How To: Buy Makeup for a Flawless Face

One of the most intimidating things ever is walking into a department store to shop for makeup.

I am a makeup artist. I have been for more than 20 years. I have worked for cosmetic companies at makeup labs all over the world, produced photo shoots, worked with celebrities—but nothing is more intimidating than walking into a department store to buy makeup. I feel like I just walked into my high school math class and a pop quiz has been announced.

I can only imagine walking in wanting help and knowing the person answering your questions has a vested interest in “upselling” you. I know there are great makeup artists working at makeup counters, but honestly, sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw who you get and what they are promoting.

In order to help you navigate the makeup area, let me share a few tips you may want to keep in mind before you walk in the doors that will help you get exactly what you want.

This week, let’s concentrate on complexion products.

The most important thing you can do (just like when you were in school) is to do your homework. Have a clear idea of what you need and what you don’t need. Have a list of products you want to look at (even tearing out magazine ads to bring with you). Also, have a list of questions you want answered handy.

If it’s skin care you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to ask for a sample. This way you can incorporate the item into your current skincare regimen and make sure it’s the right product before you buy.

When you are shopping for complexion products (foundation, concealer, etc.) go to the store barefaced…Yes, I did say barefaced. Once you recover from the shock, think logically: If you are going to buy new complexion products and walk into the store with a full face of makeup, you will never truly be able to see if the formulas and shades blend seamlessly with your skin tone. If you have a bare face you can find the products that best match your skin and create a flawless look.

Here are some of your possible options and combinations of complexion products to help you create a flawless canvas:

Concealer (alone or with foundation)
If your skin is in good shape, and has a pretty even tone but there is a bit of darkness or discoloration under the eyes, around the nose, or even an occasional blemish, you may only need a concealer. A concealer is a bit more opaque than foundation and can even out your skin tone in just those areas. The key here is that if you are only using concealer it needs to match your skin tone exactly in order to disappear into the skin and give the illusion of perfect skin. (If you are going to use it under foundation, it can be a tiny bit lighter than your skin tone as the foundation will bring it to the perfect tone.)

Foundation (alone or over concealer)
First decide on what type of coverage you would like—and the choices are endless: From heaviest to lightest coverage I would say cream or stick foundation tends to be the heaviest, liquid would be next, tinted moisturizer even less so, and least coverage would be the BB creams.

Once you decide on formula—and this could take a little while—you need to find the perfect color match.

In order to find the best shade, start by applying three consecutive shades of foundation on the cheek. This will help you find which shade totally disappears into your skin. Once you find the right shade, ask to have it applied to your entire face and take a walk around the store and even outside to make sure that the foundation camouflages imperfection without being visible. This is really the key. Your skin should be visible through the foundation regardless of whether you’ve chosen a sheer or more opaque product (what you don’t want even with a full coverage product is a mask-like appearance).

Have the salesperson write everything down, including formula and shade, and even any specialty tools or instructions. Don’t feel pressure to buy right away. Wear the makeup and see how it looks in a few hours or a whole day. Then you can return and purchase the perfect combination of products to help you create a flawless complexion.