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15 Makeup Secrets of Women Who Always Look Put Together

You don’t need to do a lot to look perfectly polished. You just need a few tips from the pros!

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Effortlessly gorgeous

You know the type of woman we’re talking about—the one who never has a hair out of place, whose skin is always glowy, and whose mascara is never smudged. How does she do it? She definitely has a few tricks up her sleeve, and believe it or not, one of them may be dialing back on the makeup. “A great general rule of thumb that always looks elegant and timeless—and perhaps seen very little in today’s makeup-obsessed culture—is ‘less is more,’ especially if you want your makeup to last throughout the day,” says Los Angeles–based celebrity makeup artist and beauty expert Geoffrey Rodriguez. “The more makeup you apply, the greater the chance of smudges and smears.”

And, of course, it’s important to remember that great makeup starts with a great canvas, so it’s essential to take proper care of your skin. “It’s no secret that makeup looks the best when our skin is cared for,” says celebrity aesthetician and dermatological nurse Natalie Aguilar. “During the winter months, the biggest complaint I receive from clients is dry, flaky facial skin—no matter how much moisturizer they use. For a flawless, natural-looking makeup canvas, I recommend gently exfoliating. Exfoliating allows humectants to bypass dead keratin layers and hydrate the skin from within.” Aguilar suggests exfoliating before bed, then following with an intense, hydrating overnight mask and sleeping next to a warm-mist humidifier set between 40 and 60 percent.

Now that you know those basics, here are some secrets makeup artists say are essential to looking flawless. Once you’re up to speed, find out the makeup rules you should know by the time you’re 40.

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Apply eye shadow first

We’ve all been there: dark shadows and unsightly circles underneath the eyes from where makeup has smudged or fallen from above. Skip the raccoon eyes by being strategic about the order of your makeup application. “Avoid dark under eyes by applying your eye shadow first. Then wipe away any eye shadow that may have fallen under your eye,” advises celebrity makeup artist Lauren D’Amelio. “If you skip this step, the fallout under your eye will oxidize throughout the day, giving you a dark appearance under the eye.” Try a makeup wipe, like Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Face Wipes, to remove dark shadow and liner residue easily and efficiently—without ruining the rest of your makeup.

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Keep maskne at bay

While wearing a mask is incredibly important to stay safe, it sometimes comes with a frustrating side effect for your skin. “If you are like me, you dread putting your mask on in fear of what it is doing to the skin,” says makeup artist Chris Burdette, who experiences “maskne,” face-mask-induced breakouts. “My most recent hack to keeping my skin healthy is as simple as a spritz.” Burdette recommends a quick spritz of hydration both on the skin and inside the mask before putting it on. Try Jane Iredale Balance Hydration Spray with green tea extract to help acne-prone skin. Noticing more acne than usual lately?

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Mist the skin

Keeping skin hydrated is a must for proper, non-cakey makeup application, as well as for a polished look. “I absolutely love a face mist, and I use it pre- and post-makeup as a skin-prep tool and a setting spray, but I also use it during the makeup process to make the skin appear more dewy and feel more healthy,” says makeup artist Kirin Bhatty. “I like to mist my makeup sponge and dampen it with the Refresh Aloe Cucumber face mist from Epicuren. The sponge puts hydration and skin care into every tap of makeup onto the skin. This creates a diffused and flawless look that keeps the skin hydrated and protected all day long.” Don’t miss these tricks for sweat-proof makeup that won’t melt off your face.

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Add luminizer

Flawless-looking makeup starts with dewy, glowing skin. To get the look, mix a little luminizer into your foundation, advises celebrity makeup artist Renée Loiz, founder of the Black-owned beauty guide Color May Vary. “Try adding a drop or two of OmGlo Highlighting Serum to one or two pumps of Sappho Essential Foundation and apply to your face starting from the inner perimeter and blending outwards,” she says. “Use a dampened BeautyBlender sponge to bounce the foundation mixture on. The combo of water in the blender with the foundation and highlighter mixture allows the foundation to go on sheer and blend in seamlessly.” Learn the other inexpensive beauty tricks only stylists know.

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Exfoliate lips

Smooth, kissable lips require diligent prep work. “Creating the perfect pout requires the right daily products, and staying hydrated is key,” says makeup artist Marcia Williams. “Start with a lip scrub nightly to create a hydrated pout throughout the day. Your morning routine should be followed by a lip mask and conditioner.” Try Dr. PAWPAW Scrub & Nourish Duo and Kiehl’s Buttermask for Lips. If you’re a DIY kind of person, check out these homemade remedies for dry and chapped lips.

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Choose the right mascara

Even for women who forgo most makeup, mascara is usually cited as a must-have—and for good reason. It’s the kind of makeup item that immediately makes you look more polished and put together, without much fuss or time commitment. “Mascara was a must prior to the new normal and now might be the most important beauty product in your arsenal,” explains makeup artist Alfred Lester. “What makes a great mascara? Lightweight, no transfer, no flaking, no clumping, non-drying, and rich in color.” Lester recommends L’Oréal Voluminous Mascara, calling it a staple that “checks every box.” Just make sure to avoid these mascara mistakes that make your lashes look clumpy.

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Find the right foundation

“Choose the correct foundation formula for your skin type,” says makeup artist Tanya Deemer. “For example, if you have extremely dry skin, you don’t want a foundation with a super matte finish. As the day goes on, the skin will look even more dehydrated. The same goes for oily skin—this would be a great time to choose that matte or semi-matte finish, in order to have an even finish all day long.” For dry skin, try super moisturizing and creamy It Cosmestics’ Your Skin But Better CC+ cream foundation with SPF 50. Combination skin might like bareMinerals Loose Powder Matte Foundation SPF 15. If you have oily skin, try Charlotte Tilbury Magic Foundation.

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Prime the eyelids

Nothing screams messy like cakey, pilled, or smeared eye shadow in your creases. Luckily, eye shadow can stay in place with proper products. “The eyelids are the oiliest part of the face, so using a lid-priming product before eye shadow is highly recommended,” says Deemer. “This will prevent smearing and/or creasing all day long.” For a lasting eye shadow primer, try cult classic Urban Decay Original Eyeshadow Primer Potion. While we’re on the subject, this is the most flattering makeup for every eye color.

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Prime your lips, too

“Where lipstick is concerned, I keep the same priming approach by using an anti-feathering, clear priming pencil before anything else,” says makeup artist Lisa Aharon. “It not only makes lipstick application a cinch but also helps to lock it in place. Recently, I was inspired to wear red lipstick out to dinner under my mask—only to reveal more of a Joker-like look upon mask removal. I will not be forgetting to apply my lip primer again!” Aharon rotates between Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil, Dior Universal Contour Lip Liner, and Chantecaille Lip Keep Lip Definer Pencil. FYI, here’s what the shape of your lips says about your personality.

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Don’t forget foundation primer

Do you see a theme here? After a long day, it’s hard to keep foundation looking clean and matte…unless you rely on one of the most beloved secrets of makeup artists everywhere: foundation primer. “For anyone who loves glowing skin but hates their big pores and/or looking like a beaming headlight a few hours into the day, try working a primer into your routine,” says Aharon. “It will smooth the skin and give something for the foundation to adhere to for hours on end. If you suffer from oily skin, it can also help to control shine.” She recommends The Ordinary High Adherence Silicone Primer as a favorite for blurring and mattifying skin while keeping it hydrated. Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer is another good option.

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Tame unruly brows

While bold, beautiful brows are still in, well-groomed is perennially in favor. “Struggle with unruly brows? Grab your favorite dry shampoo and a toothbrush!” advises makeup artist Michanna Murphy. “Spray a little bit of dry shampoo on a toothbrush and brush through your brows. The dry shampoo will absorb any excess oil in the brows, which can lead to breakouts and a ‘wilted’ brow look, and instead create a beautiful feathered brow that looks full and fluffy.” Try Ouai Super Dry Shampoo. You can also spray a little hairspray on a brow brush to keep brows in place.

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Run a T-zone defense

An oily, greasy T-zone is the enemy of makeup perfection. “To avoid looking shiny or oily while still wearing a dewy makeup look, use a translucent powder down the center of the T-zone and around the mouth, but leave the cheeks as is,” says makeup artist Neil Scibelli. “This will allow the skin to reflect light and have dimension without over-powdering.” Try a powder with a subtle luminizing effect like Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte’s Genius Under Eye & Face Magic Setting Powder.

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Choose the right shade of powder

While women often know their proper foundation shade, they might forgo the proper shade of powder in favor of translucent powder that doesn’t properly match, which can result in a caked-on look. Take the time to find the hue that’s right for your complexion, says Murphy. For deeper skin tones, she recommends MAC Cosmetics blot powder in the shade Deep Dark. “This touch-up powder is tried and true and works extremely well on deeper skin tones, making sure not to leave an ashy cast behind,” she explains. Check out these Black-owned beauty products you should really own by now.

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Embrace the BeautyBlender

A popular makeup item adored by most makeup artists as well as beauty editors, the BeautyBlender makeup sponge has a variety of uses, all designed to help makeup not only apply flawlessly but also stay fresh-looking all day. Charlie Riddle, Global Beauty Director & Head of Artistry at Stila Cosmetics, recommends “[carrying] a beauty blender with you to refresh your makeup and get rid of the end-of-the-day texture and revive your makeup. The blender also is great to use to touch up powder as well.” For a cheaper alternative, try the e.l.f. Cosmetics Total Face Sponge or the Stila Double-Ended Blending Sponge.

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Go for bold lips

A classic red lip is synonymous with old-school Hollywood glamour and sex appeal. Makeup artist Melissa Mangrum recommends not being afraid of going for bold, look-at-me lips, especially in a red hue. “A pop of color on the lips while keeping the rest of the face nice and natural always gives off chic, polished, and pulled-together vibes,” says Mangrum. “My fave and forever go-to lip color is a classic matte red. If bold lipsticks aren’t your thing, a lip tint will also do the trick. The goal is to use products you don’t have to constantly reapply.” Try Fenty Beauty Mattemoiselle Plush Matte Lipstick in Ma’Damn Royal Red or Pat McGrath Labs MatteTrance Lipstick in Blue Red. Now that you’ve got your makeup covered, check out the style secrets of women who always look put together.

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Nadine Jolie Courtney
Nadine Jolie Courtney is a lifestyle writer with more than 20 years of experience covering beauty, travel, health, parenting, royalty and more, and a former editor at several major newsstand magazines. A graduate of Barnard College, Nadine is also a TV/feature writer and the author of four books, including the award-winning novel "All-American Muslim Girl," a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults book of 2021.