I Spent 24 Hours With A Professional Makeup Artist — & This Is What I Learned

Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
As a beauty editor, I like to think I know a thing or two about makeup. Not only do I personally wear a full face every day, but I'm lucky enough to spend time with — and pick up pointers from — some of the best beauty experts in the business. But, as makeup artist Caroline Barnes recently pointed out to me, there's a hell of a lot I've yet to learn. From how to apply blush properly (apparently I've been doing it wrong this whole time) to how to get unruly brows to stay in place all day (and I mean all day), here are the tips and tricks everyone needs to know, whether you're a total makeup obsessive or simply swipe on concealer and go.
The Angle Of Your Mirror Really Matters
If the mirror you use to apply makeup is positioned too low to the ground, Barnes says it could sabotage your look.
"Always look at yourself in an upwards direction when applying makeup as it's a much more flattering angle," she advises. "If your mirror is too low, pop it on some books. Naturally, many people put their makeup on downwardly, but you won’t get as much of a feel-good factor about yourself and your finished look. Mirrors should always be up high."
Oxidation Isn't The Only Factor Turning Your Foundation Orange
If you think you've found the perfect shade of foundation only to discover it's turned an unsightly shade of orange over the course of the day, you're not alone. But while many experts argue that the color change is a result of pigments reacting with air over time in a process known as oxidation, Barnes has another explanation entirely.
"From my current understanding, foundation going a little darker is a result of your skin's pH," she says. "The oil in your skin might be affecting the pigment in the base that you’re wearing. Use a mattifying primer before foundation and blotting papers throughout the day to stop your skin from getting too oily. The shade change might also be a result of the powder you apply on top. Make sure it's translucent so you don't make your face appear darker than the rest of your body."
Hair Products Can Work Double Duty In Your Routine
I know what you're thinking: Aren't hair products for, well, hair? Yes — but gels and hairsprays can work wonders to keep some of your makeup in place, too. Just be careful how you use them.
"I love brushing Bumble and Bumble's Sumo Gel through eyebrows because it really keeps them in place, but I like to use hairspray sprayed onto a spoolie brush and combed through hairs, too," Barnes says. "I’ve also used soap in a similar way for years by scraping it onto a spoolie, but if you're going to do that, be sure to use clear soap because you don’t want to make your eyebrows look flaky."
How To Actually Find The Right Foundation Match
Forget your face and neck for a minute — you need to look at the color of your chest to get the perfect foundation match.
"Your neck is hidden by the sun, so it's always going to be much lighter in comparison," Barnes says. "If you don't take the color of your chest into consideration, your face will be disconnected from the rest of your body. You also have to match in daylight — there’s no question about it. Try it properly, look at yourself in the mirror, and see if it's right for you. Also, take a photograph of yourself outside or by a window to see how it looks, but don’t use flash."
Don't Rule Out Your Fingers For Foundation Application
Some makeup artists argue that you wouldn't paint a wall with your hands, so why apply foundation with them? It makes sense, in a way, but Barnes says your fingertips can sometimes provide the best finish.
"Putting foundation on with your fingers gives you the full capacity of the color as well as the connectivity because brushes aren’t warm. Fingers really manipulate the product into your skin better than a brush, which you might have to constantly change in terms of shape," Barnes says. "Your hands can go all around your neck, so you get better coverage, and fingers lend skin a much more natural, rather than painted-on effect." And when it comes to concealer, applying a lighter shade around your nose and eyes will instantly lift your complexion. "Again, apply it with your finger over a foundation base to really push it into the nooks and crannies of your face — in between the nose and on your lids especially, to mask pigmentation."
So when should you not use your fingers? "If you have downy hair, it might not be beneficial to use your fingers alone because the product might just sit there," Barnes says. "A brush is better in this instance because it lifts the product. If you’re getting ready in low light, I would always suggest going over your foundation with a brush for a more flawless finish — that’s my safety net, but it needs to be super soft, not dense. Use a stippling brush if you have freckles you want to show off. The more dense the brush, the heavier the coverage. Buff foundation in using circular motions."
You're Applying Blush All Wrong
According to Barnes, a lot of us apply makeup, especially blush, robotically, positioning it where we think it should be rather than where it should actually be. "If I were to tell someone how to apply blush correctly, I'd say to imagine you’ve got a big pair of Dior sunglasses on," Barnes says. "Imagine your whole orbital area is concealed by these sunglasses. As long as your blush doesn’t go within that area, you’re off to a good start. If you place your blush too high and underneath your eyes, you’ll only distort your cheeks."
So where does it go? "There are two places for blush, depending on what you want to achieve," Barnes says. "If you look directly in the mirror at your pupil, imagine a line coming straight down underneath it and smile — that will give you the peak of the apple of your cheek, right in the center. It’s about using your eyes and facial bone structure. This will create a very youthful effect to your makeup."
If you want to create an angular effect, apply blush to the high points of your face and simply take it across the cheek in a diagonal shape. The same goes for highlighter: "Choose a creamy, liquid-y texture so it moves into your skin and looks like actual skin," Barnes says. And, at the end of the day, don't you just want to look like a better version of yourself — real skin and all?

More from Makeup

R29 Original Series