Makeup 101

We came, we saw, we contoured.

Stepping into makeup aisle territory can be overwhelming to some. Tremendous existential questions arise: “Why are there so many different face powders? What in the world is a Shimmer Skinstick? Is all this stuff really necessary? What if makeup is actually a social construct?”

Oftentimes, such complicated questions give way to a quick detour into the candy aisle and that’s the end of your potential career as a YouTube Makeup Guru. However, at some point you may want to know the real basics you must stock up on. Here are some tips for makeup beginners which should help you purchase everything you need in a single online order.

1. The Base

In order to make your skin feel baby soft and ensure that foundation looks flawless on it, you’ll want to invest in a good base (also known as foundation primer).


If you have oily skin, a matte-ifying primer such as the Benefit POREfessional ($12) would be ideal. Dry skin needs a slightly more hydrating primer such as the Lancome Le Base Pro ($40). If you have regular skin and enjoy feeling fancy, try the Gucci Silk Priming Serum ($52).

2. The Foundation

Foundation covers up all your sunspots and small blemishes so you basically look like you have perfect skin.

The L’Oreal True Match foundation (From $7.49 at Target) comes in 33 shades so there will always be a shade to match your skin. It also blends very easily and doesn’t make your face look cakey.

Remember the most important rule: It has to match your actual skin tone! Sephora has some neat devices which they use to calculate the exact tone of your skin.

Some more tips:

  • Hold the bottle up to your neck so the shade will match your face and not produce the dreaded makeup jawline.
  • Spread it on half your face and then use a mirror to see your reflection in the sunlight. This is how you can tell most accurately if it matches.

3. The Concealer

Sometimes, there are portions of your face which need more brightening. (For example, the dark under-eye circles or a small blemish.) You can apply concealer to all of those areas for extra coverage.


The Benefit Brightening Concealer ($20) works wonders on puffy under-eyes and the Yves Saint Laurent Concealer ($34) lasts for 16 hours and instantly takes care of redness and discoloration of any sort.

4. The Eyes

First of all: Mascara! It pays to invest in one that’s extra lengthening and doesn’t clump.

Secondly: Eyeliner. It’s insane how this single line drawn on top of your lashes brings out so much of your eyes’ sparkle. When you get used to wearing it every day, you almost don’t recognize yourself without it.

A fantastic mascara and eyeliner are must-haves. Sometimes they come together!


Burberry has a mascara that creates a cat-eye effect ($30) and the Covergirl Clump Crusher is one product you may as well buy two of because you will use it forever ($4.49).

After you have your go-to liner and mascara, you can start experimenting with eye shadow and eyebrow pencils. (Coming soon: “Eye Makeup 101”)

5. The Lips

From cherry-red to shimmery gloss, lips are so fun to play up. If you’re opting for a more au naturel look, try the Chanel rose-tinted gloss ($37) and use only the dry side. This adds a rosy sheen to your lips without it being too noticeable, glossy or sticky.


Glosses are also super fun – Glossier has one lip balm (called Birthday Balm Dotcom) which smells like Milkbar’s famous vanilla birthday cake ($12).

6. The Tools

You may have been created with the best makeup tools (Your fingers!) but to apply your base and foundation, you’ll definitely want some kind of sponge/brush to blend the cosmetics into your face.

Sponges like the Beauty Blender ($16.99) are great for a flawless finish on a full face, while brushes work for concentrated placement on a certain area (like applying concealer on under-eyes).


Margaret McKinney is a contributor at and a recent graduate from Richmond, the American International University in London. When she’s not writing or studying, she can be found scouring the web for new makeup that she probably doesn’t need.

Cover photo shot by Ian Dooley

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