The first thing any beginner should know about makeup is: you do not need makeup. Nobody needs makeup. Makeup is a hobby or a luxury that has somehow been transferred by society into a necessity for all those born with XX chromosomes. Still, makeup can definitely be fun plus studies have shown that women who wear makeup are paid more than those who don’t (this is not necessarily a good thing, especially since Malaysian women are paid less anyway).
‘Starting’ to buy and wear makeup can be daunting— where does one even start is the question. There is just so much of it— too much of it, actually. The best advice I can offer to any beginner is that 98% of the makeup sold in stores is unnecessary to achieve a well made up face. The beauty industry is constantly creating needs out of thin air. Your best friend who is obsessed with makeup and has a whole Ikea shelf just for her collection buys it only for fun— she would look just as fine without the Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector. In fact, just 10 years ago nobody used highlighter, now it’s suddenly a requirement to achieve a ‘fresh faced glow’.
Therefore, this guide will focus on the 5 necessary elements to achieve a full, well made up face. The products suggested will be mostly affordable as it is likely that a beginner would not want to spend a bomb on expensive products. With that same thought in mind, all the products suggested will be those that can be applied without a brush— a beginner does not need to worry about makeup brushes. Brushes aren’t necessary unless you’re trying to achieve a certain ‘look’– like cut creases or heavy contouring. We’re not going to talk about looks today. Get comfortable with your face and what works on it first, then we’ll talk.
A beginner should probably think about getting a sheerer formula. Using a heavy foundation with the aim of covering up imperfections will likely lead to a cakey, unflattering base. Trust me, we have all been there. Focus on using foundation to even out skintone or to tone down redness— covering up pimples or severe scarring is something we’ll graduate to at a later date.
Anything labelled as a ‘tinted moisturiser’, like the infamous Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser is sure to be sheer enough to never look ghostlike no matter how much you slap on. However, Malaysian drugstores generally do not carry tinted moisturisers at all so if you’re not willing to head to Sephora to get one, then you’ll need to be able to differentiate between a foundation with sheer coverage versus one with heavier coverage.
Try putting the foundation on your hand and rub it in until it’s fully blended in. If you can still see your skin, then it’s sheer. If that still seems confusing, draw something on your hand with an eyeliner then rub the foundation over it. The more clear you are able to see the drawing after putting the foundation over it, the more sheer the foundation is. If you are not able to see the drawing at all, then steer clear because it is definitely heavy coverage and is likely to work against you.
Unfortunately, cheaper brands seem to think that it’s perfectly alright for them to produce only 3 very slight variations of light tone colours, thus those with darker skin might find it difficult to find foundation that suits their colour outside of the expensive brands. The only drugstore foundation I can think of which has options for darker skin is the very heavy Revlon Colorstay Foundation. If all else fails, then you can always buy that one and mix it with a moisturiser.
Eyebrows are the second ‘essential’ because nicely done brows really are what separate a well made up face from one which isn’t. Often, people slap on foundation, bronzer, concealer, eyeshadow and the whole shebang but neglect to do their brows then wonder why the look still comes off as a bit half-baked. Of course, if you already have perfectly full and naturally well-shaped brows then lucky you; this step is likely not even necessary but most of us don’t so read on.
There is a reason the term which is used by makeup professionals is ‘filling in’ your brows instead of ‘drawing them on’. Although I am absolutely not knocking the Instagram brow look which is so popular nowadays, it really is a look which should be avoided by makeup beginners. You will screw it up, and it’s the sort of look which takes two to three products for your brows alone (many of which are not easily available at an affordable price— like brow gel, for instance) and since this article makes the assumption that beginners are not looking to spend ridiculous amounts of money on makeup, it’s best to focus on achieving a natural— but heightened— look. Focus on getting to know your eyebrows first and how it harmonises with your face before looking to train it to do crazy tricks.
In my personal opinion, a beginner should be looking to purchase an eyebrow powder instead of pencils and pomades. Asian eyebrow powders, like the Kate Designing Eyebrow N which is available in all Sasa stores, is a good one for starters as it is fairly sheer and difficult to screw up. It also comes with its own brush, thus beginners wouldn’t have to spend extra buying a separate one. Western eyebrow powders, like the Benefit Brow Zings, tend to be much more pigmented (as the preferred Western makeup aesthetic is for very shaped brows, compared to the Asian brow powders which are meant to be used for filling in and thickening the existing shape) thus are probably very difficult for beginners.
If for some reason you can’t or refuse to use brow powders, then an eyebrow pencil will suffice but it will need to have a slanted shape. Forget about traditional, pencil-shaped ones, they will likely lead to over-drawn inner eyebrows. Korean brands usually offer eyebrow pencils with pre-existing slanted bullets, such as the Innisfree Eyebrow Pencil or The Face Shop Design My Eyebrow.
Mascara is a great way to subtly tie together a look and avoid any singular element— such as eyebrows or lips— from overpowering the rest. Like eyebrows, people tend to like neglecting mascara, usually in favour of eyeliner. More specifically, liquid eyeliner which takes some practice to get perfectly right. Drawing your cat eyeliner in the wrong angle could very much cause your eyes to end up looking beady. Mascara, on the other hand, you simply cannot go wrong with. Just put it on your eyelashes and you’re done. Therefore, it is advisable for a beginner to get acquainted with mascara for bringing out your eyes while you practice on other methods like eyeliner or eyeshadow.
I understand, sometimes it feels like mascara doesn’t do anything to bring out your eyes except make your lashes feel uncomfortable and crusty. I used to feel the same way, particularly since I have short lashes. But that’s only because I was using the wrong mascara for my short, fine Asian lashes— or because I was using bad mascara point blank.
If you have short and fine lashes, your aim is to get them looking nice and curled. From my experience, a lot of Western mascaras will not fit the bill for this. To keep things safe and to avoid wasting money on things you wouldn’t like, the best thing is to just head to Sasa and peruse the Japanese brands. Kiss Me Heroine Make Long & Curl mascara is a cult product for a reason— it lengthens and curls like nobody’s business and it stays the hell on (it is notoriously hard to remove, but I’ve found oil-based makeup removers or just good old baby oil— if you don’t mind mineral oil— does the trick). I’ve found that even after removing it my eyelashes stay curled whether or not I’ve used an eyelash curler. It really is that brilliant.
But if you’re more fortunate to have naturally big and thick lashes, then you might not need to be so picky. You can use all the famous mascaras like Benefit They’re Real! or Too Faced Better Than Sex, but if you want to spend a bit less pretty much every Maybelline mascara is great. In fact, forget about the expensive brands. Maybelline is the GOAT for mascaras.
Since the motto of this guide is to Keep It Simple Stupid, I will be suggesting only cream blushes since they can be applied with fingers without having to purchase blush brushes or to use those dinky brushes that come with the product (which are often to small to be able to blend out the blush nicely).
The Thing to remember when putting on blush is that less is more. There is a reason why people talk about bold lips or bold eyes but rarely about bold cheeks— it isn’t that you can’t use a bright eye-catching colour ever, it’s just that something like that should really be left to the professionals. Maybe in a different world, Bold Cheeks could be as acceptable as a bright purple lipstick, but unfortunately in this one clowns exist and people are quick to make that association so a beginner might want to veer away from putting on huge amounts of blush.
When it comes to colour, though, I’m not so strict. I think every kind of skintone can wear every kind of colour… you don’t have to be one or the other. So dark skins can wear baby pink blush, and fair skins can wear orange ones. Sure, it might not be the most flattering colour on earth for you but so long as you apply a conservative amount and blend it out well, it’s not going to look downright tragic. Wear any colour you want as long as you apply it properly, it might not make you look The Absolute Best but quite honestly— when did it become our responsibility to look The Absolute Best at all times anyway?
Lips are probably the most fun element and also the most easy, therefore I don’t really find there to be a need for me to give any special tips in picking out the ‘right’ lipstick. Like blush, I believe that everyone can wear every sort of colour— and we live in a world where there is every sort of colour, from sheer corals to matte grey the colour of stones. You don’t need a brush to apply lip colour— I mean, you could get one but it really isn’t necessary— and so long as you’re confident and brave enough to pull it off there really isn’t any way that you can make a mistake in applying lip colour (find your lips. apply colour. that’s it).
Since beginners tend to prefer more natural looks, though, seek to try out sheer lipsticks. This isn’t difficult since every brand on the planet now offers a sheer, moisturising lipstick. Or, if you’ve been listening to a lot of Ashanti and are nostalgic for the past, you can wear lipgloss. Either way, you can bet that you will be able to find one from the cheapest of brands to the most expensive.
In the end, though, it is really up to you how much or how little makeup you wish to wear as a beginner. Consider this guide to be one on achieving a very conservative but very serviceable makeup look which can easily take you everywhere from dates to job interviews. You may choose to stick with the aforementioned 5 elements for the rest of your life or you may continue to explore the world of makeup until you’re One Of Us and buy fish bowls for the purpose of putting your lipstick in there. It’s up to you.
This topic might get revisited in the future, as there will obviously be days where a beginner would want to Amp Up her look such as for parties or special events and I’ve got several easily achievable Big Day makeup looks in mind. So, tune in for that. Have a good day!