"The most beautiful makeup for a woman is passion, but cosmetics are easier to buy."
                                                                                              —Yves Saint Laurent

If you're new to this blog, then read our guides to the basics: Skin (Part I), Skin (Part II), The Supernatural, Color Theory I, Color Theory II, Eyes, and Brushes.

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· The Beauty Primer: The Supernatural

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The Beauty Primer: The Supernatural
by Dain

Makeup artists are fond of saying, "there are no rules to makeup". Awfully glib, when you consider that beauty and fashion is the most viciously judgmental industry on the planet. Are there makeup artists who claim otherwise? What they mean of course is that makeup is largely self taught, a process of empiricism, constant refinement via trial and error; you never know whether your preferred lipcolor is nude-pink, mauve, berry rose, chocolate, or cherry red until you try them all. For the novitiate, the options are bewildering.

So start small: before all else, figure out how much makeup you need.

When we're not wearing makeup, we all look a little lackluster. For some women, statements are their preferred idiom (retro red lips, deep tans, smoky eyes, etc.), but what most are looking for is the prettiest version of themselves, a few products to incorporate into their daily ritual. It seems like such a simple idea—naturalistic, subtle enhancement—but in practice, it's complicated by the infinite variations of the human face. Women with a distinctive style to their makeup, like Jennifer Lopez or Anne Hathaway, know how best to emphasize their features and thus rarely deviate from an established formula. This idea, that one's "look" fit the individual's face, is quite modern, a discernible shift from legendary makeup of the past: Marilyn Monroe, not to be confused with the dowdy Norma Jeane Mortenson, is a public image fabricated out of hair and makeup, a mask you can replicate if you know how. Whereas you could buy J. Lo's favorite lipgloss, but without her glowing, tawny complexion you could never copy her look, certainly Anne Hathaway, a modern-day Snow White with striking features, could not.

We're all aware of the subterfuge. From invasive plastic surgery to a sheer powder to blot oil, it's all artifice of some kind. Sometimes, even the absence of makeup is a posture; I once had a woman boastfully demonstrate to me her low-maintenance status by running her finger across her eyes. In that sense, "natural" makeup is always an oxymoron; even a little mascara looks like makeup, only our eyes have adjusted to its ubiquity we no longer register its presence. Saturated as we are by these meticulously calibrated images, our parameters for what constitutes natural beauty is heavily distorted.

Natural makeup for the camera versus natural makeup for the human eye.

I cannot duplicate the effects of photoshop and studio lighting, but you get the idea: the makeup is worlds apart. It's a matter of degree. The same products were used throughout, except the lipcolor. The camera obviously favors the first, magazine-cover image; in real life, you'd recoil at the grotesque application. There are no colorful "statements", fond as I am of them. Rather, both looks are built out of the four basic elements of "natural" makeup:
    quality of skin No one's complexion is perfectly uniform in tone (at left); naked skin is by nature imperfect (at right, no foundation). You always sacrifice naturalism for coverage. Depending on the needs of your complexion, it's up to you to decide where to strike the balance, but even if you've got a lot to cover, err on the side of less. Foundation technology has come a long way—often the pigments are luminous, multi-dimensional, and very fine, the base provides maximum slip, so it blends seamlessly as possible into the skin—but it never looks like you were genetically blessed with gorgeous skin, which boasts a lit-from-within radiance that no highlighters can quite mimic. Yes, my complexion is more even-toned with foundation, but you'll notice that without it, my skin has more dimension, a natural radiance.

    If your skin is good, a little concealer is quite sufficient, to brighten the weakest points of the face: the darkness under the eyes and around the nostrils. A very sheer dusting of loose powder, either to blot shine or impart a glow, adds a polished texture without coverage. Neither registers as makeup to the human eye.

    Tinted moisturizer, too, is relatively inoffensive. It's subtly perfecting, an excellent option for adding life to dull skin, but not quite fully evening out the complexion. Once you make the switch to a light-to-medium foundation, it starts to look like makeup, no longer so fresh. Foundation is not designed to cover everything. Instead, blend out foundation into thin, thin layers, over a primer to ease the process, so that there is no telltale trace of pigment on the skin. Then, deploy concealer, judiciously, only where it's needed. Even if you've got acne, don't slap on full coverage all over the face, in hopes of obliterating all offenses; that never looks natural.

    making your eyes pop The eyes claim the greatest variation in techniques, but as with your complexion, play to your strengths, if you've got them. At minimum, everyone benefits from some impact at the lash line: tightlining, some dark pigment blended softly between the lashes themselves, and black mascara on curled lashes. Some women find themselves transformed by a thin flick of gel liner; it all depends on eye shape. In photographs, false lashes are the ubiquitous device to magnify eyes beyond their natural proportions, as you see above. Eyeshadow doesn't quite look natural, but you can get away with a sheer wash of very fine, flesh-toned shimmer, one that brightens and opens up the eye, or a satiny taupe swept into the crease (if you've got one), then blended well, to add dimension to the eyes. If you're lucky enough to have a striking eye color, they will hold their own against a complementary neutral: amber golds, peaches, plums, mauves, warm browns.

    defined brows If your brows are quite distinctive, then all you need do is to keep them neatly groomed. Otherwise, tasteful maintenance best suits naturalism: find a brow shape that fits your face, not too distorted by overtweezing, and fill in any patches (powder is softer than pencil), or all over if your brows are fair, but never too strong. Unless you've got strong brows naturally, heavily drawn brows look very obvious.

    the illusion of health Nothing perks up the face quite so well as blush. When chosen well, the perfect shade instantly, undeniably brings life to the skin, and yet it does not register as makeup. If people can tell you're wearing it, then you've miscalculated your color. Keep in mind that cream blushes meld better into the skin than powders, if you're not too oily, and that the same shade can be dabbed onto lips for some easy, natural color. Alternatively, a favorite lipstick can serve on the cheeks. It needn't be the same product, at long as both your cheeks and lips are within the same color family. Again, individual preferences do apply. Some people do have high color; their skin flushes easily and blush is redundant, while those whose lips are naturally quite pigmented may need only some lip balm. Others have richly pigmented skin, with lighter hair, and look better in bronzer.
Some women are lucky enough to have all four elements in extraordinary balance, and can pull off very little makeup: undereye concealer and cream blush and a lip balm, mascara if she's feeling adventurous. The rest of us make shift with what we've got. Maybe the skin needs more help, but long-lashed blue eyes require little more than Dior's Beige Massai to bring out the color. Or maybe you've got great bone structure but small, weak eyes, so you add a flick of liquid liner on softly contoured lids.

Naturalism, for me.

Or, in my case, I've got a very fine, fair complexion with dark hair that bears color very well, so I only wear enough to bring out the luminosity of my skin: a brightening concealer under my eyes, like Guerlain Precious Light Rejuvenating Illuminator ($48), sometimes the glow-enhacing Chanel Poudre Universelle ($54). My brows are tricky, but I like Laura Mercier's Brow Definer ($20) to fill them in. My features are very soft and quite small, but I take advantage of their symmetry in shape—rosebud lips and almond eyes—which is why I favor bold lips and colorful eyeliner when I do wear statements. For a natural look, I stick to a bare minimum of enhancement, as there's not much lid space for more elaborate techniques: for tightlining, the pigmented navy of Laura Mercier Deep Night ($22) plays well against my dark eyes, and sometimes I add a wash of Stellar ($22), the rare silvered (rather than golden) beige, better for brightening cool skin tones. My lashes are too insignificant for dramatic mascara; I very much like the clean, clump-free black of Cover Girl Lash Blast Volume ($8), applied lash by lash, root to tip, by looking down into a magnifying mirror. Strangely, my coloring neutralizes vivid colors, and I do need quite a lot of color; without blush or lipstick, I look terribly washed out, even ill. I've always got on some bright pink blush, such as Shiseido PK304 Carnation ($33), and frequently even stronger lipstick. Estée Lauder Chelsea Rose ($21) is the closest to a soft neutral in my arsenal; most people would considered it a subdued bright.

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