Put your best holiday face forward

We talked to 3 makeup artists and scored great DIY party looks

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Bobbi Brown makeup

Bobbi Brown makeup (Brent Lewis, Chicago Tribune / November 25, 2011)

Everybody needs a little pick-me-up, especially around the holidays.

Sure, inner beauty is great. But there's a lot to be said for outer beauty too. And to discover how to achieve that, I went on a mission to the busy makeup department at my local Nordstrom.

I watched women transformed from busy shoppers, students and working professionals to their best selves. As makeup artists worked their magic with brushes and wands, I took notes and accumulated beauty tips from the experts that we can all use to amp up our looks for daytime, evening and blow-out party night.

And if you're looking for customized beauty tips, makeup consultations and beauty makeovers at all Nordstrom stores are free (except for booked appointments Friday and Saturday at some counters when there's a $25 to $50 charge, sometimes redeemable in products).

I know what you're thinking: "If I get a free makeover, I have to buy something, and I should tip the makeup artist." No and no. That is the word directly from Laksmi Sam, a Nordstrom regional beauty director. Of course, the store would like you to return later to buy. But, "We know that our customers want to try products before they purchase them so we love to offer free samples as well," Sam said. "We do not take tips!"

All it takes is 30 minutes or so, and you, too, can be happy every time you look in the mirror.

Ready? Let's get pretty.

Daytime

College student Karli Barley, 21, says her usual hasty beauty regime is concealer and mascara. Period. She asked Bobbi Brown makeup artist Kelly Letto for a more polished look that would still be easy and fast. Letto used the Bobbi Brown 10-Step Beauty program that starts with skin care (cleanse, tone, moisturize) and ends with mascara. (The other steps: concealer, foundation, powder/bronzer, blush, lips, browns, eye shadow, eyeliner). Barley couldn't wait to look at herself in the mirror, and when she did, she was amazed at the transformation. So was her sister, Kayla, who declared, "She looks good!"

Take-away tips

•To apply foundation, start at the center of the face problem areas and feather outward; often unnecessary to extend to hairline, jaw and neck.

•Consider bronzer, not to look tan but to warm and correct skin tone, especially in winter.

•Without-a-mirror lips? Use a neutral gloss instead of lipstick for a quick makeup refresher anywhere.

•For maximum eyelash volume, place mascara wand at base of lashes then wiggle upward to lash tips. Repeat. And repeat.

Makeup costs for this look, all Bobbi Brown, excluding skin care and brushes: $306

Evening/date/cocktails/black tie

"I don't need too many steps," was the only guidance 52-year-old Beverly Hills, Calif., real estate agent Florence Mattar offered when she sat down for her makeover at the Nars counter. Although she added that she was game to try this season's fashionable bold red lip. After foundation, concealer and powder, makeup artist Adrienne Wheeler applied a thick line of black liner but kept the eye shadows neutral so the red lip was the focal point. There she used a Velvet Matte Pencil ($24), the point to line the lips and the side to fill them. "I live for this pencil!" said beauty director Sam. The lips were finished with gloss in Moon Fleet ($24). Wheeler kept blush to a minimum, saying, "The cheek should never overpower when you're doing a great lip." Wheeler wants women to enjoy and experiment. "Don't be so serious," the company mantra goes, "It's only makeup."

Take-away tips

•If using shimmer beneath the brow, use matte eye shadow on lids to avoid a "disco ball" effect.

•To fill in brows and avoid a heavy look, start in the middle, go to the end then — sparingly — apply pencil or powder to thickest part using tiny soft strokes to mimic hairs. A common error: Too-dark brow powder or pencil; go a shade or two lighter than hair. Eyeliner on brows will be too dark.

•A red lip is about attitude, a power move. And there's a right red for everyone; find it by trying many. Keep the red close to your natural lip line.

•Makeup artists swear by primer under foundation, on eyes and on lips for longer, smoother wear. Ellen isn't convinced.

Nars makeup costs for this look excluding brushes, primer and skin care: $359

Smoky eye for big-time partying

MAC is known for of-the-moment high-intensity makeup and to-die-for glam. MAC artist Angela Rhodes, 33, a recently divorced mom, had a date later in the evening, so she eagerly offered to act as model for her colleague, makeup artist Shannon O'Brien. Trust me that after O'Brien's magic, Rhodes was a knockout. It would take forever to describe the 24-step process that this makeup entailed, so let's go straight for the eye. Beauty director Sam said, "A smoky eye is one of the most requested looks. People come to us to ask us how to do it all the time." Here you go.

O'Brien starts the makeup process with the eye — not the foundation, as most women apply their makeup. She says the intense pigments she's using sometimes fall on the cheeks, and this way makes cleanup easier.

Your 12-step program for the smoky eye.

1. Cover entire lid with Powerpoint eye pencil in Prussian ($15) as eye shadow base.

2. Brush powder blush in Blunt ($19.50) into lid crease.

3. Apply dark shimmery blue from Snowglobe eye shadows "Cool" six-pack ($38) on lid from lashes to crease.

4. To open the eye, blend White As Snow crushed metal pigment ($38) in center of upper lid only.

5. Use pencil (from 1 above) to line lower lid beneath lashes.

6. Line inner rim of lower lid with Eye Kohl in Smolder ($15).

7. Apply No. 43 false eyelashes ($15) using Duo Adhesive ($8) (wait until tacky) to upper lid.

8. Use Full Lash Curler ($15) to meld false lashes with real ones.

9. Touch up eyeliner with pencil (see 1 and 5).

10. Generously apply Haute & Naughty Lash black mascara ($19).

11. Using light, feathery strokes, fill in brow with self-sharpening Eye Brows pencil in Spiked ($15).

12. Apply Studio Finish Concealer in NC42 (three shades lighter than skin tone) ($17) as highlighter under brow arch.

Take-away tips

•Use highlighter or concealer on cheeks, down the center of the nose, beneath brow arch — anyplace you want to "bring forward."

•To keep deep shadow colors intense, layer them on top of concealer or lighter eye shadow base on eyelid.

•Lining the "water line" (inner rim of lower lid) makes eyes look smaller — not usually desirable.

•False lashes are like wearing high heels and instantly change a day look to evening.

Total cost of MAC products used on eyes, excluding brushes: $214.50

shopellen@tribune.com
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