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Beauty Basics: Makeup Essentials for Beginners

We all remember our firsts—and if you’re new to the world of makeup, that includes the first time you tentatively applied foundation while wondering if it was really your skin’s perfect shade-match, or if you should ditch the brush and go for a beauty sponge instead (we’ll get to that later). Fact is, while trying on makeup for the first time can definitely be exciting, finding the right makeup products can also be a challenge. 

With so many brands and formulas to choose from, it’s fairly easy for any beauty novice to get overwhelmed. So to help get you started, we enlisted the expert advice of Jessica Kendall—hairstylist, makeup artist and owner of Beauty Asylum—to give us the dos, don’ts, hows and whys in our guide to the ultimate makeup essentials for beginners. 

Which Makeup Products Should a Beginner Buy? 

While you may be tempted to fill your shopping carts with the beauty world’s latest obsessions, any seasoned pro will tell you that the road to makeup mastery starts with a good understanding of the basics and knowing what each product can actually do for you. Below, we list down the absolute makeup must-haves for beginners. 

  1. Primer
    Buy now with Dermstore


    Primers tend to go overlooked, especially by makeup newbies, but it’s definitely one that your makeup kit should never be without. Think of it as Photoshop for your skin. It smooths out your complexion by filling in large pores, lines and other blemishes, leaving you with a flawless and even base to ensure your makeup application is a breeze. 

    Try: jane iredale Smooth Affair Brightening Face Primer 

    Buy now with free delivery
  2. Foundation
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    When it comes to foundation, there are two things that are absolute musts: finding the right shade for your skin tone and avoiding the dreaded “cakey” look. You may need to test out different products before finding the correct color for your complexion, so research is key. Luckily, plenty of brands today carry a wide range of shades that complement every skin tone. For the latter, Kendall recommends applying foundation using a beauty sponge. It absorbs product, allowing you to gradually add the ideal amount of foundation. 

    Try: jane iredale Liquid Minerals A Foundation

    Buy now with free delivery
  3. Concealer
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    “Concealer is a must-have staple in your beauty routine,” says Kendall, and we couldn’t agree more! It’s a versatile product that not only hides discoloration, fine lines, age spots and other blemishes around your eyes, but it can also serve as a base for your eye shadow or lipstick and even as a contouring product. 

    “The two main differences we want to look for when buying a concealer are face concealer and eye concealer,” explains Kendall. “Typically we want a hydrating concealer to go under the eye and soften the look of any fine lines. Concealer for the face tends to be more dense and drying and this is perfect for covering up that pesky blemish or discoloration.”

    Try: RMS Beauty “Un” Cover-Up Concealer

    Buy now with free delivery
  4. Bronzer
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    Once you’ve primed and perfected your canvas, it’s time to add more drama and dimension. “A great bronzer makes my top five of must-have products,” Kendall tells us, adding that it’s essential to add a touch of color to a washed-out complexion. How to do so without going overboard? Kendall says to dust a little bronzer into the hair line, across the cheek bones and neck to give an instant pick-me-up. 

    Try: ILIA Nightlite Bronzing Powder

    Buy now with free delivery
  5. Neutral Eyeshadow Palette
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    Neutral Eyeshadow Palette

    No makeup kit is ever complete without a neutral eyeshadow palette that can take your look from day to night. Taupes, bronzes, browns and cream-colored shadows are not only great for all eye colors and skin tones, but also for creating natural, barely-there daytime looks and nighttime makeup that’s both subtle and glam.  

    Kendall breaks down how to get the natural look with just three simple tools:

    • Eyeshadow brush: this is the staple for applying powder loosely on the lid.
    • Smudge brush: this brush is usually packed together with dense bristles to apply a heavier amount of product. Look for a dome shape the size of a pencil eraser to provide more application control.
    • Blending brush: this gives the option to apply a soft amount of color in the crease and/or buff the shadow above the crease.

    TryTarte Tartelette Toasted Eyeshadow Palette 

    Buy now with free delivery
  6. Eyeliner
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    If you’re struggling to create perfectly lined eyes, trust that you’re not alone. Applying eyeliner is arguably the most difficult (and frustrating—winged eyes, anyone?) step to master, so much so that some just give up on it completely. But hear us out. An eyeliner can instantly add sultriness and glam to your look, easily transforming it from day to night. For beginners, a pencil eyeliner is often best because it’s less fussy and gives you more control. 

    Start by applying the color in the middle of the eye and lightly dot the pencil into the lash, gradually working your way to the outer part of the eye. Connecting the dots is an easy way to create a more natural look. 

    Try: Kjaer Weis Eye Pencil

    Buy now with free delivery
  7. Mascara
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    Plenty of beauty connoisseurs would say that mascara is the most important part of makeup, and for good reason. Mascara adds thickness, length and volume to your lashes, which instantly opens and frames your eyes. The best part? It requires very little effort. Simply take your freshly dipped mascara wand and apply one to two coats before you complete your look. An absolute makeup essential for beginners, it’s the quickest way to have a put-together look on the daily. 

    Try: DHC Mascara Perfect Pro Double Protection  

    Buy now with free delivery
  8. Brow Powder
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    Brow Powder

    “Any beginner can start filling in their brows using a brow gel or a powder shadow,” says Kendall. But if you’ve marathoned beauty gurus’ bold-brow routines only to have them look, well, not like theirs, Kendall recommends powder. “Powder tends to be more forgiving when you first start off. Look for a more coarse brush to apply the product so it doesn’t apply too much product at once.”

    Try: jane iredale GreatShape EyebrowKit 

    Buy now with free delivery
  9. A Nude and a Bold Lip Color
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    A Nude and a Bold Lip Color

    Lipsticks can dramatically transform your look with just a few swipes, so it only makes sense to have go-to nude and bold colors that fit any occasion effortlessly. “The perfect neutral and a pop of color are two lip colors every girl should have in her purse,” says Kendall, recommending beginners to stick with a formula that has more hydration for its forgiving nature. 

    “To find the perfect lip shade, opt for a color slightly darker than your natural lip undertone to create the perfect wash of color. A pop of color can be your preference of coral, berry or pink.” 

    Try: Estée Lauder Pure Color Envy Sculpting Lipstick

    Buy now with free delivery
  10. Setting Spray
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    Setting Spray

    After all that effort putting together the perfect look, the last thing you want is for your makeup to start slipping off before your work day has even begun. Enter setting spray. As the last step in your beauty routine, a few spritz can hold your makeup in place so you don’t have to worry about fading, flaking and smudging. And like other makeup products, setting sprays also offer plenty of options to choose from. If you tend to have dry skin, choose one that adds a layer of hydration or a dewy finish. For daily use, a setting spray with a dose of SPF is always a good idea. 

    Try: Kate Somerville UncompliKated SPF Soft Focus Makeup Setting Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen 

    Buy now with free delivery

Beauty Reporter

Janeca Racho

With over 10 years of writing and editing experience, Janeca Racho has worked with clients in the fashion, entertainment, food, health and travel industries. An adventurer at heart, she will gladly trade her heels for a good pair of hiking shoes and skip hotels to camp under the stars. She loves horror movies, googling ingredients in her beauty products and backpacking trips with her toddler. Her newfound obsession: nude lipstick.