10 Pro Secrets for Flawless Makeup: From Base to Brows

The devil is in the detail when it comes to getting your makeup right. The angle of the liner, undertones of concealer, and placement of blush are all important. One or two small changes can have a major impact on your overall appearance.

No one knows makeup details better than makeup professionals. That’s why we never hesitate to ask our favorites for any little trick or tip they may have. We asked three professionals, Daniel Martin, Kelli Anne, and Sofia Tilbury to guide us through each step of the little details that can make a look or break it. Follow these 10 easy steps for flawless makeup straight from the pros.

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Skin Prep

Tilbury says, “Charlotte taught me that good makeup begins with great skin care.” Sewell also agrees that people make mistakes when they do not focus enough on skincare before makeup. No matter what makeup products you use, if you don’t prepare and hydrate your skin before applying it, you won’t get the desired results.

Martin explains that while proper skincare preparation is important, the exact steps will depend on your skin type. Stick to heavy creams for drier skin and lightweight serums that hydrate. Add an oil to the top, but make sure you really massage the product into your skin. All three experts suggest using a water-based moisturizer that contains ingredients such as niacinamide to refine the skin. Sewell uses a matte stick to mattify an oily t-zone, such as the Nudestix Blot & Blur Matte Stick (34 dollars).

It’s important that you apply light layers of whatever product or lotion you choose to prepare the skin. Spend time massaging the layer into the skin properly and allow it to absorb completely (for example, for a few moments) before continuing.

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You can choose the primer you want. Sewell believes that a good skin prep will eliminate the need for primer, but Martin takes a different approach. He suggests that if you wear makeup for more than four hours, and don’t want to touch it up throughout the day, use a primer suitable for your skin type. He recommends Tatcha’s Liquid Silk Canvas (54 dollars) because it is a water-based formula that is suitable for all skin types: oily, combination and balanced.

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Foundation & Concealer

It is both an act of art and science to create a flawless, great base. We’re going to break it down into steps.

Tilbury says that while all three of her experts recommend applying foundation before concealer, there are some exceptions.

Tilbury recommends using a peach color corrector for dark circles or hyperpigmentation to neutralize the blue-ish-purple pigment. This will prepare the canvas before applying concealer and foundation. Martin uses a thin layer on zits in order to reduce redness and to act as a barrier to keep concealer and foundation away from the spot. Sewell recommends spot concealing a breakout with a heavy concealer prior to applying foundation. Pot concealers, such as the NARS Soft Matte Complete Coverage Concealer ($32), are great for this.

Light layers of foundation are the key. It will prevent your makeup from looking cakey or patchy, and it will help you build up the coverage to the desired level. Give each layer enough time to penetrate the skin to ensure long-lasting, flawless coverage.

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Most experts recommend applying powder after base makeup, depending on the concealer or foundation formula (and how long your makeup will last). Martin applies a loose powder, namely the Make Up Forever HD Skin Blurring & Shine-Controlling Setting Powder ($43), to the entire face in order to set foundation and concealer. He’ll then blot the powder on specific areas he wants to be matte, like in the t zone, and any acne that he has covered. He’ll then use a loose radiant powder with a fluffy eyeshadow to blur and set under the eyes.

Tilbury uses a setting powder pressed through the middle of her face to mattify and soften the t zone, while still leaving the high points looking fresh and glowing. Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Setting powder ($48) is her favorite. She uses it to press over blemishes and blemishes in order to eliminate shine, give the appearance of texture, or add more coverage.

Sewell’s powdering technique and amount depend on her desired look. Sewell prefers to apply powder only in the t zone for a natural look. But if she wants a fuller-glam, long-lasting or glitzy look, she will use it all over.

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Contour and/or Bronzer

Your bronzer or contour should be applied according to the desired effect. Tilbury says that applying directly to skin and blending it with a brush will give you a glowing sculpted look. You can also warm up the product by hand to get a sheerer, more natural coverage.

For a “contoured-from-within” look, Martin likes to use cream contour before foundation “so it seems as if the depth is coming through the foundation rather than color sitting on top of it,” he explains.

While applying a bronzer directly to your skin will certainly be quicker, it won’t provide as much coverage. Picking up the product with a brush and even buffing into your hands first allows you to apply the product in layers.

For defining and lifting your features, use a contour or bronzer to glide along your cheekbones. Then, tap the product into your temples, jawline and either side your nose. Blend it out using a brush and a tapping movement.

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Blush or Highlighter

Sewell’s advice on how to prevent blush from appearing streaky or patchy is great: “You are probably applying too much force,” she says. Hold your brush farther back to apply less force. She recommends using light patting movements when applying blush, rather than dragging it across the skin.

Martin also stresses the importance of formulation. For powder blushes he recommends that your foundation be set with powder before applying. Martin prefers to use a brush to apply the cream blush, and then a sponge to remove any streaks.

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In the beauty industry, there is a debate that goes unspoken about makeup: should you start with your eyes or skin? Sewell says, “I don’t believe the order is important.” It’s a matter of personal choice and what you feel most comfortable with. I like to begin with the face. It helps me visualize [the eye look] by balancing out my complexion. It depends also on what you would like to make the focal point.

Tilbury offers some tips on how to nail a perfect eye look. “A common mistake I see with eye makeup is that people apply products in a manner that reduces the features of their face. When applying eye makeup, always look straight forward in the mirror. Keep your eyes as open as possible to ensure you are able to properly judge where you place your eyeshadow or eyeliner.

A neutral eye will always be a crowd pleaser when in doubt. Use a neutral palette with four shades, such as the Tom Ford Eye Color Quad Palette in Sous Le Sable ($90). Apply the middle shade to the entire eyelid, the lightest color in the inner corner and the shimmery finish on the lid. The darkest color should be used in the outer corners and crease. It’s foolproof.

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It’s happened to all of us: you’re applying mascara and suddenly, black smudges ruin your perfectly shaped eye. The pros also have a solution for this. Martin recommends using a cotton bud with a rounded tip that has been lightly soaked to treat any mishaps.

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Martin starts his makeup application with the brows. “It creates a framework for your application,” says Martin. It also helps you avoid making your eyebrows look too heavy because you have nothing else on. Sewell starts her makeup with a brow-gel to prevent flaky foundation bits from getting stuck in her hair. She will then fill in the brows later in the process.

Fill in sparse areas of hair with thin strokes. Use light pressure and, for extra definition, use two shades: one the same color as your hair, and another slightly lighter.

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Setting Spray

Sewell and Tilbury both strongly recommend using a setting mist as the last step of a makeup routine. Sewell claims that setting sprays help to melt your makeup and seal in the work. Both recommended the same product, Charlotte Tilbury’s Airbrush Flawless Setting Spray (38). Martin is a new convert to setting sprays. He cites BeautyBlender’s Boost 4-in-1 Set Spray ($33) for his favorite because of its versatility.

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