Makeup 101: Intro to Makeup for First-Timers

New to makeup? We've got your back. Here's a helpful intro to makeup

Newbies take note: Here's what you need to know about the world of makeup

Clown contouring. The perfect smoky eye. Eyelash extenders. And what's the difference between eye liner and eye shadow? The world of makeup can be overwhelming, especially for someone who is just starting out.

When you're planning a makeup routine for the first time, it's important to find what's right for YOU, not necessarily what's the most popular or the most expensive. When it comes down to it, most people who wear makeup are looking for an elegant style that accentuates their features without making their skin break out.

As you write your shopping list and watch your first online tutorials, take heart. Even the most talented makeup guru started where you are today—overwhelmed with options and wondering where to look first. The fun of discovering makeup is deciding what looks YOU want to try out, and finding the products, designs, and applications that make you feel like the most confident version of yourself. This glossary will walk you through some of the most common buzzwords in the makeup world. From there, it's all up to your imagination!

We've arranged this list in the order that you would likely grab things out of your makeup bag, but the routine is up to you. Once you know what products you like and what designs you're after, you'll naturally start setting routines for everyday, party, and special occasion makeup. Grab your mascara wands and blending brushes, and let's dive in!


Many makeup first-timers make the mistake of not caring for their skin before they put on makeup. A high-quality moisturizer is critical to a regular makeup routine, since it keeps your skin fresh and hydrated. After washing your face, apply a light layer of your favorite moisturizer. Be it a lotion, cream, oil, mist, or serum—all of these will work, but keep an eye out for the term "non-comedogenic." This means a moisturizer is designed to keep gunk and dirt out of your pores, so it works well with a full-scale makeup routine.


Primer is a gel or cream base that goes on underneath your foundation. It is designed to "prime" your skin so that your makeup stays fresh and polished as long as possible.

Liquid Foundation

Up next is liquid foundation, which smooths over your skin to give your face a one-tone, soft look. When picking your liquid foundation, you should get as close to your skin tone as possible. This is a tough trick to master—many beauty bloggers recommend applying a test blot to your jawline, the back of your thumb, or your temple, three spots that will give you a good indication of color. If the color matches with little to no blending, you have a winner! (P.S. "Blending" is the term we use for rubbing in, smoothing, or combining different forms of makeup to avoid blotches, lines, or clumps.)


Concealer, which comes as a liquid or a roll-on stick, can be used on specific spots or as a cover-all. Most people use concealer to, well, conceal zits, moles, or other small features they might perceive as flaws.

Foundation Powder

Foundation powder follows concealer. Some people prefer to use one form of foundation over the other, while others choose to use both. A light coat of foundation powder can top off your skin tone with a fresh, glowing tone. Too much can turn into clumps that look caked on, or like chips of paint. Whatever way you choose to apply your makeup layers, foundation powder should go on in slow, smooth strokes with a blending brush. It's always better to start light and add more if needed—it's much more difficult to remove a caked-on layer of foundation than it is to add another light dusting.


Bronzer adds shading that gives your skin a natural, sunny glow. This is typically applied with a specialized brush and then blended into your foundation.


Like its name suggests, blush adds rosy color to your cheeks. Another common newbie mistake is to add too much blush, which can make your face look flushed or ill. Applied lightly, blush gives you a rosy, vibrant look.


For people who want more of a "glow" to their look, liquid, cream, or powder highlighter can add shine without the obvious addition of glitter. Whether you just use one form or a combination of the three, highlighter can be blended into any look for an elegant "night out" vibe.


Now that you've established your facial foundation, let's move on to the eyes. Eyeshadow is a colored powder that is applied to the eyelids for a layered, artistic look. You can bust out all the bold designs a massive 100-color Sephora palette can provide, or you can go as simple as two complementary light-and-dark shades.


Many makeup newbies struggle with eyeliner. I'll give you a hint right now: you're not going to achieve a perfect liquid eyeliner cat-eye on your first try. (Or if you do, hats off to you, I am definitely not worthy.) Eyeliner comes in three main forms: liquid, pencil, and stick. Liquid tends to be the most difficult to use, but it provides the finest lines.


Mascara is used to plump up the eyelashes, extending and darkening (or lightening, depending on your preference) the hairs to accentuate your natural eye color. It is applied with a special wand with differently-shaped prongs, depending on what "look" you're going for.


Lipstick is a fun addition to any face of makeup, because it can be as natural or as wild as you'd like it to be. Depending on your skin tone, your ideal lipstick color could be a deep brown, a light pink, or a bold neon purple. It's your choice!

Lip Liner

For a more sophisticated or detail-oriented look, many makeup users choose to trace their desired lip shape with liner before they apply lipstick. This is helpful for costume makeup and thickening thin lips, or just adding an extra detail.

Setting Spray

When you're happy with your makeup, you may choose to spritz some setting spray on top. Like the name implies, this holds everything in place and offers a bit of water- and heat-proofing.

Finishing Touches

Heading to a costume party or music festival? Consider adding some facial gems, glitter, or temporary tattoos to complete the look!

Resources — Colorscience, SelfInStyle


 Brit + CoMakeup.com,