10 techniques beauty influencers promote that no makeup artist actually uses
Listen and learn.
If you’ve had a conversation with a working makeup artist and casually brought up some well-known YouTube/Instagram beauty influencer at any point in the past five years, there’s a 99.99% chance you were met with a reaction akin to this:
Now, despite my profession (and everything that’s about to follow), I would like to iterate that I truly don’t believe in outright telling people what to do to their own faces – if you feel fabulous wearing an entire Sephora counter on your face, then go right ahead babes! Rather, my problem with beauty gurus is that with their enormous reach, the myths and misinformation around makeup that they frequently share are now being taken as gospel when the average person erroneously conflates influencer and professional makeup artist as one and the same.
While Funkmaster Flex may have famously espoused “Do you and I’ll do me”, it’s not so much that beauty gurus are teaching bad technique – indeed, there is often quite a lot of technical skill in what they do – it’s that they all seem to encourage this heavy, homogenised beauty ideal that erases all individuality of the wearer and leaves everybody looking like a Karbon Kopy Klone…
Here are 10 makeup techniques that beauty influencers continue to perpetuate that literally no working makeup artist actually does.
1. All about that base (and more base, and more base again)
The number one tip I wish I could impart unto every single makeup wearer is that the most flattering amount of foundation to wear, is the sheerest amount you feel comfortable in. Influencers convey the notion that the secret to a perfect canvas is half a damn bottle of full-coverage goop, but truthfully, once you take away the ring light they film in front of (which blows out imperfections by blasting the skin with light) and ditch the video filter/Facetune they edit their image in, a lot of makeup looks like, well, a lot of bloody makeup. Foundation is just what the name implies – a building block to creating the impression of a more even skin tone. Start as sheer as you feel confident wearing, and slowly build coverage only where needed. The key to minimising visible imperfections is to put as little product as humanly possible on the problematic areas. Makeup can hide tone, but it cannot hide texture. IRL we’re all living in a 3D world, so texture is what you’ll see – not perfect skin.
2. Blank canvas
Beauty gurus seem to think that concealer acts as some kind of reinforcing layer of total facial coverage, the way they enthusiastically apply inch thick triangles of off-white slap to their under eyes, nasal folds and foreheads. Realistically, concealer is about strategically minimising the few imperfections still peeking through after correct foundation application. Instead of choosing a cream five shades lighter than your skin, opt for pinky/peachy/orangey correctors super-sparingly applied to counteract dark tones around the eyes, and exact match your foundation for seamless blemish concealing. We want to brighten and illuminate the face, not eradicate all traces of humanity. Leaving a little natural shadow behind actually frames the eyes without the need for any eyeshadow to give back all that dimension.
3. Getting baked
Unless it involves Aunt Kath’s cookie dough or things that happen at 4:20, I don’t wanna know about no baking! The technique of baking one’s under eyes with an overzealous powder application and then melting it into the skin, is an old drag technique designed to withstand the intense rigours of on-stage performance. Nobody needs that much concealer under their eyes unless they’re creating the illusion of another gender, and (unless you’ve yet to hit puberty) absolutely nobody benefits from that much powder creating further texture issues on the already delicate under eye tissue.
4. (It makes me) blue (when you use) the warmest colour
It genuinely pains my soul when I see influencers pull out an assortment of warm-hued reddish-brown bronzers and proceed to ‘contour’ with them. I don’t know what kinds of shadows they’ve been looking at, but in the real world, shadows have a grey cast and suitable contour shades follow suit. More importantly, contouring really only works in photos or dim lighting, so save that sculpting for a night out and selfie to your heart’s content. In broad daylight, anything more than a whisper of product just looks like brown stripes across your face.
5. Heavy metal lover
When it comes to highlighters, most influencers would have you believe that you’re auditioning for a revival of The Wiz in the role of the Tin Man. Save for maybe a conceptual editorial where we might bring out out the heavy metals, when you really break down how makeup artists generally manipulate highlights in the skin – be it in photos, on film, or on the red carpet – the detail is usually in subtle textural accents. Think soft pearl finishes and glossy/dewy sheen in all the right places.
6. Rudolph the L.E.D-nosed reindeer
I will never understand the logic behind the nose tip highlighter. The tip of the nose is literally the first part of the face we look to powder to eradicate unflattering shine. PSA: a shiny highlight on the tip of your nose ain’t slimming it down, boo, it’s bringing the area forward by optical illusion, while making you look greasy/sweaty in the process…
7. Sharpie brow
The Anastasia impact… When makeup artists declared that brows frame the face, we didn’t mean to go out and buy a literal big-ass frame so embellished and gaudy it’s better suited to your nonna’s white marble living room. Open any magazine and you’d be hard-pressed to find a single image where it looks like the makeup artist has done more than brush the brows up – and the truth is, that’s usually all we do when presented with lush model brows. But for those not as well-endowed and seeking to emulate a fuller brow, half a pot of pomade carved in chunky blocks of brown is not the answer. Instead, feather gentle strokes of pencil/powder/gel to recreate the look of actual hairs for a far more believable brow.
8. Cut the crease
You know who looks really good in a cut crease? Men – dressed up as women! Cut creases are a staple of drag queens because they exaggeratedly mimic a feminine beauty ideal (big round/almond eyes) on a male bone structure. If you’re already a biological woman, you’ve already got the bone structure. Focus your energies (and save time) on subtly shading and enhancing your eyes’ natural contours instead. Cut creases may look amazing with the eyes completely shut in a heavily-Facetuned close-up, but IRL they look more hectic than hot.
9. OTT overdraws
Unless you’re sitting in the chair of a trusted dermatologist holding a vial of Juvederm, sadly a mere lip pencil and two different tones of light and dark lipstick cannot take you from Amy Schumer to Scarlet Johansson. Surely no one actually believes it’s just the magic of a lip kit that instantaneously morphed Kylie Jenner from innocent tween to blow-up doll circa 2014? The cold hard truth is, you can ever-so-subtly cheat a slightly fuller pout by tracing a neutral lip pencil just outside your natural lip line, but going gonzo with a too-dark pencil and too-pale nude lipstick will leave you looking more Big Ang than Angelia Jolie.
I can’t open the Explore page of my Instagram feed without being inundated with at least 20 different before and after makeup transformation photos/videos daily. So much of IG/YT beauty accounts are about the marvel of totally ‘transforming’ a face – erasing all these supposed flaws to create an entirely new person. Makeup artists exist in a completely different stratosphere, where we use our knowledge and expertise to bring out all the best features of a face, honouring what was already there. In celebrating this ‘transformation’ culture, I can’t help but feel we’re losing what makes each woman and her story uniquely beautiful.
At the end of the day, make makeup work for you, don’t work for it. There is so much power in makeup when you harness it to your advantage. There’s nothing I love more than seeing a woman completely sans maquillage; there’s infinite beauty in that too. But when you do pick up your paint, have fun with it – enhance and experiment. The most beautiful thing about the beauty industry is how it can bring forward the person you want to be that day. Adhering to a set of rigid rules and cookie-cutter moulds that disguise the person underneath is the opposite of beautiful.
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