The Top Order To Apply Makeup: Your Go-To Guide

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Are you still trying to figure out if your makeup routine follows the correct order? 

Don’t fret because you share the same crisis with everyone else who still can’t find the proper order of makeup application that works for them.

A woman looking at herself in the mirror while applying makeup

With all the countless makeup tutorial videos flooding your social media accounts, we understand why you feel lost and confused! 

This is where our go-to guide on the correct order to apply makeup comes in handy. 

We’re giving you an informative guide packed with useful tips on the top order for applying makeup.

Follow along as we share the tried and tested step-by-step order of makeup application.

Step 1: Don’t Skip Skin Care

An infographic featuring the proper order to apply makeup with ten steps or process available

All makeup routines should start with a clean face. This advice is repetitive, but we’d like to emphasize that skipping your skincare routine is a mortal sin!

Why do we think this step is necessary in the order to apply makeup? 

Not only will the right skincare products create a layer of protection from harmful UV rays and other environmental stressors, but it will also provide a smooth base and allow your makeup to stay on longer.

Here’s a basic skincare routine that you can easily follow:

  • Cleanse. Gently get rid of grime and oil from your face using a cleanser that suits your skin type. Then rinse using clean running water. You may follow up with a toner to further cleanse impurities and prep your skin for more products.
  • Nourish. Use essences and serums to give your skin the extra nourishment it needs. These may treat acne, whiteheads, blackheads, blemishes, and signs of aging.
  • Moisturize. Using your preferred moisturizer, hydrate or moisturize your skin by massaging the product on your face in an upward and outward motion.
  • Apply sunscreen. Protect your skin from the sun and proactively reduce signs of aging using sunscreen with at least 30 SPF.

Wait for two to three minutes to let your skin absorb the products before moving on to the next step.

If you still haven’t figured out which products to use for each skincare step, you may refer to this article as a guide: Affordable Skincare Routine: 15 Must-Try Products For Budget Skincare

Step 2: Apply Primer

After achieving a clean, nourished, and protected face, you can’t proceed with your foundation, eyeshadow, and eyeliners yet if you haven’t applied your primer. 

In makeup application steps, primer is essential to ensure a flawless finish for the rest of your makeup. 

It evens out the skin’s surface and helps keep the product you apply on top from creasing, smudging, and fading off too quickly. It also primes your face so that foundation and concealer glide on more easily and stay in place longer. 

Note that there are different formulations of primer.

Get yourself acquainted with its respective categories:

Face Primer

  • Matte primer — For people with oily skin, this formulation does a great job in concealing excess oil. Its oil-fighting ingredients give a mattifying finish and boost longevity of cosmetics products despite oil production.
  • Hydrating primer — Also known as an oil-based primer mixed with hyaluronic acid and antioxidant ingredients, this type is ideal for those with dry skin. 
  • Illuminating/dewy primer — If you want to look like you’re face glows from within, this type of primer is best for you. This is ideal for people with normal to dry skin because it adds a hint of sheen to the skin, making it appear dewy and glassy. 
  • Color-correcting primer — This is a type of colored primer that can help correct pesky blemishes such as discoloration and neutralize undertones using the color wheel.
  • Pore-filling primer — Not only does this fill-in enlarged pores, but it also smoothes fine lines and wrinkles, transforming your face into a smooth and flawless canvass that allows makeup to stay on longer. 
  • Tinted primer — This type of primer provides sheer coverage while it smoothes texture and evens out skin tone. Although it doesn’t come in a wide range of shades, it has skincare benefits and often contains SPF. 
  • Anti-aging primer — This makeup primer contains powerful revitalizing and antioxidant ingredients that help fight the signs of aging. It leaves a soft texture and a youthful glow while creating a flawless base for foundation. 

Eyeshadow Primer

If you have oily eyelids, this type of primer can help create a perfect canvas for eye makeup. This keeps the eyeshadow product from melting, creasing, and fading. 

Don’t own this type of primer yet? Try the NARS Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base to prolong your eye makeup wear.

Lip Primer

A woman is using a pink lipstick on her lips.

Do you suffer from dry and chapped lips? Maybe you need a lip primer like the Anastasia Beverly Hills – Lip Primer. This primer formulation prevents you from having crusty lips and ensures no transferring or melting of lipstick after application.  

Lash Primer

Want a lash boost? Applying a lash primer is key to giving your lashes volume and length after coats of mascara. A popular product you can use is the Covergirl Lash Blast Amplify Eyelash Primer.

Depending on your skin type or the type of look you are going for, pick a primer accordingly and ensure that it is applied evenly all over the face before moving on to the rest of your makeup.

Step 3: Apply Foundation

When talking about the proper order of makeup application, it’s only logical to apply a makeup foundation first before the rest of the products. 

Foundation helps even out and smoothens the texture of your skin, as well as provides a base for other makeup products.

Make sure you know your correct skin type and color. Otherwise, the result may be far from your expectations.

Here’s a quick guide to the different types of foundations:

  • Liquid — Ideal for all skin types, buildable coverage, blendable, and gives dewy and matte finishes
  • Cream — Has thicker and creamier consistency, easy to apply, very pigmented, and ideal for dry and mature skin
  • Powder — Ideal for sensitive skin, works wonders for oily skin, offers lighter coverage, and feels lightweight 
  • Stick — Has a thick formulation that looks cakey if not blended well, dot-and-blend application, and suitable for oily to combination skin 
  • Serum — A hybrid of skincare and makeup, lightweight and easy to apply, and suited for all skin types
  • Tinted Oil — Provides sheer coverage, best for super dry skin, evens out skin tone, and gives a glowy look
  • Cushion — Buildable coverage, smoothens skin tone while nourishing the skin, gives dewy, comes in a variety of finishes, and ideal for all skin types 
  • Whipped Mousse — Light and airy when applied, gives a matte finish, best for oily skin, and offers light coverage

When applying foundation, start at the center of your face and blend outward in circular motions. Blend into the jawline and down your neck for an even finish. 

One way to apply any formulation of foundation is by using a damp sponge or brush to help distribute the product evenly on your face and neck. 

Alternatively, you can use clean fingers to apply cream or liquid foundation for even, lightweight coverage.

Step 4: Apply Concealer

This step is necessary in the order to apply face makeup if blemishes and imperfections are still visible even after applying foundation.

Compared to foundation products, concealers have a thicker consistency; that’s why it works like magic in hiding dark under-eye circles, hyperpigmentation, and acne marks. 

Like foundation, a concealer also has different formulations:

  • Liquid — Buildable to full coverage consistency, ideal for all skin types especially dry skin, great at covering pimples and dark circles
  • Cream — Thicker and heavier consistency, suitable for normal and dry skin, and an excellent option for covering discoloration like melasma and birthmarks
  • Cream to Powder — Ideal for normal, combination, or sensitive skin type; has creamy and lightweight consistency and gives matte and powdery finishes
  • Stick — Has very thick and dense consistency; compact form offers full coverage that brightens darkened skin areas; ideal for normal, dry or sensitive skin 

Concealer should match your skin color to ensure that it looks natural and doesn’t draw attention to what you are attempting to cover up.

For best results, apply a thin layer of concealer with your finger or a brush on the imperfections you want to mask and blend them by dabbing gently. 

Step 5: Apply Contour, Bronzer, and/or Blush

After you’ve evened out your complexion and masked your skin blemishes, the correct order for makeup now instructs you to add a pop of color on your cheeks, define and enhance your facial features, and/or give a sunkissed warmth on your face.

Some may only opt for two of these substeps; some only one. Do whatever makes you feel beautiful!

Define Facial Features with Contour

This makeup technique defines the eyes, nose, cheekbones, and jawline by providing depth and dimension. 

The trick to contouring is following the shadows of your face and making sure to pick a contouring shade that’s two shades darker than your natural skin tone.

For a smaller forehead, apply contour along your hairline. Then blend a line of contour below your cheekbones to create chiseled cheeks. 

For a narrower nose, swipe a dash of contour on both sides of your nose bridge. Also, contour along the edges of your jawbones for a well-defined jawline. 

Never forget to blend for a seamless, natural look!

Add Warmth With Bronzer

Bronzer helps to add color and golden warmth to the face while giving you that sun-kissed glow. As a rule of thumb, choose a bronzer shade that’s two shades darker than your skin color.

On both sides of your face, apply the bronzer in a number “3” shape starting from your forehead, then to your cheeks and across your jawline. 

Did you know that a multipurpose bronzer can also give you a good contour? Many beauty enthusiasts combine both! You may follow the steps above for a natural-looking tan and well-defined facial features.

Add Blush for Popping Colors

Young woman applying blush on makeup with a brush on pink background.

Blush is a great way to take your makeup look to the next level by adding beautiful blooms of pink or coral along your cheekbones. Don’t forget to choose the right shade that complements your undertone perfectly.

After you have applied your contour, bronzer, and/or blush, you will find that adding these in the order of application of makeup brought out your best features.

Step 6: Apply Eye Makeup

Moving on to the next step of the correct order to put on makeup is accentuating your eyes. To do this, follow these steps:

Apply Eyeshadow

One way to add a bit of drama to your eyes is by applying a transition eyeshadow shade on your eyelids using the appropriate eyeshadow brush. Then apply a darker shade of eyeshadow on the crease of the eyes and along the top lash. 

This popular application method has been around since the 2010s, but of course, different styles have emerged since then, and you can try out different application techniques depending on your preference!

If you want to add a bit of fun, mix and match more colors as you’d like.

Define Your Eyes With Eyeliner

Not everyone wants to go through this step because the application requires refined, meticulous skills, but if you want to add more definition to your eyes, go ahead and use eyeliner!

This product also comes in different formulations to help you create any look you like:

  • Pencil — Allows fast and easy application, gives subtle lines and color, and ideal for tightlining the waterline
  • Liquid — This creates precise fine lines and flicks, comes with an applicator, sets faster, and may sting the eye so best applied on the upper lash line
  • Gel — Offers glide-on precision, ideal choice for thick and bolder streaks, texture is customizable and blendable, can create a defined and smudged look, and appropriate for tightlining

Using your preferred eyeliner formulation, line your upper lash line to  make your eyes more defined and your lashes fuller. If you’re going for a bolder look, apply gel or pencil eyeliner to your lower waterline.

Brush On Mascara

Finish your eye makeup routine by coating your lashes with mascara

Start by using an eyelash curler for your lashes and brush through your curled lashes with at least two coats of mascara. Make sure to do it in a wiggly manner to avoid clumps. 

Quick Tip

Some experts also prefer applying eye makeup after putting on skincare products and primer and before using foundation.

This is because eyeshadow fallout almost always occurs, which can be a hassle to remove from a full face of makeup.

When you apply eye makeup products first, you can wipe off any excess eye shadow from under the eyes and cheeks, then apply foundation and concealer.

Step 7: Do Your Brows

Next in line in the makeup application order is filling in and shaping your eyebrows. You can achieve different eyebrow styles using different methods and products.

Check out these different brow products:

  • Pencil — Has a fine tip that fills in sparse eyebrows, provides natural-looking definition to brow arches, and effective in drawing brow shape
  • Gel — Available in a mascara-like tube with a spoolie applicator, enables the fastest and easiest way to add brow color, and provides definition and hairspray-like hold to brows
  • Fill Pen — Great at covering bald spots and scars, create individual brow-like strokes, and ideal to use on top of powder to create natural-looking brows
  • Pomade — A pigmented, cream-based type of brow product, creates dramatic and defined brow look, subtly holds brows, and sold in a glass pot with an angled brush applicator
  • Powder — Comes in a pigmented powder that fills in sparse areas, available in palettes, tubes, pots with an applicator, and creates darker and fuller brows

Begin by brushing your brow hair up to identify which areas need fixing. Then outline each brow using an eyebrow product such as the Maybelline Express Brow Ultra Slim Defining Eyebrow Pencil.

Fill in the outer brow from the arch with a darker shade, then slowly go lighter toward the inner brow. Remember to mimic the appearance of natural hair using light and short strokes.

Brush through your eyebrows upwards and outwards to blend everything together and remove any harsh lines. 

Finally, add more tint and keep your brows in place using the same shade as your eyebrow pencil. A spoolie may also help to blend the product and groom your brows better.

Step 8: Apply Lip Color

A closeup image of a woman's lips applying lipstick while looking at herself in the mirror

The correct order of makeup would not be complete without adding color to your lips!

Although some prefer quickly swiping a tinted lip gloss over their lips, defining your lips with a lip liner is also a fab technique! 

To do this, line your lips with a lip liner that has a shade similar to your lip color. You can use this chic, automatic twist-up product, Clinique Quickliner for Lips, to create a beautiful lip shape. 

Finish coloring your lip with your preferred lipstick with a similar shade, either matte, creamy, or glossy, and apply it straight from the tube or with a lipstick brush. Apply it evenly on the lips and make sure not to go beyond the lines created by the lip liner. 

Step 9: Add Shimmer With Highlighter

To accentuate the natural features of your face, sweep a shimmery dash or dot of highlighter on the high points of your face such as on the apples of your cheeks, brow bones, bridge to the tip of your nose, center of your forehead, above the upper lip, and chin.

They are called “high points” because they stick out furthest from your cheeks where light naturally reflects. 

If you prefer applying a liquid formula, we recommend using the warmth of your fingers to lightly tap the highlighter on your skin. But if you want a powdery formula, go for a small fluffy blush for an easier and lighter application.  

Step 10: Finish With Setting Powder/Spray

The last step in the correct order of makeup application is making sure your efforts will not go to waste. 

Depending on your preference and desired look, you can lock your makeup in place with the help of either a translucent powder or a setting spray.

For people with oily skin type, a translucent setting powder like the L’Oreal Paris Infallible Tinted Loose Setting Powder will set your makeup with long-lasting shine control.

Another way to make your look last all day is by using a setting spray like the Urban Decay All Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray, which gives a dewy, fresh finish. 

All you need to do is hold the bottle about eight inches away from your face and spray for at least four to six times in a T or X shape. 

Remember to refrain from rubbing the mist on your face, as it may cause your makeup look to smudge! Just wait for at least a few minutes to let it dry and settle on your skin. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Most Important Step in Makeup?

The most important step in applying makeup is to begin with a clean and moisturized base. 

Preparing the skin properly before makeup allows for easier blending and longer-lasting makeup and keeps the skin healthy. 

Taking proper steps to prepare the canvas before starting any look will result in beautiful, natural-looking makeup that lasts all day.

Do Primers Actually Do Anything?

Definitely! Primers can help provide a smooth base for foundation or concealer, reduce the appearance of pores, and even out skin tone. 

Additionally, it does make a difference in the overall look of your makeup application by providing better coverage and boosting the staying power of your makeup if applied on top of your clean face.

We encourage you to try using primers and see for yourself if it helps you achieve that coveted flawless makeup finish!

Try This Tried-and-Tested Order To Apply Makeup!

Out of the several known techniques and steps to put on face makeup, we’ve pulled together 10 tried-and-tested steps and arranged them in a way anyone will easily understand and replicate. 

However, if you find that some steps are no longer necessary for your desired makeup look, feel free to skip them. 

After all, makeup is still a personal thing. Your technique and order may be a little different from ours, but we both have one and the same goal: to look and feel our best with the wonderful magic of makeup. 

Interested in the Different Techniques of Makeup Application?

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  • Janille Gultiano

    Jan, a distinguished freelance makeup artist, also boasts a BA in Mass Communication, laying the foundation for her diverse talents. For over four years, she's carved a niche as a captivating content writer, with her articles resonating in various spheres. Beyond writing, her expertise extends to crafting robust Public Relations and Corporate Communications strategies. Each endeavor reflects Jan's unique blend of creativity and precision

  • Kelly Goforth

    With ten years in the beauty industry, Kelly Goforth has mastered the art of hair and makeup. Trained at The Redken Exchange in NYC and mentored by industry legends like Sam Villa and Lauren Hagan, she's a sought-after bridal specialist in Colorado Springs. From managing a Denver salon to now offering bridal hair, makeup, and airbrush spray tans, Kelly's expertise shines.

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