Back-to-Basics Beauty Tips and Tricks
How to Apply Foundation
- Smooth primer onto your face. This creates an even canvas and helps makeup last longer, especially if you have oily skin.
- Put a dot of foundation on each cheek and your chin, nose, and forehead.
- Blend from the center of your face outward, using a damp foundation brush or a makeup wedge for the thinnest coating. You can also blend with just your fingers— your body heat will help the formula melt into your skin for a more natural finish.
Extra credit: If your foundation tends to cake up, especially in the creases around your nose and under your eyes, smooth it out with a fingertip’s worth of eye cream.
How to Apply Highlighter
- Form the letter C with your thumb and index finger. Place the thumb on your cheekbone and the index finger on your brow bone.
- Remove your hand and apply a small amount of cream, liquid, or powder highlighter in the shape of that C, says Wende Zomnir, a cofounder of Urban Decay cosmetics.
- Blend well with your fingers. If you’re afraid you’ve gone overboard, tone the color down by dusting a little loose powder on top, says Maggie Ford Danielson, a beauty authority for Benefit Cosmetics.
Extra credit: Highlighter can do more than give you luminous skin; it’s also handy for creating optical illusions. To make close-set eyes look farther apart, dab a bit onto the inner eye corners. If you want your mouth to appear more shapely, apply highlighter to the bow of your upper lip with a flat-tip brush. To make your face look slimmer, sweep it down the center of your nose.
How to Create a Straight Line With Liquid or Pencil Eyeliner
- Dot liner between your lashes, working from the inner corner of the eye to the outer one.
- Using light, feathery strokes, connect the dots. If you need to steady your hand, rest your elbow on your mirror or a table.
- End the line where your lashes do, says Mikey Castillo, the director of color for the makeup line Le Métier de Beauté. If you want a more theatrical cat-eye effect, extend it straight past the end of your lash line just a tad.
Extra credit: Set the liner (and mask any wobbles) by tracing over it with a shadow in the same color, using a thin, angled makeup brush.
How to Use an Eyelash Curler
- Begin with clean, makeup-free lashes. (If you curl after applying mascara, the tool can stick to the makeup and damage or yank out hairs.)
- For allover curl, choose a full-width curler. To curl just the outer corners of your lashes (a more eye-opening effect), pick a mini curler. Position the tool as close as possible to the base of your upper lashes and squeeze for a few seconds.
- Move the curler slightly outward, to midlash, and gently squeeze again for a second or two.
Extra credit: For more dramatic and lasting curl, blast the curler with a hair dryer for a few seconds before you crimp. (It’s like using hot rollers on your hair. But make sure to test the heat against your hand before applying!)
Makeup Tool Kit
Primer: Look for a color-correcting formula if your skin is ruddy or sallow, a gel if it’s oily, and a cream if it’s dry.
Foundation: To find your ideal shade, test the product near your jawline—not on your hand, which is usually darker than your face.
Eyelash curler: A minimalist’s must-have, this sturdy tool can be tossed in your bag for an instant lift even on no-makeup days.
Mascara: Trash it after three months. (Really.) And to avoid clumps, refrain from pumping the wand in the tube; this dries out the makeup.
Clear brow gel: While it may not sound essential, nearly every makeup artist stashes this no-color groomer in her kit. It makes even unplucked brows look polished, and it can be used as mascara when you’re in a bind.
Eye-shadow quad or trio: Skin-tone pinks and browns can take eyes of any color from day to night; the brown can also fill in brows.
Eyeliner: A brown pencil is the most goofproof and suits everyone, says Jemma Kidd, a London-based makeup artist.
Bronzer-and-blush duo: Use the bronzer where you would tan and the blush for a pop of color on each cheek.
Tinted lip balm or moisturizing cream lipstick: Something a shade or two lighter or deeper than your natural lip tone will complement everything else in your makeup kit.
A big, fluffy brush: If you can have only one tool, this multitasker is good for blush, bronzer, and loose powder.
Real Simple Picks for Your Makeup Tool Kit
Clockwise from top:
YSL Rouge Volupté Shine in Pink in Devotion, $34, yslbeautyus.com.
Fresh Sugar Petal Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15, $22.50, sephora.com.
Burberry Beauty Complete Eye Palette in Pale Nude No. 3, $59, nordstrom.com.
Rimmel London Match Perfection 3 Tone Blush, $5, walmart.com for info.
Clinique Superbalanced Makeup, $23, clinique.com.
Urban Decay Good Karma Optical Blurring Brush, $25, urbandecay.com.
Sephora Collection Microsmooth Blush Duo in 02 Fuchsia Flushed, $17, sephora.com.
Mally Beauty Volumizing Waterproof Mascara, $20, mallybeauty.com.
Anastasia Beverly Hills Clear Brow Gel, $22, anastasia.net.
Tweezerman ProCurl Lash Curler, $20, tweezerman.com.
Jane Iredale Smooth Affair Facial Primer & Brightener, $48, shop.janeiredale.com.
Laura Mercier Eye Pencil in Special Brown, $20, lauramercier.com.
Bobbi Brown Face Blender, $48, bobbibrown.com.
How to Wash Your Face
- First wash your hands. Touching your face with dirty fingers can spread bacteria, which may lead to clogged pores and breakouts.
- You may not need to cleanse in the morning unless your skin is oily or you’ve just exercised. At night, if you use long-wear makeup, take it off with a waterproof-makeup remover or a wipe. This will allow the cleanser to really penetrate the skin.
- Splash your face with cool or lukewarm water, then, with your fingertips, massage a dollop of cleanser into your skin in a gentle circular motion to emulsify the product fully, advises Luigi Polla, a dermatologist and the founder of the Alchimie Forever skin-care line. Rinse with more water, then lightly pat dry with a towel.
Extra credit: Cream cleansers don’t always lather and dislodge debris as effectively as gels do, so use them with a washcloth, says Elizabeth Tanzi, a dermatologist in Washington, D.C. Don’t forget to wash the cloth after each use to avoid germs.
How to Handle a Blemish Without Leaving a Scar
- Soak a washcloth in hot water, then wring it out. Hold it on the top of the whitehead until the washcloth cools.
- Press down gently around the blemish for about 30 seconds with the cloth. This should be enough to draw out the whitehead without squeezing, says Katie Rodan, a dermatologist in Oakland and a cofounder of the Proactiv Solution skin-care line.
- Apply a treatment that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
Extra credit: Handling a blemish before it’s ready (that is, before it’s white at the top) may only push oil and debris in deeper, making the problem worse. To help bring the pimple to the surface, use an oil-free medicated concealer (such as Clinique Acne Solutions Clearing Concealer, $17, clinique.com) during the day; at night, apply a drying treatment with sulfur or clay (like Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, $17, mariobadescu.com).
How to Smooth Rough Skin
- Add a cup of baking soda to a warm bath and soak in it for 10 minutes. Skin can get rough and dry, especially in places like the heels and elbows, where the keratin cells can build up in the horny outer layer, says Vermen Verallo-Rowell, a dermatologist in Kennebunkport, Maine. “Soda helps slough off the thickened keratin and allows water to penetrate and hydrate the deeper layers of skin cells,” she says.
- After your bath, apply petroleum jelly to rough spots while your skin is still damp, then slip into cotton clothing to further lock in moisture. Wear it overnight if possible.
- When the problem has cleared, include a daily moisturizer with an exfoliating alpha hydroxy acid (such as Eucerin Professional Repair Extremely Dry Skin Lotion, $8 at drugstores) in your regimen to improve your skin’s suppleness and appearance.
Extra credit: Consider applying virgin coconut oil (sold at health-food stores) along with the petroleum jelly. It contains fatty acids that protect the skin’s barrier function.
How to Layer Skin-Care Products
- Apply in order of consistency, lightest to heaviest, says Peter Thomas Roth, of the eponymous skin-care line. First eye cream and serum, if you use them.
- Next comes moisturizer.
- Finally, sunscreen, which you need if your moisturizer doesn’t contain at least SPF 15.
Extra credit: In a pinch, you can use your eye cream as face cream. Your eye skin tends to be the most sensitive on your face, so if you can use a product there, you should be able to use it anywhere.
Skin-Care Tool Kit
Now that you’ve mastered the techniques, here’s what you need to get started.
Cleanser: If your skin is dry or sensitive, pick a mild, moisturizing cream. If your skin is combination or oily, go for a gel or a foam. Or, for extra-deep cleaning on any skin type, try an oscillating cleansing brush.
Exfoliator: Options include scrubs of various grits and night creams with dead-cell–removing chemical ingredients, such as glycolic acid. What you use and how often you use it are a matter of personal preference and skin sensitivity. But all types will benefit from shedding dead cells to make way for newer, healthier ones.
Eye cream: Yes, it’s essential. The undereye area has fewer hydrating oil glands than elsewhere on the face, “so you have to compensate topically,” says Marcia Kilgore, a facialist and the founder of the skin-care line Soap & Glory. Try one with moisture-attracting hyaluronic acid and apply it morning or night.
Moisturizer: If your primary concern is aging, look for one with an antioxidant, like vitamin C or retinol. If dry skin is your problem, choose a richer formula with hyaluronic acid or glycerin. For oily skin, look for salicylic acid to minimize shine and acne.
Sunscreen: There’s one for everyone. Physical-sunscreen ingredients, like titanium dioxide and zinc, are better suited to sensitive skin. Chemical sunscreens, like Parsol 1789, may look less masky. The sunscreen-smell–phobic can use brush-on mineral products (like Laura Mercier Mineral Powder SPF 15, $38, sephora.com), which are odorless and can be swept over makeup.
Real Simple Picks for Your Skin-Care Tool Kit
Clockwise from top:
Darphin Intral Cleansing Milk, $42, darphin.com.
Jurlique Sun Lotion SPF 30+, $20, jurlique.com.
Clarisonic Mia 2 Sonic Skin Cleansing Brush, $150, clarisonic.com.
Shiseido White Lucent Anti-Dark Circles Eye Cream, $55, shiseido.com.
Dior Capture Totale Multi-Perfection Crème SPF 20, $155, dior.com.
How to Wash and Condition Your Hair
- Rub a quarter-size dollop of shampoo in your palms with a little water to create lather. But don’t charge right in and start scrubbing. First pat your hands over your head to distribute the shampoo evenly, says Wendy Bélanger, the global artistic director of Pureology Serious Colour Care.
- Work the shampoo in with your fingertips (they won’t scratch the scalp the way nails can), then rinse with warm water.
- Gather your hair into a ponytail in one hand and apply conditioner to the tail only. Even for people with short hair, this is generally the only part that needs additional hydration.
Extra credit: Hair can become dry if you shampoo more than a few times a week. If you simply must wash it every day (because you exercise daily or your hair is very fine and tends to get greasy), flip your routine and condition first. Apply conditioner all over (don’t rinse it out yet), then add a small amount of shampoo and work it through. After the conditioner’s moisturizing ingredients sink in, the shampoo shouldn’t remove too much oil, says New York City–based celebrity stylist Mark Garrison. Rinse and you’re done for the day.
How to Apply Dry Shampoo
- “Use a powder dry shampoo if your hair is medium to thick,” says Edgar Parra, a stylist at the Sally Hershberger salon in New York City. “An aerosol, which goes on much lighter and adds volume, is better for finer hair.”
- Separate your hair into two- to four-inchwide sections. From about six inches away, sprinkle or spray the product onto the roots, where oil can build up.
- Massage the product into your scalp as if you’re shampooing. Style as usual.
Extra credit: In a pinch, try cornstarch, an ingredient in many dry shampoos.
How to Do an At-Home Blow-Out
- Wash hair and prep it with mousse if you need volume, styling cream if you need hydration.
- Rough-dry by blowing air all around your head. When your hair is at least halfway dry, you’re ready to begin styling (any sooner and the style might not take). Use a round brush for volume or a flat-backed one to smooth.
- First address any problem areas, such as a cowlick or frizz around your face, says celebrity stylist Oribe; if they dry wrong, they’re nearly impossible to correct without starting over. Next, dry the rest of your hair in sections, working back from the hairline (again, to ensure that the part people notice most looks its best).
Extra credit: To avoid frizz, slowly move the dryer from root to tip in one pass, says New York City celebrity stylist Oscar Blandi. Don’t run it up and down the same length of hair or you’ll cause the cuticles to open up.
How to Make Any Kind of Hair Curl
- Prep damp hair with a lightweight mousse. This will create enough tackiness to hold some texture. Then rough-dry.
- Generously mist hair with hair spray.
- Starting at the hairline, twist a one-inch section of hair. Wind the twist around the barrel of a curling iron, away from your face. (Use a slim iron for tight curls, a thicker one for loose waves.) Work from front to back until you’ve done your whole head.
Extra credit: To speed-curl hair, you can also use a flat iron. Twist a one- or two-inch section, then clamp the twist vertically between the iron’s plates for 30 seconds; repeat until all hair is curled.
Hair-Care Tool Kit
Shampoo and conditioner: Whether you choose products that are color-protective (for tinted hair), hydrating (for dry), or deep-cleaning (for oily), keep in mind that you may have to switch formulas periodically. Your hair’s needs can change depending on the weather and how much you’ve been heat styling, which can sap moisture from hair.
Leave-in conditioner: While you may not require extra hydration daily, this styler can also double as a detangler and a heat protector.
Dry shampoo: Besides absorbing oil from unwashed hair, it can add body and texture to clean hair.
Flexible-hold hair spray: The newer, lighter formulas keep an updo in place and also tame frizz and give hair some lift.
A good hairbrush: Boar-bristle brushes tend to be best at distributing natural oils, but they’re often expensive. If they’re out of your price range, look for a combination of boar and plastic bristles.
A hair dryer: The most important tool to invest in. An ionic machine with a high wattage (at least 1,200) will help reduce damage by speeding up drying time. And less damage equals more shine.
A flat iron: Sure, it can straighten. But even people with straight hair can use it to help seal cuticles and amplify shine.
Real Simple Picks for Your Hair-Care Tool Kit
Clockwise from top:
T3 Featherweight 2 dryer, $200, sephora.com.
Cute as a Button bobby pin by Emily Elizabeth Jewelry, $14, emilyelizabethjewelry.com.
Klorane Conditioner With Pomegranate, $16, drugstore.com.
Blowpro Tress Relief Leave-In Conditioning Treatment, $22, ulta.com for info.
Nexxus Youth Renewal Rejuvenating Dry Shampoo, $18 at drugstores.
L’Oréal Paris Advanced Haircare Color Vibrancy Nourishing Shampoo, $5 at drugstores.
Suave Professionals Touchable Finish Extra Hold Hairspray, $3 at drugstores.
Titanium one-inch straightening iron by Gold ’N Hot Professional, $40, folica.com.
Fan small bobby pin by Emily Elizabeth Jewelry, $14, emilyelizabethjewelry.com.
Lucy hair ties by Twistband, $11 for six, thetwistband.com.
Goody ColourCollection bobby pins, $3.50 at drugstores.
Janeke white-marbled hairbrush with gold-tone pins, $56, zitomer.com for info.
Pick up more easy tips in these quick how-to beauty videos.