You’re never too old to want to get to grips with makeup for beginners. We only truly got into makeup in our late 20s, despite having worn it since we were teenagers. Other people have picked up bad habits, or want to learn proper techniques, and trans women may be entering this world for the first time.
Regardless of the reasons why you’re interested in makeup for beginners, there is no judgement or assumption here! We know that with so many makeup products available in shops, or advertised on TV, it can be really overwhelming. It’s hard to know where to start and difficult to figure out what you really need.
When you become a parent, your own beauty regime can also, often, go out the window. Not only that, but as you’ve got older your style may have changed and what suits your face and lifestyle is different. It can leave you feeling clueless.
Whatever position you find yourself in, we’re here to make it easy and to help you find the key makeup essentials, as well as optional extras!
FURTHER READING: Makeup brushes 101: How to use different types of makeup brushes
We’ve listed the makeup for beginners in the order of application, too. This isn’t set in stone, and you can apply makeup however you so wish, but this should help give you an idea of why certain products will benefit you, your skin and your makeup regime.
Let’s start at the beginning of your daily routine. Technically not a makeup product, per se, but if you want to create the perfect base for the rest of your skin to sit on, moisturiser is the way to go.
A simple daily moisturiser will do the job. We recommend Olay Complete 3 in 1 Fluid Moisturiser (£7). It’s a light moisturiser that doesn’t feel greasy and absorbs into the skin really quickly. It also has UVA/UVB protection with SPF15, so you can help protect your skin from incidental UV sun exposure. Plus as a bonus, it’s an anti-ageing product.
It should be said that SPF should be worn daily, regardless of whether you’re putting on makeup or leaving the house so this moisturiser kills two birds with one stone! You can find other recommendations in our best moisturiser, and best SPF products guides.
We also explain what to look for when buying a moisturiser in our The science of moisturiser: Which ingredients actually work and which are marketing BS? article.
A primer is an optional extra.
We swear by it, but other people don’t see the point or have never seen a noticeable difference.
If you’re on a budget and don’t want to fork out for yet another product, save your money for more of the essentials. Or put it towards a more expensive foundation or eyeshadow palette instead.
However, if you are keen on using primer, it will create both a barrier between your skin and your makeup while also giving your makeup something to cling onto.
This ensures it’ll stay in place for as long as possible.
It’ll help smooth out your skin, blur any large pores and give your face an extra dose of hydration before adding products to it.
You can read more in our What does primer do? An expert explains the one rule you MUST follow if you want flawless makeup article.
We recommend IT Cosmetics CC Cream (£32.50). It works as a primer, colour corrector, moisturiser, and even a foundation if you like medium coverage.
It even contains SPF 50! It’s not the cheapest, but it will save you money on buying each of these products individually and we take our tube of this everywhere with us!
Find other recommendations in our best primer makeup list.
The key to a good foundation is finding one that looks natural and matches your skin tone as well as possible. This is easier said than done but there is an increasing number of foundation match tools online depending on the brand or coverage you want to help you out. Brands like IL MAKIAGE will even let you return a foundation if it’s the wrong shade for free.
A stiff synthetic brush is a good tool to apply foundation precisely, whereas a sponge helps when it comes to blending. This is because a sponge will absorb some of the product and as a result will give you a more diffused look.
If using your fingers is easier and cheaper, then you do you. The warmth of your hands can even help even out your coverage. The only thing we would suggest is to make sure your hands (and brush or sponge) are clean each time, to avoid bacteria being spread and to prevent breakouts.
You can find out more in our How to clean makeup brushes and How to clean beauty blenders guides. We’ve also got a whole article that looks at whether your makeup brushes are making you sick as well as the shelf-life of different beauty products.
To avoid streaks when applying foundation you’re going to want to use quick strokes or a patting motion. When using a liquid foundation it helps to put it on the back of your hand first and then use that as a palette to pick the product up from. We’re also big fans of stippling brushes. Find out more in our best makeup brush and Makeup brushes 101 guides.
The best way to apply mascara is to start with your bottom lashes and then do your top lashes next. This way you’ll avoid the top lashes smudging and getting mascara on your skin.
To get a natural lash look, apply your mascara from root to tip, like you’re combing them. For more volume and a more dramatic look, try moving the wand from side to side at the base of the lashes first.
Our favourite budget-friendly mascara, that offers a really great false lash effect, is the Essence Lash Princess (£4.75). It’ll make your lashes look longer and have more volume, without requiring any glue or fake lashes.
You’ll also only need one layer with this mascara, so it’s quick to use too.
If you like to curl your eyelashes you’ll find this Essence mascara works well because it’s quick-drying and means your curled lashes won’t droop. It’s almost on par with the hold provided by the best waterproof mascaras.
The shape of the brush means it’s easy to coat all of your lashes. You won’t get clumping with this Essence mascara. You also won’t get flakes falling onto your cheeks as you apply it. There’s a raised rubber texture on the tube of the mascara, making it easy to hold and grip.
Another top tip when it comes to applying mascara is don’t pump the wand in and out of the bottle. Doing this will trap air in there and dry out the mascara, making it clumpy.
Instead, you’re going to want to twist the wand back and forth as you remove it from the bottle so that you get the right amount of mascara on the wand.
We’ve got loads of helpful articles about mascara including:
Eyeshadow can make your eyes stand out and add more depth, but it’s not technically essential makeup for beginners. A little bit of concealer or foundation on the lids can make a world of difference. As can a sweep of bronzer!
However, if you want to elevate your makeup look to something a bit more than the no-makeup look, eyeshadow is the best route to take. It can even enhance the colour of your eyes if you get it right.
Have a look at our favourite eyeshadow looks for different eye shapes to find your personal style, and learn more about which eyeshadows will suit you with our What eyeshadow goes with your eye colour? guide. We’ve also got tips on how to apply eyeshadow, and our favourite eyeshadow palettes.
If you’re wanting to wear more than two shades, a popular trend from TikTok is to draw a line on your lid with each shade, starting with the darkest shade on the crease of your eyelid and getting lighter as you go along towards the inside corner of your eyelid. Once you’ve added your stripes then blend them together with your fluffy domed brush.
We recommend the neutral warm NYX Ultimate eyeshadow palette (£16) because it’s budget-friendly, so you can experiment without investing too much and the colours aren’t too dark. This also means there’s less room to make mistakes, and it gives you those light and dark tones for you to blend together.
Lipstick and gloss work really well at making your smile look brighter and enhancing your eyes.
They can also be used to make your lips look fuller or thinner. Another reason we list lipstick as an essential is that it can double up as a blusher, and even as a cream eyeshadow (depending on the texture).
There’s less room for error if you use a gloss compared to lipstick. The downside is lip gloss wears off quicker, but it’s also easier to reapply on the go.
If you want a bit of hydration for your lips, put a lip balm on first and spread it past the lip line. Once it’s fully absorbed add your colour. This will mean your lips don’t dry out and look cracked.
When it comes to wearing lipstick, using a lip liner first will mean the colour will last longer.
A tip for lip liner is to cover your whole lips with the liner, rather than just creating an outline as the name would suggest. Not only will your colour last longer, but if it does start to thin, you won’t be left looking silly with only an outline remaining.
Our favourite lip base is the matte lip crayon by Burt’s Bees (£10). It’s 100% natural and comes in six matte shades that you can wear as they are, or as a base for your lipstick or gloss.
Blusher is easily overlooked, but it’s a great way to make your complexion look healthier and appear more youthful.
If you have pale skin you need to opt for light pinks. Peachy shades best suit light-medium skin. Olive skin tone needs a brighter, punchier pink and a bright apricot works for darker skin tones.
The NYX blush (£6) from Boots is available in six colours and is easy to apply. You can also use it on your eyelids for a spring pink look.
We have more recommendations in our best blusher guide.
Regardless of the weather outside, or the time of year, you can make your skin look sunkissed with a good bronzer. You can use it to contour, sculpt and define your face, and it even doubles up as an eyeshadow! It’s not an essential product, in our eyes, because a brown eyeshadow can do the job, but we are fans.
We’ve got a host of recommendations in our best bronzer guide.
If you find the idea of using a bronzer a bit intimidating you’ll really like the Lusso Tan Face and Hand Mist (£18), which is an alternative to bronzer and super kind on your skin. Instead of putting this on as part of your morning routine, it’s best to apply this in the evening because it works like a subtle self-tan.
Either place it all over your face or apply it to a brush and blend it into just the areas where the sun would naturally hit the skin.
This means you’ll wake up with a contoured, sun-kissed complexion with minimal effort! Perfect for busy parents, or people who love to snooze!
If you want to use an eyelash curler, make sure to curl them prior to adding your mascara. Otherwise, you risk breaking your lashes or getting them stuck to the curler and yanked out!
A little bit of heat, like when curling your hair, will help create a better curl with your lashes. If you use a metal eyelash curler, you can simply heat it up with a hairdryer. Just make sure you leave heat it for only a few seconds and check before using it so that you don’t burn yourself or singe your lashes!
However, a safer way is to buy a heated eyelash curler like the Nuonove electric heated eyelash curler (£16.99).
A lash comb is a really handy tool to have in your makeup bag. It’s not essential makeup for beginners, but it is a really easy way to remove any excess mascara and make your lashes look better by separating them. This eyelash comb (£1.99) from Superdrug also has a brow brush.
We all know it’s best to remove makeup before going to bed, even if you’re only just getting into makeup for beginners.
If not only to save your pillowcases from being ruined! Your face needs to regenerate healthy cells throughout the night and it can’t do this with products all over it.
Makeup blocks your pores, so leaving it on throughout the night can lead to spots or infections, and it can even make you age prematurely.
A makeup remover isn’t essential if you’ve got a good cleanser.
We particularly like to use a cleansing balm before going in with a foaming cleanser to get rid of our makeup but a good, separate remover is great for shifting stubborn mascara.
Your skin, particularly around your eyes is very delicate, so you’re going to want to treat it with the care it deserves.
We think the best makeup remover for your eyes is Vichy Pureté Thermale Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover (£6).
It dissolves even waterproof mascara really easily without any irritation to your skin. It’s also good for getting liquid lipstick off, too. All for just £8.
Kat is a freelance journalist, photographer, and the founder of Simply Gender Free – a company dedicated to smashing gender stereotypes in kids’ products. As a mum of two, Kat is passionate about making the world a better place for the next generation