7 Smart Makeup Tricks I Learned From Bobbi Brown

Yelena Moroz Alpert
Real Simple

As I type this, I am still wearing pajamas, but my face is more awake than it has been in weeks. In the words of Maria from West Side Story, “I feel pretty and witty and bright!” But that wasn’t always the case. 

Quarantine took a toll on me (like it did for everyone), and my stressed reflection showed a tired pallor that looked utterly depleted. The Groundhog Day lethargy is real guys—and my face was proof. The pandemic made me want to do something for myself, and for me, seeing a bright reflection did wonders for my optimism. While I’ve always been decent at applying makeup, one look inside my makeup drawer showed that what I had was a random collection of mostly expired beauty products. I needed a fresh start, and Bobbi Brown’s MasterClass was my answer to self-care.

So, I promptly enrolled in Brown Teaches Makeup and Beauty ($180 for all-access pass; masterclass.com). The 3-plus hour course is broken up into 19 mini-tutorials that demonstrate her no-makeup makeup philosophy. This class completely changed how I look at and purchase makeup. In learning about different brushes and applications, I also gained a newfound confidence, not just in how I use my makeup, but how it can change my mood in only a few minutes. 

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While it is helpful to actually see how she applies her makeup (I’ve watched the foundation section three times!), you can enhance your look with making some quick changes to your routine outlined in the tips below. 

Tip 1: Always hydrate first

One surprising thing that Brown recommends is applying moisturizer, including eye cream, with a makeup brush. Honestly, eye cream is a product I never considered for daytime because it would smudge all my eye makeup. However, if you apply it right, it’s like using a Magic Eraser for tired eyes. I smoothed a rice-sized amount of Too Cool for School Caviar Line Hydra Eye Treatment ($22; toocoolforschool.us) at a 45-degree angle (or what I call the tragic tired triangle) to hide my fine lines and morning puff. 

To find the perfect morning moisturizer, I experimented with all my moisturizers by brushing one brand on one side and another on the other, then asking my husband which side of my face looked better in a blind test. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel was the clear winner ($17; target.com). Using a brush helped me thin out the already translucent formula (I now have a designated face moisturizer brush that I rinse after each use). Once everything was absorbed, my skin looked more matte and my pores were less visible. My canvas was ready for makeup.

Tip 2: Buy multiple complexion shades if you have to

In cleaning out my makeup bag, I checked all the shades of my foundations and tinted creams by swiping each on the side of my cheek (you know it’s the right color if it disappears). Three out of six were completely off! How did this make sense? But then I remembered Bobbi’s words: “Most women have a different color forehead than the rest of their face.” What’s more, your skin tone changes at different times of the year. In other words, you may have to play around with mixing your foundations to get a color that works for your entire face.

I also snagged two Nudestix concealer pencils ($26; sephora.com) at Sephora. That’s not a typo—I needed to get two. In her MasterClass demo, Bobbi uses one as foundation, and the other lighter shade as an undereye concealer. According to Brown, concealers should always be one shade lighter than your foundation. Once I patted, not rubbed, the concealer into my skin with my fingers and blended the edges with a sponge, I instantly looked more awake. 

Tip 3: Bronzer isn’t just for summer

Until now, I didn’t even own bronzer, but Brown says that bronzer is the biggest hack for days when you’re not feeling your best. In other words, I think we could all use some bronzer in our lives right now. I’ve always loved blush as the final touch, but now that I am home most of the time or behind a mask when I go out, it seems excessive. Bronzer gives me just the right amount of natural sun-kissed glow on my naturally pasty skin. Here’s an important tip from Brown herself: Instead of starting at the apples of your cheeks and moving outward towards your temples, gently sweep down towards the center of my cheek for a more natural application.

Tip 4: Taper your eyeliner

I’ve been waiting for this makeup trick all my life. Sadly, my eyeliner technique hasn’t changed since the eighth grade when I first wielded a CoverGirl pencil. I used to start close to the inner corner and move across the lid in one sweep. This usually ends up with one side of my cat-eye being somewhat longer or uneven. To prevent this, Brown recommends starting on the outside and drawing inwards little by little to taper the line. With this technique, my eyes actually matched on the first try because going outside in made it easier to come closer to my lash line. It will cut your eyeliner application time in half, guaranteed.

Tip 5: You don’t need an eyelash curler

Full disclosure: eyelash curlers frighten me. Holding my lashes prisoner in a lash curler is a form of mild torture. Luckily, as it turns out, I don’t need it. According to Brown, a quick way to achieve curled lashes without the medieval tortue device is pressing down at the base of your lash line as the mascara is drying. And presto! Instantly curled lashes.  

Tip 6: You need two eye brushes for a smoky eye

Whenever I attempt a smoky eye, I usually end up getting the dark shadow in the corner of my eye (which makes me look slightly hungover). So I was psyched to get a step-by-step tutorial here—even though I won’t be going out to fancy events anytime soon, the smoky eye can spice up Friday takeout date night. I used this tutorial as an excuse to get myself a brand new violet-hued Nudist Palette No.2 by W3ll People ($20; target.com). I applied the pinky quartz all over, then the taupe, and switched brushes for the dark chocolate halfway up the lid. Had I used the same brush, I would have diffused the dark shadow, pretty much defeating the point of the smoky eye.

Tip 7: Sparkle never fails

On the days when I just can’t be bothered with proper makeup application, liner and all, sparkle is the answer. For Brown’s one-minute makeup tutorial, she advises adding something sparkly to your lids to mimic shadow and fool your friends into thinking you took a long time on your routine. The only eye product I used was Glossier Lidstar in Lily ($18; glossier.com), along with a coat of mascara and Smith’s Rosebud Salve ($7; sephora.com) to give my lips a glint of shine. I even had my kids time me, and the whole look took less than two minutes. 

If you want something more subtle, try dabbing some liquid illuminator highlighter into the darkish spot where your eye meets the nose. It will instantly brighten your eyes and make you look more awake.

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