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10 Essential Makeup Must-Haves

Most women have the same exact problem: a cosmetic bag that's overflowing, but no clue exactly what to do with all the products. That's when it's time to take a back-to-basics approach: These 10 products are all you need for a flawless face—and our makeup application tips will help you get the look just right.

A No-Show Foundation

makeup must haves

1 / 10


Are you warm? Cool? Olive? Give up? (We don't have a clue, either.) The best way to find your perfect match is to leave it to the professionals. Stop by any cosmetics counter and ask for help finding your shade. If you're fending for yourself, swipe a few colors vertically across your jawline, and whichever one is barely visible is your best bet.

Tip: After cleansing and moisturizing your face, apply foundation with... your fingers! It's quicker and easier than using a sponge or brush. Simply dab the foundation onto the areas that need it most (ruddy cheeks, dark circles, uneven spots) and blend gently.

Shown: Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation

Photo: Sephora

A Super Concealer

makeup must haves

2 / 10


Concealer is the only way to get rid of dark circles. And while it may just be a temporary fix, with the right technique you can hide them completely.

Tip: Apply a non-creasy eye cream, then use your ring finger to gently dab concealer onto dark areas. Allow it a minute to be absorbed, then carefully blend the edges into skin. The key is light pressure—if you rub too hard, you'll actually rub the product off.

Shown: Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer

Photo: Belk

A Natural Blush

makeup must haves

3 / 10


The right shade will make you look like you're blushing, not like you're wearing blush. For a natural look, start with lighter shades, and skip any with shimmer.

Tip: Use a blush brush to swipe a small amount of color across the apples of your cheeks (the round section that sticks out when you smile). If you can see clearly where the blush begins or ends, you've used too much or the color is too dark.

Shown: Trish McEvoy Blush

Photo: Cos Bar

A Great Eyelash Curler

makeup must haves

4 / 10


Most eyelashes grow outward, not upward, so applying mascara without curling your lashes won't provide the same impact.

Tip: Never curl lashes after you apply mascara—they can stick to the tool and end up getting yanked out. Use an eyelash curler with plastic or silicone pads like Sephora's LashCraft Curler, which can help you avoid the "bent" look that metal-on-lash can give. Place it as close to the base as you can without catching your eyelid, press for a few seconds, then gently press a few more times along the middle of lashes if necessary.

Shown: Sephora LashCraft Curler

Clump-Free Mascara

better than sex mascara

5 / 10


Mascara thickens as it's exposed to air over time, which leads to clumps. If yours is goopy, toss it! Or try a different brand.

Tip: Curl lashes first, then press the mascara wand against your lashes, steering clear of lids. As you move the wand up toward the lash tips, gently wiggle it back and forth in a zigzag motion, which helps ensure you hit every lash.

For more lash wisdom, check out The 9 Best Mascaras To Try.

Shown: Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara.

A Glide-On Eyeliner

makeup must haves

6 / 10


Eyes are sensitive, and probably don't take kindly to us slathering them with makeup—especially on the sensitive rims and inner lash lines. Always use a soft pencil that glides on without any pressure or tugging, and be sure the product is labeled as ophthomalogist-tested.

Tip: When lining your upper lash line, press a finger gently against your brow bone to pull up the lid slightly. This makes the skin slightly taught and helps you get closer to the lashes. Use your other hand to "dot" the liner across the tops of lashes.

Shown: Lancome Le Crayon Khol Eyeliner

An Allover Highlighter

makeup must haves

7 / 10


A slightly shimmery cream highlighter has many uses—from lifting your brows to slimming your nose to sculpting your cheeks. Choose a soft nude, peach, or pink for the most versatility.

Tip: To visually slim your nose, use your pinky to trace a thin line of highlighter down the length of the bone, then blend. To make cheekbones pop, gently blend highlighter across the tops of your cheeks, right above your blush. Luckily, we figured out which highlighters work best for every skin type.

Shown: NARS The Multiple Highlighter in Riviera

The Perfect Nude Lipstick

The Perfect Nude Lipstick

8 / 10


Some look too brown, and others too pink. Is it futile to try and find that one nude shade that just makes a bare face pop? After all, "nude" is not one-size-fits-all. Well, NYX Cosmetics' Lip Lingerie has a nude lipstick that can work for anyone... and it's super affordable.

Tip: Chapped lips should be taken care of before you even think of applying lipstick. For a cheap fix, try Nivea's Kiss of Moisture Lip Balm. Wear a thick layer to bed and wake up to softer lips in the morning.

Shown: NYX Cosmetics Lip Lingerie

A Basic, Flattering Eyeshadow

makeup must haves

9 / 10


Some eyeshadows barely show up; others make us look like we're headed to a Motley Crue concert. The perfect everyday shadow is just a few shades darker than your skin tone — think a soft plum or light brown for darker skin, a taupey-gray or golden beige for medium skin, or light apricot for fair skin. Here's how to pick the perfect eyeshadow palette for you.

Tip: Use a soft eyeshadow brush to sweep shadow across lids, blending into and just above creases. Make sure to use light, feathery strokes so that there are no hard lines.

Shown: Pixi By Petra Mesmerizing Mineral Palette

A Good Brush Set

makeup must haves

10 / 10


With the right brush for the job, you can perform makeup miracles. (You don't see professional makeup artists using the tiny sponge applicators that come with the products!) Invest in a good brush set—Sephora makes great options in all price ranges.

Tip: Remember to clean brushes every so often to keep bacteria at bay and makeup colors fresh. You can buy brush cleaners at department and cosmetic stores, or dilute a gentle soap or baby shampoo in warm water and soak brushes in that.

Shown: Sephora Makeup Brush Set

Originally published on, November 2008. Updated January 2018.

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