Makeup 101: A Reluctant Girl’s Guide to Face Editing

Real talk: makeup makes me feel weird. I’m not generally super into wearing it, and I’m also not very good at wearing it. After a really nightmarish period around age 13 — when I powdered my face orange and blow-dried my hair straight every day in an attempt to seem like less of a weirdo at school — I realized I was never going to not be a weirdo and also that I looked like an Oompa Loompa who had accidentally grabbed onto an electric fence, and felt like I could put away the Avon utilikit.


For the rest of my short life after that, I was happy with stuffing greasy hair into a hat for 9 am classes or occasionally attempting Shane levels of eyeliner for nights out, which don’t matter anyway because it’s so dark that really you’re doing great if you can make out the vague blurry shapes of other human forms. Honestly, putting on makeup kind of feels like drag — not in a critical or derogatory way, but very much in a “performing a gendered identity that I would never wear if I weren’t in front of other people” way. But the past two years I’ve had jobs where I’ve felt not required, exactly, to wear Grownup Makeup but like I would feel more comfortable if I did. There are situations where you feel like you’re taken more seriously, and where you yourself feel more assured, if you look as made-up as all the other ladies in the room. This is what I’ve learned about how to do that without feeling like I am wearing clown makeup. Perhaps it will be useful to you also!

1. Put some stuff on your face, maybe.

If you are fresh-faced and glowing with perfect skin like Freja Beha Erichsen or Mulan, then fine, skip this step. For the rest of us, in my experience, you feel less like you are standing naked before a judge-y world of judgers if you put some stuff on your face.

That said, however, I really can’t get behind foundation. I’m sorry! I know people wear it every day and probably a lot of you do, but to me it feels like painting a house except the house is my face and when I’m done it doesn’t really look like my face anymore. The exception, if there is one, to this rule may be this weird stuff from Lush called a “color supplement.” I think the darkest tone they have is “dark pink,” which may not work if you are darker than “dark pink,”(am I wrong in thinking that is not a color??) but the nice thing is that you can mix it with moisturizer to make it less intense to put on. So if you’re in a similar place, maybe do some of these things instead.

Concealer: This is the easiest and best. Find something in either a stick or a liquid, roughly the same shade as your skin color, and dab it underneath your eyes and/or any weird blemishes. Laneia has some specific directions as far as undereye circles go: “Even if you have dark circles under your whole entire eye, it’s best to only apply concealer to the part nearest the bridge of your nose and maybe the outside parts of your eyes, if necessary. Concealer under your whole eyeball will possibly make you look like an oppositely colored raccoon. ”

Even if you don’t have any weird blemishes, it’s amazing how much less tired and upset about being alive you look when the area under your eyes isn’t purple. You can get concealers in weird colors like green or blue that are meant to offset red or discolored skin, but that sounds like voodoo witchcraft to me and I don’t recommend it. I use Whatever Is Cheapest At CVS but am told that Bobbi Brown’s is “the best.”

Tinted Moisturizer: This can be used in conjunction with concealer. It’s neat because probably you should use moisturizer anyway, I’ve heard it’s a good idea, and this one is not quite like makeup/foundation but makes your face look more all the same color-ish. It’s like the Shirley Temple of face makeup.


Powder: The utility of this is not entirely clear to me. Some people, I believe, use it as a layer on top of their other, more liquidy makeup situation to “set” it. Also though it can be used on its own to make your face less shiny, if that is a concern you have. Bare Minerals Id Escentuals Whatever makes this makeup that is a powder but sort of performs the basic function of foundation but also doesn’t really look like you’re wearing any makeup? If you like touching your face with a soft brush, this is a good option for you. Riese echoes that Bare Escentuals is the way to go, and they have a starter kit that Alex got for her and I think someone must have gotten for me at some point because it would explain why I own so many of these things. They also have kits for your eyes and stuff, so I don’t know, you can probably stop reading this article and just buy those.


Blush is sort of an optional makeup thing and I think for many people (me included!) it is the product most likely to leave you feeling like you are wearing clown makeup. But it can be really easy and totally not a big deal and also really bump your makeup-self up a notch if you just go easy with it.

Here is how I like to Do Blush: I put some on a brush, smile really hugely and fakely and horrifically like I’m being photographed with Mother Teresa, and run the brush over the bulge-y parts of my cheek that are now all big because I’m smiling. Then, usually without putting anything more on the brush, I run it quickly over each eyelid, and then the top of my forehead and temples. This makes your face look like it has some color, it puts a little bit of subtle color around your eyes without you actually having to worry about “eye makeup” or what that even is, and it gives you an overall more “done” look. Also if you are pale enough that you were frequently sent to the school nurse as a child even though there was nothing wrong with you just because teachers thought you looked ill, sometimes it feels nice to be more rosy. Just hypothetically speaking.

Riese: Has anyone ever told you to smile and put blush in the parts of your cheeks that puff up when you smile?

Rachel: Yes! That is the only way I know to put on blush. Are there other ways to put on blush?

DOUBLE BONUS POINTS: Blush as Bronzer, by Laneia.

Bronzer is terrifying. If you are very pale but want to look like you go outdoors sometimes, buy a blush that is a little more on the brown side (don’t go crazy here). To apply, think of which parts of your face usually get sunburned (nose, forehead, tops of cheeks just below sunglasses). Put just a wee little bit of blush on your brush and then blow on it to remove any excess. Really super lightly brush the blush like, straight across your face from cheek to cheek, nose included. Do the same with your forehead and maybe also your chin. It’s really important that you only put a little bit of blush on the brush when you do this otherwise you’re going to look insane. You should instead look like you were outside for an amount of time yesterday and have the mild face tan to prove it.

2. Put some stuff on your eyes.

Mascara: Put mascara on. Just do this part. It is so fucking easy, and also whatever grown-up-professional-pretty-person-who-knows-how-to-use-makeup look you’re going for will be like 35% done after just this one step. It works exactly the way you think it would. Sort of stick the wand part sideways up against your eyelashes and draw it through them starting from the bottom (your eyelid) to the tip of your lashes. If you do it slowly and sort of move the wand back and forth gently like you’re brushing your teeth, there will be less chance of clumping. If you are not a raven-haired beauty like Pocahontas or Lisbeth Salander (except for the part in the movie where she’s blond for a while?) and are in fact a near-albino like me, then I would recommend getting a brown or “brown-black” mascara; it will look less like HEY THERE NICE EYE PAINT ON YOUR EYES. Otherwise, go for it, get mascara that is black like your heart. I have no thoughts re: brands. I feel like many people own the pink one with the green cap. Open to suggestions.

Laneia’s note on waterproof mascara: Do not under any circumstances ever ever wear waterproof mascara. EVER. Maybe to a funeral but only if you anticipate crying so hard that people will volunteer to carry you out of the place, which, at that point, I don’t know why you’d be worried about mascara. Waterproof mascara has to be removed via eye makeup remover, which is a pain in the ass and will maybe also irritate your eyeballs.

Eyeliner: I feel this is optional. Obviously Shane and Effy disagree, but I always feel like I’m coloring on my eyes with a crayon like a four-year-old, and it looks like it, too. If you’re a more positive-thinking person than I am, this is maybe cool! Drawing with crayons is awesome. Go for it. Enjoy. Jezebel says that Revlon Colorstay is where it’s at; other people have said Prestige is the best I think. (Riese agrees w/r/t Revlon Colorstay, and strongly recommends it.)


Eyeshadow: What even is this. If anyone has insights on this that they feel my people, the makeup-illiterate, really need to know, please share in the comments. Otherwise I will continue using the Blush Method as described above.

3. Put some stuff on your lips.

I feel like this is actually the easiest and most fun part of makeup. I guess it can seem intimidating, if you have nightmarish thoughts of grandma-pink lipstick smeared all over your face that makes you look like a slightly senile, possibly kleptomaniac person who needs to be returned to the nursing home. On the other hand, though: there’s also Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club. Also, bottom line, unless you go all out with lip liner and like a tiny lip brush (which I guess people do??) this is super easy and will accomplish at least 45% more of your “looking like a grownup” closet.


The easiest thing by far is tinted lip balm. I mean come on. You already own 87 different chapsticks and lip balms, both in “stick” and “tiny round tin” and possibly even “squeezable tube” form, this is totally no big deal. A tinted one will just be slightly pinker than your cherry chapstick, and will conveniently not make you think of Katy Perry every time you use it. As far as I’m concerned the best one of these is Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm; it makes me feel like a pretty pretty princess and also like my lips are the lips of a pretty pretty princess. If you feel the need to move slightly farther down the spectrum of lip balm —> lipstick, Burt’s Bees also makes a less sheer lip tint, Lip Shimmer, that is for some reason like the thickness of a pencil, but otherwise works well. I like the Rhubarb one. 

For people who are Ready To Do Lipstick albeit sort of tentatively, I’d recommend Lipstick Queen’s “Medieval.” It is really the tinted lip balm of lipsticks. The idea behind the name is that it’s a throwback to the “makeup” of medieval women, who “used lemons to stimulate the lips and stain their lips a see through blood red.” So, makeup that’s like non-makeup. It’s super sheer and makes you look good without making it look like you’re wearing lipstick. It looks good on literally everyone, regardless of skin color, outfit, or religious affiliation. There are other good options, too — Sali Hughes, who is like the only beauty/makeup writer in the world who doesn’t make me feel like I should move into a cave or a red tent in the desert for not using ‘eyeshadow primer,’ has a list of six lipsticks that look good on everyone.

That’s it! That’s literally all I have. Everything I know about pantomiming as someone who knows how to put makeup on her face is contained here. Any additional wisdom will have to be provided in the comments. Anyone who knows how to paint my nails so they don’t chip within 24 hours, please, share.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. oh autostraddle i love you so much but makeup does not have to be this hard. can we talk about ROUTINES and FACIAL STRUCTURE and MAXIMIZING IMPACT FOR MINIMAL TIME please

    • hey hey hey now, let’s not call out all of autostraddle on their makeup awareness or ideas about applying makeup. this is just one woman’s brave honest opinion on how to wear makeup and to change this piece to offer more “useful” information would be to rob her of her authentic voice and oppress her for gender non-comformity.

      • you know you’ve been taking too much queer theory when that comment makes you nod your head thoughtfully

  2. These are the things I swear by:,default,pd.html?start=6&cgid=2
    Urban Decay lipstick in Hotpants. That shade is really sheer and shiny which I like. Some of their shades are more…lipsticky…which I don’t like much at all.,default,sc.html
    Urban Decay eyeshadow, I have a bunch of colors but my favorite is Half Baked

    I also have some tinted moisturizer from Urban Decay that I like.
    Zuzu Luxe Mascara

    All of this stuff is vegan and also awesome.

  3. I use pencil eyeliner only on my inner lids (which I actually rarely line, anymore). I’ve never been able to master the art of applying it to my lash lines. For me, liquid liner is where it’s at. I use Kat Von D’s Autograph Liner in Liquid Metal Love.

    I don’t subscribe to that “wear only brown liner/mascara/this colour/not that colour if you’re fair-skinned” mentality. If I like a colour, I’ll wear it.

    • Wait, how do you . . . do that? On the INSIDE of your eyelids?? Doesn’t it, like, get in your eyes? So confused!

      • Nope! Just pull down your eyelid slightly and you’ll see a whitish line. Apply eyeliner there. Tada :)

        I prefer kohl/kajol – darker and lasts better on my eyes (esp since I’m South Asian and hardly anything shows up on my damn skin). I used to use the kajol pencils my mum had, but they ran out, then when The Matey went to Egypt I told him to get me some. It looks like a really thick crayon and works awesome.

    • Word, I do that too. I have shaky hands so it’s pretty much impossible for me to apply it to my lash lines correctically.

  4. Oh, Autostraddle. One million adoring femmes just screamed and pulled all their shiny, shiny hair out. SOME OF US CARE DEEPLY ABOUT THESE THINGS. Don’t blow on your powder brush. Don’t blow on ANY brush! Tap, people. Tap gently to remove excess.

    • also indiscriminate lip color being THE FASTEST way to look like you’re playing with your mom’s makeup and concealer being “roughly” the same color as your skin
      why is this giving me such twitches

      • I don’t know, I actually agree with the universal kudos to Clinique’s Black Honey, and the Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers in Fig and Raisin are really on par with that. For a subtle kiss of color and light sheen, they are kind of foolproof!

        • I look terrible in Raisin! There is too much warmth and brown-ness in it for my skin. I guess there is an exception to every rule.

        • samesies! i seriously cannot carry off anything but chapstick or lip-colored lipstick – thin lips, tricky coloring. maybe as a result i have a lower clownish-threshold for other people, but i am so not a fan of afterthought lip stuff

          • Totally totally agree. I’m a big fan of facestuff and eyestuff and on occasion even fancyeyestuff but I feel and look super weird in any lipstuff.

            Also, I learned long ago that if you want your concealer to last more than a couple hours and slightly do its job, you should probably pay for somethin’ good. Cheap works elsewhere in the face area though.

          • yup. pay big money for stuff you need to stay on your face for a long time, or for stuff that helps cheap stuff stay. yaaaay

          • Absolutely agree. I will do up my entire face all lovely-like and I always go for a nude glossy lip. Half the time I admire pretty girls in magazines with a bold lip and the other half of the time, I think about how that seems so impractical and caked on for real life. *sigh* I hate that. But yes, a lightly tinted, highly-glossed lip is my best way to go. ;) I feel extremely self-conscious with any real noticable color there.

  5. BAHAHA. Face editing. Stealing that one.

    Thank you for capturing exactly how I feel about painting on lady faces.

  6. I pretty much do not wear makeup at all except special occasions. Also, I hate mascara! It makes my eyes feel icky and like I can’t touch them at all ever which is a problem because they get itchy/watery. I can sort of get down with eyeliner, but I feel like it comes off way faster than it should.

    • I feel the same way about mascara, I think it feels gross.
      I don’t mind other eye makeup but I always heavily suspect I have managed to smudge it since the last time I checked it.

      I hate lipstick for the reason you stated not liking eyeliner. I only ever seem to manage to keep it on for about 10 minutes.

  7. Minimal makeup is great and often looks better (my opinion, of course) than full on makeup (which I also love).

    It takes me 5 minutes for minimal stuff. I throw on some tinted moisturizer (the exact stuff mentioned above by Aveeno, actually. It’s great!) a bit of mascara, a sweep of blush, quick swipe with some lightly tinted lip gloss or balm and I’m out the door. Compared to the half an hour to an hour that it takes me to do my full makeup, it’s nothing. ;)

  8. Also, for nails, I never use a base coast (GASP, naughty femme, bad bad femme) because I’m too fucking impatient, but the following help keep my manicures chip-free:

    1. Two light coats.
    2. Sort of wrap the polish around the top of your nail. You don’t want it under your fingernails, but just try running the brush lightly along the top edge.
    3. Seche Vite. Seche Vite dries to a shiny, I-can-open-a-can-of-beer-RIGHT-NOW finish in like 30 seconds, no joke.

    • Hey FFAF, since you are the goddess of all things femme, do you have any advice on keeping nails strong and healthy? Mine break easily and it distresses me.

      Also, um… any thoughts on the perfect length for lady loving nails? Because it’s a fine line between pleasure and pain :p

      • Hardly a goddess, my dear, but I do have some tips for you. Get thee to Trader Joe’s or somesuch and grab a bottle of Vitamin E or Jojoba Oil, use a little to rub on bare nails and cuticles daily if you can (like at night before bed). It makes a HUGE difference.

        Equally important is remembering to take a daily Omega 3 suppplement – I buy the gummy kind in bulk at Costco.

        As to length, it really is so personal and so on, but I keep mine fairly short, and stick to a rounded square shape. Related: Have you seen Adele’s nails? Holy fuck they creep me out. I love her, but those nails. No.

      • I was a nail biter for the majority of my life, so my nails were shite until I broke the habit. OPI Nail Envy really worked for me, in terms of strengthening and promoting growth, especially since the edges of my nails were really weak.

        Eating the right foods and taking the right vitamins can help too. There are special (read: expensive) supplements that you can take that focus on hair and nail growth, but sometimes just eating right and popping some specific drug store tablets might do the trick.

  9. I like the covergirl mascara in the white tubes. They’re supposed to bring out the colour of your eyes with little colourful flecks, but it’s just nice and not-clumpy.

  10. If you have a job that requires you to wear makeup but you hate makeup my advice would be to wear mascara, some blush and/or bronzer, and a swipe of lipstick. Shades should match your natural colouring but amp it up a little. You won’t look like the ladies who spend an hour in the morning every morning. But no one will act like you don’t know shit about your chosen profession because you didn’t colour your face with crayons that morning. And it should take 5 – 10 minutes.

    The woman who makes the Medieval Lipsticks you mentioned, Poppy King, also makes a sheer range called Saint for those who want something with a little more pigment but not a full-blown opaque lippy. I like Rose Saint and Red Saint myself, but that’s largely because of my cool pale skin tone. She makes a range called Sinner with retro style matte lipstick too. I haven’t tried Red Sinner but it’s really famous.

    They are nice but expensive though… I feel like at that price, if you are in the US you are way better off heading to your local MAC store. You can probably get something just as good quality for half the price, and there are more shades to choose from. And they will help you find something that suits your skin tone. I’m sure it’s the same at Sephora there just isn’t Sephora where I come from.

    I’m happy with the face the way it is which is probably why when I do wear makeup for fun it’s a full blown retro 50s glamour affair, I see it as almost being like drag or playing dress up. So I do have some thoughts about lipstick. The first one is it helps to exfoliate your lips before you apply it. And also to moisturise – the original Burt’s Bees lipbalm is good for this. If you are just wearing a natural shade lipliner is optional, but if you are rocking a bold lipstick you should apply lipliner to help prevent bleeding and give the lips definition. Also if you are wearing a natural or sheer shade and you have a steady hand, you probably don’t need a lip brush. But if you are wearing a bright colour, seriously girl you do.

    Also, if you smudge your liner or your lipstick, you can use concealer (applied with a brush of course) to hide it. And once you are done with your lipstick it’s good to stick your finger between your lips and pull it out (like you are pulling a lollipop out). This gets rid of excess pigment and helps prevent it getting all over your teeth. Which I do all the time. Sigh.

    And yes… people like me are the reason the term ‘lipstick lesbian’ exists in the first place :p

  11. We’re makeup opposites! I love doing eyeshadow, hate doing lips.

    NYC is really great eyeshadow for experimenting with because it’s really cheap (the eyeshadow duos are usually between $2 and $4, and I’ve bought palettes with six colours for around $6 before) and the pigmentation’s usually pretty good. If you’re in Canada, Annabelle is the absolute best — it’s ridiculously cheap and their products are really, really good. (I don’t think they’re available outside of the country, which is sad, because they are the BEST.) I cannot actually give eyeshadow advice because my methods are usually either looking up tutorials on Youtube and copying them, or haphazardly using bright colours so that I look like a bird of paradise and then blending until I look less avian.

    Also, NYC makes pretty decent translucent powder that’s almost as good as the Bare Minerals stuff but costs like $3, which is always nice. If you’re looking for something just to set your makeup or reduce shine, this is awesome. Their coloured powders are not as great, sadly.

    Hard Candy blush in Pinup makes an awesome, awesome blush that can be used as bronzer. I’m really pale but this is mostly shimmery and light and makes me look like a healthy version of a Twilight vampire rather than Ben Mulroney, like most bronzers seem to do (if you’re not Canadian, go to google images and type in ‘Ben Mulroney orange’ and see why this is something I am concerned about). Also, it’s fairly cheap, and wow, this comment is making me look like the cheapest person ever but… it’s pretty true, so.

    Anyway this comment is ridic long so I will stop now!

    • No cheap is good!! I will have to check out this Pinup thing… I am really pale too and only going to get paler because I’m in Scandinavia for the winter. I’m content with being pale but sometimes it would be nice to look healthy undead rather than just undead undead.

      I am jealous of your ability to wear eyeshadow. I have eczema on my eyelids and fortunately it’s pretty much invisible but it does limit my eyeshadow wearing to once in a blue moon. I see ladies with pretty colours on their lids and sigh in envy.

    • I adore you for “Ben Mulroney orange.”

      I, however, tend to look more like a consumptive vampire.

    • The first eyeshadow palette I ever bought was totally tropical fish colors and I LOVE IT. Particularly because I worked at an aquarium at the time and the orange/blue/teal/green also matched my work shirt.

  12. Mary Kay, expensive-ish I know, makes an eye makeup remover that doesn’t burn or turn your skin that nice flaming pink. Best stuff and I can wear waterproof mascara all the time. I tend to smudge my eyes if I don’t.

  13. “You can get concealers in weird colors like green or blue that are meant to offset red or discolored skin, but that sounds like voodoo witchcraft to me and I don’t recommend it.”

    I’ve always heard that since green (the makeup) and red (my face) are opposite of each other on the color wheel (hooray art!), the green makeup will even everything out. I PROMISE IT WORKS!

    And the tinted lip balm from Bath and Body Works is the best.

    • Completely agree, with the addition that you do then have to wear foundation or powder over the top of it. Green splotches do nothing for making you look ‘grown up’ and ‘polished’.

  14. “Concealer under your whole eyeball will possibly make you look like an oppositely colored raccoon”

  15. I love Bare Essentials… I feel like I’ve spent so much of my monies on BE by now that they owe me dinner and a movie.

  16. When I was in, like, junior high to high school/some of university, I really felt like I had missed the ‘make up tutorial’ day or something for ALL THE GIRLS, because aside from putting on mascara, I had no clue what I was doing so I mostly opted out.

    Occasionally I would get into a fit of “TIME TO BUY EVERY MAKEUP PRODUCT EVER”, thinking that if I just owned all the foundations and bronzers and creams and eyeliners I would just magically GET it. I did not. Lots of money wasted. Especially since I’m pretty pale and hardly any drugstore foundations/concealers matched my skin-tone.

    Somewhere along the way though, I found a routine that suited me and now I really like my 5 minute makeup routine of concealer, powder, blush, mascara. It makes me feel that much more presentable and a little bit more confident going out the door. I prefer minimal makeup because I don’t want to be that girl who is unrecognizable without it, and once I accepted that that was okay and I wasn’t missing some secret, then I felt super comfortable with using the stuff.

  17. Thanks for this post. I’ll have to remember this stuff.

    I’m generally really scared of make-up because I was raised with boys and I adapted to their influence, so it never interested me when I was a kid (mostly ninja turtles did)and my mother never taught me these kinda things. Also, I’m lazy.

    So now I’m in my mid 20s still looking 17, which is cool but professionally I need to be taken seriously. I use mascara and powder to avoid shine. I sometimes use eyeliner, but I was taught how to put it on by a very nice male model because it looks more natural, less crayon outlined eyeball-ish.

  18. this is hilarious. I wear blush most days and sometimes eyeliner. i’ve never worn mascara.

    then again, more than one person has asked me what brand of mascara i was wearing even though i wasn’t wearing any……

  19. Yay! This is awesome!

    So apparently green concealer works great for covering up hickies! haha, I’ve never tried it, but my friend (who is quite knowledgeable in the world of make up) says it works pretty well.

  20. the pink one with the green cap! mascara terrifies me and even I know the one.

    also can we just talk about dollar stores for a moment? because
    1. I love dollar stores
    2. your local Big Lots/other random dollar store (like those tiny ones in malls that just have stuff floor to ceiling, I love those) has hella cheap face-doing stuff, and not even terrible brands, L’Oreal and things.

    • And dollar stores are awesome if you want to experiment with new colors(like eyeshadow and lipstick),but don’t want to invest in fancy brands.

      • Dollar Tree is worth a try.They don’t always have brand name stuff, but some times they do. One summer the Dollar Tree near where I lived carried a whole bunch of Almay products, and they were each a dollar! I’ve gotten covergirl foundation, e.l.f. concealer, liners, and lipgloss, and almay mascara, revlon shadow and lipstick…all from the dollar tree. It really just depends when and if they have it, but it’s worth checking out…that way you get the quality at a beter price!

  21. Survival makeup for this old white girl’s less-than-a-corpse look: undereye concealer, Jane Iredale $1M mineral powder foundation, light pink shadow on top lid, eye corners nearest nose – vanilla shadow to brighten eyes, dark brown mascara and a thin brown liner of some sort on the upper lid only.

    Elapsed time: 5 minutes.

    • After reading this article, I thought about getting some eye concealer, but a) I would probably use it for two days and then stop, and b) this quote:

      > Even if you don’t have any weird blemishes, it’s amazing
      > how much less tired and upset about being alive you look
      > when the area under your eyes isn’t purple.

      Yeah, you know what? PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW. And I don’t want to make a tee shirt that says “I am tired and upset about being alive,” because that’s not subtle. So.

  22. I was wondering, as a MAAB woman I have pale skin and beard shadow to contend with, does anybody have some quick and easy tips for minimizing things?

    • Would you consider a facial epilator? The results last longer than shaving cos they pull the hair out by the root, but unlike waxing you don’t have to wait until the hair is long to do it. The main disadvantage is the pain. It fucking hurts the first few times but after that it gets better (heh). It’s basically mechanical tweezing.

      Another option might be facial hair bleach to try and reduce the visibility of the hair by lightening it. That way you can go longer in between hair removals. But do a test patch first to see if your skin can handle it – mine can’t as I suffer from eczema. It may not work if your facial hair is quite coarse or thick, though.

      More permanently there is laser hair removal and electrolysis… it’s expensive but it would keep the hair away for good. I am going to do it next year when I am working again cos I am just so sick of hair where I don’t want it – I am pale with thick dark hair so it really shows up! From the looks of your profile you are also pale skin and dark haired, which is the complexion that laser and electrolysis work best on.

  23. Funny story: I can’t do regular makeup but I know how to apply stage makeup. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up a dancer.

    Seriously, though. In middle school I didn’t realize that five coats of jet black mascara was not normal and used to wear it to school with glittery eyeshadow.

    Now I just don’t bother.

    • Same! For the longest all I knew how to do is to overdo it from the musicals I would work backstage on. Unfortunately normal buildings don’t have a million lights shining on you to wash you out…so people look at you strange when the glitter to skin ratio is off the charts.

      • Same here as well. Luckily one of my friends quickly realized this and walked me through how much of each product I need.

  24. I just want to say, I agree 100% with this feeling here and have expressed the same thing in the past repeatedly:

    “putting on makeup kind of feels like drag — not in a critical or derogatory way, but very much in a “performing a gendered identity that I would never wear if I weren’t in front of other people” way.”

    That is exactly it!

    • exactly this.

      luckily, i’m in academia, so wearing some nerdy/hipster glasses is all it takes to look like you know what you’re doing ;)

    • This!

      I used to work as a receptionist and makeup was required. I got relatively good at it, but it always feels so staged. Now I’m a full time anthropology student and no one cares if I conform. So I only wear makeup if I feel like playing with it.

  25. these are awesome tips. i’m pretty pale, so i’m a non-mascara-wearing make-up minimalist (i might also be lazy). i start with sunscreen/moisturizer, brush on light powder, eyeliner, and lip balm. i’m not a make-up superstar, so i only have one trick to share: instead of “real” eyeliner, i use a flat eyeliner brush to apply eyeshadow to my lash line. it allows for precision and i have a much wider range of colors to choose from (which is good because of the paleness). it takes a little practice, but after that it’s pretty hard to mess up.

  26. Autostraddle! This was pretty physically painful to read. I love you to bits and pieces but this was hard. Blush is not optional if you’re doing any sort of all over face thing, tinted moisturizer or foundation or what have you… you just look washed out without it.

    And there is no such thing as a lipstick that looks good on everyone.

  27. This is really helpful, as a futch girl where one of my butchier attributes is my aversion to make-up.

    Clearly I’ve been doing it wrong, since I’ve always felt like mascara is the non-essential part – which maybe it is for me since I have long, full eyelashes naturally, but also maybe that’s just an excuse because I hate wearing it. Meanwhile, pretty much every time I feel like I need make-up, eyeshadow and eyeliner always go on.

  28. Everyone, regardless of whether or not they use makeup, has the pink one with the green cap. Even gender-conforming males.

  29. All this femmie/make-uppie talk is making my teeth chatter from sheer joy! Heaven help me but I do love the womens!

  30. Drag.

    I’ve never looked at it that way, but woof.
    That is so spot on.

    I am beyond reluctant and just stick to mascara and eyeliner.

    Someday I’ll get adventurous.

  31. This is super useful because I am potentially teaching a gay boy how to do his makeup this weekend. He looks prettier in makeup than I do but sucks at applying it.

  32. I’m a transguy who has never worn make-up. I clicked on this article because of the picture of Franky and read about 3/4 of it before I realized NONE of it would ever apply to me. Well played Rachel :D…..and good job it was very informative.

    • I’m a butchish girl who has only ever worn makeup when bribed with Beatles albums. I did the exact same thing.

  33. WHATEVER YOU DO: Take care with face makeup (ie foundation, concealers). If you are going to spend lots of money on something, spend it on that. Bare Escentuals or other mineral makeup is a good bet – it’s a powder, but also covers really well, for those of us with super uneven skin tones and ridiculously red blemishes. It’s also really good for your skin. PLEASE DO NOT USE CHEAP DRUGSTORE FOUNDATIONS. Please. And I also have to say that MAC foundations will clog the hell outta your pores, which just fucks everything up. Healthy skin is the best makeup, so DON’T FUCK IT UP. And yes, please moisturize, for gods sake.

    2 products I love: Fresh Supernova mascara is really pretty. Your lashes look fluffy and soft and full and just lovely. Also, for those that eschew lipstick but still want a little color on their lips: Fresh Sugar Rose tinted lip treatment is so nice. If you wanna do the nude lip thing, you can put a tiny bit of liquid foundation or tinted moisturizer on your lips to get them closer to your skin color (or use Lip Spackle by Laura Geller), then use a light pink sheer gloss. It looks great with smokey Shane eyes (which can ONLY be achieved with the bravery to line the inner rim!)!

    As a pale girl, I can vouch that a bronzey blush in moderation can make all the difference. I like benefit Dallas. Err on the side of too little — you can always add more.

    Last but not least, if you do want to use mineral makeup, invest in a good kabuki brush! I swear, it makes a huge difference in the finish.

    Um, I love makeup, not gonna lie.

    • Yes, I love Fresh lip treatments! I have the plain one and Plum, and my sister has Rose (and I think a honey one too, but I don’t know if I’ve tried that one before) and they are great. Plum is good if you want to put on lipstick but want it to feel more like putting on a lip balm. It adds the color without making me paranoid that I have some of it on my teeth/outside my lips, and moisturizes my lips at the same time.
      I liked Fresh Supernova mascara too when I used it, although now I am using Lash Blast Fusion (the kind in a purple tube) and I’m pretty happy with that. (For a while my makeup products have mostly been “whatever my sister recommends/gives me.”)

  34. This was hilarious I lol’ed like six times.

    Anyhoo I love makeup. As I said upthread, get essie or orly nail polish, the cheap stuff chips way faster and ends up costing you more in the long run. They also get weird faster. before you put it on, push your cuticles back so that you can get the polish to truly cover your whole nail which is like a shied for your nails from breakage. I actually have carefully observed manicurists enough that i can do what they do myself, though its’ never as good. I never use a topcoat or a bottomcoat, I used to and it never made a noticeable difference. Also don’t do like, four coats — when it’s really thick like that, it breaks quicker.

    Things that make nails chip a lot include washing dishes, digging for shit in your bag, lifting and opening things and anything involving adhesives. And life.

    If they’re not dry and you really need to jet, stick your hands in the freezer.

    —> also i like physician’s formula blush, ’cause it has lots of colors in it which makes it seem more likely one of them will look good on you.

  35. In my opinion, the things that she listed as “optional” are the easiest, least-amount-of-make-up way to look like you are wearing a full face of make-up. :D When I’m in a super-rush some days, I just do a quick swish of shimmer bronzer in the sun-kissed areas, line my lower eyelid with dark eyeliner, and curl my lashes to open up the eyes and make you look a lil more awake. Add some lightly tinted gloss or chapstick and you are good to go in about 30 seconds flat.

  36. I don’t wear makeup. I REFUSE. I’ll make myself look professional in other ways.

    Then again, I have really good skin, very pink lips and dark eyelashes. I might feel differently otherwise.

  37. i used to have this ridiculous vendetta about makeup and how people should accept my face AS IS and how i wouldn’t give in to their RIDICULOUS BEAUTY STANDARDS and PATRIARCHY and blah blah blah…. until i realised that, hey, i feel better with it on, and that has little to do with anyone else.

    i’m not an expert by aaaaany means, but these would be my tips, if i were asked:
    1) don’t put eyeliner on your bottom lids unless you’re alice glass. a very thin line on your top lid (VERY THIN) is subtle and makes your eyes pop more (as well as taking attention away from eye bags, if you suffer with them like i do). i like to use liquid eyeliner in a dark brown, because i find black quite harsh, especially if the rest of my palette is in nude colours.
    2) use an eyelash curler. it looks like a torture device, but it makes a big difference.
    3) i was terrified of blush for the longest time because it made me think of those women who wear pink lipstick and blue eyeshadow and orange foundation. BUT i’ve discovered that blush in a pink/brown combination is amazing when used right. i almost have cheekbones nowadays.
    4) i only wear eyeshadow for going out, and it’s usually quite plain. a light colour toward the inner eye contrasted with a darker colour round the end of my lids is how i usually do it. it opens my eyes up and the eyeshadow doesn’t look as heavy. keep the powder on the ball of your eye though- there’s nothing worse than people who wear it all the way up to their eyebrows.
    5) eyebrows! if, like me, you have blonde eyebrows and brunette hair, brushing a small amount of brown eyeshadow on the thickest part of your inner brow defines the eyebrow and makes a huge difference to the contours of your face. if i do nothing else, no mascara or cover-up or anything, just doing my eyebrows is enough.

    this is a long post and i think i may have finally have fallen to one side of that femme/boi thing i was straddling.

    • If you want to use a black eye liner but avoid the harsh look (I don’t like it too, except when I’m using black eyeshadow) you can try the black one in the gel formula. It can be smudged better ;) Also if you want to use an eyeshadow but it looks too dark (especially in day makeup) you can make it lighter applying it with a round pointed brush!

  38. as a more butch queer who has literally never put make-up on myself in my life(except of course for my chapstick obsession) i must say, this all sounds exhausting. props to you all for just doing all this. the only make-up i’ve ever owned was eye liner i used to draw on my facial hair for drag.

    i have been known to let attractive ladies put make-up on me just to have them that close to my face for an extended period of time however. :)

  39. *Makeup for people with combination skin

    Anyone with mediocre skin knows how much it sucks..or if you don’t, I totally applaud your self esteem! Obviously no makeup is the best idea for acne prone skin, but I’ve lived with it for a long while and am pretty darn tired of it.

    I finally found something that works for me and thought I’d share-

    1.Wash with clinique combination skin products
    2.use their toner
    3. Put on clean and clear’s spot treatment over all problematic places, and wait 2 minutes or so for it to dry.
    4. use Physicians formula basic concealer stick GENTLY and dab, don’t press.
    5. If you have an event where you HAVE to look completely fantastic, use liquid foundation (really, even drugstore will do, but clinique is awesome), but apply it with a powder brush lightly in dots/ don’t put too much on the brush at a time.
    BUT if it’s daily wear and you want your skin to get better, I have had the best luck with powder makeup on top of concealer. I don’t know why, but it just isn’t as damaging and pore clogging for my skin.

    6. blush, whatevs else you wear/ mascara.

  40. I recently completely gave up on any kind of make-up and it feels AMAZING to go out and not care whether my face looks shiny or the dark circles under my eyes make it look like I haven’t slept in a few months.

    I just get this general feeling that applying these things to your face everyday can’t be doing anything good to it, but maybe that’s unfounded.

    In any case, I enjoyed the article, it pretty much sums up how I used to feel about make-up.

  41. Every once in a while I go “Oh boy I just don’t have the energy,” and stop reading Autostraddle for a while. And then I come back and read like five articles in a row and go “OMG I LOVE YOU AAAHHH”. This is one of those times. <3!

  42. I’ve worn foundation once when my aunt made me, it was a horrible experience. It felt so incredibly awkward and uncomfortable.

    Mascara is evil. It makes my eyes twitchy and watery and I blink compulsively.

  43. So hilarious. My favorite part of wearing makeup is removing it as quickly as possible from my face, so naturally that’s the one thing I really know about. So even though I laughed like a hyena at the crack about the funeral and waterproof mascara, it’s not really true that all eye makeup removers are a pain to use and irritating. Just get some Camomile Gentle Eye Makeup Remover from (no animal testing, mega ethical) The Body Shoppe. Put a tiny bit on a cotton ball, swipe it once, maybe twice across your lashes, and voila, you’re done in less than 5 seconds. Totally worth it.

  44. Love this, also, I like to use Benetint or Body Shop lip and cheek stain instead of blush, it feels like you’re wearing nothing. The Body Shop version is probably better for beginners, it’s more gel than liquid and easier to blend.

  45. I use foundation to cover up some acne scarring (some ice-pick scars and discoloration); I’ve found out the best way to go is use it lightly– pat it on with a makeup sponge and finish with a powder. I can understand the foundation hate, but I like using it in *small* amounts.

    You can never really go wrong with mascara!

  46. How necessary do we feel mascara is? I’ve always skipped it because I figure, I actually do have very long dark eyelashes. Why should I cover them up with gunk? Is mascara required to look like an adult and/or sexy lady?

    I’m not super into makeup and I don’t think most people realize I wear it but after years of avoiding, I’ve realized there’s no reason not to. I used to think I’d look like I was trying too hard if I wore it, but if you wear the right amount you don’t look like you’re trying at all while still looking prettier! I have pretty clear skin, but am very white and don’t get enough sleep, so I basically where concealer for bags under the eyes, eye shadow to brighten up my eyes, blush because it looks nice and a bronzer powder to look less pale. I don’t see how lipstick is necessary or attractive. Chapstick is adequate. I really love the way eyeliner looks but I’ve never really been able to figure out how to apply it. I guess I’ve made it this far without it.

    • Yeah, I’m also a girl with long, dark eyelashes so I tend to skip mascara unless I really want that “I’m wearing makeup” look. I hate the way it feels to have it on.

      And I also feel like lipstick is unnecessary most of the time – I’ll wear chapstick or maybe lip gloss if I’m feeling extra-fancy, but lipstick just feels like too much for everyday.

      We are make-up twins!

  47. With all respect, please Rachel stick to what you know.

    This article should have been written by FFAF. She speaks “make up”!!!

    Love to you all.

    • No, no! I loved that it came from this perspective, even if rigorous femme dogma had my panties in knots over some of the advice.

      It’s completely refreshing to hear what it’s like and be reminded that there are wildly different entry levels where makeup is concerned. We all started someplace, after all! It’s rather easy to forget that – or it is for me, anyway, surrounded as I am by an intensely femme community. (They’re the ones who came to my rescue when I was all, “I need a mascara that will absolutely survive a surfing lesson.”)

      FFAF loved Rachel’s post, is all I’m trying to say.

      PS. Still mad that I can’t use the pink bottle/green cap mascara, my peepers have never agreed with it (probably due to contact lens). FOMO!

      • FFAF, can I beg mascara tips from you? I need to know what will survive salt water dunkings. And now that I am thinking about it, mascara is the one thing in which I consistently buy the inexpensive drug store brand (I have 3 kinds of lashblast), and I am wondering what you think the differences are in the more expensive ones.

        I adore your blog, by the way. I am the femmiest girl in my friend circle, and the only lesbian, so it’s very affirming!

        • Girl, you asked for it.

          I can tell you what it’s NOT: Benefit BadGal, Urban Decay Cannonball. Haven’t tried these, but the reviews look promising: Anna Sui Super Mascara Waterproof, Avon Wash-Off Waterproof Mascara, Maybelline’s The Falsies / Magnum Volum’ Express / Full ‘n Soft in waterproof formulas.

          For drugstore mascaras, I also love CG’s Lash Blast and Maybelline Volum’ Express Colossal and Full ‘n Soft. I was married to L’Oreal for years, but quit when I realized they tested on animals. I feel like drugstore mascaras in general are perfectly fine for everything EXCEPT major drama, or a false-eyelashes look. That’s when the more expensive brands come in, IMO.

          There’s a Japanese brand called Sana, and their mascara Extra Large is a fiber-filled, “I will-see-your-falsies-and-raise-you-KA-CHOW, fool!” dream. I haven’t tried it in seawater, but bet it would hold up as it takes me like three days to fully remove. ($15-$30, online)

          Besame makes a mascara and in 2008 it survived both weddings and funerals, plus it smells like motherfucking gingerbread, $18.

          So, obviously I’m not really buying high-end mascara to go to brunch, but I will say that Estee Lauder’s More Than Mascara is an outstanding all-around mascara, $19.

          YSL’s Faux Cils was gorgeous and perfect but sheds under the eye, which never happens to me with other mascaras, so it’s off the list. DiorShow ($25) < YSL Faux Cils ($30), though. (It made my eyes itchy like Maybelline's Great Lash.) MAC's Zoom Fast Black Lash ($15) is perfect for big, glossy, wet, jet black lashes, but the brush needs work (or just sanitize an old brush and swap 'em out). Fresh's Supernova is worth every penny, $25.

          Thanks for the kind words, I hope this (essay) helps!

  48. The easiest eye shadow for me has been NYX jumbo eye pencils. Somehow I could never get powder eye shadow to work for me when I tried it back in the day. These are good because you just scribble it over your eyelid and smudge it with your finger if you mess up.
    I haven’t been able to get behind using foundation/tinted moisturizer yet because I feel like everything I try turns dry and crumbly on my skin the second I put it on, or is the wrong color. I have really pale skin with I guess pink undertones. I bought Lush’s “Jackie Oates” color supplement somewhat recently and haven’t used it enough to make an assessment, though I did use it as a concealer today.

  49. I thought this was an article on helping the not-so-knowledgeable understand the basics of make-up in layman’s terms. . .Bwahahaha!

    Then I thought, okay, it’s about a chic’s journey on understanding the world of make-up. . .Bwahahaha!

    This was hilarious. I found myself busting out laughing because I totally understand the awkwardness and confusion over all these little bottles, applications and brushes. Luckily, it gets better with practice and don’t worry– sometimes it’s best to be unrecognizable without make-up. A bare face is still hot.

    BEST LINE: Eyeshadow: What even is this.

    seriously? Why even include it in your list? Bwahahahaahahah.

    Thanks for the tickle.

  50. I thought this article was super funny and cute and eased my own anxiety about makeup. Thanks for being brave and sharing with us Rach. Also though, totally spent 40$ on an eye concealer this weekend which is giving me budget anxiety. But it does make my eyes look all happy and alive! I hope.

  51. To answer all your makeup wishes I have to introduce everyone to PIXIWOO, Nic & Sam are two gorgeous and very talented sisters from the UK that are professional makeup artists and have several youtube channels demonstrating how to apply makeup every which way one can imagine. There is everything from everyday simple makeup to drag and celebrity looks, its fun if anything to watch them get transformed from absolute no makeup to lets say Pam Anderson. =>
    PS.You must watch Nic transform into “The Corpse Bride” its awesome!

  52. I buy most of my make-up at the drugstore, but, for mascara, I use Dior’s Diorshow. It’s pricey but it’s seriously worth. every. penny.

  53. I am one of those people that never figured out makeup beyond eyeliner. I had that pretty down pat, but anytime I had to actually wear real makeup, my mom was heavily involved in the process.
    Moms for the win.

  54. BEST nude lip comes from using your foundation brush after you’ve done your face, lightly lightly tinting your lip with the foundation residue and then matte gloss over the top ^^

  55. I love Bare Escentuals stuff, it’s done wonders for my face in general. But pricey, pricey tsk tsk. But all I really wear for everyday use is their foundation and Well Rested (meant for under-eyes but I use as a general concealer of spots too because BE concealer is way too pinkish for my skin tone) which are all SPF 15 and 20 and last for months at a time.

    Depends if you think it’s worth it to spend that much. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, most of the mineral powder foundations you can buy at the chemist’s are pretty good.
    The liquid and mousse type ones just feel like your face has no room to move under a mask, plus they encourage the spots like nobody’s business.

    I tend not to bother with eyeliner and mascara, but if you don’t want your eyes to look swallowed up as they can sometimes do with foundation or concealer on you can try a pale line of brown eyeshadow powder along your bottom lash line with a thin brush, makes them stand out but only a tiny bit. Make sure it’s a good brand though, otherwise it’ll be migrating down to look like a dark shadow. Body Shop is the best I’ve found

  56. I’m probably as clueless about make-up as a fish out of water, never worn it and never took to wearing it. Reading this article and watching Brandy and Julie’s make-up tutorial for butch lesbians has convinced me that maybe I shouldn’t avoid make-up like its the bubonic plague and to try it out again.

  57. Would you believe that this is literally the first article about makeup that hasn’t made me have the beginnings of a panic attack and made me want to cry under the blankets (or actually cry under the blankets)? Just for that, I’m super impressed. I don’t know if I’m actually willing to TRY any of this (I have an eyeliner pencil. It makes me feel like a twelve year old who’s trying too hard), but maybe someday.

    (Seriously, eyeshadow, what even.)

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