packaging was forever breaking! I switched to Bobbi Brown’s Brow Powder in Medium, and it’s the exact right color for me (and the packaging’s better!). Though, I wouldn’t recommend against Anastasia, especially since she has better color options. And I still use her brush.
I’m tired of contouring—of doing it myself, and of seeing it on other people. I know it’s still popular, I appreciate what it can do to slim and shape the face, but I also feel like its huge surge in popularity created a whole army of women who were trying to make their faces look exactly the same.
Also, if I can be honest, it seems to age everyone?! Myself included.
I’m still embracing cheek color in a softer way these days. Instead of trying to create the illusion my face is something that it isn’t (high cheek boned and chiseled), I’ve starting using face color to look healthy.
How? Blush, baby. I feel like blush went through a SHUN phase, possibly because it can go so wrong, so easily, but I’ve learned to love it. The key to doing it right? Apply it lightly, and just to the apples of your cheeks, or wherever your cheeks naturally “blush.” Again, NO LINES. Use a light hand and sort of swoosh/dab, not draw a line from your ear to your nose.
Another makeup tool that’s gotten a bad rap? Bronzer. Yes, it is possible to use it without looking Jersey Shore, and it can give your face dimension without the harsh “LOOK AT MY FAKE CHEEKBONE” contour line.
Makeup artists are all over the place on terms of proper bronzer application. Some say to apply it wherever the sun hits (top of forehead, top of cheek bones). Others say to apply it places you want to shadow (under the cheekbones, the temples, the jawline). I say? It’s up to you. Try it out, figure out what makes you feel healthy, glowy and pretty.
I don’t get weird with it. I simply take a fluffy brush lightly drag it through my Nars Casino bronzer and sort of brush it over my cheeks, and the outer edges of my face.
Note, if you’re new to Nars bronzer, it’s amazing, but Laguna is is the by far the more popular/famous color. Alas, it counts as another “rule” I followed for years, thinking that because my skin isn’t super dark, I should be using the lighter of the two shades (Laguna). So what if it made me look orange, I was supposed to wear that shade, right? Even the Nars beauty expert on the Sephora website warns against going too dark!
Finally, I read the fantastic, contradictory tip that you should pick your bronzer color, not on what shade your skin is when it’s pale, but in the shade your skin tans. Many people turn golden when they tan. Thus, the golden Laguna is great for them, but it’s also why I was turning orange. Laguna is too warm!
Because some people, myself included, turn more brown than gold in the sun. I don’t know why I didn’t figure it out sooner, considering that olive-skinned Anth and I always marvel how after we spend a lot of time out in the sun, we can turn equally dark, but be entirely different shades. Him very golden bronze, me more a of a chocolate milk shade of tan.
Hence, why the Casino bronzer—a dark brown shade on the cooler end of the spectrum, looks more natural on me, even though I’m relatively pale.
I’m not a makeup artist, but I’d recommend choosing your bronzer shade based on temperature of color, not darkness of color.
Tip: To avoid making bronzer or blush look too much, one easy trick I’ve learned is to use a bigger brush than you think you need. Don’t be scared! As long as you use a light hand, both with getting product on the brush and applying to your phase, a big soft brush creates a more air brush, diffused look, rather than wait for it … lines.
(another option is to use cream or mousse blushes which some people swear by for a natural look—I prefer old-fashioned powder blushes, which seem to look more like my natural cheeks).
I really like a natural look, so a quick swipe of a nude pink lipstick, or Bobbi Brown’s Lip Tint in Bare Pink is usually my lip look. But, if you love a really precise lipstick look, and if you find lip liner helps keep it in place, one way to avoid the dreaded “lined mouth look,” try applying your lip liner after you’ve applied your lipstick, using short strokes rather than one big “circle around the mouth clown style” technique. It’ll fade more naturally and look less harsh.
And lastly, I want to emphasize one more time. This is my rule. For my look. If you love your eyeliner hard, you keep doing you.