Now introducing: What-To-Buy Wednesdays!!!!

Whaaaaaaaat is this?

In my years as a self-professed makeup junkie, I've come across many people who are decidedly not makeup junkies. And that's totally cool - you do you! - but I do sometimes get questions about how to get started in makeup, and suddenly the "enabler" light goes on in my head, and I am eager to tell them ALL THE THINGS.

In truth, the beauty industry can be overwhelming. Beauty is kind of a sensitive subject - we're all taught to want it, we're all told we should strive for it, and in many ways, society and the media tells us that we're never really going to have it, unless we are young, thin, light-skinned, etc... or can pay to be those things. We're all under pressure to look beautiful, and we're all aware of how harshly people are judged in this society for not being beautiful, so I can understand how the beauty world can be pretty intimidating to the uninitiated. If you've never really gotten into makeup before, and you don't really know how to apply it, I can understand how it can just be easier not to, than to risk doing something badly and then being judged for it. I get it, okay?

But on the other hand, makeup can be life-changing and transformative. Makeup can make you look pretty, yes, but it can also make you look powerful, colorful, or even just plain awake, if you've had a long day. Makeup can be about beauty, but it can also be about art. And empowerment. And FUN.

I don't believe that people NEED makeup to look beautiful, but I believe that being able to do your own makeup is a handy skill to have, a weapon in your arsenal that can be wielded to your benefit, should you choose to use it.

Source: Pinterest
So, makeup newbies, this series is for you: for the rest of March, every Wednesday will be What-To-Wear Wednesday, dedicated to helping you put together a decent basic stash of makeup to get you started. Each week will cover a different area of makeup. Whether or not you graduate to beauty-junkie status will be up to you, but these will be my recommendations for a basic makeup kit that will have you covered (literally?) for any sort of occasion.

Makeup veterans, some of this might be redundant for you, but if anything, you might be interested in checking out my recommendations for products and such.

I know this is roughly the time of year when people are getting tax returns (or maybe you have some leftover holiday gift cards/money), so if you've been thinking about finally getting into this makeup thing, maybe this would be a good time to invest in your face.

Where to shop:

There are definitely a lot of options. When I was a child, makeup shopping (not for me, but for my mom) was limited to either the drugstore/Target or department store counters (or, like, Avon and Mary Kay). Then when I was a teenager, the Internet became a thing and I visited a Sephora for the first time ever, and my life changed completely.

Kat Von D Studded Kiss lipsticks
Sephora and Ulta are both major beauty retailers that carry a bunch of brands of makeup, skincare, hair care, and fragrance. Sephora is pretty high-end all around, while Ulta carries high-end and drugstore brands as well - kind of a one-stop shop.

Department stores carry an even wider variety of makeup brands than ever before - when I was a kid, I mostly saw Clinique, Lancome, and Estee Lauder, and I rather ungraciously thought of them as old-lady makeup. (I was a kid! I'm sorry!) Now there's a wider variety of high-end brands that are carried at department stores, and in particular, Macy's has a whole "juniors section" of makeup called Impulse Beauty, where you can find counters for brands like Urban Decay, BeneFit, and Inglot.

You can also visit brand boutiques - my local mall has stores for MUFE, NYX, MAC, and bareMinerals, in addition to Sephora and department stores.

The plus side of high-end brand shopping is that they usually have generous return policies - if you're going to pay that much, you better like it, right? Usually they let you bring stuff back, even if you tried it out for a couple of weeks before deciding. (Don't take advantage though - that's douchey.) A lot of these stores are also offering rewards programs where you earn points towards discounts, free makeovers, deluxe samples, etc. And of course, there is usually someone actually THERE to help you learn how to use it (as well as testers).

L'Oreal Mono Riche eyeshadows
Drugstores (and I'll include Target, Walmart, Kmart, etc. in this category), however, are generally cheaper, and they are easier to get to. It is a rare day indeed when I visit my local drugstore without making a detour through the makeup section. These days, drugstore brands (like L'Oreal, Cover Girl, Revlon, Maybelline, Wet 'n' Wild, etc.) are just as good as high-end brands but for a fraction of the cost, and there are always a few brands on sale every week, so good quality makeup is definitely affordable.

I was at a MAC techniques class once where we were introducing ourselves, and one woman admitted, with shame in her voice, that for her whole life, she had only ever bought her makeup from CVS. Other people chuckled in sympathy, but I wanted to interject that, hey, there's a lot of good stuff to be found at CVS. There is NO shame in drugstore makeup, my friend, and there are a LOT of Youtube videos and blog posts dedicated to makeup dupes.

ColourPop Ultra Matte Lip liquid lipsticks
And then of course, there is the Internet, where you can find, well, anything, but most particularly, makeup brands that do not have any brick-and-mortar locations, or makeup brands from other countries, etc. There are trendy makeup brands, mineral/natural makeup brands, niche makeup brands (like, ONLY lipsticks, or ONLY nail polishes, etc.), and even supplies to create your own makeup. Some notables include ColourPop, Sugarpill, BH Cosmetics, Coastal Scents, Jeffree Star, Dose of Colors... the sky's the limit. You can find a bunch of beauty products on Etsy, even.

Another fun way to discover makeup is to sign up for subscription boxes, where you receive items every month to try out, and you usually pay FAR less for the monthly subscription than you would for the full-price items separately. Some notable subscription services include Ipsy, Boxycharm, Birchbox, Glossybox... there are a TON. Starting at $10 a month, it's a good, cheap way to discover new brands and items, things you might not have thought you wanted but that end up becoming holy grail items.

How to shop:

If there's makeup involved, then I am liable to be out for hours. and my family knows not to send a search party. This is because I get carried away testing out products, comparing brands, etc. As with any sort of major investment, you want to make sure that you're getting the best value for your purchase, and that you're getting things that you will actually love and use. Sure, impulse purchases can be fun, but if you're looking to build a basic kit, then you will want to choose carefully - these are going to be the staples of your collection.

Here are some tips for shopping:

- Gather some intel. There are TONS of beauty blogs (like this one you're reading right now!) and Youtube videos and such, and makeup review sites like Makeup Alley. Look for product reviews and swatches, especially from people who are similar to you in skin tone, eye shape, personal style, etc. Forewarned is forearmed. Have a plan before you go in. (Which I suppose is what this series is =P)

- Test out products! Makeup products look different in the container than they do on a person, and they even look different depending on where you're testing. (For example, you should be testing foundations along your jawline, as opposed to the back of your hand.) You will also get a feel for how the products apply - two eyeshadows from the same company might apply differently due to formulation and finish. Note: Please use good hygienic practice while testing products. Beauty retailers usually provide swabs, alcohol, hand sanitizer, etc. You have no idea how many fingers have been dipped in those eyeshadow testers, or how many mouths that lipstick has touched. Be smart, be safe.

PS - If there are no testers, please do not take the liberty of cracking one open yourself. I have accidentally bought products (usually from drugstores) that I didn't realize had been tampered with until too late. Now I check very carefully, but still... NOT COOL.

- Ask for help! That's what the artists and salespeople are for! In my experience, if things aren't too busy, they're usually pretty willing to demo some makeup on you and even send you off with some samples to take home.

- Keep an eye out for makeup sales, free shipping codes, etc. Makeup can be expensive, especially if you're building a basic kit of stuff, so any money you can save is helpful. For example, Sephora offers annual Flash shipping, which is like Amazon prime - for $10 a year, you can get free 2-day shipping with no purchase minimum. December is a big month for special sales and coupon codes because of the holidays. It pays (literally!) to keep an eye out.

- Or use a site like Ebates, which can give you cash back for your purchases. (That is my referral link, by the way - feel free to use it!)

- Along those same lines, sign up for rewards programs. Sephora's program is called Beauty Insiders, and the points you accrue can be redeemed for deluxe samples. In addition, your membership level nets you annual sales codes, advance access to products, etc. Ulta's Ultamate Rewards program actually gives you cash back for your points too, and any purchase you make at Ulta earns you points, high-end or drugstore. Urban Decay and MAC just rolled out rewards programs as well (which I will be blogging about soon), and the bottom level, no-purchase-required membership gets you free standard shipping with no purchase minimum. MAC has also always offered their Back-to-MAC program, where you can bring back empty MAC containers and trade them in for a new lipstick or lipgloss. Walgreens, of course, offers points and discounts in addition to coupons. If you're not squicky about corporate suits tracking your purchases, these can be a good way to save money :)

- Sets and palettes can be a great value! I tend to buy more eyeshadow palettes than single eyeshadows, because I like having lots of options and even a smaller-sized eyeshadow pan is more than I will ever use in my life. Gift sets, brush sets, combo sets... they're a good way to get a lot of items while paying a little less.

- Or create your own palette! Some brands, like MakeupGeek or MAC, sell full-sized eyeshadow pans (without the flip-top case) for a cheaper price. You would then put these palettes into an empty magnetic palette.

- Sometimes it's worth checking out the travel-sized versions of certain products. I know that money-wise, it might be a better value to buy the larger one, but if you're unsure about a product or you just really don't think you'll ever use up a full-size item, then maybe the smaller version is the way to go.

So, clearly, there are a lot of options, and I can understand how this might seem overwhelming. Do not fret! I know that this is a lot of information to take in. For now, take some time to gather some information and make some plans.

Here are some of my favorite online makeup resources to help get you going:

Next week: we'll actually get to the first of the product recommendations, starting with tools and storage. Please feel free to comment below with questions or concerns you'd like me to address throughout the series, and I'll do my best to help!


  1. This was a really great post, but I have to know, what is the green on the middle left in the eyeshadow palette picture? It's gorgeous!

    1. All the eyeshadow pans in this post are from MakeupGeek's Duochrome collection :)


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