These Flawless Makeup Tips Will Take You From Base to Brows

These Flawless Makeup Tips Will Take You From Base to Brows

Actor Greta Lee with glowy, perfectly applied makeup

@ninapark / Instagram

When it comes to nailing your makeup, the devil really is in the details. It's the angle of your liner, the undertone of your concealer, the placement of your blush. The particulars matter, and one or two tiny changes can majorly impact your overall look.

And no one knows those makeup particulars better than professional makeup artists—which is why we're never shy about asking our favorite experts for every little tip and trick in their book. Ahead, we asked three pros—Sofia Tilbury, Daniel Martin, and Kelli Anne Sewell—to take us through the tiny details that can make or break a look, step by step. Read on for 10 simple steps to flawless makeup, straight from the experts.

Meet the Expert

  • Sofia Tilbury is a celebrity makeup artist based in London and Ibiza.
  • Daniel Martin is a celebrity makeup artist and global director of artistry and education for Tatcha.
  • Kelli Anne Sewell is a professional makeup artist and the founder and CEO of Makeup by Kelli Anne, a platform of guided makeup tutorials to elevate your makeup routine.

01 of 10

Skin Prep

"Charlotte always taught me that great makeup starts with great skincare," says Tilbury. Sewell agrees: "I think people go wrong when they don't put enough focus on skincare [before] makeup. It doesn't matter what products you're using on your face throughout your makeup application, if your skin isn't prepped and hydrated prior, you're not going to get the results you want."

While proper skincare prep is key, what exactly that entails will vary based on skin type, Martin says. For drier skin, stick with heavy-duty creams and lightweight hydrating serums. You can even add an oil on top; just be sure to really press the product into the skin. For oilier skin types, all three experts recommend using a water-based moisturizer with ingredients like niacinamide for gentle refinement. Sewell also likes to use a mattifying stick on an oily t-zone, like the Nudestix Blot & Blur Matte Stick ($34).

Regardless of what you use to prep the skin, it’s important to use light layers, dedicating time to properly massaging each layer into the skin and giving it time (like, a few minutes) to completely absorb before moving on.

02 of 10


When it comes to primer, the choice is up to you. While Sewell says that great skin prep can alleviate the need for a primer altogether, Martin has a different philosophy. “If you’re wearing makeup longer than four hours and don’t care to touch up during the day, find a primer compatible with your skin type [and] your foundation to lock it down,” he suggests. He loves Tatcha’s Liquid Silk Canvas ($54)—the water-based formula is great for balanced, combination, and oily skin types, and is compatible with many of the top foundations on the market.

03 of 10

Foundation and Concealer

Creating a great, flawless base is both an art and a science. So we're going to break it down step by step.

While all three of our experts prefer to apply foundation before concealer—”That way, you only use what you need, which is usually a lot less than expected,” Tilbury explains—there are a few exceptions to the rule.

For dark circles and hyperpigmentation, Tilbury suggests using a peach-toned color corrector to cancel out the blue-ish purple pigment, while prepping the canvas for foundation and concealer over top. Meanwhile, Martin likes to use a thin layer of cortisone gel on any zits to calm redness and act as a barrier, keeping concealer and foundation out of the blemish. If you’re managing a particularly bad breakout, Sewell suggests spot concealing with a heavy-duty concealer before foundation application. (Pot concealers like the NARS Soft Matte Complete Concealer, $32, are particularly great for this.)

As for foundation, light layers are key. This keeps the makeup from getting too patchy or cakey and helps build your base to the desired coverage. Be sure to give each layer time to press into the skin for long-lasting flawless coverage.

04 of 10


Depending on your concealer and foundation formulas (and how long you want your makeup to last), most experts suggest applying powder immediately after your base makeup. Martin starts with a loose powder, specifically the Make Up Forever HD Skin Shine-Controlling & Blurring Setting Powder ($43), all over the face to set the foundation and concealer. Then, he’ll blot a pressed powder in any particular spots he needs to make more matte—like through the t-zone and on any acne he’s concealed. Finally, he’ll use a radiant loose powder on a fluffy eyeshadow brush to set and blur underneath the eyes.

Meanwhile, Tilbury likes to use a pressed setting powder through the center of the face, focusing on mattifying and soft-focusing the t-zone while leaving the high points of the face looking fresh and glowing. She’s a fan of the Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Setting Powder ($48), which she presses over blemishes to help eliminate shine, create the illusion of even texture, and add a bit more coverage.

For Sewell, where and how much she powders depends on the type of look she's going for. For something more natural, she prefers to keep the powder in the t-zone, but for a more full-glam or long-lasting look, she'll apply it all over.

05 of 10

Bronzer and/or Contour

You’ll want to cater your bronzer or contour application method to your intended effect. “Applying directly to the skin and blending with a brush is a great way to achieve a glowing, sculpted effect,” Tilbury shares, “though you can also warm the product with your hands to get a more sheer, natural-looking coverage.”

For a "contoured-from-within" look, Martin likes to use cream contour before foundation "so it seems as if the depth is coming through the foundation rather than color sitting on top of it," he explains.

Applying a bronzer or contour directly to the skin is certainly quicker and will provide more coverage while picking the product up with a brush first—and even buffing it into your hands before applying—allows you to work in layers and sheer down the look a bit.

To define and lift your features, glide your contour or bronzer high along the cheekbones, then tap it into the temples, jawline, and either side of the nose, blending out with a brush in a tapping motion.

06 of 10

Blush and/or Highlighter

Sewell has some great advice for keeping blush from looking patchy or streaky: "You're probably applying too much pressure," she reveals. "A good rule of thumb is to hold your brush further back to apply less pressure." She suggests using light patting motions when applying blush rather than dragging the product across the skin.

Meanwhile, Martin emphasizes the importance of product formulations—for powder blushes, he suggests making sure your foundation is already set with powder beforehand. He likes to apply cream blush with a brush, following up with a damp sponge to settle any streaking.

07 of 10


When it comes to makeup, there’s a somewhat unspoken debate in the beauty industry: eyes or complexion first? “I don’t think the order necessarily matters,” Sewell says. “It’s personal preference and whatever you think is most comfortable. However, I personally like to start with face. I think evening out the complexion first helps me envision [the eye look] and how glam I want to go. It also depends on what you want the focal point to be.”

Order aside, Tilbury has some tips for nailing a great eye look: "A common eye makeup mistake I see is people applying products in a way that drags their features down. Always look straight ahead in the mirror when you do your eye makeup and try to keep your eyes open as much as possible so you can properly judge your eyeshadow and eyeliner placement as you apply."

When in doubt, a neutral eye is always a crowd-pleaser. Use a neutral four-shade palette like the Tom Ford Eye Color Quad Palette ($90) in Sous Le Sable—use the middle shade all over, the lightest in the inner corner, the shimmer on the lid, and the darkest in the crease and outer corners. It’s foolproof.

08 of 10


We've all been there: You're swiping on mascara when you feel a sneeze come on—suddenly, your perfect eye is ruined by black smudges. Luckily, the pros have a fix for that too. Martin suggests using a pointy cotton bud lightly soaked at the tip to spot-treat any mishaps.

09 of 10


Martin likes to start his makeup with brows: "It sets the framework for your application," he explains. "Also, because you don't have anything else on, it helps prevent you from making your brows appear too heavy." Meanwhile, Sewell likes to start her makeup application with a brow gel to avoid flakey foundation bits getting caught in the hair. Then, she'll fill them in later on in the process.

For a natural-looking brow, use thin hair-like strokes to fill any areas with sparse hairs. Be sure to use light pressure, and for some extra definition, try using two different shades—one the color of your hair and one slightly lighter.

10 of 10

Setting Spray

Sewell and Tilbury are huge proponents of using a setting spray as the final step in a makeup routine. Sewell says they help melt the makeup together and lock in your work. The duo also happened to recommend the same product: Charlotte Tilbury’s Airbrush Flawless Setting Spray ($38). Martin’s a recent convert to setting spray, citing BeautyBlender’s Boost 4-in-1 Setting Spray ($33) as his newfound favorite thanks to its versatility across skin types.


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