A Guide to Dramatic Makeup for Evening and Formal Events

Kerry Washington

Steve Granitz/WireImage / Getty Images

Evening makeup calls for high drama: a bit of shimmer, eyes that pop, and seductive lips. This is not the time to go au naturel (unless that's your preference); instead, it's time to whip out your best complexion, eye, and lip products to create a nighttime look that'll turn heads—and make you feel like a glam goddess. To help guide us on how to nail down our formal makeup looks, we consulted with pro makeup artist Jaleesa Jaikaran and Savannah St. Jean.

Meet the Expert

  • Jaleesa Jaikaran is a New York City-based professional makeup artist.
  • Savannah St. Jean is a a beauty expert and the owner of Savannah Rae Beauty in Miramar Beach, Florida.

Ahead, check out a step-by-step guide on how to do your own formal makeup for a fancy night out.

Prep Skin Properly

Mary Kay TimeWise Replenishing Serum C+E
Mary Kay TimeWise Replenishing Serum C+E $58
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Clean skin should be the first step to any makeup routine. Jaikaran says to cleanse the skin with a face wash or cleanser designed to support your skin’s pH and hydration needs while targeting the removal of dirt, bacteria, excess oil, and dead skill cells. "Listen to your skin when choosing a cleanser," she says. "If it feels tight and drier, select a cleanser that will not strip the moisture away from the surface of the skin." She also recommends making a mild sugar scrub to remove any texture and peeling on the lips, then following up with a lip mask—this allows for lip products to glide on seamlessly. Finally, the last step in prepping the skin requires a great moisturizer that works to lock in all of the goodness you just applied to the face. Jaikaran is a fan of this hydrating serum from Mary Kay, as it feels lightweight and leaves an incredible all over glow to the skin. "This creates a great base to lay foundation over top for smooth and seamless application," she says.

Prime According to Your Skin Type

Pixi +C Vit Brightening Perfector
Pixi +C Vit Brightening Perfector $18
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The kind of primer formula you use will depend on the need. For example, if you have oily skin, look for the words "mattifying" or "silicone-free," as these formulas will help reduce shine in areas that produce oil or grease, and will also smooth over enlarged pores that would otherwise cause foundation to appear textured. If you have dry skin, look for words like "dewy," "hydrating," "luminous," "brightening," and "glowing" when shopping for a primer, like this one from Pixi that uses vitamin C to amp up skin's radiance.

Choose Your Foundation Wisely

Fluidity Full-Coverage Foundation
Morphe Fluidity Full-Coverage Foundation $18
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If it's a special event, chances are you need your foundation to be long-wearing (after all, no one wants a greasy t-zone come midnight). Jaikaran says to select a foundation that has over 12 to 16 hours of staying power without compromising your skin or creasing, as well as one that creates a flawless, airbrushed finish. We're fans of this full-coverage pick from Morphe, which promises up to 24 hours of flawless skin with its water-, transfer-, and sweat-resistant formula.

If you're going to be taking pictures, choose a foundation that doesn't have flashback. Jaikaran notes that flashback is caused mostly by makeup that includes silica, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide in its ingredient list, and while these products have great oil absorbing properties, they can show up as a white cast on the face when exposed to direct flash in photography.

Color Correct If Needed

Maybelline FaceStudio Master Camo Color Correcting Pen
Maybelline FaceStudio Master Camo Color Correcting Pen $10
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"Color correcting helps minimize the layers of concealer or foundation you may have used to hide a dark circle or blemish," notes Jaikaran. "It is essentially using a color that will cancel out or neutralize the darkness of the circles on your face." She notes that for dark circles on medium to deep-toned skin, your color corrector will range from a bright to brick toned orange corrector. On light to tan skin tones your color corrector would probably be in the peach range. "The trick is to apply the color corrector first on top of the area needing correction and then tap in the product with fingers or a brush," she says. "When the area appears less dark and closer to your natural skin tone, you can safely conceal using true to skin concealer."

Conceal Trouble Areas

Disappearing Ink 4-in-1 Face Concealer
Pur Disappearing Ink 4-in-1 Face Concealer $24
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That friendly little visitor that decided to show up on your face? Don't fret—St. Jean says it's nothing some concealer can't fix. "Acne and under eye circles are the most problematic areas that may require concealing," she says. "If you have acne that your foundation and concealer seems to just slide right off of, one pro tip is to apply a little bit of translucent powder to the area prior to applying your foundation and concealer." Once the area is powdered, lightly press the concealer onto the area and blend out the edges using a small brush.

When it comes to the under eye area, it's better to use concealer sparingly for best results. "This area is prone to fine lines, so spot concealing is ideal," notes St. Jean, who adds that it may be unnecessary to apply a heavy layer of concealer all over the under eye area—start by applying it on the inner and outer eye area and build up as necessary. This makes the area less prone to creasing, too. Because this concealer pick from Pur is in a pen form, it's perfect for ensuring you don't over-apply.

Use Powder Strategically

Colorless HD Finishing Powder
Manna Kadar Colorless HD Finishing Powder $29
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Though you may be tempted to slather on the face powder, less is more. "Rather than applying powder all over the face, I recommend only powdering the areas that will read too shiny on camera like the middle of the forehead, sides of the nose, and chin," suggests St. Jean. "When applying the powder, use a small fluffy brush and gently tap the product into the areas that need it." Go for a colorless powder like this one from Manna Kadar—it's less likely to disrupt your freshly applied foundation.

If the goal is dewy skin, opt for a finishing powder that has a bit of an iridescence to it—this will help dull down any unwanted shine, but will still maintain a skin-like, radiant finish.

Go For a Subtle Contour

Nars Matte Bronzer Powder
Nars Matte Bronzer Powder $38
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Contouring is the step of your makeup routine that can make or break your look—too much will make it look overly done, but the right amount will add definition in all the right places. That's why we recommend going for a happy medium with a subtle contour that's at least two to three shades darker than your natural skin tone. To achieve a subtle contour, Jaikaran recommends applying the product to the underside of the cheeks, along the jawline, near your hairline, at the top of the head, and along the sides of your nose. "Create light strokes with the [contour] and use an angled brush for the large areas of the face, making sure to buff upward," she says. "For the forehead and nose areas, use a smaller brush and blend in the product to create subtle definition and a more sculpted appearance."

Add Color With Blush

Jillian Dempsey Cheek Tint
Jillian Dempsey Cheek Tint $28
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If you find your makeup looking flat at this point, now is the time to add in some life with blush. Since blush is one of the first things to fade, we're fans of cream formulas that leave behind a natural flush as the event goes on. This one from Jillian Dempsey is available in six hues and is as beautiful on the skin as it is good for it—shea butter, sunflower seed wax, and bamboo stem extract smoothes the skin while the blendable formula adds the perfect amount of color.

Apply Highlighter

Kevyn Aucoin Kaleidochrome All Over Highlight Palette
Kevyn Aucoin Kaleidochrome All Over Highlight Palette $48
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According to Jaikaran, highlighter should be placed on the high points of the face to accentuate or bring forward those areas. "I really love applying product on the highest points of the cheek bones, under the brow bone, and along the bridge of the nose," she notes. "To add a bit of extra glam for a special event, try applying highlighter along the cupid’s bow at the top of lips."

Choose an Eye Look

1993 Mini Eyeshadow Palette
Urban Decay 1993 Mini Eyeshadow Palette $25
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Go for the classic: a smokey eye. Here's how St. Jean recommends applying your eyeshadows: "Apply a wash of a dark eyeshadow on the entire eyelid, and then blend the shadow along the crease with a fluffy eyeshadow brush. Be careful not to blend the shadow too far upwards. By blending, the goal is simply to soften the edges of the shadow." Pop on a matte liquid eyeliner on the upper lash line to lift the eye et voila! You're ready for lashes.

Accentuate Lashes

Doucce Maxlash Volumizer Mascara
Doucce Maxlash Volumizer Mascara $22
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A smokey eye can make your lashes take a back seat, so opt for a high-intensity volumizing mascara that'll accentuate your lashes like this one from Doucce, which features extra large fiber bristles that work to both lengthen and amp up volume in even the most naturally stubborn lashes.

Groom Brows

Eyebrow Filler
Naturally By Stevi Christine Eyebrow Filler $24
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By now we know that brows frame the face, so grooming them is a must. "If using a brow pomade or gel, brush the brow hairs upwards and outwards," recommends St. Jean. "By doing this, it will open the eye area and give your brows a fuller appearance." If after doing this, there are any sparse areas, she suggests using a sharpened brow pencil or a smaller angled brush and some brow pigment to try to recreate brow hairs by flicking fine lines upwards where needed.

Play Up Your Lips

Monochromatic Lip Color
Cover FX Monochromatic Lip Color $21
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To finish off your evening makeup look, play up your lips with a formula like this one from Cover FX—it has a liquid to matte formula that is sure to last through photos, eating, and drinking (sans crusty dryness, of course).

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