The Ultimate Makeup Routine Guide

Primer, foundation, concealer, highlighter, powder — with so many makeup products, it can be intimidating to establish a makeup routine if you don’t even know in what order they should be applied. Don’t fret! In our ultimate makeup routine guide, we’re taking it back to the basics and walking you through what each product does as well as when and how to apply them. If you’re new to makeup or just lack confidence in the makeup department, we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn some of our tips and tricks on how to get natural looking makeup with simple techniques that even beginners can do.


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Face Cleanser/Exfoliate

The first step in every makeup routine is cleansing the skin. If you need to exfoliate, begin by mixing a bit of olive oil or coconut oil with brown sugar. Gently press the mixture into your skin in circular motions. Be sure to apply minimal pressure so as not to overstimulate the skin, which can cause breakouts. To maintain smooth skin, exfoliate once a week and follow it up with a face cleanser. Whether you have normal, oily, dry, sensitive, or acne prone skin, the Hymed Hylunia Gentle Cleanser gives a deep but gentle clean, leaving your skin refreshed and renewed.


After cleansing it’s important to moisturize. Moisturizing your face is key in keeping your skin looking young, glowing, and wrinkle-free. Try a face cream like the Drink of H2O by Tarte — it’s literally like a drink for your skin, giving it the ultimate hydration and keeping it looking smooth and supple. After pressing it into your skin, give it some time to really sink in before applying other products; this will allow it to penetrate deep into your skin. If you’re looking for a sheer coverage alternative to foundation, try using Jane Iredale’s Tinted Moisturizer to look a little more put together.


If you don’t have a foundation like the Jane Iredale Pressed Powder, you’ll need to add your own sunscreen into your routine. Try Shiseido Urban Environment Tinted UV — a tinted sunscreen and moisturizer in one. Protecting your skin from the sun is crucial in keeping your skin healthy, safe, and looking its best.


Priming your skin is a way to prep your skin for foundation. It smooths fine lines and fills in pores, making your foundation go on smooth and stay on longer. It’s basically the equivalent to a base coat of nail polish; it just makes everything look better and apply smoother. Try the Veil Cosmetics Sunset Light Primer to fill in fine lines and pores — apply some on your fingertips and gently smooth it over your skin. This will give your face the perfect canvas to start applying your makeup on.

BB Cream/CC Cream

If you’re looking for light coverage — more than just a tinted moisturizer but less than a foundation, a BB (beauty balm) Cream or CC (color correcting) Cream is for you. Try Jane Iredale’s Glow Time, a BB cream that covers blemishes, minimizes pores, disguises wrinkles, and smoothes and brightens skin.

Foundation (Liquid or Powder)

Foundation will give your skin an all over even color. Not only will it help even out your skin tone, it acts as the foundation of your makeup which you’ll build upon — hence the name. You can use a liquid foundation if you have dry skin as it will add moisture to the face. Try something illuminating like the L’Oreal True Match Lumi to give a beautiful, radiant glow. Apply with a Beauty Blender or a foundation brush for a flawless application. If you have oily skin, try using a powder foundation like the Jane Iredale Pressed Powder. Apply powder foundation with a kabuki brush (a fluffy brush with a flat top) for even coverage.


Concealer will cover up blemishes, dark circles, sun spots, redness, rosacea, and more. If you choose a shade 2-3 shades lighter than your natural skin tone, it will also brighten up your under eyes and add light to the face. Apply it in an upside down triangle and extend it up to the corners of your outer eye area. This will draw the eye up, giving a lifted effect and make you appear more awake. Try the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer for a full coverage application that blends out easily with a brush or Beauty Blender and doesn’t dry out your under eyes.


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Even if you have dry skin, powder is an important part in setting your face makeup and concealer. It also makes it easy to blend products like your bronzer and blush on top — products tend to grab onto liquid foundation, making it harder to blend them out. For natural looking blush and contour, be sure not to skip this step. The RCMA No Color Powder is a great affordable option and you get a ton of product. Apply it with a big fluffy brush to quickly give your face a light dusting and disperse the product evenly.


Contouring is a way of “faking shadows” to add structure and dimension to the face. Use a matte bronzer to chisel out your cheekbones, make your nose look smaller or more straight, and slenderize your face by shading the perimeter. Choose a bronzer that appears more gray than orange for the most natural looking contour. The Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer is a great option to try. Not only does it look natural but it blends out easily and smells like chocolate!


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Blush is a great way to bring some life and color back to your face. Milani Baked Blushes are great because they blend out beautifully and are great on so many skin tones. Apply blush on the apples of your cheeks and sweep it back to your hairline. Be sure to apply it with a fluffy, natural haired brush; a fluffy brush will ensure you don’t apply too much product in one spot, and a natural haired brush will soak up a little bit of the blush, giving a more sheer application. This works especially well if you are using a more bold shade of blush.


Highlighting the face adds radiance and light, making your skin look like it’s glowing. Our favorite highlighter is Champagne Pop by BECCA Cosmetics and Jaclyn Hill. You can do a light application for a natural glow or build it up for a more dramatic, illuminated look. This highlighter doesn’t have chunky glitter, instead it goes on smooth like butter and can be easily blended out. With a small fluffy brush, highlight the high points of your cheek bones as well as your Cupid’s bow (just above the lips) to make your lips look more full. Be sure to avoid areas of the face that have large pores or texture as the highlighter will only make them more apparent.

Setting Spray

Setting your makeup will ensure that it lasts all day and help combat sweat and oil which makes your makeup melt. The Urban Decay Chill Setting Spray has timed cooling technology that helps chill the face and keep your makeup looking just applied. Setting spray can also be used to make eyeshadows pop — just spray your brush before you apply your shadow and it will make it more bold and pigmented.


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Priming the eyes is the same concept as priming your face — it creates a base for your eyeshadow to stick to. Try the Too Faced Shadow Insurance, it goes on creamy and blends out beautifully. Apply it with your ring finger for the lightest pressure on the eye’s delicate skin, blending it over your entire lid up to the brow bone.


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After priming your eyes, it’s time for eyeshadow. Even if you aren’t planning on doing an “eyeshadow look” on your eyes, adding a light wash of color will help your lids stay oil free and free of creasing. The Urban Decay Naked Ultimate Basics Palette is a great every day palette full of matte nudes, perfect for so many eyeshadow looks. It comes with a highlight color, plenty of nude brown shades, and a black shade; this palette is everything you need.


Eyeliner is a thing of preference — there’s gel liner, liquid liner, pencil liner, cream liner, and cake liner, and which one you choose just depends on what you’re comfortable using. We’ve found it easy to apply gel liner with a small, flat, angled brush, but others prefer applying straight from a pencil. Some eyeliners to try are Maybelline’s Gel Liner, Tarte’s Liquid Liner, Bella Pierre’s Pencil Liner, Urban Decay’s Cream Liner, or Studio Gear’s Cake Liner. For a more natural and understated liner, choose brown; choose black if you want a bold, more stark eyeliner.

Curl Lashes

Next up in the routine is curling your lashes. Although using an eyelash curler can definitely be a scary experience at first, it will make all the difference in your eyelashes. Curled lashes make your eyes look more open and awake, and they also make lashes look longer and lifted. Use a curler that gets close to your lash line for maximum effect, like the Revlon Gold Eyelash Curler. For an even more effective use, you can warm up your curler for a few seconds under a hair dryer. It will act as a curling iron on your hair, giving it maximum staying power. Just make sure that you test your curler to make sure it’s only WARM and not hot before applying to your lashes.


Mascara makes a huge impact on the look of your eyes. There are plenty of mascara options and this is another “preference” product. There are mascaras to make your lashes look long, thick, spiky, spidery, and doll-like, along with regular and waterproof formulas. Apply mascara on your lower lash line first to avoid transfer marks on your eyelids from tipping your head. To get all the hard to reach areas like the inner corners of your lower lash line, hold your brush vertically instead of horizontally and move your brush back and forth, left to right. For your upper lash line, wiggle your brush from lash line to tip, ensuring that the mascara coats 360 degrees all the way around your lash.

Fake Lashes

If you’re looking for a more dramatic eye look, false lashes are an easy way to achieve that. There are endless designs depending on what you’re looking for — Ardell Natural Demi Wispies are an affordable option and give the eyes a little something “extra” while still looking natural. If you’re looking for something more glam, try the Noir Fairy Lashes by House of Lashes. Use the House of Lashes Lash Adhesive for an easy application.


Fill in brows

Tweeze any stray hairs before filling them in with your favorite brow powder or pomade. The Anastasia of Beverly Hills Brow Duo or Pomade is a favorite among many. It goes on easily and looks natural. Apply your product with a small angled brush, creating strokes to mimic the look of hairs. Eyebrows frame the face and give the face a more polished, finished look.

Brow Gel

If you want your eyebrow hairs to stay in place, use a gel to ensure they won’t budge. It usually comes in a tube with a wand for you to brush right on your brows. You can also try a DIY version using soap. Soap?! Yes. Use your small angled brush to apply clear, dampened bar soap to your brows and they’ll stay in place all day. That is, if they don’t get wet!


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Line Lips

Lining your lips not only contours your lips, but helps give a guideline for your lip product. If you’re using red lipstick, lining your lips is a must. Apply your liner in an “X” shape on your Cupid’s bow as an easy way to get the perfect, symmetrical angles. To make your lips look larger or more plump, apply the liner on the very outer edge of your lip juuuust past your natural lip line. You don’t want your lips to look drawn on by going too far outside your lips.

Lip product

Lip product is another preference product — whether it’s matte, sheer, satin, bold, stain, lipstick, lip crayon, or just plain lip balm, there’s something for everyone; just choose what you love. If you’re using a bold color it helps to use a small lip product brush or even a concealer brush for a precise application. Finish your look with a gloss, if that’s your cup of tea, for a shiny, feminine look. Try the Jane Iredale Puregloss Lip Glosses, they’re full of nourishing ingredients to keep your lips looking soft and supple.

Are you overwhelmed yet? No worries, that’s why we’re calling this our ultimate makeup routine guide. Do you have to do all of these steps or use all of these products? Absolutely not! Do what you like and what works for you. That’s the best part about makeup, you can wear as much or as little as you want, depending on your style and preference. We’re curious to know — What is your typical makeup routine or your must-have products that you reach for daily? Share with us and let us know!

Photo credits: Kristen Love

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