There are millions of articles and blog posts about “beauty tips” floating around on the internet, and yet, at least for me, very few of them have ever been useful. Half of them are “hacks” that don’t work, and the rest tend to be super obvious and generic, like “use blotting sheets if you have oily skin” – duh! So I wanted to compile a list of the little things that I’ve worked into my routine over the years that actually make a difference for me.
For the most part I tried to stay away from the ones I’m sure you’ve all heard before, and if I’m honest some of these are more like recommendations for a certain way of doing something rather than being a tip, but they’re all small adjustments I’ve made here and there, or are things I do in a pinch that I find really helpful, so hopefully some of these work for you too.
These first two are some of the newest things I’ve started doing. I don’t even know where these ideas came from, I think I just tried them both one day and was really happy with the results. If you find that no matter what you do, your under eye area always looks cakey and creasy, here’s what I’ve started doing to avoid that.
ONE. Firstly, I’ll use my eyeshadow primer both on my eyelids and my under eye area – I’m currently using the NARS Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base (AU) which is transparent and very lightweight so it’s perfect for this. It won’t necessarily work with all primers, especially if you’re using a tinted one, but the NARS one has never interfered with my concealer under my eyes in a bad way and I find it really helps prevent creasing, so now it’s a part of my everyday routine.
TWO. As for cakeyness, I used to set my whole under eye area with a lightweight powder, like the MAC Mineralise Skinfinish Natural in Light Plus (AU). But these days I don’t take it right up into the inner corner anymore, which is the area that often looks the worst. I find that actually, it doesn’t really need to be powdered, especially if I’ve got the NARS primer on underneath, so now I just powder from about a centimetre below the inner corner of my eye, and out towards my temple, and the whole area has never looked better.
THREE. If you’ve ever watched a makeup tutorial on YouTube, you probably know that the best way to get excess product off your eyeshadow brush is to firmly tap it (against your eyeshadow palette, for example) to shake the excess powder loose so you get a more even and controlled application. I’ve never really found it to work the same way for blush, and sometimes you may have picked up way too much product and you’re at risk of looking like a clown. When that happens, or if I’m using a product that I know is really pigmented and I want to go in with a light hand, I like to swirl the brush on the back of my hand to get rid of the excess. I also find that when I do this my blush applies more evenly because I’m able to slowly build it up rather than just dunking my brush into the product and hoping for the best.
FOUR. I’m sure everyone already has their own way of doing winged liner that works for them, but I since I’ve been wearing it for so long, I often get people asking me irl how I do it, so I thought I’d share my process here in case it helps anyone.
I like to start with the wing because it’s the hardest part and I like to get it out of the way first. I’ll always start the wing at the outer tip and draw inwards towards my eye, rather than trying to flick it outwards. I also try to do this part with my eye open, since you’re going to spend most of your time with your eyes open, it really helps because what you draw is what you’re actually going to get. We’ve all been there – when you think you’ve nailed your winged liner when you’ve got your eye closed, but then you open it and half your liner disappears into your crease.
Once I’ve got the wing sorted, I’ll start from the inner part of my eye and work my way outwards to join the wing. I find that I have way more control when I apply the liner in an outward direction, and my brush tends to drag on my eyeshadow/eyelid when I’m going the other way. Sometimes you have no choice when you’re trying to get an even line, but for the most part I try to keep things moving outwards. I also like to start my eyeliner from about 1/3 or even halfway back along my eye (above the coloured part) rather than right from the inner corner.
There’s also no reason to stress and I always find that if I take my time doing my liner it generally turns out fine, and it’s the times that I’m rushing that I always mess it up and have to start over. And finally, I want to stress that there’s no need to aim for perfection - trust me, your wings are definitely sisters and not twins, and no-one will ever be looking at your face closely enough to notice they’re not perfectly symmetrical.
FIVE. I typically maintain my eyebrows at home, and I’m lucky that my brows have a fairly strong natural shape, so it’s always been pretty easy for me to figure out what to pluck and what to leave alone. So something that really changed my brow-life was getting a really good pair of tweezers - they don’t even have to be super expensive, I have a mini set from Tweezerman (AU) that I bought years ago and they’re still going strong. There’s no need to get the full size over the mini ones as they pluck hairs just the same and they’re quite a bit cheaper too. These tweezers are super sharp (you have to be careful not to pinch your skin when you’re going for a hair) and if you have good lighting and/or a magnifying mirror, you can get every last, fine little hair with these. Trust me, not all tweezers are made equal and buying a pair from Tweezerman was a game changer for me.
SIX. Another brow-related one is trimming the hairs at the front of my eyebrows. I didn’t even know this was a thing until a beautician did it for me a few years ago and it was a total revelation. Obviously this depends on how you like them to look, but if you’re into the square-ish look at the front of the brow, then brushing the hairs upwards and trimming them down slightly so they’re the same height as rest of your brow really helps to define the front edge without adding any product. After seeing the difference in my brows once they were trimmed for the first time I was a total convert. Now I do it myself to maintain that look, and if you’re going to do it from home as well I’d recommend a small pair of good hairdressing scissors, or you could make do with nail scissors.
Cotton Tip Tips
SEVEN. A lot of people probably already know about these, but it’s worth mentioning the tiny cotton buds from Muji, because they’re so worth picking up if you’re prone to getting mascara or liquid liner in places you don’t want it. When that happens I let the mascara dry and use a cotton bud to flick it off. If it’s liquid eyeliner, flicking isn’t going to cut it, so I’ll dip the cotton tip in micellar water (I keep a lil baby one in my dresser) and clean it up. Of course you can just use regular cotton buds, but the tiny ones are much more convenient for fixing small makeup mistakes, and they often save me from having to redo my eyeshadow entirely because you can be much more precise with what you're removing.
EIGHT. I also have a couple of (gross) cotton bud tricks to share that I picked up from Karima McKimmie. You don’t need tiny ones for these, in fact, the regular ones are better as the small ones are a bit too pointy. I’m sure we’ve all had a time when we’ve just finished doing our makeup and realised that we have some eye-goo in our inner corners. You can either risk rubbing half your eyeshadow off and/or poking yourself in the eye with your fingernail to get it out, or you can use a cotton bud to get it – not gonna lie, I’ve used this one a lot since I first learned about it and it’s a LOT more convenient.
NINE. The other way you can use cotton buds is again, if you’ve finished your makeup and suddenly find your nose is running – there’s really no way to blow it without taking off all the makeup on your nose with the tissue, but you can stick a cotton bud up there to take care of it. You’re welcome.
TEN. This is something I discovered all by myself and I cannot believe I’d never heard this before. My hair is waist length, and any time I have ever curled it in my life, it’s always dropped within a few hours and looked completely ruined by the end of the night. Last year I was curling my hair for a special occasion and realised I didn’t have any hairspray. In a desperate attempt to help them stay in, after I curled each section of hair I rolled up the curl and bobby pinned it flat to my head until it cooled. Without any hairspray or product to hold the style, that gave me the BEST, longest lasting curls of my life. Obviously this is better if you want 50s style defined curls, not the whole beachy/undone/loose waves thing, but certainly if you want something a bit more relaxed, after your hair cools you could brush some of the curl out to get the effect you're going for. I’ve done it several times since then, and you really don’t even need hairspray (which I don’t love using anyway because it always leaves my hair feeling crispy). Not only do the curls last all night, but my hair even looks great the next day! Total game changer.
ELEVEN. This probably isn’t a very exciting one, but I would definitely recommend getting a pair of wick trimmers for your candles. This isn’t really a “tip” but it’s a strong endorsement for them. Obviously if you’re a tea-light kinda girl this doesn’t really apply, but if you’re a fancy candle bitch like me and spend a lot of money on beautiful jars of wax, a pair of wick trimmers to help you take care of them is, comparatively, quite a small investment. They help your candles burn more evenly and stop them from flickering crazily and putting off smoke, which is what happens when the wick is too long. I definitely notice a difference in the way my candles burn if I'm too lazy to trim the wicks, so I try to always do it before lighting them.
TWELVE. Another hot candle tip (see what I did there) is if your candle is tunnelling (burning down the centre and not melting the wax around the edges) you can wrap the candle in foil and slightly fold in the foil over the top of the candle to trap the heat and melt the wax more evenly. Obviously don’t fold the foil directly over the flame, but this has definitely saved some candles for me, and in my experience once you get the whole surface to melt for the first time it should be fine from there.
THIRTEEN. This is something I reserve strictly for emergencies and isn’t something I do day-to-day, but if you ever find that you’ve forgotten to apply deodorant, or perhaps it’s just not working as well as it should and you really don’t want to feel smelly, you can apply hand sanitiser to your underarms. Bacteria is what causes you to smell, so using an antibacterial gel kills the smell. I’m sure if you did it every day it would dry out your underarms, but on the odd occasion when I may have run out the door without deodorant, or the AC is broken or whatever else, having this trick in your back pocket can be a life saver.
FOURTEEN. There used to be two ways I cleaned my makeup brushes – either with a paper towel and a spot cleaner for when I want to give them a quick once over, or using warm water and soap to give them a proper deep clean. But these days you can buy something called a colour switch that removes most of the excess pigment from say, an eyeshadow brush, so you can carry on your merry way in no time at all. I haven’t tried an actual colour switch, but I’d read online that you can use a hair doughnut in the same way, so that’s what I do.
Obviously it doesn’t work for cream products like foundation, but for eyeshadows it definitely does the trick. I keep a hair doughnut stashed in my dresser drawer and use it to clean off my eye brushes in between uses. This means I get more uses out of them before having to deep clean them, and I don’t have to use a spot cleaner as often, which I typically find to be quite drying on my brushes. If you’ve got a hair doughnut lying around that you don’t use, I’d definitely recommend re-purposing it for this.