Party Makeup Can Be Intimidating—So We Asked Pro MUAs for Their Best Tips

The actor Lily James in a sparkly makeup liip with a neutral lip


A good party deserves a great outfit and a stunning makeup look. While party outfits are fairly easy to come by—given the seemingly never-ending supply of little black dresses, sequin minis, and high-to-the-heavens patent pumps—party makeup looks can be a bit harder to execute. After all, a gorgeous makeover requires more than just the face, eye, and lip products needed to create it; knowing how to expertly apply those products is of key importance, too.

Fortunately for us, celebrity makeup artists Jessica Marie, Benjamin Puckey, Donni Davy, and Ashunta Sheriff were willing to share their top tips and tricks for achieving a soirée-ready visage. Keep reading to learn more.

Meet the Expert

  • Jessica Marie is a celebrity makeup artist with EM Cosmetics. She works as a makeup artist on the set of Red Table Talk.
  • Benjamin Puckey is a celebrity makeup artist who has worked with Kendall Jenner, Joey King, and Tracee Ellis Ross. He is the global color director at Clé de Peau.
  • Donni Davy is an Emmy-award-winning makeup artist known for her work on Euphoria. She is the founder of Half Magic Beauty.
  • Ashunta Sheriff is a celebrity makeup artist who works with Cynthia Bailey of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
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Always Start With Clean Skin

No matter how great you are at applying makeup, Marie says if you don’t start with a fresh complexion the end result simply won’t look its best. With that in mind, before even reaching for cosmetics make sure that all remnants of the prior day’s makeup, dirt, and grime are far gone. A quick and easy way to ensure your face is as clean as possible pre-makeup is to use a cleansing balm, like the Relevant: Your Skin Seen Melt It Off Balm Cleanser ($28).

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Harness the Power of Skincare

After washing your face, it’s important to take the time to cycle through your full skincare routine—and to give it time to dry down before layering more products on. “For evening makeup, I love to focus on creating a beautiful luminescent base that gives extra dimension in lower lighting,” says Puckey. “Start with a hydrating face mask like Clé de Peau’s Illuminating Concentrate ($160) to plump skin, increase radiance, and even out the complexion.” Then, to give the skin an extra boost of hydration, he recommends applying a serum topped off with a rich moisturizer (that you know won’t pill under your foundation).

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Don't Skip the Primer

Once your skincare has dried, it’s time to dive into makeup. The first and arguably most important step is primer, as it will provide a smooth base for your makeup to adhere to and increase the wear of your overall look. “One of my absolute favorites is the Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer ($22)—it’s a sweat-proof, cry-proof, SPF 15, oil-free magic seal,” Marie exclaims. 

After applying primer, Marie suggests further prepping with Charlotte Tilbury's Hollywood Flawless Filter ($17), which is designed to be used underneath foundation. For the most radiant results, she says to apply it to the high points of the face. 

Don’t stop at prepping your face though; your eyes can benefit from a little priming action, too. Marie says she starts all eye looks with a primer. “The P.Louise Base ($15) is an artist's favorite,” she shares. “This base will ensure your shadow not only stays but performs.”

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Focus on Your Eyes or Your Lips—Not Both

As much as you may love a bold lip and a statement eye, Puckey says to choose one or the other: “If you do a bold eye look, choose a nude lip color that doesn’t wash out your complexion." Similarly, if you decide to wear a bold lip (think: red, Barbiecore pink, or something a bit darker), he suggests keeping the lids a bit more toned down. 

“If there’s a color you’re afraid to wear, try it at night,” Puckey says. “It won’t look as intense.”

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Eyes Before Face

Whether you’re keeping your lids subtle or hoping to make a statement, it’s best to apply shadow, liner, and mascara before moving forward with the rest of your face. That way, if any product flakes onto your cheeks it will be easy to remove, instead of potentially smearing a perfectly-applied complexion. 

If you’re looking for shadow suggestions, Marie has you covered. “Right now my all-time favorite eyeshadow palette is the Makeup by Mario Master Mattes Eyeshadow Palette ($48)," she says. “[It's] a one-stop shop that can be used to create all the latest and greatest trending looks.”

06 of 16

Don’t Be Afraid to Go Bold

While neutrals might be your go-to, Davy encourages playing with color—blue in particular. “A fun [party makeup look] is to try a light blue shadow, such as Half Magic’s new Eyeshadow Single ($12) in Daydreamies, or a periwinkle such as Half Magic’s Chromaddiction Matte Eye Paint + Liner ($24) in Sky Juice,” she says. “Pack the pigment a little more on your eyelid (next to your lash line) and then blend it up and out so that it’s super diffused around the edges the higher and closer it gets to your eyebrows.” 

Not ready to wear blue eyeshadow? Davy says you can get the look with liner, too. “If you are new to blue eyeshadow you can start with dark blue eyeliner; it’s a great gateway to wearing blue because it’s not too far from black,” she says. “You can also layer a little blue glitter over your black liner for a pop of sparkle and subtle color.” To get the look, she says to choose a user-friendly glitter liner like Half Magic’s Glitterpill Eye Paint + Liner ($20) in Neptune Daddy.

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Define Your Look With Dark Eyeliner

Whether you choose neutral or bold eyeshadow, eyeliner is a must—it frames the eyes and helps accent the overall look. “For eyeliner, I love the One/Size Point Made Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner Pen ($19) in Bodacious Black and EM Cosmetics' Illustrative Eyeliner ($22),” Marie says.

If you’re looking for ways to coordinate your eyeliner with your lipstick, Davy has just the thing. “I think frosty lipstick with darker liner and wet shiny-looking grungy eyes are going to be really big this season,” she shares. When bringing this look to life, she likes to use a calligraphy-style eyeliner pen and shimmery eyeshadow, while keeping the rest of the face more subdued, with just a hint of blush.

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Embrace a Little Shimmer

Speaking of shimmery eyeshadow, Davy says there’s no time like a party to experiment with sparkle and shine. For a more grown-up, dimensional glitter application, Davy suggests starting with a matte eyeshadow base and topping it off with a shimmer metallic shadow before adding a touch of glitter to take it to the top.

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Accent Your Eyes With Full, Fluttery Lashes

Another way to accent your eyes for a party? With lashes, of course. “Adding a lash is a must on a night out on the town,” says Sheriff. Her go-to falsies are from her namesake brand. “The Ashunta Sheriff Beauty Magnetieyes Luxury Lashes ($30+) come in five styles perfect for every type of look you would want to have for a night of fun,” she says. “There are even Colormags ($45) which come in three amazing colors to match outfits or just create a bold eye look without the commitment of colored lash extensions.” For a long-lasting magnetic flutter, Sheriff says the trick is to let the magnetic liner dry for three to five minutes before trying to apply the lash strips. 

For more false lash options, Marie recommends her tried-and-true brand: Doe False Eyelashes ($12.50+). The Fairy Dust ($14.50) variety is her favorite. 

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Don't Go Too Heavy With Foundation

Wanting your skin to look flawless is one thing; trying to cover it up with a heavy foundation is something entirely different. According to Puckey, the trick to a stunning party makeup look is to embrace your natural skin.

“Find a foundation that lets your skin look like the best version of itself,” he says, noting that ones with skincare-esque benefits are even better. “I’ve been using Clé de Peau’s The Foundation ($270) for this very reason. It’s lightweight, provides anti-aging benefits, and leaves skin with a natural-looking glow.”

Hoping for a high-quality foundation that costs less? “The Haus Labs Triclone Skin Tech Foundation ($45) is the hottest, newest foundation,” Marie says. “With 20+ infused skincare ingredients, this foundation evens out your skin tone, creating seamless coverage while still feeling lightweight.”

If you’re already using a lightweight foundation but it still manages to look cakey, you’re likely just applying it wrong. “For a seamless and more naturally radiant look, use your fingers to apply foundation,” Puckey says. “Gently massage the skin using circular motions.”  Once applied, you can use a brush or sponge to further tap it into place. “[Using a] damp sponge helps to thin or sheer foundation out making, it super lightweight,” Sheriff adds.

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Create a Lifting Effect With Concealer

People often think that the only way to sculpt and lift the face is with contour. On the contrary—Sheriff says that skillfully applying concealer can work wonders. To start, she applies concealer on her chin and in a lifting direction from under the eyes to the temples. “Then I create a tree canopy in the center of my forehead and draw the tree trunk down the center of my nose,” she says, noting that she lets it sit for a few minutes before blending it in with a sponge.

Once blended, she sets it using a velvety triangle powder puff, like the Beautyblender Power Pocket Puff ($15). “This technique is [known as] letting products bake. Baking helps [create] long-wearing makeup that will last throughout the night plus keep you lifted and rested looking,” she adds.

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Create Dimension With Highlighter

Highlighter might be designed to showcase where sunlight naturally hits the face, but Puckey says that it’s a staple for nighttime wear, too—especially if a party is on the agenda. “Use a highlighter in the evening to create a beautiful three-dimensional effect and give skin a ‘lit-from-within’ glow,” he says. “Apply highlighter to the temples of the forehead above the brow, the bridge of the nose, on top of the cheekbones, and on the cupid's bow above the lips.”

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You Can Never Go Wrong With a Red Lip

If you prefer a bold lip over a statement eye, red is a classic color to choose. “Red lipstick can change your personality and help you step into the moment,” Puckey says. “Look for a red shade that contains equal parts cool and warm tones to brighten your complexion.”

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Make Sure to Chose the Right Formula for Your Lip Product

Although you may have a favorite lip product, when it comes time to party, Sheriff says you’ll want to look for a waterproof formula. After all, the last thing you want is for your perfected pout to come undone while sipping espresso martinis or nibbling on charcuterie. “You want your lip products to be waterproof regardless of whether they are gloss or cream textures,” she says. “It must be waterproof because if it is not, it will slide all over you and other people all night long.”

Luckily for us, many waterproof lip formulas exist. That said, if you want to move forward with an expert-backed product, Sheriff sings high praise for the Haus Labs Atomic Shake Long Lasting Liquid Lipstick ($26). “It’s shiny and bold but it’s totally waterproof, smudge-proof, and kiss-proof,” she says.

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Balance Your Face With Blush

ICYMI: Blush is hugely popular in 2022, and that goes for party looks, too. “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of blush for an evening look,” Puckey says. “Flash photography can really wash out the complexion, so it’s necessary to wear a blush.” For a natural-looking flush, he suggests cream blush because “it blends effortlessly into the skin.” 

“I learned this technique from Uma Thurman: Apply blush higher on the cheekbones to shape and optically lift your face,” Puckey shares. “Don’t be afraid to mix two blush colors, either—a red blush paired with a peachy beige can give skin a beautiful natural glow.”

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Don't Forget to Set It

As helpful as primer is, adding a dusting of setting powder or a spritz of setting spray can really cement your party look. “Setting makeup is key, but still looking hydrated and glowy is crucial,” Sheriff says. She suggests reaching for a hydrating setting spray like the Ashunta Sheriff Beauty Beauty Water Fix It Spray ($20).

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