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Makeup Artists’ Fixes for Clumpy Mascara, Smudged Eyeliner and Other Minor Beauty Hassles

Whether you've smeared your cat eye or smudged your polish, these clever hacks will erase your makeup mishaps when you have only seconds to spare

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Smudged eyeliner

Unlike professional makeup artists, most of us have a tough time applying liquid or gel eyeliner with a steady hand. Fortunately, there are a number of quick and easy ways to correct any smudged eyeliner mistakes. “There are products on the market especially for this,” says makeup artist Anni Bruno. “On the lower end, ELF’s Makeup Remover Pen is basically just a cotton swab that’s pre-moistened with makeup remover (essentially just mineral oil) in a felt-tip applicator.” You can also make a DIY version by dipping sharp-point cotton swabs into makeup remover (coconut oil works great too!). “On the higher end, there’s Paula Dorf’s Sweep Away, a twist-up, solid stick of emollients that work like a pencil eraser to make smudges disappear,” Bruno says. These makeup techniques will make your eyes pop!

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Eyeshadow fallout

It’s so frustrating when you finally achieve complexion perfection only to then have your cheekbones littered with dark powder from wayward eye shadow! Thankfully, Bruno has a few expert tricks up her sleeve on how to avoid having shadow flakes fall down onto your face. “One trip is to do your eye makeup first. Then clean up any fallout under the eyes, and do your foundation and concealer after. Big time-saver!” she advises. Another approach is to use eyeshadows that feel and look densely packed. “Loose pigments are hard to work with, and it’s almost impossible to avoid fallout with those,” Bruno says. Look for eyeshadows that have a certain solidity to them, and avoid shadows with micro-glitter, as that compromises the strength of the product and makes it break up into messy powder. “Companies also make physical barrier products for this purpose,” Bruno says. “Shadow Shields are disposable adhesives that are placed under the eyes to collect fallout, and are thrown away after makeup application. Or, there are several companies that make a silicone pad on a stick, that you place under the eye with one hand, while applying your shadow with the other. The fallout lands on the silicone pad, rather than your skin. These are great, as they’re washable and reusable!”

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Streaky fake tan

So much can go wrong when applying self-tanner or getting a spray tan; from orange palms to streaky legs, the blunders know no bounds. Fortunately, there are some easy fixes to prevent these errors too. “There’s a big difference between a spray tan and a custom airbrush tan,” Bruno says. “With spray tanning, you will always run the risk of going streaky or orange. Spend the extra couple of dollars to hire a tanning specialist who uses top quality equipment and products, and then there’s less chance of looking streaky.” For those in New York City, she recommends Sweetheart Tan in Brooklyn. Another tip is to make sure your skin is well exfoliated and not moisturized. “The tanning solution won’t stick to over hydrated or greasy skin,” Bruno says. What if you’ve already got orange ankles and tiger stripes down your thigh? Dip a cotton pad in rubbing alcohol and massage out the stain. Just be sure to moisturize afterward because the alcohol can be very drying.

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Smudged polish

As luck tends to have it, every time you finish painting your nails, you suddenly have to open a door, zip up your sweater, or fish in your bag for your keys. The result: smudged polish. For this issue, Bruno recommends nail polish remover pens, available from beauty shops like Ulta and Sally Beauty Supply. “If you use a very light touch with them and lightly tap the smudge, you can often soften the jagged edge of the smudge and smooth the polish down until it’s at least the same texture as the rest of the nail,” Bruno says. “This is a good in-the-meantime quick-fix before you can get it properly repainted.” Another great option is LONDONTOWN’s Instant Smudge Fix, which erases mistakes in one quick stroke with a combination of slow and fast evaporating solvents that dilute and blend the polish, plus natural polymers that harden and dry it without affecting the quality of color. For smudges, apply a full coat of Smudge Fix, let dry for 30 seconds, and finish with a layer of top coat. Nails look brand new! Here’s what your nail polish color says about your personality.

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Over-plucked eyebrows

Throughout the nineties, many of us made the huge mistake of over-tweezing our brows, as was then in fashion. Sadly, hindsight is 20-20, and many of those stuck with pencil-thin brows today are deeply regretting that decision! “A lot of follicle damage was done during those days, and most of those hairs will never come back. We also lose hair with aging, so where we once had full, beautiful brows, we tend to notice they thin with age. It’s a bummer. But there are solutions!” Bruno says. First, there’s the chemical approach. “You know those lash serums that make your eyelashes grow to ridiculous lengths? They exist for brows, too!” says Bruno, whose go-to brand is LiBrow. “It won’t make you grow hair where there is no follicle, but it will strengthen your existing follicles, helping you keep the brow hairs your already have, as well as helping them grow longer and stronger. If you don’t like a penciled-in look, use an angled brow brush and a matte shadow similar to your brow hair color, and just fill them in. This is the easiest and best way to create a beautiful frame for your eyes,” Bruno says. These tips for perfect eyebrows can transform your appearance.

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Clumpy mascara

It’s easy to get a bit carried away with mascara in the pursuit of long, thick eyelashes. However, lumpy-clumpy probably isn’t the texture you were going for. “This happens when there are too many coats of mascara on the lashes, especially if one or several of those coats is with a waterproof formula,” Bruno says.”The best way to fix this is to take an empty mascara wand (disposable mascara wands, or “spoolies,” are available at beauty supply stores), and run that through your lashes to brush out the clumps. If they are waterproof mascara clumps (really stuck on there), you can dip the spoolie in a bit of makeup remover and lightly brush through to separate the lashes and remove the clumps,” Bruno advises.

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Ending your foundation at your jaw

When applying makeup, it’s easy to forget to cover the skin beyond your face, but having a sharp contrast between the color of your neck and chin is a major makeup faux pas! When applying liquid foundation, blend that line down purposefully. Make sure to spread a thin layer of coverage under your jawline, down your neck, even onto your décolletage. The goal is to make your foundation look like it’s your natural pigment, not a layer of orange paint.

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Cakey concealer

The skin under and around our eyes is incredibly delicate, thin, and often creased. As a result, you may notice that your concealer settles into those fine lines and appears cakey. To avoid this, try smoothing your under eyes with moisturizer, then primer, then directly press concealer onto your skin with your finger, and finishing off with a very light dusting of setting powder. This three-step approach will definitely reduce that annoying concealer buildup.

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Dry, flakey lipstick

Your lipstick is only as smooth as your lips, so if you haven’t been moisturizing and exfoliating them regularly, there’s a good chance your lipstick will go on clumpy and flake off throughout the day (gross!). The solution is to make sure your lips are healthy, smooth, and hydrated before ever applying lipstick. If it’s too late and you’ve already put some on, dab your pout with a colorless lip balm like the Caudalie Lip Conditioner to smooth out clumps and retroactively moisturize your lips.