Jan 262013

You know, in the days when I’d first started applying makeup, I didn’t know where to get my makeup from, which were the good places, how to figure out if it was good and so on. I ended up buying eyeliner pencils that exfoliated my eyes :-) or made them burn, lipsticks that made my lips break out because they were old and foundation that I never used once I’d bought because it just looked so awful! Needless to say, I wasted a fair amount of money in those initial trials. I wish that I’d had someone to guide me at the time. So here’s a little advice for all of you who are experimenting with makeup for the first time. This article is written keeping in mind those who live in India.

Tips for choosing makeup

Learning how to choose makeup is one of the makeup basics for beginners that is quite essential. Those who have never worn makeup before or who don’t want to use too much of it usually won’t have the patience to go through a lot of trial and error before finding the right makeup. Landing up with unsuitable makeup can be very discouraging. You want to make sure that you buy a few, very suitable and very versatile products.

The most important thing you need to remember when shopping for makeup, is to decide what you want in terms of type of makeup and colour BEFORE you enter the store.
The reason I’m saying this is because the store assistants or makeup counter girls will pull out twenty items and shades before you can explain anything to them, and you will get confused. They are not wrong; they are just showing you all your options. But that is the problem – there are loads of options available. You can’t buy all of them. They will try to make you feel that you really need a whole bunch of things that you could really do without.

So, calmly decide what you want to buy before setting out for the store and then ask for those specific items and colours at the makeup counter.

It is also a good idea to go makeup-shopping when you have enough time and you’re not in a big hurry.
Shopping with your mind on the time often leads to purchases that you regret later on.

Do figure out your undertone before choosing makeup.
Matching the colours to your undertone is one of the most important factors in getting makeup right. You will find helpful information and a reference link in the following article: Makeup For Dark-Skinned Women: Determining Your Undertone.

And finally, go with your instinct, not what the store girl tells you to do.
The shade you are buying must make you feel all happy inside. Unfortunately, most makeup counter assistants in India are not trained well enough to help you choose the best product for yourself.

Where can you buy your makeup from?

Any mall or shopping complex in your locality should have a few makeup counters. Avoid buying your makeup from a chemist or any stationery shop because the turnover of these items in such shops tends to be low. You may end up buying a really old product. When choosing makeup it is best to invest in a few good products that may cost a little more rather than buying many products that are of poor quality. After all, all this stuff goes on your face and you want to avoid skin reactions. Brands that I recommend for your first makeup kit are Revlon, Maybelline, L’Oreal, Lakme (for eyeliner). I like Avon as well but the problem is that the shade card doesn’t give an accurate idea of the actual colour. This makes things difficult since you can only buy Avon from Avon representatives and not from makeup counters.
Now for a look at the makeup itself and what to buy……..


If you are on the fairer side, brown eyeliner will suit you better as a daily liner. Black may look too stark and unnatural. It’s nice to keep the made-up look as close to your non-made-up look as possible with just a few perks here and there.
Those with a medium skin tone can wear both brown and black eyeliner.
Those with a dark skin tone can use black.

*What are the characteristics of a good eyeliner?
Buy your eyeliner from a known brand. You will be given a tester to try out on your hand. It must glide on smoothly and the colour of the line you’ve drawn must be even. Also, you should need just one swipe to get a clear line on your hand. If you need to keep going over the line to get the colour, then avoid it. It will be a pain to apply on the eyes.

*Waterproof, smudge-proof?
Since you’re trying makeup for the first time, go for the pencil type that can be smudged. I think the pen types are usually smudge-proof. The ones that can be smudged are easy to remove, correct and experiment with. Don’t worry about eyeliner spreading all over your eyelid by the end of the day. There are ways to avoid that like dusting a little powder onto the lid before applying the liner and checking your liner regularly for smudges which can then be wiped away with a cotton bud.
Avoid liquid or gel liner until you become comfortable with eye pencils.


This is a very subjective one because ultimately, it depends on taste. However, I can provide a few pointers on choosing a fool-proof colour for those who are completely new to lipstick.

*Shade and texture?
Whenever you’re choosing a lipstick, don’t decide on the basis of a shade card. Often the shades in the shade card are not the same as the actual shades of the lipsticks. You can use the shade card to narrow down your options but always test the lipstick on your hand before buying it.

If your skin is fair to medium in tone, a pale pink shade or a light brown shade in a cream-finish lipstick   is a safe bet. Make sure it has hints of gold, bronze or orange in it if you have a warm undertone (you’ll know if you are a warm-toned person if warm colours like golden yellow, orange, brick or light brown make you positively glow).

For fair skin tones: Pink shade for those with a warm undertone

For medium skin tones: Brown shade for those with a warm undertone

Make sure it has hints of blue, plum, purple or cherry if you have a cool undertone (you are cool-toned person if you find that cool colours like cool blues, purples and pinkish/purplish reds make you look radiant).

For fair skin tones: Pink shade for those with a cool undertone

For medium skin tones: Brown shade for those with a cool undertone

As mentioned before, you will find information on undertones in Makeup For Dark-Skinned Women: Determining Your Undertone.

If your skin is darker in tone as is the case with many Indian women, the same rules of undertone apply to you. Do not assume that just because you are dark-skinned, you have a warm undertone. It may be either way. You should use a dark cream-finish lipstick for a start. Make sure it has hints of gold, bronze, brick or orange in it if you have a warm undertone. A great shade for dark skin with warm undertones is deep wine. Maroon looks good too.

For dark skin tones: Maroon for those with a warm undertone

Make sure it has hints of pink, plum, purple or cherry if you have a cool undertone. A great shade for dark skin with cool undertones is grape.

For dark skin tones: Grape shade for those with a cool undertone

Maroons can suit both warm and cool undertones in dark skin. Avoid deep brown for now as it is a neutral shade and needs colour in other aspects of your appearance to balance it out.

Remember that the above suggestions are only for choosing your first ever lipstick shade. You can use these guidelines until you become comfortable enough to try out other shades. This is strictly for those who enter a makeup shop and don’t know where to start. Don’t worry about the darker shades. If you feel they are too bold or loud, you can always use them as lighter stains by dabbing just a little onto your lips with your finger.

*What are the characteristics of a good lipstick?
The assistant at any makeup counter will apply strokes of lipstick shades onto the back of your hand. A good lipstick must glide on smoothly. It must feel like a caress as it is applied onto your hand. The colour must be even and preferably, intense.
Unlike cream and matte lipsticks, sheer lipsticks or lip-glosses will not appear intense. But they too must glide smoothly onto your hand.
The ease with which the lipstick or lip-gloss glides onto your skin, usually indicates the moisturising level of the lipstick. Choose a lipstick with moisturisers in it. Most brands will have a range of highly moisturising lipsticks.
Remember, cream-finish lipstick is a safe bet for your first experiments with lipstick as opposed to any of the other finishes.

These were just makeup basics for beginners. Once you become comfortable using these few products, you can read the many other websites on makeup for more information on the other makeup products not described here.

Note on products for evening out your skin tone:

If you want to use makeup to even out blemishes or uneven skin tone, try a BB cream. BB creams or Blemish Balm creams are creams that do the work of a moisturiser, foundation and sunscreen. There are many more benefits which these creams offer. But since we’re talking about makeup I’ll just tell you why they are useful as makeup.

They are lighter in texture than foundations and provide a more translucent coverage than most foundation formulas. Maybelline counters in India have one called Clear Glow. However, it comes in a limited number of shades which are all too light for those women who are medium dark to dark. Garnier has also finally launched their BB cream here. I’ve not checked out the shades as yet. The Body Shop has one as well but there are no shades to choose from: at least there weren’t any when I checked it out. Unfortunately, the Body Shop one is too light for most medium to deep skin tones in India and leaves a whitish cast on the skin.

You could also try a primer. Primer is worn under foundation to even out the surface of the skin and provide a base for the foundation. It is a very light-textured product. Since it evens out the surface of your face it makes the face appear smoother. A smoother face reflects more light and therefore looks brighter and reduces the appearance of any acne pitting. You also get some primers which are colour-correcting ones. I have one by Revlon. It’s the Photoready Color Correcting primer. It provides the added benefit of blurring any blemishes or imperfections in skin tone. I have blemishes and uneven skin tone yet I don’t feel the need for foundation when I use this. It seems to take care of any dullness or redness in my face.

The other option (and the best in my opinion) is to just follow a good skin care routine which will allow you to make the most of your skin’s natural beauty.

All the best for your first experience of makeup! I hope this article helps you to embark on your makeup journey with a little more confidence than I started out with :-).

For tips on how to use your new eyeliner pencil and lipstick, take a look at my post on Quick Makeup: Using only pencil eyeliner and lipstick to create different looks. You may also find Non-Fussy Makeup: Quick & Easy Look no. 2 and Makeup Application For Beginners:Non-Fussy Makeup in 5 min useful.