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Benefit Cosmetics LLC

While leafing through any beauty magazine, it's easy to feel alienated from the avant-garde and experimental world of fashion makeup. Shocking hues and crazy colors pop from each page, holding your attention by sheer oddity alone.

The Hollywood-based company Napoleon Perdis currently promotes its new "Surreal World" collection with a model sporting rainbow eyelids in zebra stripes. A recent ad campaign for MAC Cosmetics' Style Warrior collection features a cover girl with fierce black and gold warrior streaks. (Maybe it is catering to the Pittsburgh market!)

Companies such as Make Up Forever, POP Beauty, Benefit, Smashbox, L'Oreal's HiP (High Intensity Pigments), Too Faced and Cuberry Cosmetics specialize in bold colors. But even the more established manufacturers such as Chanel, Estee Lauder and Lancome have created collections with vibrant hues.

After staring at such shrieking shades, a glance in the mirror might make your own classic color choices seem stodgy and drab. But then again, who could wear that bright stuff? The outrageous palettes on runway goddesses can't be possibly mimicked by us mere mortals. ... Or can they?

Amber Altany, a Pittsburgh-based freelance makeup artist who has worked for Teen People, Pittsburgh Magazine and Sports Illustrated, believes those daring looks can be softened to suit every style with the right tools and attitude.

"I'm not afraid to use color," she says. "I usually start with a little bit, and if it's not so bad then I add more. Makeup is so changeable. ... You have room to make mistakes."

While she enjoys scanning magazine ads and photo spreads for new trends to try on clients, Ms. Altany knows that blatantly bizarre color combinations shouldn't translate perfectly from the fashion realm to the real world. They can, however, serve as a springboard for new ideas.

"They're not usually expected to be worn as a carbon copy," she says. "They just show you different looks, and pieces of those looks can be adapted to the regular person."

Ms. Altany suggests taking note of colors that are repeatedly featured in magazines and then combining them with more standard shades.

For example, if bold blue is taking the spotlight, you can mix it with your normal eye shadow base or dab a bit on your eye corners to make a more subtle statement. If you see a lot of popping pink blush, blend it softly over bronzer to show that you're trendy and sensible at the same time.

"You're not copying those looks to the full extent, but you're using them to change up your everyday routine," she says.

Jennifer Palermo, who has worked for Estee Lauder and Clinique and owns JP Make Up Artist on Fifth Avenue, Downtown, agrees.

"[Crazy looks] are to grab attention and to explore makeup in general. It's just like fashion. You can see something and say, 'Wow, that's amazing ... but I would never wear it.' It's supposed to shake us out of the every day and remind us that we don't only have to stick to browns and neutrals."

For example, if you crave a safe color splash to spice up your daily look, Ms. Altany suggests that starting out with brighter eyeliner and mascara is an easy way to test the waters.

"You can use light or neutral blue mascara without looking too flashy," she says. "It's a great look for people with blue or green eyes, but it works really well with brown eyes, too."

She also recommends using purple or green eyeliner for a striking summer flair that's fun and flirty -- not freaky, like some of its catwalk counterparts. A lot of the best eyeliner jobs, she says, aren't created with eyeliner at all. You can often achieve a better look by dipping an angled brush into bold shadow and dabbing it along your top and/or bottom lash line. Pair it with mascara of the same color and you've created a look that's eye-popping and fresh.

Adding a little water to your brush helps the powder liner set, but be careful not to saturate it. A quick spritz of mineral water over your face will do the job just fine.

To prevent bold color from streaking down your cheeks in the summer heat, Ms. Palermo suggests starting with an eyelid primer to lock in the look and using MAC "paint pots" for shadow.

"They're cream shadows that dry to a powder finish, which keeps your makeup on," she says.

Color statements can be made during day or night, she adds, but you need to control the amount to make it work. You should "wear it with a light hand" at first and then intensify it when the sun sets.

Ms. Altany agrees that application techniques can spell the difference between a fresh and funky style and one that looks pulled from a 1970s or 1980s yearbook.

"Don't be too harsh," she warns. "Add little bits at a time, and invest in some good brushes. Unless you want to really capture the '80s, don't go too crazy with the neon."

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