32 brilliant makeup tips we've picked up from professional MUAs

All the makeup tips you need to improve your application skills – most of which come from pro artists

L-R: Gabrielle Union, Eva Longoria and Michelle Yeoh
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When you’re in need of some makeup tips, there’s really no better person to hear from than a professional makeup artist who has spent years training and refining their application skills. And throughout our careers, woman&home’s beauty team has interviewed many of the industry’s leading MUAs – not to mention seen them at work on editorial shoots and backstage at fashion week.

In other words, we’ve picked up some real nuggets of wisdom from the pros that will help you to get more from your products, sharing them in this very guide to help you refine your application skills. Ahead, we’ve listed 32 makeup tips to help you improve your makeup game (along with some celebrity looks to inspire you).

32 makeup tips we've learned over the years

1. Try a primer

Julianne Moore at the 79 Venice International Film Festival 2022. Closing Ceremony Red carpet. Venice (Italy), September 10th, 2022

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Much like an artist prepping a canvas before painting, make-up primer is the first layer before applying foundation (and the rest of your routine). The best primers can help with just about any skin concern, from excess oil to dullness and dryness, and they can also help to boost the longevity of your make-up look. You’ll probably also notice that your make-up goes on more smoothly, too. 

2. Know your undertone

Viola Davis arrives at the "The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes" Los Angeles Premiere at TCL Chinese Theatre on November 13, 2023 in Hollywood, California

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Knowing whether you have a cool, neutral or warm undertone will make shopping for the best foundation shade match a lot easier. An easy trick is to look at an area where veins are visible, usually your wrist. If they appear more blue, your undertone is cool, if green, warm, and if they’re a mix of both, you most likely have a neutral undertone. 

3. Curl your eyelashes

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One of the best eyelash curlers is a must-have for your make-up bag, particularly if you have shorter lashes and want them to look lengthier. Using one before applying mascara will make your lashes appear lifted and longer – and you’ll probably find you have to apply less of the best lengthening mascara after doing so. 

4. Tap off excess powder

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If you’ve ever seen a make-up artist doing this but not known why, here’s your answer. When applying any powder product – from the best bronzers and blushers to setting powder – gently tapping the handle of the brush against your wrist loosens the product and gets rid of a little excess, preventing too much from going straight onto your face.  

5. Tightlining

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This is a technique that involves defining the entire waterline – both upper and lower – using the best eyeliner pencil to really make the eyes pop. The upper waterline can be a little more sensitive if you’re not used to applying liner here, but if a standout look is your end goal, this is the way to do it. 

6. There's a red lipstick for everyone

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It might sound cliché, but there is a perfect shade of the best red lipstick out there to suit everybody. How muted or bold a shade you choose is up to you and it may take some trial and error to find one(s) you love, but as a general starting point, cooler complexions really suit blue-toned reds while warmer skin tones work well with warmer, orange-based reds.

7. False eyelashes are easier than you think

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False eyelashes come in all shapes, sizes and lengths, from super voluminous to understated and fluttery. The trick is to wait a few seconds to let the lash glue go slightly tacky before applying. 

8. Clean your makeup brushes regularly

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Not only does build-up affect how well even the best make-up brushes actually apply product, not cleaning them regularly is unhygienic – you don’t want to be spreading lots of bacteria all over your face, we’re sure. Regular cleaning is both better for your skin and helps to prolong your tools’ lives. 

9. Colour-correcting

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If you like to disguise the look of dark under-eye circles, using a corrector before applying your concealer is a much more effective method than relying on concealer alone. Using a pink- or peach-toned formula, depending on your skin tone, first neutralises the area for a more effective cover-up.

10. Blush sculpting

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While contouring has its place, if you’d prefer a subtler approach to adding dimension to your face you can do so with blusher. Not only will this add a healthy and youthful flush to your skin, but it can also create a sculpted effect when applied just underneath your cheekbones in an upward direction. 

11. Keep any pencils fairly sharp

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From eye pencils to lip liners, regular sharpening will ensure that any makeup pencils create clean crisp lines. We recommend investing in a handy dual sharpener with two different-sized holes so you can sharpen both regular pencils and larger eyeshadow or lip crayons.  

12. Try an eyeshadow primer

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Much like a grippy foundation primer, eyeshadow primers are specifically formulated to improve the longevity of eye makeup looks. Using one is a particularly good idea for those with oily eyelids who struggle to get their eyeshadow to stay put.

13. Invest in a setting spray

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Setting spray is another great way to ensure your make-up stays put, spritzed over your skin as the final step. While it can be used alongside primer to really lock down your make-up, setting spray is also a great choice for those who don’t want to layer on another product after their skincare routine, as it is pretty lightweight. 

14. Multipurpose products

Michelle Yeoh arrives at the 10th Annual Breakthrough Prize Ceremony at Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on April 13, 2024 in Los Angeles, California

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If you like the idea of a streamlined makeup bag, there is a whole host of brilliant multipurpose products that can be applied to the eyes, lips and cheeks. You’ll also save on the upfront cost compared to buying a couple of separate products (though, of course, you’ll use a single product more quickly if you’re using more of it at a time).

15. Blend it out

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One of the secrets to good eyeshadow looks is to always have a clean, fluffy eyeshadow brush on standby. Once you’ve applied your eyeshadow, this can be used to blend any obvious lines and diffuse the edges of your look to create a more seamless finish.

16. Know your base formulas

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Having an understanding of what the various base makeup products do will ensure you get your desired finish and level of coverage every time. Tinted moisturisers and BB creams are lighter, while foundations tend to provide fuller coverage – the latter is also often described as being light, medium or full, too. 

17. If you have hooded eyes, keep them open while applying shadow

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Most of us instinctively apply eyeshadow to closed eyes. But if you have hooded eyes, it’s also beneficial to do some of your eyeshadow – and even liquid eyeliner – application with them open so that you have a better gauge of the visible areas. 

18. Use lip liner strategically

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Not only does lip liner help to create a more defined edge to your lipstick, it can also be used to accentuate your lips, if you’d like them to look fuller, too. A brilliant MUA trick for achieving this is slightly overlining the centre of your lips, then following your natural lip line to the edges. 

19. Nail your skincare routine

Gabrielle Union attends the reopening of The Landmark at Tiffany & Co 5th Avenue on April 27, 2023 in New York City

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Any makeup artist will tell you that looking after your skin is important – it is the base for any makeup look, after all – as is prepping the skin before application. Ensure that you look after your skin and apply a fresh makeup look to a clean complexion. 

20. Don’t overlook setting powder

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There is a concern with applying powder products, such as foundation, that they can make the skin look flatter and appear older, but that’s not always the case. A lightweight setting powder can help to lock down your makeup and diffuse any excess shine. 

21. Apply foundation from the centre outwards

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For a well-diffused finish, start by applying a small amount of your foundation in the middle of your face and blend it outwards towards the edges, adding more if you feel necessary. As well as helping to distribute it evenly, this also reduces the likelihood of any visible lines developing around the edges. 

22. Apply liquid liner gradually

Lucy Liu attends the "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" UK Special Screening at Cineworld Leicester Square on March 07, 2023 in London, England

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If you’ve never quite mastered the art of liquid eyeliner, rest assured that it can take some practice to refine your technique. But this notoriously tricky liner format doesn’t have to be applied in one single stroke. Take time to apply tiny dashes very gradually along the lash line to define your eyes. Looking straight ahead in the mirror to map out your wing before drawing it on can also help to ensure both sides match. 

23. Carry blotting papers

Reese Witherspoon attends a screening of "The Morning Show" at PaleyFest LA 2024 at Dolby Theatre on April 12, 2024 in Hollywood, California

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An oldie, but a goodie: If your skin is particularly oily or often develops shine later on in the day, traditional blotting papers are still very useful to keep in your handbag for such occasions. They’re a great on-the-go quick fix for refreshing your makeup when you don’t want to pull out an entire powder compact. 

24. Don’t underestimate cream formulas

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Don’t get us wrong, we love a matte finish, but cream formulas – from blusher and bronzer to dewier finish foundations – are a godsend if your skin is particularly dry. Not only that, they also help to create the look of a healthy all-over radiance. 

25. Brush through your brows

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There are so many different choices of brow makeup products that can be used to define your arches, from eyebrow pencils to pomade and gels. Whether you take a minimal approach or fill in sparser brows, brushing them through and into shape (and perhaps setting with a clear gel) will help your makeup look pulled together. 

26. Wipe off excess mascara before applying

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When you first unscrew your mascara, wipe any excess product from the brush – particularly if it’s a super fluffy one like those often seen on the best volumising mascaras. This will prevent you from overloading your lashes with the first coat, meaning you can build your mascara more easily, as well as reducing the likelihood of clumps. 

27. Choose concealer carefully

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Concealer is a brilliant product, but the specific formula that will work best for you will depend on what you want it to achieve. Do you want it to brighten the under-eye area, or cover up blemishes, for example? If it’s the latter, you won’t want an illuminating formula – so be sure to consider what you’d like it to achieve before you invest. 

28. Apply bronzer in a “number 3”

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Bronzer is a great way to add warmth and dimension to your skin. It can be applied all over, with more of a focus on the areas that the sun would naturally hit, or try the “number 3” technique for a subtle contour. Apply bronzer in this shape starting at the temples, curving into the cheek then around to the jawline for a softly sculpted look.

29. If you hate gloss, try a lip oil

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Love the high-shine finish of lip gloss but aren’t keen on its sticky finish? We hear you. Try lip oil instead; these TikTok-famous buys pack nourishing properties while giving that shiny finish lip gloss is known for. 

30. Dampen your eyeshadow brush

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If you’re after good colour payoff or a dramatic eye makeup look, dampening the brush before you go into your chosen colour will help to intensify the pigments. This can even be achieved by using a little setting spray – something that will help to improve the longevity of your eyeshadow look, too.

31. Refresh makeup brushes between uses

Emma Stone attends the 96th Annual Academy Awards on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California

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As well as regular deep cleaning your makeup brushes, it's a good idea to use a lightweight cleaning spray and tissue or kitchen roll to refresh your makeup brushes between uses. This will help to keep too much bacteria from building up between proper washes. 

32. Try a tubing mascara

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If you struggle with smudgy eyes and haven’t been able to find a traditional formula that doesn’t do so on yours, might we suggest a tubing mascara? These clever formulas coat your lashes with “tubes” that are removed with warm water. Though they’re smudge-resistant, this does mean there are situations where a waterproof mascara would be more appropriate (swimming, high chance of tears, etc).

Lucy Abbersteen

Lucy is a UK-based beauty journalist who has written for titles including Marie Claire, Glamour and OK!, as well as contributing to woman&home. Her work covers everything from expert skin and haircare advice to beauty trends and reviews of the latest products. During her career she regularly speaks to the industry's leading hairdressers, dermatologists and make-up artists, has covered backstage at London Fashion Week and interviewed many a celeb about their beauty routine.