By now, we know that first impressions count—and none more pressure-laden and (possibly) life-changing than those of a first date. Whether or not you’ve met the person before, the fact that it’s a date means you are both going out of your way to spend time with each other—no Tinder swiping or OkCupid messaging here. No, a first date involves actual face-to-face human interaction, sometimes consisting of staring at each other’s faces for the better part of the evening. In other words, your makeup better be on-point. Much like your outfit, your makeup (or lack thereof) contributes to the whole first-impression thing, and for most women, a lot of careful thought goes into the process.
With that in mind, we asked some of our beauty editor counterparts at Yahoo Beauty in New York and PopSugar in Los Angeles for their first-date makeup rules so we could compare them with our own. And because we realise beauty editors do not represent the general population, we also asked other women who have nothing to do with the industry at all (but still have plenty to say about makeup). Do L.A. girls keep their beauty looks laid-back and more natural, per their stereotype? Do New York girls love black eyeliner? Do all women want to appear polished and striking, or would they rather channel Beyoncé’s #iwokeuplikethis vibe for a first date? So many questions—and you’ll find some very intriguing answers ahead. Keep scrolling to find out how six L.A. and six New York girls do first-date makeup!
Ideal First-Date Makeup Look: Alluring
The Details: I’ve been with my boyfriend for years, so it’s been a long time since I’ve had a first date—but my signature look is still the same on a date now as it was on the night we met. Dating-wise I’m someone who is upbeat, confident, doesn’t play games, and can’t help but always show my true self—and I think my makeup look totally reflects that on a night out. It’s classic, flattering, and feminine.
No matter what time of day it is, before a date, I think it’s nice to start fresh, so I’ll cleanse and moisturize my face and use an eye cream. Fresh ($42) is my current favorite. I always have dark circles, so I use Bobbi Brown’s Corrector ($25) and ($35). I have pretty cooperative skin and have never used foundation or BB cream a day in my life unless it was for a TV appearance. I want my skin to breathe! I do, however, enjoy blush—I mix it up all the time depending on the season (I like creams in the summer and powders more in the winter) and prefer light but bright pinks on my fair skin.
For shadow, I just like a wash of color. My favorite is Tom Ford’s ($60)—the brand has awesome metallic shades every season that you can layer on (and they don’t ever crease). My go-to mascara is Dolce & Gabbana Beauty’s ($33). It gives you really long, full lashes that are separated nicely. I usually only apply mascara to my top lashes—I think it’s more flirty, and then I never have any smudges or clumps under my eyes. I brush and fill in my brows with Tom Ford’s ($45).
My ideal lipstick adds color in a low-maintenance way, and for a date night I have one tube I always reach for: Yves Saint Laurent’s Rouge Volupté Sheer Candy Glossy Lip Balm (34) in Succulent Pomegranate. It’s a glossy, juicy hot pink that’s semi-sheer and hydrating on your lips. When it rubs off, it leaves a pretty stain behind.
Date Night vs. Daytime Makeup: For a daytime or an afternoon summer date, I’d use Hermès ($115). For night, I’ve recently gone back to Narciso Rodriguez’s ($123) when I want something a little sexier.
Ideal First-Date Makeup Look: Sweaty (I can explain!)
The Details: I swear, the best first dates I’ve been on have been runs, hikes, or fitness classes (excluding Spin classes—what’s the point of not seeing each other in the dark?), followed by breakfast or brunch. It’s the perfect opportunity to do something physical together without getting physically intimate, and because fitness is important to me, it’s good to see whether the other person has a good attitude even when it gets tough! For face, I like no eye makeup (though I have that fake the mascara for me), a tinted moisturizer to cover up the blemishes, some blush to fake a glow even before my heart starts pumping, and matte rosy lip color. For hair, I like to tie my long hair back into a cheerleader ponytail.
I wish I could say that I went without makeup on these first dates—that would probably be the healthiest for my skin, but alas, I cheat. I wear Jouer’s Matte Moisture Tint ($40), which comes with SPF 15—so important if you’re doing something outdoors! I have oily skin that gets ever greasier with sweat, but the moisture tint is unbelievably velvety and doesn’t cake on my face at all. Underneath the moisturizer, I wear Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Face Primer ($32), just to make sure my makeup sticks.
I swear by the Bobbi Brown ($46) for my cheekbones. It makes a shimmery, bronzy glow that not even intense exercising can induce on my face! One time I wore this and the guy said, “I’ve never seen anyone look so beautiful naturally in the morning.” I burst out laughing; I couldn’t stop myself.
I’m always changing my lip color (right now I’m obsessed with all purples!), but I avoid lip glosses during exercise just in case my hair sticks to my lips. Clinique’s ($16) in Sugared Maple is a rosy nude that I wear daily if I don’t feel like wearing a bold lip color.
Date Night vs. Daytime Makeup: It’s similar to my everyday beauty look, except I like brighter lip colors when I’m not exercising.
Ideal First-Date Makeup Look: Natural
The Details: I go for a pretty natural look every day, so I try to stay true to that for a date (I just wear better shoes). I love a face mist, so I'll prep my skin starting with Jurlique ($35), which is hydrating and soothing. In the summer, I usually wear a tinted moisturizer with SPF or a lightweight foundation, like Chantecaille’s ($75). If I'm looking for more coverage, I'll grab Dolce & Gabbana ($72), which also has SPF. I'll use the Bobbi Brown’s ($30) to hide any redness around my nose and on blemishes. For my under eyes, I use Bobbi Brown’s ($35) or ($32) (depending on how late I stayed up the night before deciding what to wear).
On cheeks, I love Tata Harper’s Volumizing Lip and Cheek Tint ($35) in Very Sweet, which reminds me of Nars ($30) in Orgasm but with added dewiness. I'll put a touch of RMS ($38) on my cheekbones and on my brow bone to brighten up my eye area. I'm really not an eye shadow girl, so for me, this takes the place of that. I rarely leave the house without giving my brows some TLC, and my weapon of choice is Benefit Cosmetics’ ($32), followed by a swipe of a clear brow gel—right now, I like Marc Jacobs Beauty’s Brow Tamer Grooming Gel ($24). I'm really into this mascara called The Face Shop Face It Maxx Eye Mascara ($22). I bought at in Koreatown—the brush is wild and makes your lashes look super long and defined. For lips, I go for a natural shade, either a light pink or a nude, usually reaching for a Clinique’s ($17) because it's the perfect amount of color and keeps my lips hydrated.
Date Night vs. Daytime Makeup: It's pretty similar to my everyday beauty look, but I do love a matte red lip. I must've read something in a magazine years ago that said guys are freaked out by red lipstick, and it has always stuck with me. I'll wait a few dates before I bust it out and always reach for a super–long-lasting, smudge-free option. For me, the perfect red is Nars ($26) in Mysterious Red. I buy it in bulk.
Ideal First-Date Makeup Look: Simple and easygoing
The Details: I'm not big on too much makeup in general, and I like to keep expectations in some universe of reality, which usually means light eye shadow, a little liner, dash of mascara, and a nude lip gloss. My ideal date calls for a lot of activities (e.g., bowling, walking the Highline), and sweating it all off would not be a good look.
In general, I love anything by Benefit! Quality and quantity—it takes me forever to go through a tube of their They're Real! Lengthening Mascara ($24), and I'm obsessed with their Gimme Brow ($24) fiber gel. Going hand in hand with my low-maintenance "finish my makeup in 15 minutes” routine, it takes two minutes to slick my brows into place while also adding a little color to fill them in. I'm also big on perfume and as a creature of habit stick to Elizabeth and James’s Nirvana White ($80). It's a light rosewater smell, which is never overpowering (my second greatest fear on a first date).
Date Night vs. Daytime Makeup: It's probably the same, for the most part. I might add a little more color to my gloss for a date, but then again, probably not. One time, I wore sparkly eye shadow, which was a leap out of my comfort zone. I ended up forgetting about it, wiped my eyes, and got it everywhere and mostly all over my date's black blazer.
Ideal First-Date Makeup Look: Alluring
The Details: My go-to look for a date is a smoky eye and natural lip—my favorite features to highlight are my eyes, and I love that slight variations in color palette create completely different looks. I swear by Covergirl’s Perfect Point Plus Self Sharpening Eye Pencil ($6) in Black Onyx, Stila’s Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner ($22), Urban Decay’s Naked Palette ($54), BareMinerals’ Matte Foundation ($28) in light, and Dior’s Hydra Life BB Creme Broad Spectrum ($60) with SPF 30 (it provides a nice dewy look).
I usually use one or the other, but if I need extra coverage, I'll put on a light layer of the BB cream on first, then BareMinerals on top. Otherwise I'll use Laura Mercier’s ($34) if I go with just BareMinerals.
For my brows, I use a flat-tipped brush and lightly dab into a bit of black eye shadow and line my brows, then gently fill them in. I add a swipe of drugstore brow gel over them when I'm done.
Date Night vs. Daytime Makeup: In my everyday look I tend to pair peachy tones with a swipe of mascara and lightly lined lids. Compared to my evening/date-night look, I'm a lot less heavy-handed with the shadows, if I use any at all.
Ideal First-Date Makeup Look: Casual and clean
The Details: The dream is always perfect-looking skin, without too much product working to make it look that way. I don't mind my date knowing I have makeup on, but I'd rather not have it be distracting. Plus, too much stuff on my face is always uncomfortable. I swear by Smashbox Camera Ready CC Cream ($50) as a base—it really does seem to blend over your “imperfections” a bit and never looks shiny. Then, I use good old Neutrogena SkinClearing Oil-Free Makeup ($14) to blot out the slight redness in the creases around my nose (I break out there a lot, so this is my safest bet), and if I happen to have a really noticeable pimple, I'll use Make Up For Ever's Full Cover Concealer ($32) to cover it up. On top of that go a few brushes of Revlon's Photoready Airbrush Effect Makeup ($15). Apparently, I'm always ready to have my picture taken… which is ironic because I hate pictures.
To finish things off, I opt for a light swipe on each cheek of whatever pink-meets-coral blush I'm digging, and L'Oréal Paris Voluminous False Fiber Lashes ($5) mascara. If I wear lipstick, I wipe most of it off so it's really faint—I have strong features and think it looks better when on the subtle side.
Date Night vs. Daytime Makeup: This is my everyday look to a T. The few times I've strayed for a date have left me feeling very uncomfortable—although I'm definitely down to add a light smoky eye for night time, usually when it's not disgustingly hot out (like right now in NYC).
Ideal First-Date Makeup Look: Alluring
The Details: My go-to look is a subdued brown smoky eye with winged liner and a neutral or light rosy lip. I usually use one eye shadow with a hint of shimmer and keep the rest matte so my eye catches more light without overdoing it. I swear by Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill Eye Palette ($60) in Boudoir. To make my eyes appear bigger, I like to apply brown eye shadow to the outer third of my bottom lash line for a slightly smudged, doe-eyed look. Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner ($22) is my go-to, and I also like Benefit Roller Lash Super Curling & Lifting Mascara ($24).
For my face, I like to keep my foundation light and simple. If my skin is extra pale, I'll swipe a thin layer of tinted powder on top.
To finish, I’ll add a swipe of Nars Satin Lip Pencil ($26) in Rikugien, a rosy-pink shade.
Date Night vs. Daytime Makeup: My date makeup look is definitely more glamorous than my typical eyeliner-and-mascara-only look during the day. I like to keep my makeup simple but have no problem turning it up a notch come nighttime, and especially on a first date.
Ideal First-Date Makeup Look: Glowing! Or J.Lo. Always.
The Details: I want to be a vision of sheen—not shine. That means dewy skin, illuminated cheeks, and glistening lids. I tend to put more emphasis on my eyes than anything else.
To start, I apply Clarins Beauty Flash Balm ($46) after I moisturize my skin. Because most of my makeup is cream, I start by evening out my skin tone with a foundation (Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation, $43, buffing it into my skin with Eve Lom's Powder Foundation Brush, $45—breakin' all the rules…). It makes my skin look airbrushed.
I contour and highlight my face, but I don't go nuts. I use Lorac's Pro Contour Palette ($45), using the light brown to contour my cheekbones, jaw, and nose. Then I apply their shimmer highlighter down the bridge of my nose, cupid's bow, and cheeks to illuminate those areas, using a fan brush. I am not a person who can live without blush. I've been using Josie Maran's Argan Infinity Lip and Cheek Creamy Oil ($18) in Everlasting Honey on my cheeks, and I apply it with a blush brush, even though it's cream.
I can't do my eye makeup if my brows aren't done first. I fill in any sparse areas with a Sonia Kashuk Brow Definer ($6) and then brush the hairs up with Chosungah 22 Dong Gong Minn Brow Maker ($22). I'm obsessed with Nudestix Eye Pencils ($24), so I wear them almost exclusively on my eyes. I start with Shimmer from the inner corner of my eye to highlight, then I add Golden Shimmer to the middle of my lid. From there, I line my lash line with Bronze and buff it out with my finger so it looks messy. Then, to vamp things up, I'll use a powder shadow, like the burgundy shade from Charlotte Tilbury's Luxury Palette ($52) in The Dolce Vita to accentuate the outer corners of my eyes and line my lower lash line. My go-to mascara is Full Fat Lashes ($29) by Charlotte as well.
Date Night vs. Daytime Makeup: I tend to keep my looks very similar! During the day, I usually don't apply the powder shadows. I keep it to the cream Nudestix, and instead of wearing lipstick, I'll dab Josie Maran's ($18) or Glossier's Coconut Balm Dotcom ($12) to amp up my natural lip color. My daytime skin corrector is usually Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer ($43).
Ideal First-Date Makeup Look: Natural… in a standout way
The Details: I try to go for an updated natural look for a date night with an extra focus on the eyes. I spend maybe a total of 10 minutes on my makeup, with at least six of them trying to make my eyeliner wings match. For a first date, I normally don't wear lipstick, just because I don't want to deal with reapplying and having “lip liner mouth,” but I do love Neutrogena’s ($9) in Fresh Plum. It gives such a nice tint and keeps your lips super moisturized. Some other products I count on for a first date are BareMinerals’ ($29) (thanks to the Byrdie team!) and Make Up For Ever ($19)—normally, I go for a liquid eyeliner because I think it's easier to apply and looks cleaner, but I love the way this blends. I also swear by MAC’s ($26), Nars ($30) in Orgasm, like everyone else, and MAC’s ($16) in Antiqued. It’s so good, and lately, I’ve been layering it with a lighter Jouer ($30).
Date Night vs. Daytime Makeup: It's pretty different. Most days I only use SPF and mascara, adding some brow gel and blush if I'm feeling adventurous. I also definitely don't wear eyeliner on a normal day.
Ideal First-Date Makeup Look: Warm
The Details: With this look, I like to start with Smashbox's Camera Ready BB Cream ($39) to even out my skin tone—it isn’t heavy, and blends in perfectly. I also love incorporating some sort of golden hues to my look. I normally turn to Laura Mercier's Baked Eye Colour ($24) in Terracotta. It's a great product because you're able to use it on more than just your eyes. I sometimes will use it as a highlighter on my cheekbones or down the bridge of my nose. I'll also wear a subtle a cat eye using Stila’s Smudge Stick Waterproof Eye Liner ($22). And for lips, I’ll use a light plum color like Nars’s Lipstick ($27) in Tanganyka.
Date Night vs. Daytime Makeup: They are quite similar—I live and die by eyeliner and am often seen rocking that baked eye shadow, even during the daytime.
Ideal First-Date Makeup Look: Sexy
The Details: My sexy, date-y, going-out beauty look has been the same for five years now—same products, same steps, same vibe. I would describe it as very quintessential Los Angeles: messy hair, glowing tan skin, minimal lips. Basically, like a ’70s California girl. People on the East Coast always used to tell me that I looked “very L.A.” It’s because of the hair and tan, and I hardly ever wear bright colors on my lips, let alone for a first date. I feel like red lipstick is very New York City, and in California, because we have the surfer-girl vibe, it’s more natural. Red lips don’t belong on a beach.
Product-wise, I am die-hard loyal to high-quality products that give me what I want. If I ever find something I like better, that’ll be that, but I haven’t yet. In terms of Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ($62), Dior DiorShow Mascara ($28), and Stila Smudge Pots ($24), that will never happen.
I start with Bare Minerals Faux Tan Face ($24), which makes skin glowing and luminous. It’s always the base to my makeup. Though it’s a gradual self-tanner, it imparts an immediate luminosity.
Then, I mix three things in non-precise proportions in my fingers: a few pumps of Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ($62) in shade 5.5 (I can barely talk about this foundation without getting choked up; it’s so good and essential to my self-esteem), a few pumps of Giorgio Armani’s Fluid Sheer ($62) in Shim Beige, and Nars Illuminator ($30) in Orgasm. I mix the whole concoction up with my fingers, warming it up, and apply it to my face with my fingers. The effect is really beautiful. My whole complexion looks radiant; I never use just foundation.
Then I swipe on Trish McEvoy Powder Bronzer ($35) in Dual Resort, which is my special one when I want an extra oomph over my usual Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Bronzer ($28). It’s got sophisticated shimmer particles and this golden-brown color—you literally look like you just back from vacation when you wear it.
For my eyes, I apply black eyeliner into an extended cat shape on my eyelid using a slanted brush and my trusty Stila Smudge Pots ($20) in black, which I love because it has grit and dark pigment. I curl my eyelashes with my Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler ($20) that I’ve had for too long to tell you without you worrying about me, and apply one million coats of Dior DiorShow Mascara ($28), the world’s best mascara to ever be invented. Like Armani Luminous silk, it’s so dear to my heart I will defend it like a mama bear. Then, I apply Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Eye Pencil ($23) in Night Violet to my lower lash line, from the outer edge to about three-quarters of the way in. It’s this sexy, smoky, sultry plum-purple with shimmer that makes your eyes dazzle. I have green eyes, and purple makes them pop.
Last but not least, I apply, like, seven juicy swipes of Neutrogena MoistureSmooth Color Stick ($8) in Watermelon. This used to be my Estée Lauder Signature Lipstick in Lustrous Pink, but they discontinued it (*sobs*), so this is my current stand-in. I like a sexy lustrous light pink. I would never wear a colored lipstick on a first date. It’s just not me.
Date Night vs. Daytime Look: They are 100% the same, except sometimes without the black eyeliner if I’m lazy.
Ideal First-Date Makeup Look: Fresh
The Look: The look I love to achieve for a first date is looking healthy, clean, and well rested by moisturizing and adding some color to my complexion. I start by touching up my under-eyes and any dark spots with Benefit Fakeup Undereye Concealer ($24) in Tea Party, then powder my T-zone with Laura Mercier Smooth Finish Foundation Powder ($46) in shade 07. I follow with a light dusting of blush (I love Nars’s Blush, $30, in Dolce Vita) on both cheekbones. This brightens up my complexion a little bit and balances the overall tone. This might sound crazy, but I never leave the house without my eyebrow brush. Good eyebrows have always been on my must-have list!
First, I brush my brows up and outward with my Beauty360 Eyebrow Brush, then fill in any lighter spots with MAC’s Eyeshadow ($16) in Charcoal Brown, an ashy matte brown shade. Then, I top it off with another brushing, this time with some hair spray on the brush (it keeps them in place longer). I have non-toxic and vegan lash extensions that last for several weeks (and before that, I hadn't worn mascara for over five years), so I tend to keep it lighter on the eyes. Lastly, I'll finish off with some lip balm in a yummy flavor—usually Sin-Min’s Horchata Lip Balm ($10) or strawberry-flavored ($11)—and voilà!
Date Night vs. Daytime Makeup: This is basically my look every day. I'm pretty low-maintenance, unless I throw on a pop of red lipstick here and there. I always keep concealer or powder on hand, though, in case I need to run out or freshen up.
Were you surprised by any L.A. vs. New York discrepancies? What’s your first-date makeup look? Click here to find out the “best” date-night makeup, according to real men!