In an ideal world, you would have all the various makeup products you want, have the time and money to update them each season and have the skilled hand necessary to apply them flawlessly. But even if that’s not the case, there are simple fixes you can try to help correct the most common beauty wrongs. “Makeup is a wonderful tool to enhance your look, but used correctly, it should never look fake or like you’re wearing a mask,” says New York City makeup artist Jessica Liebeskind. Here, the makeup mistakes many women routinely make, plus how to do it right.
1. Wearing too much (or too little) makeup.
“Your makeup should be time and place appropriate—so what looks perfect for a big evening event shouldn’t be the same as what you put on to go to the grocery store or the gym,” explains Liebeskind. When you consistently overdo your makeup, you run the risk of looking like you’re trying too hard. Toning it down a notch—for a more natural look—will be a better option for every day. On the flip side, Liebeskind cautions against being so afraid of looking fake or overdone that you skip makeup altogether. Her prescription for the perfect minimal makeup: A good moisturizer, under-eye concealer, blush, curl your lashes and add a sweep of lipstick or gloss.
2. Never updating your colors, products or techniques.
Still using the same eye shadow, blush and lipstick shades you fell in love with when you first started wearing makeup? Well, unless that was just last year, chances are you’re long overdue for a trip to the makeup counter. “Just like you pay attention to which jeans are currently in style—and feel outdated if you’re still wearing bootcut when the look is straight-leg—you need to pay attention to makeup trends,” says Liebeskind. That’s not to say that you have to toss and replace all your makeup every season, or that you have to wear bright red lipstick just because that’s what the models were sporting on the fashion runways. You can find ways to make the trends your own (perhaps swapping your circa 1990s brown-toned lipstick for a wine-colored stain if reds are in fashion) so that your face looks as stylish as your wardrobe.
3. Using the wrong color foundation.
You could have beautiful skin and perfect application technique, but if you’re wearing a foundation that doesn’t exactly match your natural skin tone, the results are going to look awful. By picking a shade that’s an exact match, you’ll make it very easy to get a flawless looking face. To find the right one, Liebeskind suggests trying on three—pick the one you think is the closest color match, and also try one shade darker and one shade lighter. Go to the makeup counter with no makeup on, and swipe the three shades in stripes that run from your cheek down to your neck. As you blend each one into your skin, look for the one that blends so effortlessly it literally just disappears. That will be your perfect match.
4. Over-tweezing (or ignoring) your eyebrows.
“The brows are such a central and important feature on your face,” says Liebeskind. “And when they’re well groomed they can enhance your eyes and your entire look.” If yours are out of control, it’s worth the time and money to let a professional take tweezers to them. Get a referral from a friend in order to find someone you know will do a good job. The worst thing you—or a pro—can do is to take off too many brow hairs. “As we get older, the brows naturally become more sparse, so if you tweeze your brows too thin, they might never fully grow back,” warns Liebeskind. If you follow your brows’ natural arch—but clean up the areas over, under and between brows—you’ll find the best shape. Visit a pro for a tune-up every few months and you should be able to keep them groomed on your own in between.
5. Wearing a rainbow of eye shadow shades at once.
Just because your compact came with four or more colors packaged together doesn’t mean you have to paint them all onto your eyelids at once. In fact, Liebeskind recommends using no more than three shades at a time—a medium shade on the lids, a lighter one to highlight the brow bone, and the darkest as a liner for the top and bottom lids. For a simpler, everyday application, you could skip the liner and just use a single light shade all over the lids up to the brows.
6. Not caring for your skin.
All the makeup in the world can’t compensate for skin that isn’t well primed. In order for makeup to go on smoothly and look its best, you need to think about your skin before you start to reach for your foundation or concealer. “If the skin isn’t properly hydrated, your concealer will look cakey, your blush splotchy and your foundation won’t spread evenly,” explains Liebeskind. For dry skin, slather on a rich moisturizer or a face oil before applying makeup. Oily skin will look best if you start by washing your face with a cleanser that absorbs oil and then use a lightweight, oil-free lotion that will hydrate the skin enough for makeup to go on smoothly, but won’t make the skin greasy or shiny.
7. Choosing the wrong makeup for your skin type.
Just as using the right skincare will help your makeup look better, it’s important to be sure you’re using the right makeup formulas to enhance your skin. If your skin is on the dry side, avoid powder foundations and blushes. Creamy formulas will blend better, and if you have any fine lines or wrinkles, a cream will help smooth them over (as opposed to powders which can settle into lines and make them appear more obvious). Normal to oily skin should stick to oil-free liquids and powders. And it pays to reassess your choices every so often to make sure you’re using the right formula for the skin you have now: You may have had oily skin since your teenage years, but if you are now over 40, chances are your skin is starting to shift toward the dryer side.
8. Going to bed with your makeup on.
“If you’re going to take the time to put it on, you’ve got to also take the time to take it off,” says Liebeskind. Leaving your makeup on overnight can clog your pores (not to mention getting your pillowcase dirty), plus, if you’re not removing your makeup, you’re not caring for your skin by cleansing and applying an appropriate night cream. To make a clean sweep: Use a makeup remover pad first to get rid of eye makeup and anything else that might not come off with your face cleanser (like a long-wearing lipstick).Follow with your usual facial cleanser to finish the job.
9. Paying too much attention to one feature on your face.
There’s a fine line between enhancing your favorite feature and overdoing it. “You don’t want to overcompensate so much that instead of seeing your bright, pretty eyes, all people notice is your elaborate eye makeup,” says Liebeskind. The trick is to play up your eyes more subtly and then add a little makeup to the rest of your face. For instance, just because you don’t want to call attention to your mouth doesn’t mean you have to leave it naked. Use a pretty, natural pink lipstick or gloss so that it still looks well-groomed, if not eye-catching.
10. Trying to draw on larger-than-life lips.
You’ve probably read advice from a makeup artist who suggested lining your lips outside your natural line in order to make your pout look fuller. “It’s not that it’s bad advice, but most women don’t have the technique to pull it off without looking silly,” says Liebeskind. A more foolproof approach: Apply your lipstick or gloss first and then take a pencil (in the exact same shade as your lipstick or gloss) and draw a light, thin line just at the outermost edge of your mouth. “The goal isn’t to make your lips look like you got silicone injections, but just to create the best version of what your lips can be,” she says.
11. Attempting to create contours that don’t exist.
Using darker shades of blush to try to brush on an optical illusion of more prominent cheekbones or a less prominent nose is a trick best left to professionals making someone up for photography or film. This is one technique that rarely works in the real world. No matter how skilled you are with the makeup brush, it’s nearly impossible to use dark colors that aren’t glaringly obvious when viewed in person, especially in broad daylight. Focus instead on pretty, soft makeup that plays up your best features.
12. Confusing concealer with cover up.
They may sound like they are intended to serve the same purpose, but according to Liebeskind, there is a big difference between the two. Concealer is what you use under your eyes to disguise dark circles and brighten the skin. It should be creamy in consistency and should be one or two shades lighter than your perfectly-matched foundation. Cover up—which should be used to camouflage blemishes or other flaws—needs to be exactly the same shade as your foundation. In fact, unless you want a treated cover up (designed to help dry up pimples), your foundation can double as your cover up. Use a small foundation brush to dab the product onto the blemish and set with translucent pressed powder.