Makeup Fails and Fabulous Fixes

Crystal Schwanke
blue eyeshadow

Don't Be Blue

Tired of getting ready for a big night out and winding up with makeup looks that just don't work? Turn those fails to fab with these simple tips.

For a long time, blue shadow was a "no." However, it's back - and if done right, it can look lovely. The secret is in the blending. The softer lines on the left are much easier to achieve than the hard edges on the right, especially if you aren't a pro and haven't practiced several times before your night out. Blend up from the crease with care, without extending the blue too far up or out. Apply a highlight shade on the brow bone and blend it down and into the blue to help diffuse the line. Don't forget to highlight the inner corner of your eye and make sure to always clean up any fallout pigment from the blue shadow, as leaving it can give you the illusion of dark circles.

blue and green shadow

Blue and Green: Ghoulish or Glam?

Similar guidelines apply when your eyeshadow shades of choice involve blue and green. Keep these colors away from the inner eye area or you'll just look tired and/or sick (this "fail" photo says "flu" more than "fab"). Brighten things up and add dimension with a pearly white or gold hue in the inner corner and brow bone, and use a gradient effect from the lighter green down to the darker blue. Blend well and choose a lipstick that will balance the color on your face.

light makeup with drama

A Lighter Look With Drama

These two looks are attempting to emphasize the features without being too over the top. There are a few problems with the image on the right, however. The use of color on the eyes without liner to define them leaves them looking washed out. Lack of color on the cheeks only washes her out further. The makeup on the left emphasizes her features well, utilizing a neutral color on the cheeks to enhance her face shape. Using light-reflecting and matte shades together in a neutral palette brings out the eyes. Everything is balanced with a sheer lip tone that complements the makeup as well as her natural coloring.

goth makeup

Goth-Inspired Makeup

When you wear black lipstick and dark eye makeup together, it can look glam and mysterious, or it can go very, very wrong. Start with a semi-matte finish foundation with at least medium coverage, as dark makeup tends to highlight every bit of uneven skin tone as well as other imperfections. It may be tempting to go without blush, but you'll need to add a little color back into your skin. Skip the contouring shades and stick with a peachy or pink blush applied just above the hollows of the cheeks. Blending your eyeshadow is key - and don't go crazy with the winged liner. A simple flick at the outer corners will suffice when you're wearing such a smoky eye.

green eyeshadow

Mermaid Looks

When going for a green shadow look, think more along the lines of mermaid than 80s pop star. Choose different shades and finishes to give the eyes a multi-tonal look, rather than applying one lime green shade to both the upper and lower lids. Use a golden-green shade on the inner corners and a more blue-toned green (or emerald or forest green) on the outer corners to avoid looking tired. Don't overdo the blush and keep the rest of your makeup soft.

green lips

Color or Frost

When wearing an unusual lipstick shade, pigment is everything. If you opt for a frosted sheen and color in the same look, it will be anything but flattering. In this particular "fab" look, the artist applied a green lipstick with a liner and lip brush to trace the outer edges of the lips and then feathered it inwards. A golden shade was applied to the middle of the lips (possibly just on the bottom) and then blended together beautifully with a gentle press of the lips. Everything was topped off by a shiny clear gloss. This method can also be used to create fuller-looking lips with two complementary shades from your favorite color family of lipsticks.

red lips

Red Lips Can Make or Break Your Look

Bright red lips are difficult for most skin tones to pull off. When choosing a red, the best bet is to opt for a formula with a slight sheerness, with undertones that match your own (blue-toned reds for cool skin, yellow-toned for warm skin, and neutral reds for neutral skin tones). To tell what your undertones are, look at the veins in your wrists. If they look blue, you have cool undertones. If they look green, you have warm undertones. If you really can't tell or if they look blue at times and green at other times, you most likely have neutral undertones.

Keep the rest of your makeup light, with just a hint of liner, neutral shadow, and mascara. The "fail" picture here has too much going on around the eyes, so that area competes with the bright red lip and confuses the viewer's eye, not to mention that the blue undertone of the lipstick doesn't match her warm-toned skin.

blending shadows

Blending Is the Most Important Thing

With any makeup look, regardless of the colors you use, blending is the most important thing you can do to take your makeup from fail to fab. By the time you're done, you shouldn't be able to see where one color ends and the next begins. In the "fail" picture here, you can clearly see lines between the different colors. Using a fluffy brush with either no color or a bit of the lighter shade (or when you're doing a monochromatic look, a shade between your light and dark colors) can help. Flicking the brush from the lighter shade over into the darker section several times will help blend any lines. Even though the "fab" image features more colors, they all seamlessly melt into each other.

smokey looks

Smokey Eye Tips

While the "fail" here is still pretty close to "fab," there are a few things to keep in mind when working on a smokey eye. The black and gray version is easier to turn into a total fail (especially for beginners), thanks to black shadow and liner's ability to make the eyes appear smaller. The bronze and gold version reflects more light, doesn't close off the eyes, and is a lot more daytime friendly (while still remaining glam enough for a night out). For day, try using a dark shadow instead of liner near the lash line for a softer smokey look. Touch it up with a smudgy kohl liner if you're wearing it out at night and want more drama. Be sure to set the kohl liner with dark brown shadow to keep it in place.

With makeup, attention to detail is what takes a look from fail to fab or "hot mess" to hot. Clean your brushes between colors or use several different ones at a time. Pay attention to finishes, putting shimmery shadows where light should be reflected and matte ones where you want shadows, and balance these out for a light-reflecting look. Always even out your skin tone before applying extreme color to any part of your face, and be sure to find products with the correct undertones for your skin.

Crystal Schwanke
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Makeup Fails and Fabulous Fixes