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Know your favorite foundation? Cool. Now what about your favorite foundation brush? Bronzing brush? Something to apply pigment to your eyes? No need panic, you’re a makeup beginner and that’s totally fine. You can stop right there—or, you can level up. With brushes designed to suit your needs. And…more. This is what I’d like to call makeup 201—not your entry course, but the next one over. More advanced, more tools, better results. So pick up your pencils and pay attention. Class is in session and pretty soon you’re going to need a bigger bag.
Let’s not begin this with an argument, but yes, you need a primer. More specifically, a primer that actually works—Tatcha’s. It didn’t make ITG’s Top 25 for no reason. A pea-size amount is enough to cover your entire face, eyelids included. Don’t let its pinky-white color and solid texture scare you off, it dries clear and feather-light. But the main reason you should start with it is because it makes all the following steps way easier. I’m talking less product and more control. You’ll be able to apply, blend, and smooth like you know what you’re doing. Your foundation won’t sit chalkily in one place on your face. Eyeshadow pigments will be easily distributed. What does Nike always say? Just…? Just… Well anyway, you know what to do.
Color correctors are fun because you get to become the Bob Ross of your own face. Undereye circles? Bring out the yellows and oranges. Redness? Hello green. Looking a bit sallow and washed out? Go for purple. Apply them under concealer or foundation so you don’t walk around like a human topography map. You don’t have to be super picky about the green or purple correctors, but you’ll want to be a bit more discerning when it comes to an undereye dark circle corrector—it needs to lay without pilling or creasing. My recommendation—Make Up For Ever’s HD Concealer for the lightest formula that actually erases dark circles (look for shades R22, R32, R40, and R50, which work as correctors). Also great—Bobbi Brown’s Intensive Skin Serum Corrector. Your decision.
Your face isn’t one color, so why should you stick to one foundation shade? These days I’m wearing somewhere in between two and three. A lighter one that I’m using as an undereye concealer, another one that’s a smidge darker for the center part of my face—nose, lower forehead, and cheeks—and an even darker one for the perimeter of my face. You don’t need to be fancy about the foundation either—drugstore ones are fine. And even though this calls for more product, the result is incredibly realistic. After all, what better way to announce that you’re wearing a face full of makeup when it’s all one, flat seamless shade?
Only necessarily when you’ve used powder and you’re a little impatient. Powders will settle into your skin after an hour or so—setting sprays just speed up the process. Any one will do. They don’t even have to be called a setting spray! Mists are fine—and you might as well spritz something that smells nice. Rosewater…even plain old Evian water will work. A little spritz separates the makeup novices from the big leagues.
You don’t necessarily need a concealer brush—a few dabs from your finger will do, but when it comes to foundation, you’ll need to make sure yours is the right one. Liquid foundation? Use a brush called—shockingly—a foundation brush. It’s not a large brush, but its long synthetic fibers are good at moving foundation all around. Pressed powder foundations are better paired with a densely-packed, fluffy but not long-haired brush. And don’t forget a blush brush. A medium-size dome is all you need for powder blushes, and in the case of cream and liquid products, just use your hands.
When it comes to eyes, you’ll need at least three things. A small fluffy brush to deposit shadow all over, a longer-haired one to accentuate the crease, and a smudger so you can soften harsh eyeliner. Bonus points for a thin synthetic brush you can use to tap on glitter and shimmer as needed. And then you’re good to go. Until the next level of makeup education—onwards and upwards.
Not really a style, just a starting point. And the perfect time to figure out your never-be-without-it type of product. For Claudia, with finer curls, it’s mousse. “We want to use a product that gives it grip and hold,” Neil says. “Mousse is great—it gives the hair some bite.” Neil used Orlando Pita Play The Great Inflate Air Whipped Styling Foam, but we’ve had good luck with the Ouai Mousse and the Bumble and bumble Mousse too.
Xiara’s working with kinkier, coarser hair, so the product needs some time to really soak in. If this is you, make sure to apply a very moisturizing cream when your hair is close to soaking wet. Neil used Aquage Curl Defining Cream, which “feels like a leave-in conditioner but with a bit more of a hold.” This will control the curl and nix the frizz in one scrunch. Other similar products include: Virtue Polish Unfrizz Cream and Kevin Murphy Leave-In Repair.
Clauda and Xiara wear Ulla Johnson dresses.
Using the Dyson Dryer. Which is the only blowdryer worth your time and hard-earned cash if you’ve struggled with using tools to dry and style your hair. It cuts down on time in a very serious way. (It used to take ITG’s Senior Editor Emily Ferber an hour to blow dry her curly, coarse hair. With the Dyson, it takes 20 minutes.) Of course, recommendations on dryers that are not $400 are very much welcome in the comments.
But back to the looks, to blow dry natural curls you’re going to want a low-heat, low-fan setting along with a proper diffuser attachment. As you’re diffusing, there are some hand motions that help the process along. “I don’t know if you want to say this but, ‘Money, money, money’” Neil says, twisting the hair between his forefinger and thumb. “By doing this to the hair cuticle, you can dry the whole thing.” Fully dry is important. If it’s not dry all the way, it’s going to continue to grow and change shape past what you may have intended to be the style.
The other great thing about curly hair is that buns are easy, always romantic, and all you really need is an elastic or some pins. On Claudia, Neil gathered her hair back into a chignon, but in the middle-back of her head. To keep it from feeling too athletic, he pulled some strands out in the front for some Dilone-esque curls to frame the face. He also pulled one side really tight to her head (using a bit of Aquage Finishing Spray), which gave it a bit of an undercut look. Very slick.
On Xiara, the best way to showcase her texture was a simple ponytail with lots of volume in the back. To hydrate the curls while wet, Neil used Orlando Pita Play Liquid Crown Multi-Oil Concentrate (this helps smooth the strands and hold the shape). To get the right fluff to the pony, he sprayed it down and scrunched with Orlando Pita Play Flash Light Shine Boosting Spray. Christophe Robin’s Instant Volumizing Mist With Rosewater is another, very pleasant smelling alternative.
OK, if you want to spend a soupçon more time on your hair (and why not? Diffusing and scrunching is so low-impact you might feel motivated to go harder…), Neil got a little fancy for some inspo. Claudia got a loose chignon, this time properly at the nape of the neck, with texture all around, utilizing the Aquage Thickening Spraygel for an almost-wet look. The feeling? Soft but definitely polished. Meanwhile, Xiara got two braids roped around each other and detailed with the appropriately named Aquage Detailing Creme. Proper braiding makes hair happy and healthy, and stays put, which is key. Because if there’s one thing girls with curly hair know, it’s that natural hair rarely stays where you put it for long. Sometimes it’s nice to be a little hands off.