Foundation, makeup brushes, base, eye shadow…there are so many products out there, and so intimidating for beginners! With so many different usages, it’s difficult to not get confused…questions such as “should I be using liquid or powder foundation?” are common, and this entry is here to answer a few of such questions. With some knowledge of what each product does, you’ll be able to learn to, not only to apply to your face, also which ones you will want to invest in and which ones to save your money on.
Without further ado, here are the common items you will encounter, a description of what they do, what tips to look for, recommended brands, and whether to splurge or save your money for other goodies.
Because there is such a huge list of makeup products out there, I’ll be breaking this down into different entries for easier reading…starting with the basis: products for the face.
Face: The Main Canvas
Imagine yourself waking up and seeing that you’ve developed a few pimples and dark circles from way too many late nights. How did you feel when you saw yourself in such a state? Ideally, you’ll probably want to do a little bit of cover up with the pimples and dark circles while evening out the skin tone to a more consistent colour.
The main factor here is how the complexion of your skin looks that will determine how fresh or tired you look. Paying more attention to your skin appearance will set the basis for other makeup applications – a good complexion will naturally make your eye makeup look better. Similarly, even if you use the same eye makeup on poor complexion, you may look more drained than it is meant to look.
What it does: Primarily used to remove your makeup, but it also acts as a cleanser to prep your skin before applying anything else.
What to look for: They come either water based or oil based. You will want to get a good brand for water based removers as they will not make your face feel clogged with the oils and get cleaning job done. Save the oil ones for hard to remove eye makeup only.
How to use it: There are 2 main uses for makeup removers:
1. Cleaning your skin before makeup application. Use this on a cotton pad to gently scrub your skin (especially the nose crannies next to your nostrils) to remove the dirt and any dead skin cells. Should leave you feeling refreshed.
2. Removing makeup after your event. Use this on a cotton pad to wipe and clean makeup products from your face.
Splurge or save: Splurge reasonably with a water based remover. The oil based removers will make your skin feel grungy – use it to only remove eye makeup.
- Water based: Bioderma Sensibio H2O (pink cap!), great for sensitive skin and gets the job done without hassle.
- Oil based: Lancome Bi-Facil, shake it before dabbing the solution onto a cotton pad, leave on closed eyelids for around 10 seconds to let it work before wiping away. Fantastic for removing waterproof eye liner and mascara.
Makeup Aqua Gel Base
What it does: Moisturizes the face while forming a barrier between the foundation and the skin, as well as creating a solid base for the foundation to hold on.
What to look for: Many people use oil based moisturizers – but this will cause the makeup the slide and result in “melted makeup” moments. Instead, look for a good water based gel that’s cool to the touch and slightly tacky after application.
How to use it: Apply a thin layer twice to the entire face. Sweep with slight pressure to ensure your skin is well hydrated during the first application – this will help moisturize your skin and to keep the cells plumped. Apply a thin second layer until it’s slightly tacky to the touch. This will act as the makeup base.
Splurge or save: Save. There are lots of reasonably priced water gel moisturizers available in the market that you can choose from.
- Hadanomy Collagen Cream is my go-to must have for my base. It doesn’t break the bank and it’s a great product that holds my makeup while keeping my skin hydrated without feeling gooey.
- If you want to spoil yourself, both Bobbi Brown Hydrating Gel Cream and Nars Aqua Gel are good alternatives.
What it does: Evens out the skin tone and covers up most visible blemishes.
What to look for: Ideally, liquid foundation that comes in a bottle works best for fuller coverage, especially if you’ll be using it for your performance or competition. (Cake pressed and powder foundation covered later in this post.) Make sure the colour matches the skin colour on your neck as a different shade will make you appear you’re wearing a mask.
*Important note for men: Go 1-2 shades more tan than your natural skin colour on your neck. You will appear much more natural than using one that’s the same shade as your natural skin.
How to use it: Use either your fingers or a makeup sponge.
- Fingers: Squeeze a small dollop on the back of your non-dominant hand (which will serve as a palette). Use your ring finger to apply in sweeping movements on the face. Pat with the pads of your fingertips to remove streak marks.
- Makeup sponge: Squeeze a small dollop on the back of your non-dominant hand. Use the sponge and apply to in sweeping movements.
- Start with the cheeks, then forehead, then nose and chin, and finally the eyes. This will make the application more even.
- Apply quickly: Remember the makeup base? Make use of the slight tackiness from the aqua gel residue that’s already on your face to ensure that the foundation doesn’t become patchy.
- In case of zits and dark circles: Use your finger or makeup sponge, and apply just a little more on top of these problem areas. This will reduce the need for using concealers. Pat gently to reduce the cakiness and to even out the coverage.
Splurge or save: Splurge a little, at least use a reputed brand.
- If you will be performing/competing and know you will be sweating a lot, MAC Pro Longwear line is the way to go.
- For daily use, both MAC Studio Fix Fluid and Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation are highly recommended since they don’t cake the skin too much.
What it does: Acts as cover up for problem areas such as zits and dark circles.
What to look for: Concealers are usually much thicker than foundations as they act as cover up for problem skin. Look for one that comes in a cream format in small containers or more fluid versions that come in small bottle pumps. Get a colour that’s slightly lighter than your foundation, preferably from the same brand since the colour difference will be less than using one that’s produced by a different company.
How to use it: In most situations, I avoid using concealer altogether since the foundation already does the job (see above note for foundation application tricks) and concealer tends to appear much thicker after application. But in case of a super angry zit, read on…
- Giant zit cover up: Apply a dollop of concealer on the back of your hand and mix in a little bit of the foundation you’re using. This will even out the colours a little. Using either your pinky fingertip or a concealer brush, aim the product directly on top of the zit. Reapply if necessary. Dab gently around the problem spot to bring the concealer and foundation together.
Splurge or save: Forego this product if you are able to do coverage with foundation alone. Otherwise, buy from the same brand that you’re using your foundation with.
- Both MAC‘s Studio Finish Concealer and Pro Longwear series work well with MAC‘s foundation.
What it does: Dry foundation in powder form to set the liquid foundation that you have already previously applied, as well as decrease unwanted shininess shown in oily skin. Another bonus function is that it lets your eye makeup stay on longer.
What to look for: Ideally, loose powders work better, but because the nature of their messiness where it can spill everywhere, they’re losing popularity compared to pressed versions. Again, it’s preferable to use a product that’s the same brand as your foundation in a similar colour.
*Note about mineral/shiny powder variations: Do not under any circumstances get these. While they appear really pretty and shiny in the container, because of the shininess, they will draw more attention to problem areas rather than away from them, making your skin look more bumpy than smooth in the end. Make sure your powder comes out as matte when shopping for this product.
How to use it: Apply this after you’re done with the foundation and concealer.
- Rub a hard makeup sponge into the powder in a few circles. This will let the sponge collect the product.
- Rub this in small circles into the palm of your non-dominant hand first. This will allow excess powder to come off from the sponge.
- Flick your finger onto the sponge as hard as you can. Again, this is to remove the excess powder. You will see a small puff of powder explosion when performing this action.
- Pat directly in the following order as according to the level of oiliness: under eyes, nose, forehead just above eyes, chin, rest of your face – including your eyes. This will make sure that the oils on your face will remain at bay.
- When out of product on your sponge, use the remaining loose powder in your hand first for less product wastage.
Splurge or save: Again, same brand as your foundation and same rules as for your concealer.
- MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation. Some people might use this on its own for daily wear, but BB Cream would be preferable for this purpose (more on this later in this post).
What it does: Adds a rosy colour to the cheeks.
What to look for: Depending on what you’re going for (whether you’re going for a more natural look, or a more dramatic version), find colours that complement your skin tone.
How to use it: There are 2 main areas on your cheeks where you can apply this for different variations, depending on the style you’re going for:
- Natural look: Smile (with your teeth showing) in the mirror and locate the area directly from the corner of your mouth to the bottom of the eye. Apply a more natural looking blush colour in circles with a blush in this area. This version is popular for Korean and “cutie face” style makeup.
- Dramatic look: Smile in the mirror and locate the bulge just underneath the eye where your cheekbone is. Apply only on the tops of your cheekbones in a diagonal direction. Use circles motions to blend a little. This variation is more popular with catwalk style makeup.
Splurge or save: Either or. If you’re just starting out, there are plenty of products you can pick and choose from to experiment.
My general go-to for blush is Benefit cosmetics – they produce very good blush colours for so many skin tones.
- For a more naturally flushed look, Benefit Dandelion Face Powder is the way to go. Can also dust a little on the forehead and chin areas for a slight glow.
- One of the best all-rounder blushes I’ve come across to date is Benefit Hervana, the colour suits most skin tones and comes out beautifully. (I did a review on this product in an earlier entry, I absolutely love it.)
What it does: Easier to use than using different shades of foundation, its primary function is to contour and add dimension to your face (particularly useful when you know you’ll be photographed with flash lights). However, especially when under bright lights, it’s to also help differentiate where the jawline is and to bring your hairline together with your makeup.
What to look for: Usually comes in the form of a pressed powder, looking a little like a slightly darker colour of milk chocolate. It shouldn’t be too brown as you wouldn’t want it to be obvious to the eye that you’ve been contouring your face. Again, as with my comment about the pressed foundation powder, make sure it comes out as matte.
How to use it: Use a large angled brush, and apply to the following areas:
- On jawline: Apply the brush directly underneath the jawline where the edge of the face is, working your way from the place where the jaw connects to the neck all the way to the chin. Lightly sweep downwards towards your neck. This will accentuate your jawline.
- In the hollows of your cheeks: Suck your cheeks inwards to find where the curve underneath the cheekbones is. Starting from your hair, sweep your brush and follow the hollow underneath the cheekbone. Sweep going from a stronger to a lighter stroke touch.
- In the hairline: Dab the product directly where the hairline meets your face. This will bring your foundation together with your hairline to not look like you’re wearing a mask on your face.
Splurge or save: If you’re able to find a good shading powder at drugstore prices, by all means, save.
- If you’re able to source this (likely at a shop that sells Asian makeup brands), Japanese made CANMAKE Shading Powder  in Danish Brown is a fabulous product that I swear by.
- Should you be unable to find CANMAKE in your area, MAC Sculpting Powder Shadster works great as an alternative.
What it does: Aside from refreshing your face, works great as a makeup setter once your makeup is complete.
What to look for: Many big makeup brands have their own face mister versions. There are no hard rules here as this is based mostly on personal preference, but do look out for quality misters that the pump sprays tiny mists instead of huge droplets of water that can ruin your makeup.
How to use it: Only use it once you’re fully done with your makeup.
- Close your eyes in a relaxed manner. Make sure you’re not squeezing them shut as you will create creases in various places.
- Hold your mister pointed towards you about a foot away from your face.
- As you squeeze the spray, flick your wrist away from your face. This will allow for better distribution of the mist without concentrating the water into one area.
Splurge or save: This is not a must-have product and can be based on your personal preference, but it works great as a finishing touch.
My personal overall favourites are MAC Mineralize Charge Water and Shu Uemura Depsea Water Facial Mist (6 different fragrances to choose from!)
I’ve written a detailed entry on this earlier, but I’ll do a summary here for easier reference.
What it does: While the coverage is not as extensive as using proper foundation products, BB creams are fantastic to use while on the road and as a daily wear makeup product.
What to look for: They come in either tubes or compact versions. In general, compact would be preferable if you don’t want to get your hands dirty (also ideal for those times when you’ve got somewhere to go at the last minute).
How to use it: Use the same techniques as using liquid foundation with a sponge without the need to apply to your non-dominant hand first.
Splurge or save: Again, personal preference works here and some of us are likely to already have a favourite product that works for them.
Again, out of personal preference, my go-to product is MAC Prep + Prime BB Beauty Balm Compact for convenience and its easy to use format.
While there are many makeup products out there, these are the ones that are most commonly encountered for the face. By no means are these instructions a “must follow”, such as application techniques and what not, but these serve merely as general guidelines that can help you choose your products and build your makeup supply kit.
What are your favourite products? Have I missed anything out? Let me know in the comments! Share this article with a friend who might find this information about makeup products useful!
Image source: Maria Morri
*Disclaimer: All products listed in this post are based on personal experience and by no means am I affiliated with the brands.