Not Your Average Makeup Tutorial

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beauty deconstructed

I was not born into the makeup tutorial generation. YouTube was not around during my formative years to help guide me along the path of how to wear makeup. The way I learned to do makeup was in the pages of Sassy and Teen magazines. I remember something about applying darker blue eyeshadow on the outer edges of your eyelids and lighter blue in the middle. Voila, eat your heart out, Brooke Shields. Speaking of Brooke Shields, I had a book by the legendary Chic jeans spokesmodel that taught me how to dress and wear natural-looking makeup. I wish I had that book now. Her eyebrows were so ahead of her time.

What I am from is the DIY generation of the 90s. We had the bravado to try just about anything on our own. Bleach your hair out with bleach powder and developer from Sally's? Check. Write a zine dedicated to punk rock heroines? Check. Create your own pre-Modcloth vintage wardrobe via sorting through countless drab toss aways at the thrift store? Check, sneeze, and check. Yet, despite having the guts to DIY my way through every other aspect of life, I was terrified of doing my own makeup.

What if I looked ridiculous? What if I looked like I was trying too hard? What if I chose the wrong eyeshadow color and made my eyes look smaller instead of bigger? I don't think I'm alone in being intimidated by makeup. It's not just the toughies like mastering a smokey eye or a winged liner. Even buying the right makeup is difficult. I can easily spend an hour in the makeup aisle trying to decide what foundation to buy, and I know I'm not alone. I can't imagine how young girls feel now with all the contouring and HD stuff going on. 

But I have learned to overcome my fears around makeup, and I'm going to help you get over any fears or misconceptions you may have, too. What follows is not your typical makeup tutorial. These exercises are meant to deconstruct whatever relationship you've created with makeup starting with childhood and landing on your current beauty routine. 



Which best describes your makeup routine?

A. Nonexistent.

B. I wear makeup for special occasions.

C. I wear makeup sometimes but keep it natural.

D. I wear makeup daily but stick to the basics.

E. I don't leave the house without makeup, and I could contour my way out of the Grand Canyon. 

Has your makeup routine always been this way, or has it changed over the years? I know for me, having kids made it tough to find the time to shower, let alone leave the house wearing makeup. But motherhood also inspired me to take better care of myself and show my kids that moms don't always look exhausted. 

Next, think back to your earliest memory of makeup. Were you a little girl watching your mom or older sister get ready?  How old were you when you first started experimenting with makeup? Was it forbidden in your house or allowed at a certain age?

We often ignore our history with makeup, but it can be a big influence on our present-day attitude. I was a punk rock teen, which means my early makeup idols were Siouxsie Sioux and Nancy Spungen. They wore heavy eyeliner and dark lipstick. I copied their looks, much to my parent's horror. Although they lived in separate households, my parents' reactions to my new look were identical: they both told me I looked like a prostitute.

I couldn't expect my parents to understand my punk rock aesthetic. To them, I just looked like a twelve-year-old wearing too much makeup. Saying I looked like a hooker was probably not the way to go, but they had a point. After the vampire hooker makeup phase, I went in the opposite direction in high school and wore no makeup at all. This phase lasted well into my Women's Studies days of college and into adulthood. My experience with makeup went from artsy noir to nonexistent. Eventually, I became someone who wore makeup for special occasions. 

Once you've remembered your earliest relationship with makeup and connected the dots to your current relationship, make a fresh start. Leave the past behind you. If you were a "tomboy" who didn't wear makeup, but now you want to try, go for it. If your mom told you only hookers wear red lipstick, I strongly suggest you prove her wrong. If you've been doing the same makeup routine you learned in a magazine 10 years ago, it's time to learn some new tricks.

STEP TWO - Realize there is no right way to wear makeup. While there are some general guidelines to follow, there are no rules. Just as we can wear white past Labor Day, we can also wear whatever colors of makeup we want, whenever we want. We can embrace trends,  or we can ignore them.

STEP THREE - Make mistakes. We get so worked up over messing up our eyeshadow or eyeliner, but it's not a tattoo. Keep your favorite makeup remover (or even water), some cotton pads, and a few cotton swabs nearby and wipe away your mistakes. 

STEP FOUR - Think of yourself as an artist and choose your tools accordingly. Does the idea of finger painting sound fun to you, or are you more of an acrylic and brush kind of gal? Fancy makeup brushes are great if that appeals to you, but don't be afraid to use your fingers. Experiment with tapping on your foundation or eyeshadow. Allow yourself to feel the texture of a powder versus a cream or a liquid. Now observe how these textures look on your skin.

STEP FIVE - See your makeup as paint. See colors the way an artist sees them, not as a means to hide your flaws. Experiment with the colors before you. What happens when you apply a yellow-ish concealer under one eye and a pink-ish concealer on the other? Does one eye look brighter and less tired? 

Now, look at your eyeshadow palette. Have you been wearing the same three shades of eyeshadow for five years because some lovely woman behind the department store makeup counter told you these colors were perfect for brown eyes? Try this instead: pick colors just because. Don't worry about your eye color or shape. Just pick colors that speak to you. Maybe that turquoise reminds you of your honeymoon trip to the Bahamas. Maybe the peaches and pinks remind you of a sunset. The whites and grays could look like stars and the moon or an overcast sky.

STEP SIX - Mix up your eyeshadow application. Apply one color all over. Now, apply a darker color on the outer corner of one eye and the inner corner of the other eye. Does one eye look better?

Eventually, you'll start to see what colors look good because you will feel good. Your eyes will sparkle. Your body knows when it looks good. If you put on makeup and you look tired or older, then you know that's not the way to go. Wipe it off. Try again.

STEP SEVEN - While you may want to learn from a makeup tutorial, do not compare yourself to the gorgeous woman in the Instagram photo or YouTube tutorial. It's fine to look to others for inspiration. I do, too. But you know what typically happens when I turn to Insta-fame for inspiration? I see a flawless woman in perfect lighting striking just the right pose, and I think, ugh, I could never look like that. If I make it past the urge to toss my phone into the trash and move to a cabin with no wifi, I may actually try to emulate her look despite having "hooded eyes," crow's feet, a broad Irish nose, and a forehead that rivals a salad plate in size. 

Often times we are not really following a tutorial so much as a concept. That woman in the photo or video could wear purple shadow, green eyeliner, and no lipstick and still look gorgeous. What looks good on someone else really doesn't matter, even if she has my same skin tone, eye color, or exact shade of dark circles because that image is just a millisecond of her day taken in the best photographic circumstances. 

The cool thing about being born into the DIY generation is that now we can combine our experimental tendencies with the how-to guidance of the YouTube generation. Use those tutorials for guidance, but don't rely on them. Close out the window, get out your mirror in natural light and just play. Make mistakes like a toddler learning to walk, but pick your droopy butt off the floor and try again. You don't have to leave the house. You don't have to take a selfie. Just experiment and deconstruct your beauty routine until it feels like your own.