On a recent train trip, I found myself sitting next to a representative for a hip new brand of cosmetics. As she described her job and showed me several product samples, I thought she could just as easily have been a brain surgeon showing me various medical instruments. I had no idea what half the products did or how I would use them.
My own makeup bag contains the same brand of mascara I've worn since high school, the face powder that was on sale the last time I was in the cosmetics aisle and a lip balm I dug out of the car's glove compartment when mine ran out.
If you're a makeup novice like me, Shoppers Drug Mart's Lori Castagna offers the following tips:
Choose the best products
There is an overwhelming and seemingly unlimited assortment of skin, eye and lip products available. However, says Castagna, these are a few must-haves that will serve you well.
Fills in lines and wrinkles to give a smooth finish for your foundation.
Gives your skin a flawless finish and can be a real multitasker, often serving as a moisturizer and SPF protection.
Masks those pesky skin breakouts you thought were gone with your teenage years.
Gives you natural-looking colour. And with a touch of shimmer, it's great for evenings out.
1. Eye shadow
In addition to sweeping it across the eyelid, try using shadow with a liner brush to replace eyeliner.
When in doubt, go for black, the bestselling colour regardless of brand and cost.
3. Brow gel
Set your eyebrows with this clear product, an important finishing touch.
Go for the gloss.
"A lot of women can't live without gloss," Castagna says. "At one time it was a trend but now it's become a basic."
Have a plan
Rather than wasting time and money buying the wrong products, a little time spent planning will pay off in the long run. Castagna says there's no need to follow every new trend and product. Instead, she says, find a magazine you like and buy the March and September editions, which spotlight the coming trends for spring/summer and fall/winter, respectively. Once you've done your research, ask for help. Talk to an adviser in the cosmetics department about what looks you like and dislike and what has or hasn't worked for you in the past. Also important, Castagna says, is to be realistic about your budget. "Don't be shy about how much you want to spend," she says. "It helps them help you better."
Get the right tools
A great set of brushes is the main tool you need to put your makeup on easily and flawlessly, says Castagna. No matter which cosmetic product you use, there's likely a brush designed specifically to apply it. Brushes range in size and have special bristles and angles for applying various skin, eye and lip products. Prices vary widely, from less expensive store brands to artistry brushes with designer names, but no matter what you decide to spend, Castagna says it will pay off. "They're a great investment," she explains. "Your product goes on better and lasts longer with brushes, and if you treat them with care you'll have them for quite a long time."
So what tools should you never leave home without? Along with a mini brush set, Castagna recommends sponges because they're easy to travel with. Cotton swabs are great to fix smudges, while blotting paper, or even tissue, can take the shine off oily skin. If you're flying and have to check your cosmetics, or just want to carry as little as possible in your makeup bag, load up brushes in advance with the product you want to use. Wrap them in plastic, pop them in your bag and pull them out when you need a touch-up. Finally, Castagna says, don't overlook the obvious -- your fingertips will do just fine for makeup application and touch-ups when you're on the go.
Finally, evaluate your makeup with each new season. Your skin feels different in January than in July, so change your skin-care regimen accordingly. You may also need to change the products you use. If you spend lots of time outside by the water, for example, consider switching from regular to waterproof mascara. As you move to new products, discard the old. Once a product is exposed to the air it's only good for a few months, says Castagna. Not only is it more hygienic to purge your makeup bag, you'll benefit from having better products, too. "You always want to get the next best thing," explains Castagna. "With the way technology's advancing, anything new is usually better for your skin and much more efficient."
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