Makeup, start to finish: Eyes

Second part of the makeup tutorial videos. These were filmed in real time, including mistakes. I talk a bit about them and how to fix them in the video.

I’ve done the preparation process I talked in my previous post. Next I do the eyes. I’m using the Blowing Smoke palette from ColourPop to do a smokey eye look.

One thing I should have done, and will do next time I use this palette, is to put a thick layer of powder under my eyes. This will catch the fallout for the darker colours and will make it easier to remove; once the eye makeup is done, it will be as easy as dusting off the excess powder. Or at least that’s the theory, sometimes it takes a bit more effort.

I am trying to draw an elongated shape upwards, aiming to have a straight line (parallel to the floor) between the outermost point and the top centre of my eyelid done with the transition colour (the reddish grey). With age, my outer upper eyelid has started creeping down, and this is a good technique for hooded or semi-hooded eyes to open them up. If you need a more detailed explanations on how to do this and why, head over to Wayne Goss’ video (opens in new tab). This is of course *far* more intense than what he’s aiming for, but the general principles apply.

A favourite technique of late that I haven’t really used this time is to make most of the eyelid very light, and only pile on the darkness on the outer corners. This works really well on more mature eyes as it brightens up the area and makes the eyes look much bigger. You can totally try doing this instead of using a midtone colour on the centre, while keeping everything else the same. Just make sure that the brushes you use for the lighter colour and the blending are clean. I will try to make a video just doing this.

Blowing Smoke Look

And if you want to make this work for a daily look, just use lighter colours, and a lighter hand. I purposefully went for dramatic, and I also used the finished look photo in the review for the Blowing Smoke palette, so if you want a reminder of what the finished look is like up close, click on the photo to the left to view it at full size.

Otherwise, check the video below. There are captions if you prefer that.

Makeup, start to finish: preparation

Over the year and a half of posting makeup looks weekly, I’ve had several requests for tutorials and more detailed explanations. I think a good makeup is just the icing on the cake, and everything starts with the skin. I will be posting a close up of steps I take, from skin prep to colour correction, to eye makeup, to face makeup.

If you are happy with how your skin looks, then I’ll tell you to keep doing what you’re doing. I know it took me quite a while to figure out what worked for me, and quite a bit of trial and error. Skin loves consistency, not always more products or active ingredients is better, and sometimes improvements take a while to show, so jumping from one treatment to the next in a few weeks might not be the best choice. However, I am *not* a skincare expert, so take what follows as a description of my experience and usage, and not as a guide. Your skin is very likely to be different than mine!

Whenever I can (that is, when I’m not getting ready in between a workshop and a hafla) I like to do a full skin prep before makeup. This consists of cleansing, toning, serums, hydration/moisture, and SPF if the sun is still up and I’ll go outside before it sets, and is a repeat of my morning skincare steps. I like to do this about half an hour before starting the makeup, and after 15 minutes or so, add a new thin layer of eye cream on my undereye area, because this plumps the skin and helps prevent fine lines as the makeup sets.

What do I use? I start with Micellar cleanser with a silicon sonic brush. Follow up with a few products from The Ordinary: their Glycolic toner, Buffet & Matrixyl, Argiriline and Caffeine serum for my eye area, then Q10 from The Inkey List, Simple hydrating cream for the face, and a vit E cream for the undereye area. For SPF right now I’m using Altruist SPF50, although I need to be careful with it as my skin takes a while to absorb it, and too much leaves me with a greasy residue. I also use a foundation or BB cream with SPF if I can, but more on that later when I talk about the rest of the face. I always dispense a few drops of the serums on my hand, warm them up then apply a very thin layer. Same with the creams and SPF. I do not use too much of anything because my skin doesn’t respond well to that, and I always let everything sit and absorb before applying makeup. I never, *ever*, do the “influencer” thing of dripping directly onto my face. I try to never let the glass droppers touch anything at all, as it’s unhygienic.

All of these are steps to get my skin as good as it can be. You will no doubt need a different routine, as your skin needs are going to be personal. They don’t need to cost a ton, I don’t spend a lot of mine, and use mostly products from The Ordinary and The Inkey List, two inexpensive but very good brands that offer a wide variety of products to cover most needs. They require a bit more work to figure out what will work for you, but they give lot of information, and The Ordinary in particular is very good about offering set routines to get you started, if you don’t know where. Paula’s Choice also does have these in test sizes, and their products are great quality, so are good starting points if you are a bit at a loss. Most skincare expert at spas or beauty salons are probably going to be happy to offer you advice and options, so maybe have a chat with them (and compensate them accordingly, their time is valuable!).

Other good practices for skin care don’t require any extra product: drinking enough water, sleeping a decent number of hours, and eating a balanced diet. These should be your first points of approach to improve your skin, no serum will make up externally for what you are not giving your skin internally.

So, you’ve done the skin prep, what’s next? For me, it’s priming and colour correction. I use a hydrating primer on the outer parts of my face, and a pore filling primer along the lines of Maybelline’s Babyskin or Benefit’s The Porefessional; I’ve also heard great things about ELF’s putty primer but I haven’t tried it. What these do is effectively fill in pores and plump them just a touch to add a sort of soft, smoother look. Your primer of choice will depend on your skin situation and preferences: you might want a mattifying one, or a hydrating one. The primers will also help the cosmetics adhere better and remain longer on your face. If you are going to be under strong lights, sweating, or waiting around for a long while, you definitely need to prime!

Next is colour correcting. This aims to tone down or brighten certain areas that are different from the rest of your skin. I have a few broken capillaries on my cheeks and chin, some redness over my eyebrows, and need a bit of brightening in the inner and outer corners of the eyes. The colours I use for correcting are very gently tinted, and I apply them in a very thin layer, then blend with my finger or a damp sponge. The idea is to create as much of an even canvas as you can, so you can then build up better.

Final step is to add some concealer and eyelid primer. I often use the concealer for this too, because it’s there and I keep forgetting to use the primer I’ve got. This I also blend carefully with a damp mini sponge. Watch the video to see the whole process so far!

Smokey Palettes pt.2

Last time I showed you a few of my favourite smokey palettes, some drugstore and economical, some more expensive. I’d like to cover a few more. Again, we’ll go from inexpensive and easily available, to more pricey and Limited Edition. Have you used any of these? Any preference? Leave me a comment below!

Smokey Purple by Collection

In theory, I love the concept of this palette. Portable, purples and gunmetal colours. Colour nr3 does look an interest desaturated light purple with a satiny finish that I’m not sure I’ve seen elsewhere.

I said in theory I love it. In practice, not so much. I know I shouldn’t expect much from a £3.99 palette, but the formula feels “thin”, buildable but thin. I’m also not sure that having most of the pans as satin/metallics, even the darker ones, is a good idea, as a lot of people (myself included) prefer to use non metallics for crease and outer v areas.

Don’t get me wrong, you can totally create a few pretty looks with this, and it feels soft on the skin and finely milled. But I might be spoiled as it’s proven hard to work with, doesn’t seem to blend that well, and needs a LOT of build up to have any colour depth as in the look I’m attaching below. I can see it being incredibly frustrating for less experienced users. The exact same applies for the Smokey Grey palette from the same company.

Get this if….

You know, just don’t. Don’t get this. If you have not used a smokey palette before and you want to start without spending too much, you’d only feel aggravated when trying to use it. To be totally honest I would skip it altogether, and get the Sleek one.

Bad Girl i-Divine Sleek

Now this is the opposite: super pigmented, really smooth. Great quality for the price, a nice greyscale plus a pop of soft pink, and a selection of the most common “smokey” colours for variations, two of each: purples, blues, and rather uniquely, metallic desaturated greens. All for less than £10. Not all shades apply equally. A few will need a bit of buildup once you start applying them on the eye, but they will get there eventually, and blend rather well.

My one complain with this palette is that all but the lighter purple are metallics or at least satins, so it feels like it’s missing a few mattes. If you can pair this with a neutral palette, like one of the neutral Urban Decay minis, or even the Huda Beauty I reviewed on the previous post, you could extend the versatility even further. Sleek’s own Goodnight Sweetheart might also be a good complement, although it also has far more metallics and satins than mattes.

Get this if you want to experiment with smokey coloured looks without breaking the bank.

Melt Cosmetics’ The Waiting Room

This one was a limited edition one, for Melt’s Beetlejuice collection, but they sometimes re-release colours with the same formula in other palettes later, so worth talking about. This is really two palettes in one, with a red row, and a greyscale one. The formula doesn’t swatch that well on my arm, but works brilliantly on my eyes. I’ve loved nearly every look I’ve done with it… but I find it difficult to create diverse looks. The first time I tried a red and black look I didn’t like the result. The second time I tried a different grey and red I didn’t like it either, and it was because for some reason, when going on my eyes, the colours didn’t look like they belonged together. Colours changing on my eyelids is nothing new, I’ve had that since my days exploring Aromaleigh eyeshadows, but it’s still frustrating. The greys have an almost swampy undertone, which goes perfect with the theme. I think that undertone gets amplified on my skin, causing the clash with the reds. I’m sad I won’t get to use this palette as the colour story it was designed to be, but I am happily using it with stunning results for monochrome looks, and with other palettes.

For me the showstopper is Lydia, the metallic true red. I haven’t really seen a similar colour on its own, they are all a bit more blue or a bit more orange or not metallic, but if you are after just *that* colour, you can get an extremely close dupe by using Love+ and Kiss Kiss from Sugar pill layered on top of each other.

Right now this palette is sold out and probably won’t be back on sale. But if you do find it or they re-release it, get it if you REALLY love reds, if you want murkier, grungy greys to use on their own and complement other palettes, and of course, if you are a Beetlejuice fan.

Final Words

Sadly, my favourite smokey palette is not made anymore: Urban Decay’s Naked Smoky. You can see a look I made with it on the left; it’s rich and warm, while still keeping to the fundamental nature of the smokey look with the shades of black. I really wish they brought back that palette.

And the undertones are the key for a great smokey look, I think. It’s amazing how many variations of black and grey you can find, and how different these variations can look on your skin. But you should figure out which looks best on you first, whether it’s warm or cool ones, taupes or greens, and how they all interact together, otherwise things can get very messy (or muddy) very quickly.

If you want to start experimenting with smokey looks, I think I would recommend starting either with ColourPop’s Baroque (or their recently released “of Quartz”, which seems to have a similar colour story just with a mauve undertone), or Sleek’s Bad Girl palettes, which would allow you to play without breaking the bank and are roughly around the same price point and quality. Both have good, blendable formulas that make them accessible for beginners. I would personally bypass a more expensive palette and get really good brushes, including at least one pencil brush, and one crease blending or fluffy brush, particularly if you’re closer to my age than to the average beauty guru’s. You can always get a more expensive smokey palette with different colour stories later, although to be honest, I can’t think of any available now that I would recommend above the ones I featured.

Start learning what shape works best for your eye, practice drawing the shape with a single colour and blending it all out, once you are comfortable with that use a crease colour first for the blending then fill in with your main colour and blend them into each other. Once you are comfortable with blending the two colours, you can start adding more. Or leave it at that and work with different colours to have more options. It might not be traditionally “smokey” if you’re not using greys, but the same techniques give brilliant results regardless of colour. Let me know in the comments if you’d like a video of this technique.

As with everything, practice is important! Don’t wait until half an hour before your next performance to try a new complicated technique! Get together with friends, paint each other, or do it via video chat, offer critiques, and overall, have fun!

Smokey Palettes pt.1

Last year was difficult for all of us, for different reasons. Isolation was a big one, particularly for those who live on their own, or are more sociable, or were shielding for safety. One thing I set up with a few friends was a regular makeup session, to chat and try out techniques and colours and basically aiming to play with all the colours in my palettes. That has proven *fun*, as I’ve basically put on a full face of makeup, then moved on with the rest of my day with the makeup on, including niceties like making bread, or prepping food for a week. Those don’t mimic the stress of performance under lights or on stage, but it’s as close as I could manage to stress test the cosmetics.

When posting the results on Instagram and Facebook, quite a few people asked about the palettes I was using, and techniques. So you can expect a few posts with palette reviews, from the point of view of vibrancy and longevity, not just price and pretty swatches and packaging. Today I want to start with that staple of dancer’s makeup bags, smokey palettes. I’ve written about four of them, ranging in price from inexpensive to mid-range. There will be a second post exploring a few more, coming up. In the meantime, take a look at the four palettes below. Any catches your eye? Which one is your favourite smokey palette? Have you used any of these, and how did you find them? Leave me a comment!

ColourPop’s Blowing Smoke

I enjoy ColourPop’s palettes. For those in the US, or able to catch one of their few “free worldwide shipping” days, they are brilliant value for money. Their 9-pans are also magnetic, so you could, theoretically, put together the palette of your dreams (or suitable for your performance/trip) in a single little palette.

I did just that and took Smoke Show to use at Serendipity 2019. It performed well, was easy to work with, lasted all night (if you’ve ever been to Serendipity, you know the parties are legendary!). However, not all is rosy, I’ve got a few minor complaints. One, and this has far more to do with me than the actual quality, is that while most of the darker grey tones have a hint of warmth in them, the lighter tones are very neutral, and to my eye, look a bit harsh when used with the darker colours. That silver really is the only colour that somewhat works for a pop of brightness on the inner eye for me, and I feel it looks a bit harsh on my skin. A second complain is that, beautiful as it is, “Let’s Do It” (bottom left black with pink glitter) had *horrible* fallout and needed cleanup. And most of the colours go either dark or light on my skin, so mid-tones are an issue, but this will be different on everybody.

Get this one if you love the more classic dark smokey look, or if your skin has a neutral or pink undertone. Be ready with a very light warm shimmer to add more range to it. Also, stay tuned for an upcoming video showing how I did the look on the third photo!

ColourPop’s Baroque

This one surprised me. I was expecting mostly blue-based greys but some are a bit more purple than blue, they just don’t photograph that true to colour. This palette has a couple of light faint duochromes (light but pigmented colour, a hint of duochrome in them). It allowed me to create some surprisingly light looks with a hint of smoke in them as well as more traditional smokey looks with different undertones. So far it’s been the most versatile of my CP palettes, and I am sad that right now it’s out of stock/not available for purchase. The colour story won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but it worked really well for me, and blended like a dream. Lasted well into the 7-8 hour mark without budging, and the look in the full face photo I took after filming a dancing video, with 3 takes in full sunlight plus several false starts and corrections.

Get this one if you can find it, if you want your smoky looks warmer, with the option of going for light day looks. Also if you have Blowing Smoke and want something to complement it

Huda Beauty’s Smokey Obsessions

Another 9 pan palette, ultra compact. I’ve taken this one with me when travelling and it works wonderfully. Quality with Huda’s Obsessions palettes is hit and miss, but this one, to me, is one of the best of that first collection, and I imagine it has remained so. But truth be told, it’s not *smokey*, more cool and warm browns, with pops of silver, black, and warm gold (the tone of the look photo lies, I had blue light on me when I shot that look). The darker brown is brilliant as eyebrow filler too, and the black as eyeliner, so the tiny palette (7.5cm/3″) is great when space is at a premium. If you’re doing traditional FCBD® style makeup, in browns darkening to black (see this post for details), this is a great option for travelling, as you can do a lot of neutral to warm day looks too with it. It feels lovely on the skin too, very soft and creamy, and lasts well.

Get this one if really small packaging with minimum plastic use is important to you, or if you want to support a ME-woman-owned company (Huda has had her controversies, though, and I am aware of this). Also get this one if you want options for more variation on neutral looks in a compact package. And talking of smokey brown looks…

Melt Cosmetics’ MaryJane

Melt Cosmetics’ long standing tradition of releasing pot-related collections for April 20th has had their issues. I am not going to comment on this. I also know that some people did not enjoy this palette. But truth be told, my experience has been entirely the opposite. Yes, a couple of shades are chunky and difficult to use (MaryJane and Kali), although once I removed the hard pan they came with via washi tape, they became more usable. I also only use them with my fingers, although I want to try mixing some scraped powder with Mehron mixing medium. The rest of the metallics I’ve had no issue with, and the mates are out of this world. There’s also a nice range from light to really dark, and with some cool and some warm based tones. You can say that since this palette is substantially more expensive than the previous ones, it should perform better. But there’s also more product in each pan. I suspect this is one of the cases where the behaviour of each individual shade will change a lot depending on the user’s skin. In fact, I liked it so much that I used it almost exclusively for a month, from light day looks to smokey, heavy ones, and except for the situations described above, performed brilliantly.

Get this one if the pot reference doesn’t bother you, you want to support women-owned business, and you love the colour story, although I would wait until their Black Friday sale to get it for less. Also get this if you want smokey browns in shades that veer more towards colder or greener shades, and less warm than Huda’s palette.

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