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Makeup 101: Your Crash Course on the Essentials + How to Use Them

Don’t get us wrong: We love a show-stopping makeup look as much as the next girl. But makeup basics are important. They’re what help you with your base makeup routine that gets you ready in just five minutes flat every. single. day. and the hacks that can take you from office to date in just a few simple steps. We spend a lot of time breaking beauty down to the essentials, but here, we’re going even further into 101 territory: we’re talking a what’s what of your makeup kit. Whether you’ve glossed over the nitty gritty of each product or are just learning how to build a routine that fits your personality or schedule, consider this your guide to keeping makeup simple and approachable. This foundation of knowledge can also be your stepping stone into the more advanced, creative ways to use makeup. Here’s everything you need to know about makeup basics and how to use them.

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Foundation + Concealer

Foundations

Foundation: Beyond your skincare routine, foundation is what makes your skin appear flawless; it evens out your skin tone and conceals any subtle blemishes or discolorations on your face. The most important aspect of foundation to consider is coverage. Generally speaking, there are two ways to go. If you want lighter coverage then opt for a tinted moisturizer, a slightly colored cream that you can swipe on with your fingers to give your skin a wash of color. This is the lazy girl’s M.O. If you’re interested in more coverage then liquid foundation — the classic form of foundation — is your best bet. This foundation is best applied with either your fingers, a flat synthetic foundation brush or a sponge blender.

Take it to the next level with concealer: When you really want to be sleuthy, add concealer to your routine. It’s your go-to for things like covering blemishes and more apparent skin discolorations, and can also be used to brighten and even out your under eye area. Concealer comes in different mediums like creams, sticks and liquids. Similarly to foundation, you’ll pick your product based on the level of coverage you need for your skin type.

Bronzer + Highlighter

Bronzer

Bronzer: Imagine bronzer as sunshine in powder form. When you apply foundation to your skin you even out your skin tone, but you’re also getting rid of the natural shadows and highlights on your face. Think of the bronzer as your way to use shadow to create depth or to give the illusion of moving a part of your face back. This is the first step to adding warmth and dimension back into your face. The “right” bronzer for your skin tone should look like a naturally tan version of you, not too orange and not too dark.

For extra illumination use highlighter: Highlighter is essentially the opposite of your bronzer. Rather than making a part of your face look smaller, you will use the brightness of a highlighter to bring out areas of your face (When you see images of a gal who has that glowing dewy-looking skin, there is a very good chance that she is wearing highlighter. Secrets revealed!). You can get highlighters that are golden, pearlescent and opalescent. There are also other variations, such as matte highlighter, which gives you the brightness without the shimmer. Finding a highlighter that works well on your skin tone and for your personality is pretty simple.

Blush + Cream Blush

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Blush: When you’re not wearing any makeup, you’ll be able to see a natural flush of color on your cheeks. But again, after applying a little foundation, you’re covering that up in attempt to get a more even base to work with. Enter blush, the product that adds life to your features (um yeah, you can wear blush on more parts of your face than just your cheeks). Because blush comes in so many hues, you can take it literally and match your natural flush or use a more playful hue to make your look more vibrant. Typically, beginners will wear powder blush because it’s usually easier to apply for a more natural finish.

Pump it up with cream blush: Cream blush is a really fun way to take wearing blush to another level — it’s more pigmented, and therefore a bolder way to wear blush. To take it even further, you can apply a cream blush as your base and set it in place with a powder blush for an even brighter punch of color that will last all day.

Eyeshadow + Smokey Eye

Eyeshadow

Eyeshadow: When it’s used on its own as a single shade, eyeshadow is purely cosmetic. As a minimalist or beginner, you can apply a sweep of a single shadow across your eyelid for a subtle pop of color.

Get your blend on with a smokey eye: For a more advanced gal who wants to take eyeshadow to the next level there’s the smokey eye. The concept here is to create dimension using a base shade, highlight shade and contour shade just like you would do on your face, but focusing on your eyelids only. You can use endless color combinations as long as you keep the basic approach the same. To build a dramatic look, use a neutral color on your eyelids, a deeper medium hue in your creases and a brighter shadow on your brow bones and the inside corners of your eyes.

Eyeliner + Brow Pencil

Eyeliner

Eyeliner: Eyeliner is all about enhancing the shape and color of your eyes. There are several techniques you can use, but beginners should keep application simple by using a pencil along their lower lash line to create definition and along the upper lash line to make eyelashes look fuller. Simple as that.

For further definition use a brow pencil: The idea of filling in your eyebrows can be a little intimidating for the gal who has never gone there, but once you’re ready to accentuate your eyes further, this is the way to go. Eyebrow enhancement can actually change the entire look of your face — this is why we’re considering it a more advanced makeup route. You can try powders, creams and other variations of mediums, but the easiest way to fill in and shape your eyebrows tends to be an eyebrow pencil that you can get in a hue to complement the natural color of your eyebrows.

Mascara + Eyelash Curler

Mascara

Mascara: This was actually my gateway to makeup; I wore mascara before anything else. Mascara is a great way to give your entire face a little extra pop without having to learn all the other techniques. I recommend that you pick a mascara that’s not waterproof to start because it will be much easier to take off later. The formulas are typically designed to enhance length or volume and the biggest actual difference is usually the shape of the brush. Try to find a mascara that has a smaller application brush so you can have more control when putting it on.

Turn up the volume with an eyelash curler: This device looks scary as heck (I always make sure to be gentle with this little contraption), but it’s totally clutch when it comes to getting va-va-voom lashes. It’s a must for certain looks, but you have to make sure you use it correctly or else you can — eek! — break or rip out your eyelashes. Be sure to watch a tutorial that offers tips and tricks as to how to use it properlly before you get on this train!

Lip Color + Lip Liner

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Lip Color: We’re not just talking color — the choices are endless — but we’re also talking types of lip color. There’s lip balm, gloss, tints, creme sticks and stains. The main difference you should be aware of is that each one carries a different level of pigment, aka the amount of color that will show up on your pout; this can vary from brand to brand. The easiest intro to lip color is to start off with the less pigmented options and work your way up to the bolder hues that take more effort to apply and maintain.

For an even more perfect pucker use lip liner: While lip liner is a next-level product, it’s one that I highly recommend using whenever you choose to wear any type of lipstick or darker pigmented lip color. Lip liners essentially create a barrier to keep the lipstick on your lips and prevent the color from bleeding or feathering onto the perimeter of your mouth. In other words, it’s the secret to totally kissable lips.

What brands do you swear by for beauty basics? Follow us on Pinterest for more hair and makeup inspiration.