10 Things Everyone Does Wrong When Applying Makeup, According to a MUA

Don't worry, we didn't know either.

Updated 10/11/19
Easy Makeup Application Tips
Imaxtree

It's easy to fall into certain habits with your makeup—that's why they call it a routine. But it's likely there a few common mistakes you're making without even realizing it. I still haven't mastered contouring, despite the dozens of tutorials I've watched on YouTube. And liquid lipstick? There hasn't been a single time I've been able to apply it precisely the first time. My lips often look like a 5-year-old's art project by the time I get done with them. Foundation is hard to blend, eyeshadow even more so, and liquid liner is basically my enemy. So, I figured you may be suffering from a few similar issues.

To answer a few of my questions (and give step-by-step instructions for the common mistakes we all may be making), I reached out to Lijha Stewart, Make Up For Ever's director of artistry and education. And, man, did she give me an education. Keep reading for the top 10 things you're probably doing wrong when it comes to your makeup routine.

1. Choosing the wrong bronzer shade

Nars Laguna Liquid Bronzer
Nars Laguna Liquid Bronzer $40
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"The correct shade of bronzer for your undertone is essential," Stewart says. "When applying bronzer all over the face, you risk the dreaded face/chest disconnect, which in turn can make it appear like you're wearing the wrong shade of foundation."

How to get it right:

1. If you have yellow or olive undertones, look for bronzers with a golden undertone.

2. If you have red, pink, or peach undertones, choose a bronzer with terra-cotta undertones. This will ensure you have a natural sun-kissed look instead of an obvious bronzer application.

2. Using your brush incorrectly

Sephora Collection Pro Full Coverage Airbrush #53
Sephora Collection Pro Full Coverage Airbrush #53 $38
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"When purchasing brushes, pay attention to both the size and fibers of the brush," Stewart says.

How to get it right:

1. While working on smaller areas of the face, such as the eyes, use small dense brushes for ultimate accuracy and less fallout.

2. When applying foundation to your face and building coverage, try flat tapered brushes versus large fluffy ones.

3. Use a tapping motion to build coverage, and a more sweeping motion to sheer down or blend foundation. A flat brush will help achieve accurate placement and coverage while not disturbing baby hairs.

3. Boxing your eyebrows

Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Brow
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"Full eyebrows are on the hot list. Everyone is still going for the Cara Delevingne thing," Stewart shares. "This look can be challenging for those who don't naturally have a full brow. We are seeing a lot of squared-off or box brows in shades too deep to look natural."

How to get it right:

1. Measure the brow to your unique face shape. Use your pencil as your ruler, and line up the inner edge of the brow with the outside of the corresponding nostril. The highest point of the arch should be just at the outer edge of your iris. The outer brow should taper off to a point that intersects with an imaginary line drawn from your nostril to the outer edge of your eye.

2. Try Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Brow ($27) in #10 and #40. Using the darker shade, start at the top of the brow, and define the arch. Then trace to the tail and connect to the bottom center point of the brow. Define the head of the brow by drawing a line under your brow and tracing to the center point. Then fill in the front of the brow with your lighter shade up through to the arch, creating an ombré effect.

4. Going too light or dark with your foundation

Laura Mercier Flawless Fusion Ultra-Longwear Foundation
Laura Mercier Flawless Fusion Ultra-Longwear Foundation $48
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"Nobody wants the dreaded bobblehead effect," Stewart says. "If you want to go darker or lighter with a shade of foundation, there's a way to make sure it's done correctly."

How to get it right:

1. Use two shades—one shade of foundation slightly darker than your natural color, and another a bit lighter or right on par with your own skin tone.

2. Apply the lighter shade through the center of your face and the dark shade to the outer perimeter.

3. Make sure to blend down your neck to create a seamless end result.

5. Check-marking your winged liner

Wander Beauty Slide Liner Gel Eyeliner
Wander Beauty Slide Liner Gel Eyeliner $15
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"Winged eyeliner is a reoccurring trend that won't be going away anytime soon," Stewart says. "This technique can be hard to get right—if you're pulling or tugging at your eyelid while applying, you may be getting a reverse check mark hanging off the end of your eye (not a desirable result). You should be applying your winged liner in three simple steps instead of one solid sweep. First, your position in the mirror is everything—get as close as you can to it and throw your head back to see where you are working (instead of tugging on your eye and creating crinkled skin)."

How to get it right:

1. Start in the center of your eyelid to establish width; this ensures your liner never gets too thick for your eye shape.

2. Create the wing by starting on the outside of your eye and tracing inside to the center point. That way, the wing won't take over your whole face.

3. Finish by connecting your liner from the inner corner to the center point. Trace one more pass of liner across the entire lid to smooth and connect all lines.

6. Lining your lips with liquid lipstick

Marc Jacobs Beauty Le Marc Liquid Lip Crème
Marc Jacobs Beauty Le Marc Liquid Lip Crème $28
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"The shape of your lip liner will make or break your lipstick, whether bold or nude. Many people struggle while lining or filling in the entire lip with a liquid lipstick. But you can get symmetrical lips every time," Stewart says.

How to get it right:

1. Think north, south, east, west. Start in the center of your lips, and define both the bow of your upper lip (north) and the center of the bottom lip (south).

2. Get each corner on both the top and bottom lips (east and west). Slightly open your mouth so you can have accuracy when applying to the corners, and pull upward to the center point where you started on the lips.

3. Fill in the in the rest of the mouth for a perfect pout.

7. Misapplying your contour and highlight

Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Face Palette
Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Face Palette $45
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"Even with all the tutorials out there, highlighting and contouring remains the most difficult and misapplied makeup technique around. Many times we see results that look overdone, patchy, or even misplaced," Stewart says.

How to get it right:

1. For a natural contour, whether using creams or powder, try to avoid placing any straight lines on the face. Instead, keep your brush moving in subtle upward motions as you move along the bone structure. Try Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Face Palette ($45).

2. Patchy contouring can make the face look dirty and give a messy end result. Ensure that you set your foundation with powder before applying a darker powder contour. Also, avoid going too dark with a contour shade; instead, opt for a color that is two shades darker than your skin tone in a cool undertone.

3. Highlight and contour can change the shape of your face for the worst. When highlighting the nose, ensure your highlight is not too low on the tip—this can elongate its shape and make your nose appear larger front on. When contouring the cheeks, ensure that you sculpting doesn't go too low toward the mouth; this can pull the face down and create a long face shape versus the desired oval shape. Instead draw your contour from the top of the ear, down the cheekbone, stopping at the pupil of the eye for face-flattering definition.

8. Damaging your natural lashes

Ardell Eyelash Wispies in Black
Ardell Eyelash Wispies in Black $5
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"Lash extensions are growing more popular by the day, but they can damage your natural lashes and in-between fills can leave them looking a mess," Stewart says. "Instead of creating havoc on your natural lashes, apply a comfortable strip in minutes. Like eyeliner, faux-lash application is all about your placement."

How to get it right:

1. Begin with mascara applied to your lashes. To get a natural look and fast application, you should be close a mirror with your head facing forward.

2. Remove both lashes from the case, and apply a thin layer of lash adhesive to the lash band. Allow lash glue to dry for 20 seconds before applying.

3. With your head tilted back, attach the lash in the center of the eyelid; this will anchor the lash so it doesn't bounce up onto your eyelid. Attach the outer and inner corner. Use the back of a brush to wiggle the lash band closer to your lash line, and pinch your lashes together with the false lashes. The end result is easier on the pocketbook and more natural-looking.

9. Misplacing your shimmer

Maybelline Face Studio Master Strobing Stick
Maybelline Face Studio Master Strobing Stick $9
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"When applying shimmer to the face or eyes, be aware that it can cause extra texture," Stewart says. "This means when using shimmer, glitter, or gloss can cause pores to look larger, lids to look bad, and fine lines to appear deeper. In order to successfully use shimmer highlighter, you must be mindful of its placement."

How to get it right:

1. When applying shimmer highlighter, avoid using over acne, too close to the eye, or too far toward the center of the face.

2. To avoid textured eyelids, avoid using shimmers in the crease of your eye. For flattering eye shadow, use a matte shade through the crease, and shimmer on the eyelid and in the inner corner of the eye.

10. Applying mascara in clumps

Make Up For Ever Excessive Lash Arresting Volume Mascara
Make Up For Ever Excessive Lash Arresting Volume Mascara $25
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"Clumpy mascara that overpowers your makeup is totally avoidable, but many women don't know where to start," Stewart says.

How to get it right:

1. Avoid applying too many coats while the mascara on your lashes is too wet; this can create clumping on the tips of your lashes. Instead, allow your mascara to dry for few seconds in between your first and second coat, this pulls and separates lashes creating length and definition.

2. Try using two mascaras one for volume and another for separation. Use two coats of Make Up For Ever Excessive Lash Arresting Volume Mascara ($25); then create separation with Smoky Stretch Lengthening & Defining Mascara ($24).

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