By Fiona McKim published
Party makeup is our cosmetic collection's time to shine. Whether you have a fancy event to attend or have planned quality time with the girls, this is your chance to dig out those beauty products that show the world you mean business.
Even easy makeup looks for a night out require a core stash of reliable products and skills. We're talking, having the best foundation and learning how to use face primer to make it stick around, or knowing how to fake wide awake eyes and pinning down the best mascara for flutter, volume and length.
Of course all that research and skill-gathering takes time, and you've got places to be and people to see, right? Luckily, we've got a direct line to the latest beauty launches, trends and tips from the pros.
Give us just a few minutes of your time to peruse some party makeup inspiration, and we'll give you all the intel you need to nail your going out beauty look for this season and beyond.
Party makeup inspiration—tips and tricks from the experts
1. For dewy skin, try the sandwich technique
In theory, all of our faces look better veiled in the best lightweight foundation rather than smothered in a flat, full-cover one. In practice, light bases can’t be trusted to make it to the end of a long night (or even a long taxi ride) but the sandwich technique can help with that.
Begin with a thin spreading of your best primer - it should be something grippy yet invisible. Use your hands to apply it and focus on oil-prone areas like the nose and chin. Next buff in a coat of lightweight base then top it off with a smattering of soft-focus loose powder. Yes, that’s three products instead of one, but those extra workhorse layers allow you to wear a skin-like, dewy base and have it last.
Laura Mercier Light Catcher Setting Powder | RRP: $39/£33
Hardworking yet weightless, this loose powder will seal your makeup in and give skin a gentle soft-focus glow. There are three sheer shades with neutral, warm or cool undertones to choose from. All have been specially formulated to avoid 'flashback' if you'll be having your photo taken.
L’Oreal Paris True Match Nude Plumping Tinted Serum | RRP: $19.99/£13.99
We're spoilt for glowy, sheer bases this season. This one is water-light and juicy, with just enough coverage to veil over your skin without masking it. It's also a total bargain.
2. Conceal and set for a flawless finish
If light foundation won’t cut it for you because of pigmentation or those angry blemishes that have a habit of emerging on big, exciting days, knowing how to apply concealer like a pro is key for nailing perfect party makeup.
Try something high coverage yet creamy that can be topped up if needed. It'll look better than heavy pan-stik style formulas that sink into lines.
Finish with a glow-boosting setting spray and fix everything in place for the night. Again, think light layers and seek out iridescent particles for a fresh, glowing look.
Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Wear All Over Concealer | RRP: $29/£25
A fairly loose formula with an unusually large doe foot wand that makes on the go touch-ups easy. Excellent shade range too.
MAC Prep + Prime Fix+ Goldlite | RRP: $30/£24
Hello excellent makeup setting spray with added golden iridescence for a ‘frosted by the hands of angels’ glow. Where have you been all year?
3. Be a dream in green eyeshadow
Have you got an aversion to colorful eyeshadow? Neutral shades probably get the most action in all the best makeup palettes, but we are talking special makeup for special moments here. As well as being on-trend, green is quietly glamorous, brings out golden flecks in brown or hazel eyes and contrasts strikingly with baby blues.
You don’t have to go full Emerald City. Seek out cream shadows in shimmering moss or cool-girl khaki, which is basically a neutral. If you know how to apply eyeshadow as a light wash (clue: back and forth in windscreen wiper motion, keep it below the socket line) then that's the way to go. If you don't, the very risk-averse could start with eyeliner in a green so intensely dark it’s practically black.
If you already have an old, intimidatingly green powder eyeshadow lurking around, try using a wash of clear balm or a high-shine eye primer underneath to transform it into a loose, reflective wash that’s easier to wear than trad powders.
Pixi Eyelift Max in Olive | RRP: $14/£12
A creamy liquid eyeshadow with nourishing ingredients to keep the eyelid looking smooth and soft while veiling it in gold-inflected sheer olive tones.
4. Perfect a polished brow
Defined eyebrows with n’er a wayward hair mean business. They add subliminal polish to any look and sit happily alongside statement makeup without diverting attention from the main event.
Start by learning how to shape eyebrows for a neat look - pluck, wax or thread - up to you. Then grab a pot of a thick, pomade style brow product and use a firm small brush to flick it upwards through hairs and fill in gaps.
Benefit Brow POWmade | RRP: $20/£19.50
Highly concentrated with a sharply-angled brush to create a strong, groomed-looking shape and fix every strand right where you paint it.The finished look is definitely more evening than everyday, but the pleasingly natural shades balance things out.
5. Master red lipstick
When we talk about the best red lipstick, words like “timeless” and “effortless” invariably arise. In reality, many of us would no sooner bowl out of the house with scarlet lips than we would in that other apparently-classic style choice, the fedora.
Why? Self-consciousness. Red lipstick is a scene-stealer, when it goes well it’s glorious. If it goes wrong we want to scrub it all off and not bother again. Still, it only takes one great lippie to unlock the easiest party look in the book forever, so it’s worth another crack at nailing makeup with red lipstick. There are three stages to finding the one:
Stage 1: Reconsider texture
There is no reason your signature red has to be a traditional full-pigment lipstick. "If you are new to a red lip I would stay away from matte colors until you feel more confident applying and wearing," says A-LIst makeup artist Zoë Taylor. "Try softer, sheerer textures,’ agrees Dominic Skinner, Global Senior Artist at M·A·C Cosmetics, "Even a red lip balm can be a good first step." The sliding scale of lightweight lippies runs from sheer balms through glossy crayons to satin lipsticks. The slippier you go, the easier it will be to apply and wear. Anything with a bit of a sheen will make lips appear plumper, feel softer and won’t drag or settle into lines.
Stage 2: Fear no shade
Choosing a shade of red lipstick can often seem off-puttingly rule-laden. It’s true that skin with warmer tones tends to suit hot shades and ditto for cooler skins and blue-toned reds (which also make your teeth look whiter—result) But honestly the best, and only, way to know if a shade works is by trying it on and deciding for yourself. "Anyone can carry any red lipstick off if it makes them feel good," agrees Caroline Barnes. "Think about what look you’re trying to achieve. You might think the shade is wrong but maybe it’s because of your outfit or the way you’ve curled your hair that day. Wear a black dress and a ponytail then try the red lipstick and you’ll really see whether it works."
Stage 3: Wear it with attitude
Received wisdom suggests you need to wear red lipstick three times before you feel truly confident, so accept that you might be a bit self-conscious at first. Try wearing your red lip around the house, or test the waters with softly-softly application by dabbing it on with a finger rather than slathering straight from the bullet. Ready to take your red pout out? Put a trusted friend on lipstick-on-the-teeth watch and resist the urge to keep dashing to the loo to check for smudges. With a bit of practice you too can become a signature red lip woman, and that’s where the “effortless” part begins.
MAC Lustreglass Lipstick in Cockney | RRP: $22/£19.50
A classic true red tone that would suit almost anyone, in a slidy sheeny texture that's easier going than most mattes. If you're worried about the colour staying in place, use a transparent lip liner to ring fence it in.
6. For a smooth lip look, prep like a pro
Counterintuitively, the more pigmented the lippie the more it reveals about the condition of your lips—so prep is everything. "Prepping not only makes lipstick look incredible but helps keep it on much longer," says Zoë. "Starting with a lip scrub, buff off dry skin. This also encourages blood flow to the area which gives an instant plump."
Next, hydrate with a hit of skincare. "Rather than applying balm to your lips before lipstick application, add a touch of hyaluronic acid," recommends Max Factor UK Makeup Artist Ambassador, Caroline Barnes. "This gives a nice matte surface for the lip color to adhere to."
Tinker Taylor Lip Kit | RRP: £77
Like a high-end facial for your lips, this one-stop-shop prep kit contains an organic brown sugar lip scrub, rollerball of nourishing oil and beautifully softening luxury lip balm.
7. Try nude nails with a twist
Can a nude nail be a party nail? Subtle polish doesn’t exactly bleed pizazz, but if glitter isn’t your thing this could be your year because neutrals are the new sparkles. Or rather, sparkly neutrals, frosted toffee talons, Christmas nail designs and arty finishes on top of pared-back hues are the nail trends to try now. This jazzy-chic combination says “party time” wrapped around a glass of fizz at 8pm but won’t look a bit much for doing the big shop the next day.
Elegant Touch Instanails in Girl Talk | RRP: $6/£5
Fancy trying nail art without the faff? These press-ons are the perfect solution. They take seconds to appy, then you can enjoy extra length and a fun sparkly design for as little as one night or as long as a week.
woman&home thanks Dominic Skinner, Caroline Barnes and Zoë Taylor for their time and expertise
As woman&home's Beauty Channel Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more beauty products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about a brilliant find on womanandhome.com or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair experiments and cute shih-tzus)
Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013, working under industry legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know (clue: learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism).
In a previous life, Fiona studied journalism back home in bonnie Scotland and honed her skills as a features writer at publications including Junior and Prima Baby, with a brief and terrifying stint on the showbiz pages of a tabloid newspaper in between. She's a skincare fanatic who can’t resist adding an extra step to her routine, adores fragrance, has fun with makeup and never turns down the chance to test a new hair tool. Basically, she loves it all.
When not slathering herself in self tan or peering at a tiny ingredients list on a moisturiser, you’ll probably find Fiona enjoying something to do with food - cooking it, eating it, cajoling her friends into trekking across London to try a hyped pop-up in a dirty car park.
Come to think of it, the hot dinners and beauty products are probably about even.
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