Putting your best face forward: Makeup basics

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I've had a tough week; I was travelling, which meant late nights and early mornings, and then I came home to a five-year-old with a broken arm, which has resulted in more late nights hovering over my poor uncomfortable son. This morning, I had bags under my eyes that were bigger than the suitcase I took to New York City.

It wasn't pretty.

I'm not a big makeup girl; I like to put on my face in the morning, in less than five minutes, and be done with it. But some days I need a little extra something. Today was one of those days, and as I went through my normal routine, I started to think about what my options for camouflaging the dark circles might possibly be.

Let's start with some basics: in general, the secret to great skin is great skin care. Covering up dry or broken out skin with concealer won't give you beautiful skin, or even the illusion of beautiful skin; it will look like you have spackled troubled skin with concealer. So don't do that. Take care of your face and you won't really have to worry so much about your makeup. Stay hydrated, wash your face at the end of the day, and use products that are appropriate for your skin type. And always -- ALWAYS -- wear sunscreen, even in the dead of winter or during the monsoon season. Your skin will thank you in twenty (or fifty) years.

Eventually, though, you will have that night (or week or lifetime) where you stay up too late and wake up looking a little less than lovely. And then you will need some extra help. For those days, concealer is your friend, as long as you remember a few important things.

Charlene Kuchinsky, at BeautyBiz.com, has some great pointers for choosing the right shade of concealer:

Choose a concealer that is one to two shades lighter than your skin tone.
The number of shades lighter will depend upon your make-up. If you
don’t wear foundation, you should choose a concealer that is closer to
your skin tone. If you wear foundation, then you can go up to two
shades lighter.

Next, choose the right type of concealer for your skin.
Because my skin is thin and delicate, a creamier, vitamin and moisture
enriched version works best for me. Concealers that are too heavy age
my skin. My daughter, on the other hand, has her father’s olive toned
complexion with slightly larger pores. For her concealing sticks work
beautifully. My best friend has excessively oily skin, so she uses a
finely milled mineral concealer.

How do you know what concealer to buy? You can trust the people at the makeup counter, but remember that they are trying to SELL you something; you can go to a makeup mega-store like Ulta or Sephora, but I find that often the salespeople don't really know makeup. My preference is to go to a local boutique makeup store, with a small staff; chances are you will get someone who really knows skin and makeup and can actually help you make the right choice.

Or you can turn to the Internet and see what other women -- smart makeup bloggers -- are recommending. Let's do that, shall we?

Annieytown, at Blogdorf Goodman, recently tested Maybelline's Instant Age Rewind Double Face Perfector. Verdict: "This concealer is no magic potion but it does hide imperfections with very little drying issues." Might be worth checking out.

Natayle Henry at Second City Style rounds up the winners in the Beauty Olympics: 2008. Products were tested by Second City staffers and readers, and only the best make the list.

All-over Concealer: Tarte The Eraser
“Amazing coverage. Blemishes disappear while taking the redness out.” ~ Kristi Pruitt, Regional Ad Account Executive

“Great spot concealer! Definitely lives up to its word as an
eraser. I didn’t think it would actually ERASE my blemishes and I felt
like I saw them disappear. You must find the right color for your skin
tone, but it blends in to totally make your spots look like they
disappear on your face.”
—Simona Kogan, Celebrity Style Editor

Still not convinced that makeup makes a difference? The Makeup Bag has a story that will change your mind, about a late night and an early flight and the virtues of having all the right cosmetics:

We quickly pulled our hair into a messy-chic ponytail (our favorite
day-two-hair look), threw some makeup into our tote bag with the
intention of applying it after we made it safely through the security
line, and slipped on the worst shoes we could have possibly selected
for travelling. (What can we say, we hadn’t had our coffee yet.)

Where we were lacking in shoe-choosing abilities, we totally made up
for in our Makeup Bag. After just ten minutes in the airport bathroom
we showed no evidence of having less than 4 hours of sleep and actually
felt confident and ready to take on our busy day.

Included is a list of the products in the bag, so that you can also look great in five minutes flat. Because everyone needs a little help now and then. Even me.

Susan Wagner writes about fashion at Friday Style and The Working Closet and Fashion Find. Have a pressing style question? Email her at fridaystyle.susan@gmail.com.

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