Being an adult is weird. By now, you’re expected to automatically know some stuff about life, like how to file your taxes, jumpstart your car, cook at least a semi-respectable meal, and, according to every junior-high kid on social media with Kardashian-level contouring, be really, really good at makeup. And sometimes, it can feel like all of that beauty knowledge skipped your brain and infiltrated your friend’s or co-worker’s, and now you’re stuck with a whole bunch of basic questions, and the tiniest bit of shame about asking them.
But, hey, we don’t care. Like, at all. We don’t care if you still aren’t sure how to use concealer, or what face primers do, or why your foundation keeps melting off your face by noon. That’s why we’re here—to educate your ass, so you can feel a little bit more informed. So we answered your most-confusing, semi-embarrassing, WTF-worthy makeup questions, below, with the hope that you’ll feel a little less out of the loop next time you’re doing your makeup. And, if you have any other beauty questions you’re dying to have answered, make sure to ask us in the comments below! Keep reading to have your brain blown.
Q: “OK, do I really need to use primer? What does it even do?”
THE ANSWER: Oh, my god—yes. Yes, yes, yes. We can’t scream yes enough. Not using a primer before applying your makeup is like putting shoes on wet feet, or painting an un-sanded house, or, uh, wearing your bra over your shirt. It just doesn’t make sense, OK? Because makeup primers are filled with silicones that transform every skin type into a silky, smooth, fine-line-free canvas for makeup to literally glide over, like an airbrushed portrait. It also keeps your concealer (and tinted moisturizer and eyeliner and eyeshadow and everything else) from sliding throughout the day, and also, it’s pure magic.
THE FIX: Buy a freaking primer! Now! You can go high-end with the cult-favorite Smashbox Photo Finish Primer, or get similar results for cheap with our favorite drugstore dupe: Monistat Chafing Gel (no, it has nothing to do with your vagina; the anti-chafing gel is filled with the same active ingredients as Smashbox’s version, for a quarter of the cost). Just smooth a rice-sized blob of primer over you clean, dry skin, wait a minute, and apply your makeup as usual.
Q: “Why does eyeliner leave marks in the crease of my eye or smudge underneath my eyes?”
THE ANSWER: You can blame your eyelids for your liner troubles. Hooded eyelids cause your lash lines to smash against your upper eyelids each time you blink, leaving a stamp-like smudge on your skin. And, if your lids are especially oily (hey—it’s not gross; even those with dry skin can have oilier lids), the liner will slowly slide down your face throughout the day.
THE FIX: No, you don’t need to get eyelid surgery to wear eyeliner—you just need to turn your eyelids into a smooth, dry canvas for makeup, which means keeping the area free of moisturizers and eye creams in the morning, then loading up on primers and powders. First, smooth an eyelid primer over your lids (we’re obsessed with Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion) to create a smooth, matte base, then dust a translucent loose powder or neutral-toned eyeshadow over your lids to set the primer. Then, and almost as importantly, you need to examine your eyeliner. If you’re using kohl or crayon, which are meant to smudge, swap them for a long-wear gel eyeliner, L’Oréal Infallible Never Fail Eyeliner or Make Up For Ever Eye Pencil, then “set” your liner by dusting the line with eyeshadow of the same color.
Q: “How do I actually conceal a zit without it looking cakey or obvious?”
THE ANSWER: With the patience of a war-zone negotiator, and the care of a Faberge-egg decorator.
THE FIX: If your skin is red and irritated from breakouts, smooth on a green color-correcting face primer (we love Givenchy Acti’mine Color Correcting Primer in Acti Kiwi) to tone down the redness, then apply your foundation as usual, avoiding the zit itself. With a small concealer brush, dab a thick, dry concealer (the drier a concealer is, like those found in pots or tubes, like Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage, the better it’ll adhere to skin) over the very center of the pimple, gently twisting the brush to make sure the concealer fills your skin’s nooks and crannies. Gently tap the center of the zit with your finger to blend the concealer into the surrounding skin, then lightly dust the zit with a fluffy brush dipped in finishing powder to keep the concealer from sliding off.
Q: “Why does my makeup always cake up around my nose?”
THE ANSWER: Two things that don’t mix: foundation and oily skin. Or, really, any type of makeup and oily skin. If your base is slippery with oil (which can come from a super-rich moisturizer, or your skin’s natural production), your makeup will inevitably slide around, caking around your nostrils, creasing under your eyes, and settling into the fine lines on your forehead.
THE FIX: Stick with thin layers of lightweight moisturizers in the morning, like Simple Protecting Light Moisturizer SPF 15, and give all skin-care products at least 10 minutes to sink in before applying your makeup. Smooth a mattifying face primer, like Becca Ever-Matte Poreless Priming Perfector, over your skin to stave off midday oil and give your makeup something to adhere to, and then blend sheer layers of concealer and foundation over your face, making sure to really buff around the crevices of your nose where makeup tends to cake. Finish by dusting your T-zone with translucent setting powder, like Tarte Smooth Operator Amazonian Pressed Setting Powder.
Q: “Why do my dark circles always look so obvious, and how do I cover them up?”
THE ANSWER: Ugh, genetics, right? Unfortunately, those dark rings below your eyes are as much a part of you as your left hand or your deep affinity for cheese, so we’re sorry to say that you’re stuck with them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still lessen their appearance through concealer, drugs (not those kind), and good, ‘ol-fashioned sleep.
THE FIX: If your dark circles have only surfaced in the last few weeks—and brought with them a few bags—try popping an antihistamine (reduces the puffiness that can come with allergies) and get to bed earlier (helps decrease water retention). But if under-eye circles run in the family and have plagued you for years, your best bet is to learn the art of camouflage, which means finding a creamy, peach- or red-toned concealer (peach neutralizes blue-hued circles, while red neutralizes green-hued circles), like Benefit Erase Paste Brightening Concealer for light-to-medium tones, and Becca Backlight Target Color Corrector for dark-to-deep tones, and avoiding anything that looks even remotely yellow (yellow-toned products—a.k.a. most concealers—make circles look more obvious). With a damp Beauty Blender or sponge, dab the concealer over the shadows, on the inner corners of your eyes, and down the sides of your nose, then tap your regular concealer on top.