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5 Small Makeup Tweaks That Will Completely Transform Your Face

Here's how to update your decades-old routine — today.

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Meredith Miotke
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When I was 15, I sat in the makeup chair behind the Estee Lauder counter at Macy’s. As the saleswoman expertly applied makeup to my acned face, she gave me tips and techniques to use when applying new makeup. When I looked at my face in the mirror, my brown eyes were rimmed with teal green eyeliner, and hot pink blush covered my cheekbones.

And I’m pretty sure you could have seen my lipstick color from Mars. It was the late ’80s, and “less is more” was not the accepted approach to makeup application.

I went home that day with an armload of expensive products and, for many years, I stuck to exactly what the saleswoman used on my face. I mean, she was the professional, right? Over the years — while I have had my makeup professionally done for a few weddings and events — I’ve basically relied on the tips that she taught me almost 30 years ago. (I did toss the green eyeliner a long time ago, though.)

But, over time, drugstore foundation didn’t quite get the job done. I was at a loss: The thought of walking into a department store and admitting that I didn’t understand how to contour or use anything beyond an eye shadow brush was embarrassing. And I am definitely too old to be following tips from a 16-year-old YouTube makeup influencer.

Thankfully, a kind makeup artist came to my unexpected rescue and saved me from my makeup mishaps. For a team-building exercise, my boss graciously hired a makeup artist to give us fresh tips on how to update our makeup bags. Not to overstate it, but this was a life-changing exercise for me. Ladies, I’m going to break it to you gently: A lot has changed in the last decade when it comes to makeup. But don’t worry, I have a few go-to tips that you can do right now to update your decades-old makeup routine.

Sponges are out, brushes are in
As the makeup artist inspected my makeup bag, she politely asked me what I used to apply my foundation. I’m pretty sure she almost passed out when I showed her the egg-shaped sponge I used every morning. Turns out, sponges not only soak up all of your makeup product, but they are also breeding grounds for germs because they can’t be easily cleaned. Ack, right? Toss those germ-laden sponges into the garbage and buy yourself a set of brushes to apply everything from primer (we’ll get to that next) and foundation to concealer and blush.

These days, primer isn’t just for painting walls
Just as you wouldn’t try to apply beige paint over a red wall without primer, the same goes for your face, ladies. News flash: Our faces don’t have that youthful glow anymore and, if you are like me, your skin has a reddish hue to it from one too many days in the sun. Tinted face primer is a game changer. I bought one that is — brace yourselves — tinted green. But, my foundation has never looked more even, and I don’t look like Oscar the Grouch, either.

Skip the eye shadow and face your fears: Liquid eyeliner is your friend
Our makeup angel, er, artist, was blunt: No one needs to wear eye shadow every day. Sure, a smoky eye is fun for when you are going glam for a night on the town, but it’s OK to skip it for your everyday look (stay with me, I know this is hard to hear). Our makeup artist told us to wear a liquid liner on our lids, a little mascara and, if we were feeling saucy, a little bit of pencil liner on the bottom of your eye. The process takes less than two minutes and, as a bonus, your eyeshadow won’t be stuck in your eye crease by 3 p.m. Pro tip: You can skip the liner and just opt for mascara; but don’t skip the mascara if you are using liquid liner.

Walk away from the pressed powder, ladies
Admittedly, this step was the hardest habit to break for me. Show of hands: Who covers their face in foundation only to dust it with more powder than a jelly donut? Guilty as charged. I’m about to blow your mind. After applying primer and your foundation, you don’t need to add powder. Our makeup artist suggested a makeup-setting powder or spray to set your makeup for the day. I didn’t believe it, either, but it’s the truth. (Spoiler: I opted for the setting powder because I just couldn’t make the full leap.) A little bit of setting powder seals my look all day, and I don’t have powder all over my business clothes before work. It’s a win-win.

A word (or two) about bronzer
Now that we know what we do about sun damage, most of us are informed enough to wear moisturizer with SPF — but that means our faces don’t have that “summer glow.” When using bronzer, resist the urge to powder your entire face because, let’s face it, that’s not how the sun works. If you are naturally sitting in the sun, the light hits you from the forehead to the nose to the chin, so lightly brush those areas with bronzer and add blush to your cheeks. You’ll thank me, I promise.

Updating your makeup bag doesn’t have to be fussy or complicated — and sometimes it just takes a girlfriend to help you kick some of your bad habits. And, you don’t have to do a total overhaul of your makeup products (we know how much you love that lipstick color from 1992; we won’t judge). Believe me, small changes will make you feel like you could start a YouTube makeup channel of your own.