Makeup For Dummies

When I first started experimenting with makeup, there was no complete guidebook listing what was for what, how to apply each product, and what would work best for me. It took years of trial and error to finally find my holy grail products and create a routine that worked perfectly for me. So for makeup beginners, I decided to compile a list of makeup products, what they're for, and what I recommend. I hope it helps! 



Applying a primer is one of the best ways to ensure that your makeup doesn't move an inch as you go about your day-to-day activities. Like a painter usually paints a canvas white to ensure the colors pop, a primer provides a protective base for your makeup that enhances color and prevents fading.

+ Face Primer - To be applied after a moisturizer and before foundation. Some face primers are gel-like and have no color while some are lightly tinted to add a natural glow your skin. Benefit Cosmetic's Porefessional primer targets pores and oil to create a mattified, blurred out effect while ELF's illuminating primer has gold flecks and shimmer to shine through any foundation topped onto it. Primers can be a lifesaver for oily, combination skin (like mine!).

+ Eye Primer - Like a face primer, eye primers are used to set makeup and ensure a great color pay-off and full pigment. Eye primers also do a great job of preventing nasty creasing and melting that happens with oily lids and the usual eye movements like blinking. Bonus: It keeps those eyeliner wings sharp and unfaded! Urban Decay's Eyeshadow Primer Potion works wonders and a little goes a loooooooong way.



Applied to even skin tone and complexion. Foundations come in liquids, powders, creams and have varying ranges of coverage. It's important to find a foundation that matches your natural skin tone, doesn't cause dryness, and does not clog your pores or cause you to break out. At Sephora, they've always recommended powder foundations for my oily skin but told me that I could use a medium coverage liquid foundation then set it with a matching powder. It really depends on your skin type and what kind of coverage you are looking for.

+ Cushion - Incredibly popular is South Korea, cushion foundation is liquid foundation applied with a special cushion sponge to create an even, polished look by simply tapping the cushion onto the face. There's no mess, no creams to apply to the back of your hand, and no need for brushes and 'beating' your face with a beauty blender to even things out. The cushion allows the foundation to be more buildable and applied without looking streaky.

+ Liquid - Regular liquid foundation is usually applied with a dense, flat top brush and dotted around the face then later evenly spread out and blended. Some used their fingertips to dot and a sponge to blend it in. It tends to have a more airbrushed finish since it doesn't settle into fine lines or bumps and dents as much as powder foundation.

+ Stick - Usually lightweight, highly pigmented and blendable, stick foundations are a great on-the-go product. The key is to find a shade that matches your skin and blend, blend, blend with your finger or a sponge. Maybelline's Fit Me foundation stick does a good enough job but needs improvement in the staying power and consistency departments. It has light to medium coverage and feels a bit heavy with a thick, sticky consistency. Anastasia Beverly Hills recently released its own stick foundations for a wide range of skin tones and has received great reviews.

+ Powder - Applies best with a brush and tends stays put in warm weather. It provides more sheer to medium coverage and is great for oily skin because it tends to absorb oil. Unlike liquid foundation, powder is easy to reapply throughout the day but be careful not to layer on too much and look cakey. When I use liquid foundation, I apply a light layer of powder to set it.

+ Mousse - Made to be fluffy, lightweight, and matte with good coverage. Similar to cushion foundation, it can be applied and blended with a sponge. According to several articles, it is recommended for dry or 'mature' skin since it doesn't have the tendency to cake up like other foundations. I have used Maybelline's Dream Matte Mousse and it didn't work well for me. It made my already oily skin feel slick and since they don't have a wide color range, I was stuck with a color that didn't quite match.



Used to mask pimples, dark spots, dark eye bags/circles, red areas, and small blemishes. They can come in a color that matches your skin tone or as color correcting shades of purple, green, and yellow. Some apply it in inverted triangles underneath the eyes while some dot around the face to cover specific blemishes and spots before blending with a sponge and/or topping with foundation.


BB Cream

Up until recently, I wasn't sure what the BB in BB cream stood for. Apparently, it stands for blemish balm. I've never used one myself but according to some articles, BB cream is great for healing skin and moisturizing while also providing as much coverage as a foundation. It seems to be promoted as a one stop shop, all-in-one facial beauty product that combines a moisturizer, primer, foundation, healing serum, sunblock, and concealer in one bottle. Why haven't I tried this yet?!

  • Update: I have tried BB cream and it's legit! I used the Maybelline Dream Pure BB Cream in 130 medium/deep. First off, it felt much lighter than my usual liquid foundation or concealer. It had sheer coverage but was buildable enough. It definitely brightened up my face and after weeks of use, I had no break outs. 



Contour Palette

Contouring is the art of using light and shadow to mold a flat, one-dimensional face into a face that could set fire to a thousand fckboys. It gives the illusion of a slimmer face, sharper jawline, more chiseled bone structure, and more depth. Contouring is also something I have tried and failed to fully master. Getting the shading and highlight down can be tricky and resisting the urge to pile on product can be difficult. Just remember that the goal is to enhance beauty not create a whole new face. 


  • Blend, blend, blend, and more blending! When you think you're done blending, blend more.
  • Pick the right colors. Find shades and textures that work for you. 
  • Avoid too much shimmer. 
  • Apply products in the proper order. Trust me, it makes a difference. 


  • Over-apply. Remember, the goal is to look effortless. 
  • Contour in a poorly lit room. What looks good in front of a mirror may not too good in person or in natural light. 
  • Go too dark. You want to look chiseled and sun-kissed not dirty. 

Check out a step by step guide to contouring here and here



Used to highlight specific parts of the face and create a 'glow'. They are meant to draw attention to the high points of the face such as the top of the cheekbones, middle of the forehead, nose bridge, cupid's bow, high brow (arch of the brow), and chin. Some have added glitter or shimmer to further brighten the face while others are more subdued and matte to create a more natural glow.



A little blush can make a big difference. Blush is used to redden cheeks to give a "youthful", pinched-by-my-aunt flush and also highlight cheekbones. It's deceptively easy to go overboard with it though. Most blushes are highly pigmented and a few too many swipes with an angled blush can make you look more like the victim of a severe slapping session or of an allergic reaction. Apply blush to the apples of your cheeks and blend well. For a more natural flush, I use Wet N Wild's Rose Champagne blush and for more 80s heavy blush, I swipe a bit of hot pink or bright berry-toned blush.

+ Liquid - Several brands offer cheek stains that usually double as lip stains. The bottles resemble those of nail polish, often with a similar applicator: a small brush to swipe across the cheeks and blend in with a blush brush, sponge, or fingers. Benefit's Benetint cheek stain has a very runny consistency and applies in a streak that you have to quickly blend out before it dries. On the plus side, a little goes a long way. A few dots on each cheek is quite enough.

+ Airbrush - Sephora offers airbrush makeup including airbrush blush. They claim to be waterproof, buildable, and long-lasting. I have tried to applied it at a Sephora branch and it can be a bit of a challenge to spray it on consistently and with proper placement. According to some reviews, it's a pretty wet, messy process and since the product dries quite fast, you need to move fast to blend it out.

+ Cream - Colourpop blushes have a creamy, thick consistency that is difficult to manipulate with a brush. Cream blushes tend to be pigmented so use it sparingly and build color little by little. I use the rounded bottom of my blending sponge to pick up color and pat into the apples of my cheeks. Using fingers to lightly blend also works. 

+ Powder - Powder blush is the most popular kind. It's easy to control the intensity of the color and application is simple with a blush or angled brush. Tap brush into your blush palette, shake out any excess and be as light-handed as possible when applying. Remember: It's easier to add more color than to remove color.



Used to achieve a warm, sun-kissed glow and tanned look. It is often used to lightly contour and give sallow, pale skin more healthy coloring. On my medium tan skin, I use darker bronzers to contour. I apply bronzer at my temples and around my jaw to lightly create some shadows and the illusion of sun exposure even in the dead of winter.



Used to enhance, elongate, and define the eyes. Depending on how it is applied or the kind of look you are hoping to achieve, eyeliner can add depth, give a more wide-awake look, or give the illusion of bigger eyes. Applying black eyeliner along upper and lower waterlines is sexy and smoky but may also make the eyes seem smaller, more closed. Applying white or nude liner to the lower waterline opens up the eyes white applying dark liner balances out the eyes.

+ Gel - Usually comes in a small pot and applied with an angled brush. Gel liner is easier to work with that liquid eyeliner. It is also ideal for creating a smoky, smudged out look since the formula is creamy and quite thick. Gel liner can be a nightmare for oily lids so be sure to use eyeshadow primer and allow it to set after applying to avoid any mishaps.

+ Pencil - This is the easiest to use but doesn't apply as smoothly or boldly as other kinds of eyeliner. It's great for creating simple lines along the lash line and the waterline but not so much for winged liner looks. If you're a beginner, it's best to start with a pencil liner.

+ Liquid - The go-to product for winged liner. Liquid eyeliner is best for precision and creating a smooth, bold line. It also happens to be the most difficult eyeliner to apply. They can come in a small tube with a thin brush or as a marker with a fine tapered tip.



Used to add dimension and depth to eyes as well as draw attention to them. Eyeshadows come in an array of colors and finishes that help you achieve your desired look. Shimmery eyeshadow instantly adds sass and glam to a plain face while matte eyeshadow has an elegant, sexy effect. Some use eyeshadow to make eyes appear larger or complement certain eye colors. The uses and possibilities are endless! 

Eyeshadows usually come in a powder form that can be applied with a brush or fingertips. The powders can be pressed into a palette or individual containers while some are sold as loose pigments. Pressed powders are easier to apply and to control the amount of product you pick up while loose pigments can be a bit messy. Eyeshadows can also come in liquids, pencils, creams, mousse forms.



Eyebrow Fillers

Thick, razor sharp brows have been all the rage lately and eyebrow products have never been more in-demand. About a year ago, I got my eyebrows threaded for the first time and started using a brow gel. A few weeks ago, I got my first eyebrow wax and purchased my first brow pencil. Different products, different outcomes so just find one that works for you.

+ Gels - Brow gels are meant for brows that are barely-there and need some color to make them stand out. They are also great for unruly brows and keeping strands in line. Some gels like Benefit's Gimme Brow are tinted to match, deepen, and define eyebrows while others are clear. Brow gels are usually in small containers with mascara-like spools. Tip: Back comb eyebrow hairs first then comb into place.

+ Wax/Pomade - Every single makeup artist I follow has worn and raved about Anastasia Beverly Hills' Dip Brow Pomade. They are applied using an angled brush and fill and set your brows. I've never used them myself but they are notorious for creating intense, thick, razor sharp brows that won't budge all day.

+ Pencil - Brow pencils are great for all brows and a great on-the-go brow product. They're easy to use and a quick fix for shaping, defining, and filling brows. Find a brow pencil that matches your hair color and apply in short strokes.

+ Powder - When I first started experimenting with my brows, I opted for a Sephora brow powder. They are made for sparse brows that need filling and maybe to improve coloring. Tip: I was told to always start at the center of the brow where it should be darkest the work my way through the rest of the brow.



If I could only choose to wear one type of makeup for the rest of my life, I would pick mascara. It is used to darken, lengthen, thicken, and volumize lashes to open up and draw attention to the eyes. It works wonders and instantly gives you a more polished, bright look.

Mascaras comes with a variety of wands and spools. Find one that gives you what you are looking for, has a good quality wand, does not flake or clump, and does not bleed out and give you panda eyes.

My favorites: TooFaced Better Than Sex mascara, Essence Lash Princess False Lash Effect mascara, L'Oreal Voluminous Superstar mascara, Maybelline Volum' Express The Rocket mascara



Used to decorate and draw attention to the lips. They come in a variety of finishes from

+ Sheer - With low pigmentation, sheer lipsticks work more like lip balms with a hint of color. They are perfect for more natural and subdued looks. 

+ Satin - Just as hydrating as sheer lipstick but not quite as pigmented as cream or matte.

+ Cream - Cream lipsticks are the perfect mix of gloss and matte. They are highly pigmented and moisturizing which makes it perfect for everyday wear. They don't usually have as much staying power as matte lipsticks since they dry down to a more dewy finish. Tip: wear with lip liner to prevent bleeding and feathering and to give the lipstick a base in case it fades.

+ Metallic - The 90s are back in style including the metallic, foiled lips. Every brand, drugstore or otherwise, seems to have jumped on the bandwagon. They are available in a wide variety of colors and finishes included metallic glosses.

+ Frosted - Pearlescent lipstick is hard to pull off. They usually come in lighter shades so it's important to find a color that works well with your skin tone. Another issue is that because of all the shimmer, generously applied frosted lips just end up looking bad and costume-y. Despite all that, celebrities like Rihanna have been able to rock the 80s lip trend. 

+ Matte - With a suede-like finish and no shine, matte lipsticks are all about drama. They are usually highly pigmented and long lasting. Matte lipsticks tend to be drying and cakey especially when applying more than one layer which makes them likely to pill and flake. To avoid emphasizing wrinkles and drying lips out, use a lip balm before applying. 

My favorite brands: Anastasia Beverly Hills, Kat Von D Beauty, Urban Decay, and Colourpop.

Lip Liner

Used to define lips, fill uneven areas, outline, and prevent lipsticks from bleeding or feathering. Lip liner can be used in a number of ways: outlining the liners before applying lipstick to keep in within the lip area, applied all over the lip then topped with lipstick to deepen the color and make it longer lasting, or worn alone as lipstick. Lip liner should generally match the lipstick you intend to use but it's not unusual for some to use a darker liner to make lips look plumper or create an ombre lip look.


Makeup Removing Wipes

Used to remove makeup to prevent clogged pores, pimples, and other breakouts. Makeup removing wipes have become an essential for me. After a long day, I am far too lazy to go through a whole makeup removal routine with cotton pads, makeup removing liquid or cream, toning, cleanser, etc. I love Garnier SkinActive cleansing wipes but for times when I'm not too keen on spending $5 for a pack of wipes, I go turn to Wet N Wild's Under The Sheet wipes for $2.99.


Setting Spray

After spending an hour painting on my face, I'll be damned if I let it all melt away after a few hours in the summer heat. Setting spray is what allows me to put makeup on at 5:30am and still have my eyeshadow shining and shimmering in full, untouched force after working out at 6:00pm. For instances when I know I'm going to be having a hell of a day, I apply setting spray twice, once after setting my foundation and another after the whole look is done.


Face/Setting Powder

Used to give you that extra-perfect, Barbie doll, 'chiseled from the finest marble' look. Setting powders are often translucent but they can also be tinted to match skin tones or with light shimmer for illuminating the face. Loose powders can be applied with a fluffy brush to lightly and evenly distribute the powders while pressed setting powders can be applied with powder puffs or brush is dabbed along areas that need setting.





Did I miss anything? Let me know!