Faith Xue Oct 16, 2013
how to shop for makeup Ahhh, the joys of shopping for makeup. On one hand, there’s nothing quite as thrilling as testing a new lipstick for the first time or feasting your eyes on a candy-colored makeup counter. On the other hand…who’s really got the time? If spending hours testing out makeup shades is about as likely as, well, getting an adequate amount sleep every night (hey, we feel you), then this guide is for you. We’re covering the basics you need, what you can skip, and some tips and tricks that will speed up the whole process.

The Fabulous Five

Whether you’re a makeup newbie or a season pro, pro makeup artist Lillian Marsh states there are five products every woman should have in her arsenal: “foundation, eyeliner, mascara [with an eyelash curler], and a lip color.” These are the main tools you’ll need to look bright-eyed and awake, even if you’re channeling a sleepy sloth vibe on the inside. But with so many options out there all promising to brighten, volumize, curl and define, how’s a girl to know which ones to choose? Let’s start at the beginning…

The Eyes


The eyes are the windows to the soul…so let’s make sure your soul looks lovely and awake, shall we? First, the lashes – when shopping for mascara, it’s easy to get carried away by all the promises of long, fluttery fringe. However, the important thing is to start with your own natural lashes and what you’d like to achieve. If your lashes are long and you would like more volume, find mascara with a brush that has bigger, wider bristles. If you’d like separation and length, look for formulas that contain nylon fibers – they usually have a comb-like shape or small bristles. If you’re really pressed for time and have no idea what to do, go for the tried and true classics: we’re obsessed with Maybelline Great Lash Mascara (Benefit’s BADgal Lash is another mascara with a cult following). Don’t shy away from choosing black, even if you’re a blonde – after all, the point is to define and accentuate your lashes. If you’re feeling especially daring, why not give colored mascara a whirl? (Make sure to see our tips on how to apply mascara the right way!)


Thankfully, we’re no longer lining our lids with kohl to accentuate them (oh, the things we do for beauty…). But now we’ve got a whole new modern day dilemma – pencil, liquid or gel? When selecting your eyeliner, there are three things to consider: your skin tone, eye color and oiliness of your lids. If you do have oily lids, choose a liquid or gel liner because they won’t smear or run. If you have a light skin tone, consider picking a brown liner over black for a softer, everyday look. And of course, if you’d like to accentuate your eye color, do your research beforehand and choose an eyeliner in a complementary shade to really make your eyes pop.

Eyelash curler

If you’re at a makeup counter, you’ll be able to test each eyelash curler’s shape to see if it fits against your eye (make sure to disinfect first, though!). Unfortunately, at a drugstore you’ll have no such luck. Keep this in mind, however: if your lashes are short, choose a curler with less of a curve. A flatter clamp allows the curler to get closer to your lash line, no matter your eye shape. And of course, once you’ve found your perfect curler, don’t forget to heat it up with a hair dryer for a few seconds before you curl – your lashes will stay curled longer!  

The Skin


Shopping for foundation differs depending on if you are at a makeup counter or drugstore. Marsh says, “At a makeup counter you want to have someone who works at the counter match you. The best way is when they match the foundation on the inside of the cheek, jaw line, and forehead to make sure you get a color that works for your whole face rather than just at the jaw line.” Definitely don’t be afraid to ask for help – the salesperson is there to assist and recommend products. Marsh says, “Be sure to let the sales person know what you want out of your foundation, [like] coverage (sheer, light, medium, full, etc.), finish (dewy, satin, matte), and formula (liquid, cream, pressed, or loose powder, etc.) If you are unsure of where to start, ask them!” At a drug store, you need to be aware of your undertone. Note the undertone of your skin at your neck and in your face and then pick a foundation that will even them out if needed. “For example, in my neck I have a yellow undertone,” says Marsh, “But in my face, I am more pink, so I chose a foundation that is more yellow to tone down the pink in my face for a natural looking finish. If you have the same undertone in both your face and neck (lucky you!), then stick with that same undertone when choosing a foundation.” Most times, you won’t be able to try a foundation at a drugstore – Lillian recommends “holding the foundation up to your face [to] see if the color looks correct. If you are unsure, it is better to err on the side of slightly lighter. You can always give a little depth with a bronzer, if needed. And be sure to ask about their return policy on cosmetics!”  

The Lips


Nothing can detract more from carefully applied makeup than dry, chapped lips. However, choosing a lip balm is really up to your own preference – if you want color and moisture, choose a tinted version or an ultra-hydrating lipstick like Maybelline Color Whisper. If you only want hydration, eos lip balm is a cult favorite filled with antioxidants, shea better and jojoba oil.  

The Extras

“When it comes to blush, eyeshadow and lipstick,” says Marsh, “the sky is the limit!” Test as many products as you can and have fun with it. After you’ve selected your everyday shades, don’t be afraid to explore seasonal trends (we’re kind of obsessed with the goth-inspired look for fall) or invest in an eyeshadow palette. How do you shop for new makeup? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below! Photo: Thinkstock


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