A Professional Look For the Makeup Illiterate

A Professional Look For the Makeup Illiterate

I’ll be upfront and honest– I wouldn’t consider myself familiar with makeup by any means. I’ve definitely tried to make my way into the makeup-guru-sphere by queuing up Youtube makeup tutorials and playing with makeup products from CVS, but I never quite reached fluency in the world of beauty how-to’s and makeup products. As entertaining (and strangely soothing) it was to watch Jenn Im go from “before” to “after”, there wasn’t much I could take away from the tutorials because I found that:

  1. Most makeup tutorials either assume you don’t have monolids (which I do), or that you want to “fake” an eye crease (which I don’t);
  2. I couldn’t differentiate between the products that would be actually useful to me from the products that were fancy embellishments (an important distinction in an industry where you can spend $100+ on 3 items that fit in one hand);
  3. There was a pretty big knowledge gap in the basics for me that vloggers don’t cover because their target audience is already “makeup literate”. 

Before I made the move to SF for my job in consulting, I went into Sephora for a makeup consultation to refresh my work professional look. The end result was still too “caked” for something I’d personally wear, but I took some tidbits and combined it with knowledge I learned from my super savvy friend Montana in the past and came up with this simple routine.


  1. Face wash: Start with a face wash that suits your skin so you start with a clean face. A lot of people recommended Cetaphil, and after trying it I can’t part with it. It’s gentle, versatile on different skin types, and works effectively to clean my oily complexion.
  2. Color correction concealer: Have you seen those crazy concealer colors like bright blue, pink, purple, green? Those really boggled me at first since no one has green skin. Unlike foundation, this type of concealer is meant to be covered up. You choose your concealer color based on the color blemish you want to cover up. For example, a pink concealer will neutralize green or purple under eye circles. This article does a great job of explaining how it works. I use the Makeup Forever 4-in-1 Face Contouring Palette.
  3. Full or Maximum coverage Foundation: I used to think finding the right foundation was only a matter of finding one that matched your skin color, and I was so confused as to why countless products I’d tried did nothing to cover up my blemishes despite being the right color. However, foundations also have different opacity levels. If you want to cover up blemishes, opt for a foundation that is full or maximum coverage. As far as color matching goes, Sephora has this awesome new tool that an employee can hold up to your face to take a “snapshot”, detects your skin color, and cross-matches that with their product inventory to give you a list of products that match your specific color. I use Clinique’s Beyond Perfecting Maximum Coverage Foundation.
  4. Blender Sponge: I’m embarrassed to admit, but I’ve spent the last 6 years blending my foundation with my fingers. This is BAD because a lot of my makeup got wasted being wiped onto tissue paper from my fingers, my finger oil made me break out, and the foundation wasn’t evenly distributed. Blender sponges solve this problem, are simple to use, and convenient to pack on flights. Simply wet the sponge and dab over your skin. The original product is the Beauty Blender, but if you can’t stomach paying $20 for a sponge (like me), the RealTeachniques sponge is equally as good for only $7.
  5. Setting Powder: Foundation isn’t meant to serve as the top layer of your makeup. If done so, it’ll slowly fall off throughout the day and you’ll get makeup on your phone from holding it to the side of your face or on your clothes when trying items on at a mall. Make sure to dust on some setting powder for liquid foundation or setting spray for powder foundation to hold the makeup together. I use Kat Von D’s Lock-It Setting Powder.


  1. Primer: Smooth a tiny dab of primer over your eyelids to prevent your eye makeup from smearing throughout the course of the day. Before using primer, I’d start my day with perfectly winged eyes and by the end of the work day would come home to realize my look had turned into an unintentional smokey eye. Currently I use the Urban Decay eye primer in Champagne. I’ve also heard amazing things about the Etude House line.
  2. Gel Eyeliner: I’ve tried many different types of eyeliners, but none have worked as good as Benefit’s They’re Real Push-Up Liner. The tip is shaped to make it easy to create a perfect wing. Because it’s waterproof, I can count on it staying exactly in place over the course of a whole workday AND nightly workout.
  3. Makeup Remover: I swear by Neutrogena’s Eye Makeup Remover Lotion. It easily takes off my waterproof eyeliner and hydrates my face at the same time (since it’s a lotion). The product is currently discontinued but you can still order it on Amazon.


Do anything you want! 🙂 Neutral colors and slight reds that give a little pop of color are nice. I’ve been really digging matte lipsticks from Bite Beauty because the color doesn’t come off when you eat your snacks and drink your coffee at the office. For a subtle color balm, Glossier or Burt’s bees are go-to favorites.


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