They say a beauty junkie who hasn't had at least one or two major makeup fails in her life is no beauty junkie at all. (At least I think they say that?) The point is, we've all had our trysts with the classic makeup errors, like choosing foundation that's too dark and failing to blot.
You may think all your worst makeup mistakes are behind you. But according to industry insiders, that might not be the case. We spoke to celebrity makeup artist Brittany Spyksma and Viviana Martin, Director of Global Artistry and Pro-Artist Relations for Kevyn Aucoin. They gave us the skinny on the insidious makeup errors that even the most committed beauty connoisseurs—even professional makeup artists—are known to make. Are you guilty of these under-the-radar makeup mistakes? To find out, keep reading.
Not even MUAs are immune to the potential danger of HD powder. “We all remember the Angelina Jolie mishap,” Spyksma cautions. (If you don’t, here’s a sobering reminder.) HD powders are formulated with light-reflecting particles, like zinc oxide, silver mica, silica, and other shimmery pigments. Applying them liberally might look okay in your bathroom (or in a makeup artist’s studio), but if you plan to be photographed or seen in bright lighting, beware that these products cause major flashback. “A little HD powder goes a long way,” says Spyksma. So if you or your MUA is using one, proceed with caution. Otherwise, try a matte, translucent powder with a superfine formula, like the one above.
Another pro-tip for avoiding that ghostly glow: According to Byrdie editorial director Faith Xue, moisturiser with SPF can also cause flashback, because of the zinc oxide in its formula. So if there are IGs in your future, opt for an SPF-free moisturiser. Try backstage favourite Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentrate (£20).
You see inflammation on your skin or dark circles under your eyes, and your first step is to layer on the concealer. It’s a reasonable instinct and one that many MUAs have too. But according to Spyksma, loading up on concealer is not the answer. For discoloration, you have to be strategic.
First off, more concealer under the eyes doesn’t equal better coverage. All that excessive makeup just enhances fine lines and wrinkles, says Spyksma. Instead, camouflage darkness with an orange-, pink-, or peach-toned colour corrector, like the YSL picks above. This approach is more effective at targeting darkness; plus, it allows you to use less product.
For breakouts and redness, Spyksma recommends grabbing a green-tinted primer, like Smashbox's Photo Finish More Than Primer in Blemish Control (£28).
Another huge concealer no-no? Attempting to use it on under-eye puffiness. “You can't cover bags if you're tired,” says Spyksma. Instead, here’s a quick hack: Apply an ice cube to cool the under-eye area. “This will reduce the puffiness rather than overload it with makeup,” says Spyksma.
It’s slightly terrifying to think about how much dirt, oil, and bacteria makeup brushes collect with each use. Still, cleaning them tends to get pushed to the bottom of everyone’s beauty to-do list—even makeup artists’.
“It stresses me out when I see makeup artists use brushes on multiple people without cleaning them,” says Spyksma. “It's unsanitary, can spread bacteria, and leads to little nasties like styes, cold sores, and breakouts.” Um, ew.
Spyksma recommends cleaning your brushes once a week. You don’t even need special products to do it—just water, a gentle shampoo (like the Rahua pick above), and vinegar. (Read more about how to DIY your own brush cleanser.)
Contouring is fun, and everybody likes to play with it (especially MUAs). But sometimes we can all go a little too far. “Even makeup artists seem to confuse that contouring is just meant to bring out the natural structure of the face,” says Martin. Often, the results wind up harsh and unnatural.
To avoid this, first make sure you choose matte contour products that are cool-toned (think taupes and grays). Unlike warm, shimmery bronzers, these shades mimic natural shadows. (Try mixing a few Make Up For Ever foundations together to find your perfect shade.) You also want to use a formula that matches the texture of your foundation. For example, if you’re wearing liquid foundation, opt for a liquid contour product. Wearing powder foundation? Choose a powder bronzer.
And remember, the ultimate secret to a natural contour is blending. There’s really no such thing as blending too much.
Master the perfect contour once and for all with this amazing (and super simple) tutorial from Rae Morris. She uses her Flawless Shader Brush (£42) to create a gorgeous, natural sculpt.
This is one of the first tips you learn in Beautyblending 101. But surprisingly, the word still hasn’t quite spread to every beauty junkie and makeup artist. “If anyone ever says they aren't in love with the Beautyblender, I always know it's because they aren't using it right,” says Spyksma. “A dry blender will eat your makeup, and you'll be left wondering what the hell everyone was talking about.” Tragique!
To make the most of your egg-shaped sponge, run it under a faucet; then, squeeze it out so it ends up moist but not soaked. Alternatively, you can dampen it with a hydrating face mist. “This changes everything!” Spyksma promises. Wetting your Beautyblender allows you to apply your makeup products evenly and smoothly.
There is a lot of information in the world about how one should fill in their brows. There are standards and stencils and golden ratios. Personally, I've made every brow mistake in the book, from using shades that were all wrong for me (ahem, jet black) to using an embarrassingly heavy hand with my pencil. But one mistake even MUAs make is trying to force your brows into a shape they simply aren't meant to be. This could include overdrawing your arch or extending the tail far past where it naturally ends.
Remember: Whether your arches are naturally straight, curved, or pointed, their original shape is going to be your most flattering. So instead of trying to draw on someone else's brows, grab your favorite brow product, and gently trace your own.
Learn about more in-depth tips on how to fill in your brows.
In part, we have Kylie to thank for popularizing this trick for faking a larger pout. But just as beauty lovers and MUAs tend to go contour-crazy, we can get a little too enthusiastic with lip liner.
“This trick can look good on some people,” says “But for the most part, lining your lips above your actual lip line can make anyone look unnatural and duck-like.” Ultimately, when it comes to your lips, it's best to color within the lines. Better yet, choose a clear, universal pencil. This rules out any risk of looking clownish.
Unfortunately, foundation is not one size fits all. When choosing a product, it's imperative to peruse the ingredient list to make sure it suits your skin type. Byrdie senior editor Hallie Gould recalls one nightmarish tale of her friend's foundation "literally cracking" off her face on her wedding, because her makeup artist used a formula that was too drying. Even for professionals, finding the right fit can be tricky.
For dry skin, look for water-based foundations with moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid. For oily skin, check out this incredibly useful guide to shine-free foundation.
Finding makeup inspiration online is great, but if you don't adapt it to your individual facial features, you could end up disappointed. You might need to experiment a little to make that rainbow highlight or faux freckle technique from Pinterest work for you.
Winged eyeliner is arguably the most common look that people (MUAs included) mess up in this way. It's hard enough to create beautiful, symmetrical wings. But if you're trying to copy someone else's exact liner without paying attention to their eye shape, you'll probably wind up with wonky, displaced product. A cat eye doesn't work the same way on hooded eyes as it does on round eyes or almond eyes or monolids. Save yourself, and check out our guide to applying eyeliner correctly for your eye shape.
Want more makeup tips? Don't miss our review (with photos!) of the nine best non-drying matte lipsticks.