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The Empty Basket: Makeup How-To


Years ago – several anniversaries of my 25th birthday – I bought a set of brushes from a cosmetics counter. Probably cost me 10 bucks. Yep a lot of money to me then. I used them for many years and still do use some of them to this day. But then one day my teenage daughter came home all excited because she had been given a MAC eye shadow brush . Big yawn and I just thought the yuppie craze had finally gotten to her.

I soon forgot about it, then one day years later I was in a MAC store buying some special effects items and decided to REALLY splurge and dole out many green backs to get one of those brushes. OH WOW is all I can say!! I’ll never use cheap brushes again. This is not a testimonial to MAC or other high quality brush suppliers, but rather a tip for you to learn from. Don’t buy cheap if you can afford better- skip a few cups of coffee even. They allow smoother coverage and incredible control for quantity of colour application and positioning. In hindsight, I should have bought 2 or 3 really good eye shadow application brushes and a few average quality brushes for other uses, eg. blush and powder. A good application beats your colour choices hands down every time and you will be amazed at the number of times you’ll be stopped and asked “how did you do it?”

A further caveat is in order here too. Make sure that you clean your brushes after each time you use them. I can’t overemphasize this, and it makes application of products so much easier. I use a small dab of shampoo in my palm, or a gentle brush cleaner sold at the better cosmetic counters. Allow the brushes to air dry after you shape them with your fingers. Treat them like your best friend and they’ll last a long time.

If you can’t afford really expensive brushes, and few of us can, visit an art supply store. There you will find sable hair brushes which work very well at a fraction of the cost. These hold colours well because the bristles are tapered, and are generally easier to manage than cheap brushes because the handles are larger. Plus you won’t cry if you damage them. Another good source is (drum roll time) the theatrical makeup supply store nearest you. They will be expensive here but you can get expert advice from people who know what they’re for and what you will and won’t really need until the budget allows.

Another digression is in order now too. If you are new to makeup, don’t go shopping for foundations and eye shadows at Halloween. I know a lot of us started then as it was easy to say “It’s for a party”, but think about it. The stores are aiming for a quick look (ie. sale), not a professional job so they won’t be in the mind set to get you started properly. Wait until after the craziness or start in mid September if you must. The stores won’t be so busy and the clerks will have more time to help you so you won’t feel embarrassed or rushed. I find spring is a bad time due to Grads, while early Sept is ballet and acting school purchase times. Forget December too unless you’re seasoned.

OK, now lets get back to the “EYES”

I’m going to make an assumption here. I’ll go through a casual everyday look, using browns and taupes, and your eyes will be of average spacing and not really deep or protruding (again average, if there is such a thing).

If you applied powder to your lids and brows then you will need to continue with powders. If you didn’t then you’re in luck – use a good cream eye shadow foundation over the lid and brow. I find these special purpose foundations really help the eye shadow powders and creams to adhere and you can get really sharp lines and effects with ease. The former takes practice but without the foundation it is almost impossible to do. They are usually a fairly light colour (white) which makes blending and colouring your eyes easier too. Use a moderately stiff brush about 3/8” wide and sweep from the nose to the side from the lashes right up and into the eyebrows.

Now that we have foundation, take your medium shade and cover your eyelid nice and smooth – not thickly! Take the darkest shade and sweep it in an arc from the bridge of the nose upward to the peak of your eyebrow arch.

Arc? what’s this arc? – time to digress again for a minute… take the handle of a brush and lay it against your cheek so that the handle extends from the outer edge of your nostril to directly over the pupil of your eye when looking straight forward. The point where the handle hits your eyebrow is the apogee or peak of your arc. Jumping ahead now, if you lay the handle along your cheek between the outside edge of your nostril and the outer edge of the eye, where it hits the eyebrow should be the outer end of the brow. Similarly, extending the handle from the outer edge of your nostril straight up the side of the nose will define the inner extent of the eyebrow.

Ok, finally back to the eyes. The inner quadrant is now a darker colour. From the underside of the arc to the outer edge of the eye, above the eyelid, apply the lightest shade of your eye shadow. You will note that this effect will narrow the bridge of the nose and widen the eye socket area (darks push in ; lights pull out). Another but much thinner application of the medium shade of eye shadow now goes on the lid. A dash – nothing more !! of white applied just to the underside of and tight against the arc of the eyebrow will pull out the top of the brow. Be careful here or it is instant hooker look!!

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