6. Any tips on which brushes to use, when and how?
Let's start from the base on up: most artists or counter salespeople worth their salt will probably recommend a liquid foundation brush. I also like these a lot, but more if I'm working on other people. I always frown on sponges because they suck up your product (handy in a pinch or for a touch-up but not for your morning makeup) and generally love fingers. They warm up the product, blend nicely and are easily washed. But if you're oily, do invest in a nice brush – Sephora Brand has great ones. Foundation brushes have a synthetic head (best for liquidy product) and should be cut with a nice taper. If you can get your hands on a Trish McEvoy foundation brush, do it. Hers are some of the very nicest brushes on the market. She painted long before she did makeup and was very meticulous about getting the right hairs and cuts for her brushes. But if you want to save, drugstores offer nice brushes too – you just want it to be cut right. The head is flat, the hairs are synthetic, they taper so they're longer in the center. Great for liquid and cream foundations.
Concealer brushes are also useful for tough places (like around the nose) and look similar to foundation brushes but are smaller and thinner, but here I will stand by fingers as your best tool. Next, you want a great powder brush, something fluffy that won't lay the powder on in slabs but will still build up coverage if you want it to: Dior, Lauder and Shiseido offer some of my favorites. For bronzer, I'm really stuck on this super-wide, huge, short-handled brush that Clinique recently put out. It's thick and its head has a sort of a fan shape. Amazing – you can start at the apples of your cheeks, work out to the temples, and dust the center of your forehead/nose/chin – perfect almost every time. I do NOT personally like the dense, full, fat brushes usually recommended for bronzer. That's an older technique and can distribute too much concentrated color, which makes you look muddy. It's 2007 and we tend to prefer a fresher, healthier face. I also have a clean, fluffy powder brush that I use solely to blend the complexion when I'm done.
Blush brushes are different: it depends on what you're going for. Again, Trish does it best – her brushes are super-soft and beautifully cut so you never get too much color. The right blush brush is important, and you can talk to a salesperson so you can feel a variety of brushes and try them see which one gives you the right look. For example, my friend Marie has heavy touch with her blush – she prefers a bold cheek – and buys something full like the slanted Lancome blush brush. My friend Lisa likes her cheeks super sheer, just a wash of rose on the apples, and is a Trish customer. I like something a little less delicate than the Trish brushes and a little more subtle than the full-headed Lauder brushes: I use a Sonia Kashuk brush I got at Target. A note on Sonia Kashuk brushes: they are fabulous and I love them. Great quality for not much moolah, and cut very similarly to their ritzier Chanel counterparts.
For eyes, I like these and also MAC – MAC is where you want to go if you are dying to really get into the finer points of shading and contouring. But for every-day eye ease, I recommend you have the following in your arsenal: a large eyeshadow brush, pretty standard, but get good quality, for allover color; a smudging brush for smoky eye precision, like the CARGO short-handled blue one, and the Laura Mercier ponytail brush or one that is similarly shaped. This last brush is one of the best out there and may be all you ever need. I use mine to dust dark color over my liner for smokiness and will probably buy another one soon for every-day neutral colors. Other accoutrements like lip and brown brushes, or flat liner brushes for cream liner, or the delightful finishing brush – looks just like a little fan and does wonders with shimmer, highlighter and cream products – you can add as you go, but you want to have your basics.
Cleaning your brushes: there's a wealth of cleaners out there, but you're good to go with some Johnson and Johnson's baby shampoo. Swirl your brush heads in your palm with that and warm water, then swirl again in your palm in clean warm water until it runs clear. Don't ever hold your brush heads directly under a running faucet – it loosens up the glue in that metal bit, called the ferrule. Let them dry with the heads dripping over a table edge. And don't freak if they start to shed after awhile – most of them will. Just take care of your brushes and they will last a long time.
Note: For those of you who are super conscious of the happiness of our animal friends, go with Urban Decay. I personally don't have a problem using goat and squirrel brushes, etc., and believe in the right hair giving a certain result, but Urban Decay has a line of synthetic brushes that do almost the exact same thing. You can always look up which of increasingly few brands do animal testing through PETA, as well.
7. I have always been curious about trying liquid eyeliner. Can you give some tips on how to do it without looking too severe?
Sure! I wear liquid liner almost every work day because it stays put and precise all day long. Angelina Jolie also rocks it on a regular basis; same with Posh. The key to wearing it casually is keeping it very, very close to the lashline, and nice and smooth. It also depends on your eyes. Mine are creaseless but the lashline also folds up when I look straight ahead, so I actually have to wear a fairly thick line for it to show. Since I usually rush too much to have coffee, I tend to cheat when applying liquid liner: I line lightly with a khol pencil (super smooth) line the ones by Stila or Chanel, just for a guideline, then use my liquid in a series of small strokes to go over the initial line. After you have the line, you can lean in real close and draw one smooth uninterrupted line. Let your eyes dry for at least a minute before you move on to mascara. For girls with a crease, you'll want to practice: hold the outer corner of your lid taut with your opposite hand as you use those small strokes first. Also, I'm not crazy about many of the liquid liners out there. Lauder's and Dior's, for example, are way too gloppy, the brushes are too thick, and they have an odd white-out smell that makes me uncomfortable with the fact that I have just painted my eyes with the product. So my picky arsenal contains Urban Decay liquid liner in Soot. It's got a longer handled brush which is surprisingly easier to work with: less chance of smudging your work with an errant palm. There are things I don't like Urban for, such as foundation, but they generally get the eyes right on the nose, as it were. Check out the assortment of amazing liquid liner colors they offer. My friend Jen, Italian-American with chestnut-brown hair, rocks nothing but mascara and Urban's liquid liner in Roach, a sort of coppery dark brown, and she always looks awake and put-together. My Soot only recently dried out and I've had it for a year! (They say to replace these products after 3 months, but as long as it's just you and there's no conjunctivitis, I vote for taking your dollar as far as it will go.) Liquid liners also segue into evening when you extend them into lovely cat-eyes. My ex-boyfriend loved it when I wore plain old powder and a super-exaggerated slash of black liquid liner, thin and seductively curved. It's absolutely a practice-makes-perfect look, and to this day I mess it up when I'm not concentrating, but if you get it right and it dries, you're good for the rest of your busy day. Also, don't forget one of makeup's tried and true tools: a Q-tip dipped in Clinique's take-the-day-off makeup remover. See what works for you – thin is probably best, but Jen wears hers thick – stopping it right where her lashline stops – and doesn't look severe. Good luck!