This isn't a beauty blog and I don't claim to be an expert, but believe me when I say I have tried hundreds of products and learned a hell of a lot through trial and error. Also, I used to have bad skin as a teenager so I really had to learn how to use beauty products and make-up properly (don't ever trust beauty advice from someone who's had perfect skin all her life!) So here are the top ten rules I swear by. I hope they're useful!
1. Use a proper cleanser, every night.
Wipes are totally useless, and even normal face washes that you just splash water on your face to remove won't get rid of your make-up properly. Eve Lom's cleanser deserves its reputation as the best, for two reasons: it's gently exfoliating, and you remove it with a hot muslin cloth. This means you're wiping away every trace of make-up and leaving your skin properly clean. Liz Earle is the second best if you're on a budget.
2. Wear SPF 50, all day, every day.
If there's one thing I could go back and tell my teenage self it would be to start using SPF 50 on my face every day, much earlier than I did. Not even mentioning the risk of skin cancer, nothing ages your skin faster than the sun. And yes, that means SPF 50 all day, every day, even in the dark wintry rain. I recommend SunSense Daily Face.
3. Don't scrimp on lipsticks.
Some items of make-up, like mascara, aren't worth splurging on. I tend to just buy whichever one's on offer and I've never really found a firm favourite. But when it comes to lipstick, it really is worth buying a better brand. Cheaper versions will flake, run and dry out your lips. My absolute favourite formula is NARS' semi-matte (I'm wearing this above, shade Fire Down Below), but Chanel and YSL lipsticks are also lovely. Of course, it helps that the packaging is beautiful for these brands, too.
4. Talking of lipstick… Learn to apply it properly.
So many people just put one coat of lipstick on straight from the bullet and within an hour the colour's bleeding all over the place and has disappeared from the centre of their mouth. Here's how to do it in a nutshell: line your lips with a nude pencil. Apply the first coat using a lip brush. Blot, then apply a second coat from the bullet. Voilà. I learned this from the brilliant Lisa Eldridge's video.
5. When to comes to foundation, finding the right shade is paramount.
No matter how expensive your foundation is, if you don't have the perfect colour, it will look awful. End of story. There really is nothing worse than an orange tidemark on the jawline. If you're as pale as I am this can be tricky, but don't settle for anything less than an exact colour match (ignore anyone who recommends going a shade lighter or darker than your skin tone). I read somewhere that you should take a couple of little travel pots into the store and decant a small amount of a few testers. Then take them home and try them out (on your jawline) in natural daylight. Don't stop until you've found a shade that disappears into your skin: that's the one you want. For me it's Barbara Daly moisture foundation in Porcelain.
6. Eyeshadow primer will change your life.
I'm still annoyed I only discovered this last year. I spent my life up until then re-blending my eyeshadow at about 2pm every day when it had all gathered into creases on my eyelids. No more. Since I've been using Urban Decay's primer potion, my eyeshadow looks exactly the same 24 hours after applying it. Seriously a game changer.
7. Don't underestimate liquid eyeliner.
A lot of women say mascara would be their desert island make-up item, but liquid eyeliner's mine (Rimmel Exaggerate, to be precise). Nothing will make you look instantly more wide awake. Plus it'll transform your look if you've got tiny eyes like mine. The key is to apply very close to the lash line so you don't get that telltale gap between lash and liner. And the trick to getting a smooth kitten flick? Practice.
8. Dewy is key.
One cardinal sin I often see is over-powdering. There's nothing less flattering than a flaky, dull, matt face. Especially because I've got pretty dry skin, I'm always snapping up products which promise to give that dewy, babyfaced glow: primers, highlighters, light-reflecting everything. I apply NARS pro-prime under my foundation for a glow that's not shiny or shimmery, mix Soap & Glory Glow Lotion with my foundation and then only powder the T-zone to set my concealer. I also use a shimmery blush (NARS Orgasm) and, if I have time, dab a little Benefit High Beam on my cheekbones, under eyebrows and above the cupid's bow.
9. Good brushes are essential.
Take it from me: splash a silly amount of money on brushes as a one off (just close your eyes and hand over that credit card) and you won't regret it. They'll be with you for life. Better yet, do what I did and snap up a Laura Mercier travel brush set in the sale. I've been using mine daily for two years and only one of them is starting to lose its fibres. No matter how good your products, if you don't have good tools to apply them with it won't matter.
10. Treat the problem from the inside.
Above all: don't throw expensive skincare at the problem. If you've got bad skin, you need to treat it from the inside. At the end of the day what really worked for me was Roaccutane. Different solutions suit different people, but don't spend all your money on products promising to work wonders: go see a dermatologist. They really know what they're doing.
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