Makeup for Beginners: the Essentials

This post of makeup for beginners essentials is a bite size of my e-book, Makeup For Beginners, where you can find more personalized tips, application techniques and product recommendations.

makeup for beginners
Image: We Heart It

If you’re new to makeup, you’ll know that it can be pretty overwhelming, with so many products, brands, and tips floating around. Where do you even begin?!

So today I thought I’d write a makeup for beginners essentials guides.

This is the order I personally started wearing makeup in (and perhaps can be a guideline for you too) as well as some of my favorite products to start with, so you hopefully won’t have as many “trial and errors” as I did.

makeup for beginners essentials


Mascara is a great first-makeup product to try as they make such a big difference in your eyes, and are easy to use. They were made to make your lashes look darker, thicker and therefore make your eyes look bigger and wider.

makeup for beginners mascara
Left to right: Benefit They’re Real!, The Body Shop Super Volume Mascara, Maybelline Great Lash and Lancome Hypnose

And while I think that eyebrows are the most important “eye” makeup today, (check out eyebrow makeup for beginners); for makeup as a whole, I personally started with eye makeup as a teen because that seemed to be the most exciting! And now that I’m a makeup artist, I know that mascara probably makes the most difference – mascara is the one thing that can really change your look in a subtle way, yet totally game changing.

My favorites are Benefit They’re Real! mascara, the best new mascara release in the recent years, and any mascara by Lancome – you can never go wrong with Lancome mascaras and I believe it’s industry knowledge that they make the best mascaras. Other options that are just as great are my two all-time drugstore favorites, Maybelline Great Lash and L’Oreal Voluminous. These mascara can compete with the high end, designer mascaras. I know a lot of pro makeup artists who love and use this mascara, too. The best part? It’s so cheap!

What to do

Buy your very first mascara and then test it at home first. To use mascara, simple start at the base (the “roots”) of your eye lashes and comb through to the tips. You can wiggle the wand slightly as you comb through your lashes, which will help deposit more mascara onto the lashes, making them look extra thick!

Get used to working with a mascara wand and when applying, try not to blink. If you’re hoping to wear mascara as soon as possible, then for the first few tries, only apply it to your upper lashes only. Applying mascara to the lower lashes can be a little tricky and may smudge when you’re not used to it. (I remember when I first started with mascara I had so much trouble with smudging because I wasn’t used to applying mascara on my lower lashes.)


Foundation comes in various forms, from pressed powders, liquid formulas, stick formulas, you name it. My favourites that I would recommend to makeup beginners are below, but if you’d like to see more, I write more about my best recommends at Best Foundations for Makeup Beginners.

makeup for beginners foundation
Left to Right: Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser, Bobbi Brown BB Cream, The Body Shop All-in-One BB Cream and Tarte Amazonian Clay Foundation

To use, just apply your foundation to only areas on your face that really need it (for example, just apply it to your T-zone, and cheeks, where there is redness or discoloration.) This gives a more natural look and can cover a multitude of beginner foundation mistakes. The trick is to make sure to blend, blend, blend until there is no foundation mark on your skin.

What to do

This should be fairly easy for beginners – just apply your foundation to only areas on your face that really need it (for example, just apply it to your T-zone, and cheeks.) This gives a more natural look and can cover a multitude of beginner foundation mistakes. Also when applying, start from the center of your face and work outward – and remember to blend, blend, blend.

A quick note to teens

If you’re young and have good skin, I wouldn’t recommend wearing foundation. I find young girls these days are wearing foundation and they don’t really need it, and this tends to age skin. If you have good skin, definitely take a miss on foundation, or if you really want to use something on the face, just get a great tinted moisturizer (this one is my favorite) or a tinted sunscreen. If you have good skin but still get zits, then I’d recommend skipping foundation and getting a stick concealer, and then just covering the small blemishes you have, leaving the rest of your skin best.


I was never personally a big fan of blush when I first started out, but soon realized just how important it is – it brightens up your face and gives you a more fresh, happy glow.

makeup for beginners blush
Left to right: MAC Powder Blush, Tarte Amazonian Clay 24 Hour Blush, The Body Shop Blush

My recommended blushes for makeup beginners are above, but if you want more suggestions, my other personal favorites include & Other Stories Cheek & Lip Tint – full review here – and NARS Blush in Orgasm. (I’ll let you in on a little secret – it’s a well known industry secret that NARS makes the best blushes in the biz. Many people from many other cosmetic companies admit it too!)

What to do

To apply, simply swipe a blush brush over the blusher once – yes, just once. When you’re a makeup beginner, the thing that can mess up most is over doing it. It’s better in this case to wear too little than too much, until you get more practice. Swipe just one layer of color on your brush and then smile – see that “fleshy” bit sticking out? Do one swipe of blush on each cheek.

Check out How To Find Your Perfect Blush Color For Your Skintone so you have a good idea of what color will look the most natural, and best for you.

What about lips?

For lips, I think it’s pretty straightforward. That’s why I don’t really have any specific recommendation – I know I can’t be the only one who used to play with my mom’s lipsticks as a young child! When you’re new to lip products it doesn’t really matter about colors too much, I think. Just go for the color, brand and make you are most attracted to.

And what do I recommend to do, lipstick wise, for makeup beginners? It’s quite simple, really: have fun with lips! This is where you can try out lip products (a lot of them are very inexpensive) and just experiment and see what kinda colors and textures you like – whether it’s a lipstick, a lipgloss, a lip crayon, a lip stain.

Bottom Line

My biggest tips for makeup beginners would be to honestly, have fun with it and don’t stress too much. It’s mostly about picking the right products for you, and while I suggest great products above, it will take some trial and error to get ued to it. Don’t give up, and enjoy it@ For more in-depth information, easy to understand guides of techniques and other tips, check out my e-book, Makeup for Beginners.

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      1. I’m new to makeup well I use the basics like eyebrow gel and mascara but I need more tips on how to get a more pretty look !(:

        1. Well you have to know where to look, and she’s right BB creams are the best things to start with, they cover and feel great. I started off with skin and eyes. A bit of foundation and mascara, contors and things can shortly after though! Look on YouTube you never know what tips could be on there. 👍

    1. Hey Rish! Stay tuned as I will be updating this post with more details on makeup shades for skin tones and types 🙂 But I can help meanwhile, what is your skin tone?

  1. hi 🙂 thanks for this wonderful post! I truly agree with using just a bb cream / tinted moisturizer because I also think foundation is too thick for my liking. my only question is, if you use either bb cream or tinted moisturizer, does it last throughout the day? if not, what do you do to make it last? thanks! 🙂 xxx

    1. Hey Jasmine! You’re so welcome, I am glad you found this post useful. 🙂

      I know what you mean, foundation can be too thick for me too. Your best bet is a BB cream – they are *almost* like foundations without that heavy feeling, and of all the ones I’ve tried, they last just as long as regular makeup. I’m actually planning to write a post on my favorite BB creams, so look out for that!

      If you have trouble with making your face makeup last, you can also try a foundation primer which helps a lot, especially if you have super oily skin or live in a really hot country. But in general, I think a BB Cream would be fine. 🙂

      I hope that helps Jasmine! Please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with x

      1. I am 12 and I am wondering wouldn’t it be better to put the foundation/ BB cream on first then all the rest???

        1. Yep, you should definitely put on your base makeup before the rest, but for this post I was just doing it in the order I started wearing makeup 🙂 I started with just mascara, then I started with foundation, etc.

          Kirsty if you’re 12 you really don’t need foundation at your age! If your skin is good then leave it!

  2. Aloha,

    Just check, Are bb cream and tinted moisturizer samething? When you put BB cream on your face, do you add anything on top of the bb cream? Or just leave that? Thank.

    1. Aloha! BB Cream and Tinted Moisturisers are *different* technically, but are used as the same – base makeup. So no, you don’t need to put anything on top of BB Cream or Tinted Moisturizers, they are like foundation. But they are more “popular” than foundation now because they are lighter on the skin, more skincare ingredients, and has better SPF. 🙂

  3. Hi I know its kind of strange for an 18-year old to not know anything about make up but I don’t. I found this list so helpful. Question: what primers do you recommend; specifically foundation primer

    1. Hmm primers, let’s see – Laura Mercier and Hourglass does great ones, although that’s a bit on the expensive side.

    1. The very first eyeliner I used and loved was from MAC, which I still recommend – they make amazing liners!

  4. I just unwittingly bumped into your blog which I found it helpful for me. I am 29 yo women and just getting started to try this whole new world called make-up 🙂 thanks for sharing such beautiful blog.

    1. glad you replied me back. I have some questions :
      how can I choose the right foundation and lipstick (i.e the color) for my not-white-not too-brown-skin/lips ? I find it really overwhelming lol. thanks 🙂

      1. My pleasure!

        For foundation color, the best is to go the the store and ask the sales lady to help you choose a shade. Swipe about 2-3 colors you think looks like your shade on your jaw line (don’t test products on your hands, they are a different tone than our faces!). After that, go out in the sun light and see which color blends in perfectly with your skin – this is important, because in shopping malls their lighting is always off and you might get the wrong color. So always use natural light!

        For lipstick, it’s a little more relaxed. Honestly, whatever color lipstick you like, you should go for it and have fun with it! But if you’re really looking for a color that suits you perfectly, for a nude shade, look for a color that mimicks the color of the inside of your lips, or even your gums – that is usually a deeper, “healthy” color than our lips, which can get pale sometimes.

        For other shades of lipstick colors, it’s all about finding out your skintone and what suits it. The quick way is to find a celebrity that you feel has your skintone, and then check out what lipstick she uses! (For example, if you are very fair like actress Emma Stone and you are looking for a red lipstick, you can Google “Emma Stone red lipstick” and see what kind of shade she uses).

        I’ll be editing this post to include much more info like the ones you’re asking about now (color selection, proper application, recommendations of products at different budgets), so stay tuned! 🙂

  5. Thank you very much! I’ve just been using mascara but I want to use more. This helps me out a lot! Thanks again!

    1. It is, isn’t it? But so, so worth it if you use mascara on a daily basis, it’s really an incredible one.

  6. Thank you! I’m 31 and need to learn some make-up basics for formal occasions. Everything else I found was way too complicated. Your tips are perfect.

  7. Great post! I’m 16 and I really have no idea where to start on buying makeup, so this is a helpful post!
    Question: Do I need to start applying base foundations like CC cream or tinted moisturizer or is it too early? Thanks x

    1. Hey Haya, thanks, I’m happy to help! 🙂

      I think it depends on your skin – if you’re skin is still perfect, then leave it alone! If you see it getting just a bit oily after a long day, then I’d recommend some light loose powder. If you are starting to get a little bit of blemishes or just want some light coverage, then I definitely recommend a tinted moisturizer or a CC cream. As far as foundation, I wore a lot of it at your age because I had mild acne and it was just too much… I don’t think any 16 year old needs that much coverage – it looked like I was wearing a mask! I definitely recommend that if you do use base makeup, keep it very light. x

  8. These are some great tips! I’m 21 and a i’ve never been huge on using makeup, mostly because I feel like I don’t have the time to apply it every day. However i’m looking to invest in some solid basics now and i’m wondering what kinds of makeup (i.e. face, eye…) have a short use by date? I would really like to get some products that will cover all the bases and last me a very long time since I probably still won’t wear makeup very often but I would like to not have to replace half used stuff after a few months because that could get pretty costly and wasteful.

    1. Hey! Your best bet is to use powder based products then, as liquids, creams and such “go bad” quicker.

      For face, try a powder foundation, that can last for 2 years. For eyes, skip mascara (they need to be replaced every couple of months), and instead you can use eyeshadow, which can last up to 3 years, and eyeliner 2 years (sharpen your eyeliner very regularly, though). Then for blush use a powder blush, that can also last 3 years. For lips, best to stick to a lipstick then, which can last a few years too.

      While those are the best options, don’t forget that if the product starts to change in texture (for example, starts to get really runny), changes color or starts to smell, it’s spoiled and should be dumped and replaced. Keep your makeup as clean and your application as hygienic as possible (I’ll be doing a future post on that!) and away from the sun and your makeup should be fine.

      Another option is to use mineral makeup, which I *hear* has no expiry date since they are so “pure” and made of minerals, but personally I am not sure if I buy it – I would still replace them as I would regular makeup.

  9. love each and everyone one of this tips! do you have any specific brushes that you find better than others? would love to hear recommendations.

    1. I have to say I love MAC brushes the best, and I also find The Body Shop makes some great brushes for their price. Also some “indie” brands such as Stigma and EcoTools make some affordable and good brushes too!

  10. I love this list, Renee. I find myself thinking a lot about eyeshadow lately. I would only use it for special occassions like weddings. Few people at my workplace or in my social circle wear eyeshadow. Would it be better for me to get a single eyeshadow like a MAC paintpot, a quad/quint, or a small palette like Too Faced Natural Eye? Miraculously, I do actually have a couple of brushes but my skill with application is negligible.

    1. Glad you like the list, Kda!

      I’d personally go with at least 3 eyeshadow colors – so one of those small eyeshadow trios would be great, because they always come with a all-over color, a darker color (for the lash line) and then a highlighting color, so everything is pretty straight forward… But it’s really up to personal preference, and depending on what kinda looks you wanna create! Some palettes are great in that you can create a natural look and then build up to a night look (Too Faced Natural Eye is a perfect example for this!).

      As for your brushes, it’s all about taking the time to get used to them. What kind of brushes are they? I can walk you through how to use each of them.

      1. Thanks for the quick reply and the kind offer! I have the MAC 239 and 217 but every time I try for a natural matte look, it just makes my eyes look flat and tired and dark and I end up just wiping it off. My eyes are close set but otherwise balanced, normal skin. I find the shimmery eyeshadows more forgiving and multidimensional-looking. I usually use the 239 to pat the powder on and the 217 to blend. I might just be a hopeless case!

        1. My pleasure – those are GREAT brushes, btw.

          239 – don’t pick up too much eyeshadow into the brush. Tap away for access, and use a very light hand. Begin by “pressing” the product into the lid and very lightly sweeping across your lid. With this brush you definitely want to think “light” – light in terms of amount of product, and light application.

          217 – you can be a little “heavy” with this as this is a blending brush. Just go over the areas you think you may have deposit too much product and blend. This is also great for blending that harsh line of eyeshadow and the rest of your “naked” eyelid so it doesn’t look like such a hard line of eyeshadow.

          My beginner tips would just be to go super light – don’t pick up too much product on the brush because that can cause tons of weird shapes on the eyelid as you don’t know what to do with so much product, and also tons of fallout. Then the next step is to just blend, blend, blend within the crease (you can find the “perfect” shape for your eyeshadow by just feeling your eyeball underneath).

          Hope this helps! 🙂

          1. Thanks for the help! Do you think it would be better to start with eyeshadow or eyeliner?

          2. Honestly for me eyeliner was way easier – so I’d say that! Plus, if it smudges or whatever you can always say it was on purpose. 😉 If you’re just using one eyeshadow color then it’s pretty easy to do, the “tough” parts come when you’re doing blending or adding more colors/shaping techniques.

      1. Hi I liked this post
        I’m 13 and am new at this I don’t want to wear makeup often just special occasions. I’ve wore mascara before and I want to try eyeliner but have no idea what I’m doing can u help ? And also do u have any other tips to help get me started on makeup because I don’t get anything

          1. Hey there! I’m glad you liked this post!

            There’s quite a lot of say about makeup for beginners and your questions, thats why this post is just a short overview. All my full, in-depth tips and advice are in my e-book:

            I have full chapters on every single makeup product, how to use them, which products are the best, colors that suit you, as well as many other chapters specifically for beginners.

            Definitely check it out if you can, maybe ask your parents if you can get it? Then once you’ve started reading it, if you have any more questions or need further guidance, just email me and I’ll help you out. xx

  11. Hii. This post was very helpful. I just decided to start using makeup, and I am pretty sure I will buy some of these products, but I don’t know how to apply these. I don’t have any brushes, and sadly I don’t even know what they are called (the things that you use to apply the makeup). Could you please tell me what brushes and other things I should buy along with these?

  12. There are so many creams… sunscreen, bb cream, foundation, daycream… which one should i use for everyday and when?

    1. First, daycream (or moisturizer). Next sunscreen. Then your BB cream OR foundation – don’t put on both! They are honestly the same thing, just use what you think you need.

  13. Hi I’m 16 and I also know nothing about make up ^^ So I found your website and it’s so amazing and easy to understand 😀 You’re doing a great job
    Just a quick question, I’m from asia and I have like a very light brown skin and I can’t quite find a suitable lipstick color. do you have any recommendation ? Thanks in advance <3

    1. Hey Cowyy! I actually have a great tip next week coming up to find your perfect lipstick, if you can wait a little bit? 🙂 Thank you for your compliments and checking out my blog!

    1. I reckon you can get a whole beginner makeup set at pretty affordable prices, Hanah! Stay tuned I’m actually writing a follow up to this post with a certain budget in mind. xx

  14. Hi!i would like to purchase a cploue of items you have posted. How do I purchase? Also, josie maran argan oil (small) do you have 1 or 2 available?Thanks

    1. Hi Douha! Just click the links to the products I posted, it’ll take you to Amazon who ships worldwide. Happy shopping!

  15. Hey I’m 14 and I want to start wearing make-up but I don’t want to like ruin my skin or anything plus I don’t know if my parents will let me so… I’m a little indecisive about make-up as you can tell, so what do you recommend?

  16. Hi Renee I was just wondering if it would be ok if you use a face mask and makeup. I am not sure if that would be bad for your skin. I just need to know this because I am 13 years old and am very new to make up. My older sisters use make up so I know some techniques but no a lot. If you could answer my question that would be great.

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