With colour analysis, I spend a lot of time around makeup. While I was swatching, testing, and applying makeup, I started to wonder…
What separates normal, average, seen-it-everywhere makeup from totally great makeup?
Before we begin, please don’t think makeup for PCA is obligatory in any way. It’s not. You’ll still look great without it. But when a client tells me ‘I don’t wear makeup, so I don’t need to try’, I always ask ‘But don’t you want to see what’s possible?’ After all, it comes with my service. This is your chance to try things that we know will work. And if you still don’t like it, no problem. We can wipe it off.
Here’s my perspective on what makes the difference:
Of course, the first answer is the right colours.
When makeup products are made of the colours that belong on your face, only then can they make believable additions to your face. Even a ‘bold’ lip, when within the limits of your Season, will not necessarily claim all the attention. This holds true for all Seasons, whether you are Bright Winter or Soft Autumn. It’s the magic of colour-analyzed makeup: the cosmetics are harmonious with your colouring.
Knowledge about the shapes and planes comes into it too.
Knowing where to put colour accents, place highlighter or concealer – ultimately, great makeup is just customization. This takes skill and practice. Liquid liner can be tricky, but you’ll get it once you try it a couple times. And blending is not nearly as hard as it’s made out to be: everybody can take a clean fluffy brush and go over an area until the edges are no longer visible. The hardest part is finding the patience to do it for long enough. If blending still isn’t something you seem to get right often enough, it may be due to applying your makeup in low and/or yellow lighting. What looks blended in your bathroom mirror can still look unblended in daylight.
But there is one more thing that elevates makeup from everyday to great…
Knowing the difference between ‘stealth’ and ‘statement’.
This is the secret to balanced makeup.
Some aspects of makeup are naturally ‘stealth’-like.
Eyebrows, for instance. When overdone, whether because they were made too dark, too thin, or too ‘Instagrammy’ (= too square), they start to overshadow the face. I don’t want to have a conversation with your eyebrows. I want to have a conversation with you.
Yet you don’t want to leave your eyebrows entirely out of the game. Accentuating them can do wonders for your face. Underdone brows cannot frame the face and the eyes. They tell us too little about where to look, like the guiding lines that direct the viewer’s gaze onto our eyes, not unlike the lights at the either side of a landing strip. They need to be accentuated just enough to guide our gaze without us realizing they are there. Only those that are aware of what makeup can do, will recognize it for what it is… balanced makeup.
Good candidates for ‘stealth’ makeup are: base (foundation and whatever else you use, primer, powder etc.), bronzer, contour, highlighter, blush and brows. Minimal liner and a tinted balm are practical, and easy and can definitely have a place in your makeup kit.
The most obvious example of statement makeup is a bold lip.
No stealth here – everybody can see it’s makeup. But in the case of lips, that’s not a bad thing. As long as the colour is good and the shape belongs with the face, we’re only that much happier to look at you. You cared about yourself, and you made an effort for us. It’s positive and interesting.
Good candidates for statement makeup are: lips, eyeliner, eye shadow, and lashes. If you would like to make a statement: pick lips or eyes, and go for it. This is where the old advice comes from: wear only bold makeup on your eyes, or your lips. Never both. Personally, I both agree and disagree. In principle, yes. One statement at a time works best. Going for two or more will just result in noise.
However, the key is to achieve a balance between your ‘stealth’ and ‘statement’ makeup…
The bolder your ‘statement’ makeup, the more present your ‘stealth’ makeup needs to be to maintain balance.
The dark smokey eye + nude lip is the perfect example of taking the ‘one-statement only’ rule too far, and losing that balance. We get eyes at a thousand volts – and nothing else too look at. Like losing the backup vocals in a song, it’s a step back. The context gets lost. The eyes become disembodied (‘Caspar the friendly ghost’) and all other features are hard to focus on.
When you want to go for that eye statement, which could just be heavy lashes, heavy or winged liner, or dark eye shadow, or a combination, opt for a modest colour on your lips instead (along with the other usual suspects of stealth makeup). It will support your face, and help to direct the viewer’s gaze easily and comfortably onto your eyes. Which is just what we want when wearing makeup.
Being aware of stealth and statement effects of your makeup, gives you more control over the impact your makeup has. Balanced makeup looks intentional, intelligent, and self-aware, and a big step up from copying everybody else.