Makeup Shopping for Beginners

If you’re new to makeup, it could be pretty overwhelming: with tons of products, brands, and tips floating around, you may wonder, “Where do I start?!”

The first thing you need to know in makeup is that it is broken up into 4 parts: Skin, Eyes, Lips and Cheeks, and for a beginner I think you really only need the very bare basics of each.

Here I share the order in which I personally started (and perhaps can be a guideline for you too) as well as some of my personal product recommendations, so you hopefully don’t have to have as many “trial and errors” as I did:

1. Eyes.

I started with eye makeup because that seemed to be the most exciting. Mascara is a great first-makeup product to try as they make such a big difference in your eyes. Some of my favorites:

  • Benefit They’re Real! mascara. I love the brush, which features very thin bristles so it coats each and every lash. Makes lashes look super long, one o the best mascaras in recent years.
  • The Body Shop’s Super Volume mascara. This was one of my firsts and my favorites. Standard brush and standard formula, which makes it super easy to use and great for beginners. Great for length and natural definition.
  • Lancome Hypnose mascara. Hands down my favorite department store mascara – I’ve bought this for several friends and they all loved it. It gives the thickest, darkest most defined lashes.

2. Foundation.

Foundation comes in various forms, from pressed powders, liquid formulas, stick formulas, you name it. For a beginner though, I would recommend starting with a tinted moisturizer or a BB Cream, to get you used to the feeling (and application). My favorites include:

  •  Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer. If your skin is already decent, then this will work well as the coverage is very light. But it really makes your skin look flawless. One of my all-time favorite makeup products.
  • Tarte Amazonian Clay 12 Hour Foundation. This is a fairly new discovery that has blown me away. Incredible coverage, though a little sticky to apply, but I feel the formula is that way for the great lasting power. It’s also very good for those with acne prone and oily skin.

3. Cheeks.

I was never personally a big fan of blush when I first started out (I have only realized the importance of it when I became a makeup artist) so I’d definitely recommend getting a pretty blush. I really have only one recommendation for blush: Tarte Amazonian Clay 12 Hour Blush, the best blush ever made, in my opinion.

If you’re not really into the blushing beauty look and would rather a stronger, sculpted cheek, you can read How to: Contour & Highlight Cheekbones.

4. Lips.

For lips, I think it’s pretty straightforward. When you’re new to lip products it doesn’t really matter about colors. Some of my favorites:

  •  Dior Addict lipsticks. Two words: Amazing colors. So deep, so rich, so long lasting. A real luxurious slurge.
  • Clinique Chubby Sticks. Again, one of the best makeup products made recently. So easy to use and so ridiculously moisturizing. Gives a very nice, natural color.
  • Bourjois 3D Effet lipglosses. I lived for these lipglosses back in highschool, as did my best friend. Ridiculously glossy and makes your lips look so juicy.

I hope my tips have helped some of the newbies to makeup – to round it up quickly, when you’re just starting out with makeup I’d recommend a mascara, a tinted moisturizer/BB cream, concealer and powder only if you need it, a simple blush and a nice lip color.

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  • Mei

    Hey Renee. I’m 12 and just started to get interested in make up. Thanks for these helpful tips :)

    • Renee / Beautifille

      Hey Mei, you’re most welcome. :) I am glad you found it useful. If you ever need any more help, feel free to e-mail me!

  • Rish

    How would I know the right color Mac lipstick for me ?

    • Renee / Beautifille

      Hey Rish! Stay tuned as I will be updating this post with more details on makeup shades for skin tones and types :) But I can help meanwhile, what is your skin tone?

  • Jasmine

    hi :) thanks for this wonderful post! I truly agree with using just a bb cream / tinted moisturizer because I also think foundation is too thick for my liking. my only question is, if you use either bb cream or tinted moisturizer, does it last throughout the day? if not, what do you do to make it last? thanks! :) xxx

    • Renee / Beautifille

      Hey Jasmine! You’re so welcome, I am glad you found this post useful. :)

      I know what you mean, foundation can be too thick for me too. Your best bet is a BB cream – they are *almost* like foundations without that heavy feeling, and of all the ones I’ve tried, they last just as long as regular makeup. I’m actually planning to write a post on my favorite BB creams, so look out for that!

      If you have trouble with making your face makeup last, you can also try a foundation primer which helps a lot, especially if you have super oily skin or live in a really hot country. But in general, I think a BB Cream would be fine. :)

      I hope that helps Jasmine! Please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with x

  • Alex


    Just check, Are bb cream and tinted moisturizer samething? When you put BB cream on your face, do you add anything on top of the bb cream? Or just leave that? Thank.

    • Renee / Beautifille

      Aloha! BB Cream and Tinted Moisturisers are *different* technically, but are used as the same – base makeup. So no, you don’t need to put anything on top of BB Cream or Tinted Moisturizers, they are like foundation. But they are more “popular” than foundation now because they are lighter on the skin, more skincare ingredients, and has better SPF. :)

  • Lauren renee

    Thank You for this info,by this info many females get the solution of their problems about makeup and when I was new to makeup I was also confused that what should I use on my cheeks or lips but then I got a guide in the face of store called Fuel The Army they have a wide range of categories and cosmetics and when ever I have to buy cosmetics or beauty products my first choice is Fuel The Army store.They also provide their coupons called Fuel The Army promo codes and by using those coupons peoples including me got discount on their orders and save their money.If You don’t believe me check out Your self

  • Kitty

    Hi I know its kind of strange for an 18-year old to not know anything about make up but I don’t. I found this list so helpful. Question: what primers do you recommend; specifically foundation primer

    • Renee / Beautifille

      Hey, sorry for the late reply, I only just saw your comment 😡

      Make Up For Ever makes amazing primers, as does Laura Mercier!

  • Nina Kato

    Does anyone have a recommendation for eyeliner???

    • Renee / Beautifille

      The very first eyeliner I used and loved was from MAC, which I still recommend – they make amazing liners!

  • Miratul Maghfiroh

    I just unwittingly bumped into your blog which I found it helpful for me. I am 29 yo women and just getting started to try this whole new world called make-up :) thanks for sharing such beautiful blog.

    • Renee / Beautifille

      Thanks so much, Miratul, and you’re so welcome! Glad I could help.

      • Miratul Maghfiroh

        glad you replied me back. I have some questions :
        how can I choose the right foundation and lipstick (i.e the color) for my not-white-not too-brown-skin/lips ? I find it really overwhelming lol. thanks :)

        • Renee / Beautifille

          My pleasure!

          For foundation color, the best is to go the the store and ask the sales lady to help you choose a shade. Swipe about 2-3 colors you think looks like your shade on your jaw line (don’t test products on your hands, they are a different tone than our faces!). After that, go out in the sun light and see which color blends in perfectly with your skin – this is important, because in shopping malls their lighting is always off and you might get the wrong color. So always use natural light!

          For lipstick, it’s a little more relaxed. Honestly, whatever color lipstick you like, you should go for it and have fun with it! But if you’re really looking for a color that suits you perfectly, for a nude shade, look for a color that mimicks the color of the inside of your lips, or even your gums – that is usually a deeper, “healthy” color than our lips, which can get pale sometimes.

          For other shades of lipstick colors, it’s all about finding out your skintone and what suits it. The quick way is to find a celebrity that you feel has your skintone, and then check out what lipstick she uses! (For example, if you are very fair like actress Emma Stone and you are looking for a red lipstick, you can Google “Emma Stone red lipstick” and see what kind of shade she uses).

          I’ll be editing this post to include much more info like the ones you’re asking about now (color selection, proper application, recommendations of products at different budgets), so stay tuned! :)

  • Rebekah Pinkham

    Thank you very much! I’ve just been using mascara but I want to use more. This helps me out a lot! Thanks again!

    • Renee / Beautifille

      You’re welcome! Thanks for reading Rebekah!

  • Nurulhuda Albukhari D’Cruz

    I really want to try the Benefit They’re Real Mascara but it is on the expensive side.

    • Renee / Beautifille

      It really is yeah. :/ But worth it if you will be using mascara A LOT in the 3 months (that’s their use-by date).

  • Newbie

    Thank you! I’m 31 and need to learn some make-up basics for formal occasions. Everything else I found was way too complicated. Your tips are perfect.

    • Renee / Beautifille

      You’re so welcome, I am glad it helped!

  • Haya

    Great post! I’m 16 and I really have no idea where to start on buying makeup, so this is a helpful post!
    Question: Do I need to start applying base foundations like CC cream or tinted moisturizer or is it too early? Thanks x

    • Renee / Beautifille

      Hey Haya, thanks, I’m happy to help! :)

      I think it depends on your skin – if you’re skin is still perfect, then leave it alone! If you see it getting just a bit oily after a long day, then I’d recommend some light loose powder. If you are starting to get a little bit of blemishes or just want some light coverage, then I definitely recommend a tinted moisturizer or a CC cream. As far as foundation, I wore a lot of it at your age because I had mild acne and it was just too much… I don’t think any 16 year old needs that much coverage – it looked like I was wearing a mask! I definitely recommend that if you do use base makeup, keep it very light. x

  • Bit of a Latecomer

    These are some great tips! I’m 21 and a i’ve never been huge on using makeup, mostly because I feel like I don’t have the time to apply it every day. However i’m looking to invest in some solid basics now and i’m wondering what kinds of makeup (i.e. face, eye…) have a short use by date? I would really like to get some products that will cover all the bases and last me a very long time since I probably still won’t wear makeup very often but I would like to not have to replace half used stuff after a few months because that could get pretty costly and wasteful.

    • Renee / Beautifille

      Hey! Your best bet is to use powder based products then, as liquids, creams and such “go bad” quicker.

      For face, try a powder foundation, that can last for 2 years. For eyes, skip mascara (they need to be replaced every couple of months), and instead you can use eyeshadow, which can last up to 3 years, and eyeliner 2 years (sharpen your eyeliner very regularly, though). Then for blush use a powder blush, that can also last 3 years. For lips, best to stick to a lipstick then, which can last a few years too.

      While those are the best options, don’t forget that if the product starts to change in texture (for example, starts to get really runny), changes color or starts to smell, it’s spoiled and should be dumped and replaced. Keep your makeup as clean and your application as hygienic as possible (I’ll be doing a future post on that!) and away from the sun and your makeup should be fine.

      Another option is to use mineral makeup, which I *hear* has no expiry date since they are so “pure” and made of minerals, but personally I am not sure if I buy it – I would still replace them as I would regular makeup.

      • Bit of a Latecomer

        Thanks for the tips, i’ll definitely remember them when I am stocking up on the basics.

  • brittney

    love each and everyone one of this tips! do you have any specific brushes that you find better than others? would love to hear recommendations.

    • Renee / Beautifille

      I have to say I love MAC brushes the best, and I also find The Body Shop makes some great brushes for their price. Also some “indie” brands such as Stigma and EcoTools make some affordable and good brushes too!

  • Kda

    I love this list, Renee. I find myself thinking a lot about eyeshadow lately. I would only use it for special occassions like weddings. Few people at my workplace or in my social circle wear eyeshadow. Would it be better for me to get a single eyeshadow like a MAC paintpot, a quad/quint, or a small palette like Too Faced Natural Eye? Miraculously, I do actually have a couple of brushes but my skill with application is negligible.

    • Renee / Beautifille

      Glad you like the list, Kda!

      I’d personally go with at least 3 eyeshadow colors – so one of those small eyeshadow trios would be great, because they always come with a all-over color, a darker color (for the lash line) and then a highlighting color, so everything is pretty straight forward… But it’s really up to personal preference, and depending on what kinda looks you wanna create! Some palettes are great in that you can create a natural look and then build up to a night look (Too Faced Natural Eye is a perfect example for this!).

      As for your brushes, it’s all about taking the time to get used to them. What kind of brushes are they? I can walk you through how to use each of them.

      • Kda

        Thanks for the quick reply and the kind offer! I have the MAC 239 and 217 but every time I try for a natural matte look, it just makes my eyes look flat and tired and dark and I end up just wiping it off. My eyes are close set but otherwise balanced, normal skin. I find the shimmery eyeshadows more forgiving and multidimensional-looking. I usually use the 239 to pat the powder on and the 217 to blend. I might just be a hopeless case!

        • Renee / Beautifille

          My pleasure – those are GREAT brushes, btw.

          239 – don’t pick up too much eyeshadow into the brush. Tap away for access, and use a very light hand. Begin by “pressing” the product into the lid and very lightly sweeping across your lid. With this brush you definitely want to think “light” – light in terms of amount of product, and light application.

          217 – you can be a little “heavy” with this as this is a blending brush. Just go over the areas you think you may have deposit too much product and blend. This is also great for blending that harsh line of eyeshadow and the rest of your “naked” eyelid so it doesn’t look like such a hard line of eyeshadow.

          My beginner tips would just be to go super light – don’t pick up too much product on the brush because that can cause tons of weird shapes on the eyelid as you don’t know what to do with so much product, and also tons of fallout. Then the next step is to just blend, blend, blend within the crease (you can find the “perfect” shape for your eyeshadow by just feeling your eyeball underneath).

          Hope this helps! :)

          • Kda

            Thanks for the help! Do you think it would be better to start with eyeshadow or eyeliner?

          • Renee / Beautifille

            Honestly for me eyeliner was way easier – so I’d say that! Plus, if it smudges or whatever you can always say it was on purpose. 😉 If you’re just using one eyeshadow color then it’s pretty easy to do, the “tough” parts come when you’re doing blending or adding more colors/shaping techniques.

  • Makeup newbie

    This is the most helpful tip i have ever read, i’m a newbie… Thank you very much

    • Renee / Beautifille

      You’re so welcome! Glad you found it useful.