Here is my 12-step process explaining in detail how to apply makeup. Keep in mind that less is actually more so go ahead and skip a step or a few. I often leave the house feeling gorgeous in only sunscreen, mascara and lip gloss.
The most important part of your beauty routine is to get your skin in tip-top shape. Once you have a fresh, gorgeous palette to paint on, you only need to highlight your eyes or your lips or perhaps your bronzed skin (hello bronzer!) for the perfect look. Feel free to skip any of the steps below if, for example, you aren't into eyeliner.
Time Required: 10 minutes
Start with Sunscreen
A dewy, fresh complexion is sexy and youthful. Starting with a clean face, apply sunscreen to your face (see my list of the Top 10 Sunscreens). Rain or shine, you should get in the habit of applying sunscreen every day. I use a tinted moisturizer with SPF 50 (read about this miracle product) so I can skip the foundation step. Because I have dry skin, I apply moisturizer BEFORE my sunscreen. If you have oily skin, rinse face with warm water and pat dry before applying sunscreen.
Apply concealer with your ring finger to the spots that need it most (under the eye, in the hollow sockets on the inside of the eye, along the nose, on the chin). Blend in by patting in, never rubbing, the concealer (see How to Apply Concealer).
Note: I like to use a concealer brush to apply concealer. I find it works better than my finger to get into the spots I need it most.
Foundation is Next
Apply a tinted moisturizer or foundation to your face making sure to blend along the jawline so you don't have a tell-tale line. I love to use a foam sponge when applying foundation or tinted moisturizer (read about my passion for Laura Mercier's sponge here).
Few people need to apply foundation all over the face (see "How to Avoid Cake Face"). Simply apply where you have uneven skin tone (usually along your nose and on the skin). In wintertime, if your cheeks tend to get ruddy, apply there as well. For more sheer, natural coverage, consider a tinted moisturizer, which goes on much lighter than typical foundations. See my list of the Best Foundation.
Next Up: Blush, Bronzer
Apply blush on the apples of your cheeks (see How to Apply Blush). If you want to appear sun-kissed, apply a bronzer as well (see How to Apply Bronzer). At this point, I love to use a highlighter pen to brighten my face (find out exactly how in my review of Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat.
Now that your face is set, it's time to make up your eyes. Apply eyeliner to lids. There are many different way to apply eyeliner. You can go for the basic eye, a smokey eye, a cat eye and much more. For a basic eye, simply apply liner to the upper lashes and the lower lashes, smudging along the lower so it doesn't look drawn on. For many more tips on eyeliner, see How to Apply Eyeliner.
Prime Your Lids
If you wear eyeshadow, be sure to set the eye first with an eyeshadow primer, otherwise the shadow will melt into your eyelids. Don't have eyeshadow? Concealer will work in a pinch.
Shade in Your Lids With Eyeshadow
Just as there are many ways to apply eyeliner, there are many eyeshadow looks you can experiment with. For a basic eye, simply apply a base shade on the lid of the eye. Apply a darker contouring shadow in the crease. Make sure to blend it all in well. For many more tips, see How to Apply Eyeshadow.
Curl Those Lashes
Curl your lashes with an eyelash curler. You can blast your curler for 3 seconds with a hairdryer to make the curl hold better, just be sure to test the metal to ensure it's not too hot first.
Move on to Mascara
Apply mascara by wiggling the wand from the roots of your lashes on through to the ends. To perfect your mascara application, check out How to Apply Mascara.
And Finally, Your Lips
Once you have your face made up you can see exactly what type of lip treatment you need. You can either fill in lips with lip liner and apply lip balm or gloss over it, or you can line lips first then apply lipstick. Some women opt for just gloss or balm. For more tips on lips, see How to Apply Lipstick.
Set Your Makeup
Set your face with loose powder or a spritz of Evian spray. For aging skin, dewiness is desired. Makeup artist Bobbi Brown likes to warm up a moisturizing face balm in the palms of her hands. She then presses the balm onto the cheeks and any places that seem too matte.