21 Game-Changing Hacks for Applying Your Makeup *Perfectly*

·9 min read
Photo credit: Stocksy
Photo credit: Stocksy

IMO, whether you're a legit beauty pro or a total newb, you can always benefit from a few makeup tips. Like, why struggle with your cat eye or contour when there are so many easy hacks to make the process 100 times smoother? So in the spirit of sharing is caring, I went ahead and found the 21 best makeup tips and tricks of all damn time, including when (and where) to apply concealer, how to finally perfect your winged eyeliner (spoiler: it involves a spoon), and so much more. So grab your makeup bag and that one product (err, products?) you never learned how to use, and keep scrolling.

1. Apply your foundation before concealer

Hot tip: The easiest way to level up your makeup routine is to try applying your foundation before concealer. Think about it: Starting with a layer of foundation will help minimize any redness or discoloration—almost like you're creating a smooth base for the rest of your products. You can then go in with your concealer to spot treat any zits or remaining redness, and you'll end up using way less product in the process. Another plus? Foundation before concealer is a genius fix for preventing caking and creasing.

2. Maintain your eyebrows with a spoolie brush

On busy days when I don't have time to fill in my eyebrows, I like to do the next best thing: quickly comb up my arches with a spoolie brush (aka those little mascara wands). And even when I do have time for powders, gels, and pencils, I still like to prep my brows with my spoolie—it takes 10 seconds max, and it's an easy way to make sure each of my brow hairs are in the right spot before I go in with my products. Pro makeup tip: You can buy spoolie brushes in bulk for v cheap (I like the Cuttte Disposable Mascara Brushes) or go for something reusable (I'm a fan of Uoma Beauty's Brow-Fro Baby Hair, which also has a precision pencil on one end).

3. Exfoliate your lips before applying lipstick

Okay, you know when you apply lipstick and it doesn't go on smooth? Try prepping your lips with a gentle lip scrub (I like the Beauty Bakerie Sugar Lip Scrub or the KNC Beauty Lip Scrub) —the physical exfoliation will help buff away any dry skin sitting on top of your lips, leaving you with a smoother, softer canvas for your products. One thing to keep in mind: Lip scrubs should only be used once a week max—anything more and you'll risk irritation (aka the opposite vibe you're going for).

4. Don't sleep on blush

It might seem like an obvious step in your makeup routine, but IMO, blush is the most underrated product. A couple sweeps of cream or powder blush along the high points of your cheeks will give your entire look a brighter, warmer finish with pure ease. “I use blush on all my clients—it gives the skin that fresh and rejuvenated look and it adds the perfect amount of depth to the face," makeup artist Lakeisha Dale has told Cosmo. And, no, that doesn't mean you need to pick a bright-pink blush or anything like that—try going for something soft and glowy, like one of the picks below.

5. Melt your pencil liner to help it glide

Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen
Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen

Fact: Creamy makeup products blend better when they’re warmed up. So if your kohl eyeliner pencil skips or tugs on your eyelid or takes multiple coats for a decent color payoff, melt it down slightly before you start lining. To do so, hold the tip of your kohl liner under the flame of a lighter for a second or until it gets tacky, let it cool slightly (swatch it on your hand to make sure it’s not too hot or melted), then watch the consistency change right before your eyes.

6. Make your eyeshadow pop with white eyeliner

To make a sheer or less pigmented eyeshadow appear more vibrant on your eyelid, blend a white eyeliner pencil over your entire eyelid first. Then, put your eyeshadow right on top. The opaque coverage of the white liner will intensify any eyeshadow shade and make it pop.

7. Outline your cat eye

Photo credit: Elizabeth Griffin
Photo credit: Elizabeth Griffin

If you’re struggling with nailing your winged eyeliner look (also, hi, same, I feel you), try drawing the outline of the shape first and then filling it in. Extend a line beyond your lower lash line to create the bottom of your cat eye first. Then, decide on the thickness you want for your wing, and trace the top line from the end point of your flick to your upper lash line. Once you have the shape mapped out on both sides and everything looks symmetrical, fill in the open space.

8. Use a spoon as a stencil for winged liner

Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen
Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen

If freehand drawing your cat eye just isn’t gonna happen for you, grab a spoon and use it as a stencil. Holding the stem of a spoon against the outer corner of your eye, use a liquid eyeliner to draw a straight line as the first step for your cat eye. Then, flip the spoon so it’s hugging your eyelid, and use the rounded outer edge to create a perfectly curved winged effect.

9. Hack a smoky eye with a hashtag

A smoky eye can go from sultry to sloppy real fast if you don’t know what you’re doing. To keep it simple, use a creamy eyeliner to draw a slanted hashtag symbol on the outer third of your eyelid, then blend it out with the sponge or a smudging brush. This will not only ensure that both eyes are symmetrical, but also prevent you from getting a little too crazy with the eyeliner.

10. Use a spoon as a mascara shield

Nothing is more annoying than making your eyeshadow look perfect, and then swiping on mascara and ruining the whole thing with smudges. The fix? Hold a spoon so it's hugging your eyelid, then apply your mascara like you normally would. As you sweep the mascara wand against your lashes and the back of the spoon, the residue will coat the back of the utensil rather than your skin. Genius.

11. Revive mascara with saline solution

Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen
Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen

Word of advice: Only use a tube of mascara for three months, max. Beyond that point, it can collect bacteria and lead to eye infections and other unfortunate things you wouldn’t want to search on Google Images. But if your mascara annoyingly dries up within those first three months, add a couple drops of saline solution into the flaky formula to get it back to its smooth consistency.

12. Heat your eyelash curler with a hair dryer

Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen
Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen

DIY your own heated lash curler by blowing hot air on your eyelash curler. The added heat will help your lashes curl faster and keep the shape for longer. Just hit your lash curler with a blow dryer until it heats up, wait until it cools slightly but is still warm (test it on the inside of your arm so you don’t burn your eyelid), then clamp down on your lashes to curl them.

13. Plump your lashes with translucent powder

Dust some translucent setting powder on your lashes between coats of mascara to plump up your lashes. The translucent powder helps grip the mascara in between coats, leaving you with fuller, more voluminous lashes.

14. Apply eyelash glue with a bobby pin

Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen
Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen

If you always make a mess with eyelash glue and end up with clumpy-looking fake lashes, try this makeup tip: Use the tip of a clean bobby pin to carefully apply a few dots of glue to the lash band and disperse it evenly. Wait a few seconds or until the glue is tacky and then pop the lashes on.

15. Set your lip color with a tissue and powder

For lip color that lasts hours, just swipe on your shade, lay a tissue over your mouth, then dust translucent powder over the top to set the color from budging or bleeding. This process may seem ~extra~, but the payoff is 100 percent worth it. The translucent powder alone could alter your lip shade, but using the tissue as a shield will protect it from lightening or dulling.

16. Mix your own lip color with petroleum jelly

Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen
Photo credit: Kathleen Kamphausen

If you have an eyeshadow that you love so much and also want to wear as a lip shade, mix the loose pigments with a little bit of petroleum jelly (Aquaphor or Vaseline works fine) in a spoon and just swipe it onto your lips. Boom. Your own, custom lip gloss. Best makeup tip ever.

17. Define your Cupid’s bow with an “x”

The easiest and quickest way to define your cupid’s bow is to take a lip liner in the same shade as your lipstick and create an “X” that lines up with your natural lip line. Then fill in the bottom three sections of the “X” with lipstick and continue applying it as you normally would to complete your look.

18. Conceal under your eyes with a triangle shape

If you want to really brighten your under-eye area, stop dotting on your concealer and try applying it in a triangular shape. Draw the base of the triangle directly under your lash line and the tip pointing toward the apple of your cheek. This helps fully conceal any redness and shadows to create the illusion of brighter under eyes.

19. Use a brush handle as a contour guide

Everyone’s face is shaped differently, so where your BFF might be doing her contour may not be the best place for you to do yours. To tell where you should be dusting on your bronzer or contour powder, roll a pencil, pen, or makeup brush handle right below your cheekbone (directly in the pocket underneath the actual bone) to find the right angle for your face. Once you’ve found the correct placement, dust some bronzer right below it with a contouring brush, then blend the color out to soften it.

20. Map your contours with a brow pencil

Photo credit: Elizabeth Griffin
Photo credit: Elizabeth Griffin

Don’t have a cream contour stick? No problem. After you’ve applied your foundation, mark the areas you want to contour—the hollows under your cheekbones, your temples, along your hairline, jawline, the sides of your nose, the tip of the nose, and the crease of your eyes—with a deeply colored brow gel pencil. Yep, you read that right. Brow gel pencils are really concentrated, yet very smudge-able, which makes them perfect for contouring.

21. Blot your oil with a clean toilet seat cover

Okay, yes, this sounds gross, but hear me out! Both blotting papers and toilet seat covers are made out of similar materials and will help soak up the excess oil on your skin. So, if you’re in a pinch and headed to the bathroom to freshen up anyway, grab one of these covers and pat it over your T-zone to decrease any excess oil on your face.

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