Lesson No. 1: Spend some bucks on your tools
At Napoleon Perdis’ Makeup Academy in Hollywood, Rebecca Prior, NP’s National Educator, begins the first lesson by introducing us to our tools. “To me, tools and products are equally as important as the makeup skills that you have,” she says. For example, let’s say you were using mediocre brushes, mediocre products, and had average skill. Just by improving the quality of your brushes and using richer pigmented products, the application would immediately be better, even without improving your technique. So if you really want to apply your makeup like a pro, Los Angeles-based educator Felicia Alva says, “Do what the professionals do: Use the proper brushes for application.”
Here are the eight basic brushes you need:
1. Foundation brush
2. Concealer brush
3. Fluffy powder brush
4. Blush brush
5. Small blending brush
6. Flat eyeshadow brush
7. Precision angle brush
8. Lip brush
Once you have your tools, you need to know how to hold them. Make Up For Ever educator Lijha Stewart says, “Where you hold a brush on the handle affects your control. The closer your fingers are to the barrel (the silver section beneath the brush head), the more pressure you put on the brush head and vice versa.” In general, if you want to apply color evenly, place your fingers on the center of the brush handle. Another tip: You can easily turn a fluffy brush into a flat, angled brush by wrapping your hand around the bristles and flattening them.
Lesson No. 2: Mix primer with your foundation
I’m sitting in Make-up Designory’s Beauty 101 classroom and I’m anticipating today’s lesson to be quite the bore-fest. I’m barely paying attention as Lead Instructor Gil Romero goes through the three different types of foundation: liquid, powder, and cream. Yawn. Wake me up when I’m going to learn something new.
It seems like Romero read my mind, because he immediately hit me with this tip: “You can wear cream foundation as is for opaque, full coverage, or you can break it down to be more translucent by mixing it with some primer,” he says. What? Isn’t primer only supposed to go on before foundation? But Romero says this is a surefire way to retain the foundation’s coverage without looking caked on. Plus, you get to reap the long-lasting durability that cream foundation has over liquids and powders. Prior says this also helps the makeup blend seamlessly with the first layer of primer on your skin.
I raise my hand at this point and ask if cream foundation is OK for oily skin. This is a selfish question, because I struggle with a mid-day oily t-zone. Make-up Designory Creative Director, Yvonne Hawker (who also wrote the school’s textbook) says everyone can use cream foundation, but those with oily skin should use a damp sponge to apply it. Most foundations have oil in its formula to give the coverage blend-ability. Using the sponge will “pick up the pigment, but not the oil in the foundation.” You’ll still get great coverage, but not the shine.
For dry or combination skin types, “use your foundation brush and buff the foundation onto the skin, concentrating on the center of your face, which is typically where your skin has the most discoloration,” says Hawker. “The further you get from the center, the less coverage you want.”
Lesson No. 3: Make your eyes pop by changing their shape
Just like how I learned to use highlights and shadows to contour my face, I found out that I can use the same info to alter my eye shape, too. Whether you have drooping lids, narrow-set eyes, or they’re simply too small, you can use your knowledge of light and shadow to change them.
If you want to add definition: Sweep a light bronzer through the crease of the eye, which is halfway between the lashline and the eyebrow. “As you age, the eye area loses elasticity, and things aren’t as shapely as they used to be,” says Prior. “This technique is great for mature skin, to give the face more definition.” A tip for you blue-eyed girls: An orange-y bronzer in your crease will make your eyes even bluer.
If you have narrow-set eyes: To elongate your eye width, apply a black liner to the outer half of both your upper and lower lashlines, connecting at the outer corner.
If you have drooping, heavy lids: Use what you just learned about highlights and shadows to lift your eye. Apply highlighter above your crease, from the inner to outer lid. Then blend a shadow to the area that you want to push back, which would be the heavy fold. Make sure to blend the edges from the shadow to the highlight.
If you have small eyes: Apply a beige-colored eyeliner to your lower inner rim, which will help make eyes look more open. Then use a black pencil liner along your entire upper and lower lashlines, connecting the lines at the outer corner. The key is to blend the liner with shadow, going outwards. Wherever you place the darkness is where your eye will go, so by smudging the lines, it gives the allusion that your eyes are taking up more real estate on your face.
And the tip I love most for natural definition: Apply a black pencil to your upper inner rim. “It lengthens the eye and it also sharpens the appearance of the eye, giving more fullness to the natural lashline without seeing the hard edge of a liner,” says Prior.
Lesson No. 4: Stop applying eyeliner the wrong way
Finally, we’re onto the technique that landed me in makeup school in the first place. Eyeliner has always been hit or miss for me and now I know why. I’ve been doing it all wrong.
In Chapter 7 of the Make-up Designory textbook, I learned that you’re actually not supposed to draw your liner all the way across your lashline in one motion. “You’ll get bumps in your line with your brush catching on loose skin,” says Prior. Instead, you’re supposed to go from the inner corner to the center of your lid, then reload the brush (if you’re using one) and start from the outside corner until you meet the existing liner.
And as for my wonky winged tips? Prior gave me a smart tip to make sure a wing is always in the right place. “Napoleon Perdis always starts with eyeliner on the lower lashline, because it goes up at the outer corner, which gives you the angle that you should follow on your top lashline,” says Prior. “Usually when you do your top liner first you end up in no-man’s-land, because you don’t know how far to take the line or how curved it should be.”
Lesson No. 5: Get Angelina Jolie’s lips without injections
Before makeup school, I had no idea there was an ideal lip shape. Apparently, your lips are most balanced when the upper and lower lips are equal in size, or thickness, says Prior. If they’re not, you can use your knowledge of highlights and shadows to re-contour them.
Step 1: Apply foundation to your entire lip, says Napoleon Perdis. Not only does this help remove the natural pigments of your lips for truer lipstick colors, but it can also help you realize where your liplines actually are.
Step 2: Using a white eyeliner pencil, very softly feather the pencil over the natural contour of the lip. Or use the pencil to make lips fuller or thinner by drawing it past your natural lipline or within it.
Step 3: Redo the line with a lip pencil in the color of your lipstick.
Step 4: Apply lipstick with a lip brush in a downward motion. So, from your cupid’s bow to each outer corner, then from your outer corner to the center of your lower lip. This ensures an even application of the product, says Hawker.
Step 5: Apply a light shade of base foundation around the new lip line, blending to a soft edge with a lip brush.
Remember, light colors reflect light, so using lighter lip colors will give a fuller appearance. Dark colors absorb light, so they will make lips look smaller/thinner. Finally, try this popular trick used on Victoria’s Secret Angels to give the illusion of a fuller pout: Apply a dab of gloss to the top part of your Cupid’s bow and to the center of the bottom of your lip.
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