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By Ernie McCraw

Basic Training

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These fundamentals will go a long way toward enhancing your cosmetics prowess.

When it comes to makeup, you can paint a fine line between emphasizing beauty and downplaying your natural radiance. How do you find the best solution for you? Here are a few simple tips that will help you achieve the perfect balance.

One cardinal rule of great makeup application is good lighting. The best way to apply makeup is in natural light, but since this isn't always an option, a good lighted mirror is a beauty must. When shopping for a lighted mirror, make sure the mirror offers a variety of light settings. Most mirrors will provide day, night, office, and outdoor settings. These settings allow you to see how your makeup will appear under harsh florescent lighting or in bright sunlight, and also let you tailor your makeup for each situation.

Makeup mirror photo
The mirror's magnification is important.

The mirror's ability to magnify your face is also important. Magnification will help you to see your results when applying tricky liquid eyeliner. But don't use the magnification side for everything; you need a clear overall view as well. Magnification of about 5x or 10x is sufficient; anything higher and you're likely to spend the entire day lost in your pores.

The Skinny on Skin Prep

The next step to great makeup is to keep skin hydrated. Nothing will add years to your look faster than dull, dry skin. After your morning cleansing routine, apply a light, non-greasy daily moisturizer. Many offer SPF, which is important to use every day, even under makeup.

The delicate skin under your eyes may need a little extra care. Indulge in a vitamin-rich serum or cream each night before going to bed to keep bags away. The kinds that come in stick form are great for travel and make application a snap.

Foundation or base is designed to cover blemishes and create an even skin tone. But before you can begin applying foundation, you must confront the daunting task of selecting the right one. We have all heard the time-honored rule of testing foundation on the inside of your wrist. This is completely accurate if you plan on wearing foundation on your arm. In fact, the best place to test a foundation is on your face. Apply a dab of foundation to your jaw line and step outside or stand next to a window to examine how close the foundation color is to your natural skin tone. Most cosmetic counters have florescent lighting, which distorts the way colors look in natural light and could lead you to select the wrong color.

The key to finding a great foundation is not only finding the right color, but rather the right undertone. Many Caucasian, African, Hispanic, and Asian women have a yellow undertone. The wrong undertone can cause your foundation to look flat or off-color. When you've found the right foundation, it should seem to disappear when you apply it.

We all strive for that radiant, healthy look and blush can help us achieve it. How much you apply will depend on the rest of your makeup. Keep blush on the apples of your cheeks and use a neutral contouring powder for definition. Blush should only add a slight bit of color; it shouldn't overpower the rest of your features.

Assorted cosmetics photo

The Dish on 'Dishy' Eyes

There are a few simple guidelines to selecting an eye color that will really make your eyes pop. The basic idea is to use complementary colors. Remember Art 101? You learned that colors that appear opposite one another on the color wheel are complementary — that is, they look right when paired together.

That is why, if your eyes are blue, brown and rose tones contrast the blue and make your eyes appear more vibrant. If you have green eyes, a violet shade will give you a dramatic look that is great for evening or stage; a mocha shade will create a subtle, everyday look. For brown eyes, greens and golds make your eyes really smolder. Change the shade and intensity to fit the occasion. Charcoal, black, and chocolate are great neutral shades that can add flare to any eye color. Too much color can also make your eyes appear smaller. Keep the dark colors to the crease of the eye, and highlight the brow bone with a light shade.

When using cr�me eyeshadows, it helps if you start with a dusting of powder, although you should be prepared for it not to set as well. No matter what colors you opt for, remember to blend them well.

Eyeliner can really intensify your eyes. Only lining the top lid can give eyes a round, large look. Lining the entire eye can give you dramatic, smoky eyes; it can also make your eyes look slightly smaller. Applying liquid liner will take practice and a steady hand, but it is great for achieving a smooth line. If you opt for a pencil, make sure it has a good consistency. Test it by drawing on the back of your hand. The pencil shouldn't tug at your skin and shouldn't leave thick globs. For an even softer look, try using a damp makeup brush to apply a dark shadow instead of eyeliner.

The Lowdown on Lips

Great lips are the perfect way to frame your dazzling smile. Simply remember to find a color that matches your skin tone. If you have a warm skin tone, stick with a warm-tone lipstick. If your skin tone is cool, opt for a cool-tone lipstick. When in doubt, experiment and see how each color adds or detracts from the rest of your makeup.

Lip liner should be slightly darker than your lipstick. The gradual transition from dark to light gives lips a pouty look. Too dark a lip liner will stand out and look unnatural. Lip liner can also help enhance the shape of your lips, but don't try to entirely change your lips' shape using lip liner — that's not possible.

A couple of final tips: First, most women apply their makeup three inches from the mirror. After applying makeup, step back from the mirror and take a clear look at the overall picture you are creating. Finally, one more bit of advice: practice, practice, practice. That way, when the time comes for you to make your best impression, you can create a flawless face.


Ernie McCraw is director of beauty education for Sally Beauty Company, the world's largest distributor of professional beauty products. A licensed cosmetologist for more than 30 years, he is a frequent contributor of beauty advice to newspapers and national fashion and beauty magazines.


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