Balance, proportion, and detail

Have you ever wondered exactly what it is you admire when you see a well-made-up woman? You may not be able to pinpoint what it is you find appealing, but you probably envy her skill and wish you could figure out how she did it. At the airport several years ago, I noticed such a woman and watched other women (and a few men) turn their heads and take notice. It wasn’t just that she was attractive and her clothes were stylish; but that her makeup in particular was impeccable. Her face looked smooth and was accented with rich, though subtle, blush and contour tones. All the colors, from her lipstick to her eyeshadows, softly mingled into a harmonious sweep of light to dark, with just the right amount of shading—not too much and not too little.

That’s when it occurred to me that any woman can revitalize her makeup by going over a list of everyday makeup guidelines and just omitting the mistakes that detract from, rather than enhance, her appearance. Recognizing the nuances of a well-done makeup application versus one that is not so good can make all the difference in helping a woman look great all day long. Considering all the time most women spend buying makeup and wearing it, putting it on wrong just doesn’t make sense.

Besides the essential rules regarding application and blending techniques, there are only three basic concepts you need to keep in mind to achieve a flattering look: balance, proportion, and detail. Balance is about making sure the different elements of your makeup go together and that no one aspect is more prominent than any other. In other words, if you are wearing a dark, rich, brownish red lipstick, you must choose blush in a harmonious color (shiny pink blush is not going to work with a lipstick in that color range). Meanwhile, make sure your eyeshadows accent the eyes so they don’t get lost because too much attention is directed toward the lips. When colors and tones are in balance and no one aspect of the makeup shouts over another, you don’t notice the makeup as much as you notice the woman.

Proportion is about the total package of selecting what to wear. It’s about paying at­tention to symmetry, to how your makeup colors, wardrobe, and hairstyle work together. If you are wearing a classic, tailored business suit and the eyeshadows you have on range from tan to black, with a wine-colored lipstick and blush, that may indeed be a stunning combination, but a bit too dramatic and overpowering with what you’re wearing. The same is true for someone with very light hair and fair skin: the color combination may be dramatic and beautiful, but it will look out of place in sunlight or office light. Proportion is making sure that everything works together, with nothing looking out of synch, so your makeup doesn’t upstage you.

Detail is the most essential and perhaps the most difficult area because it takes so much effort and concentration. Pay attention to every nuance of your makeup. If necessary, ap­ply your makeup using a magnifying mirror so you don’t leave the house with eyeshadow sprinkles on your cheek or mascara smudges at the back corner of your eyelid. Do not be satisfied with doing a ten-minute makeup application in only five minutes when you’re in a hurry. If you don’t have enough time to do your normal makeup routine, be ready to change your look; do only what you have time to apply well.

I can’t tell you how often women have asked me what they can do differently with their makeup, and my responses were that they needed to blend their foundation better because it looked patchy and uneven, or the eyeshadow area looked uncertain or too obvious. Often these women reply, “Things were just frantic this morning, and this was the best I could do.” I then say, “I notice you have your blouse buttoned and your skirt zipped up.” Typi­cally their answer is, “Of course!” I in turn comment, “Well, even though you didn’t have much time, you didn’t leave the house undressed. You should apply the same rule to your face.” It doesn’t mean being late because of your makeup; it means doing less so it goes faster. But whatever you do, take the time to do it right. Because when makeup is sloppy, it just looks wrong.

As I mentioned above, I use several levels of makeup application, depending on the time I have and what the makeup is for. For me, and I’ve done this a lot, full makeup for a television appearance takes 20 to 25 minutes. Makeup for a business meeting or a formal event takes 15 minutes. Makeup for casual daily business or informal get-togethers takes 5 to 10 minutes. Makeup for running to the gym to work out takes a minute and a half (lipstick and mascara only).

Updated: October 9, 2015 — 7:27 am