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When you’re just starting to learn about makeup, you don’t automatically know everything. You might find yourself wondering, what is the correct order to apply makeup?
If you’ve been searching the web for this answer, you’ve probably found several different answers and orders of application.
Hopefully you’re okay with a flexible answer here too, because I’ll let you in on a little secret:
There is more than one “correct” order to apply your makeup.
There are actually several different correct orders, and you can choose any of them!
If you watch any video makeup tutorials, you’ll probably notice that many people do their eye makeup before their face makeup – but just as many do their face makeup before their eyes.
In general, there are some steps that should be followed in a certain order, and some that are interchangeable.
Let’s go over the possible correct orders of makeup application, and the “don’ts” of makeup.
First: Rules of Applying Makeup
DO: Always prep your skin with moisturizers, toners, primers, and whatever other skincare you choose BEFORE starting other makeup.
DON’T: Put liquid or cream products on top of powders* – they will look VERY cakey.
*An exception to this rule can be liquid highlighters. Sometimes, liquid highlighters look okay on top of powder, but sometimes they do look cakey. Experiment with your specific products, and if it looks cakey apply it before powder.
And honestly, those are the only real “rules” you should follow!
What is the correct order to apply makeup?
To answer, we are going to group together four different areas of makeup.
A: Eye makeup (everything from eye primer to eyeshadow to lashes)
B: Face makeup (from primer to foundation to blush to powders)
Some people consider brows to be a part of their face makeup; Others consider brows to be a part of their eye makeup, because of their close proximity on the face. Since brows can fit under either category, we are going to consider it its own area of makeup.
Generally, lipsticks and other lip products are applied last. This article assumes that all lip products will be applied at the very end of your makeup routine.
You can apply makeup in any of these orders:
- Eyes, brows, face
- Eyes, face, brows
- Face, eyes, brows
- Face, brows, eyes
- Brows, eyes, face
- Brows, face, eyes
(with lips at the end if desired)
And ALL of these ways are correct!
However, within these categories, there are some certain steps you should follow in order.
Correct Order of Eye Makeup
- Eye primer (or concealer if you use that instead)
- Glitter, liquid eyeshadows, metallics (optional)
When applying eyeshadow shades, the most common order of application is as follows:
- Light matte shade similar to skintone
- Matte transition shades
- Mid-toned shades
- Deepest shades
This isn’t a firm order that you must follow; some makeup artists start with the deepest shade and work their way to lighter shades. Some people use more satins or shimmers than mattes.
The order you apply eyeshadows will also change depending on the desired outcome.
Correct Order of Face Makeup
If using POWDER bronzers, blushes, and highlighters:
- Color correcting (optional)
- Setting spray (can be saved for end of whole makeup routine)
When using all powder (pressed or loose) bronzer, blush, and highlighters, it doesn’t actually matter which order you apply these three products – though most people apply them in order stated.
But if you are using a cream blush or highlighter this order changes drastically – because you always use creams before powders, remember!
If using CREAM bronzers, blushes, and highlighters:
- Color correcting (optional)
- Setting spray (can be saved for end of whole makeup routine)
Because of the cream products, you will switch the order of those and powder. Powdering after cream products will prevent them from being cakey and will set them in place.
What if I’m only using one cream product?
Let’s say you’re using all of the products listed here, including a powder bronzer, a cream blush, and a powder highlighter.
- Color correcting (optional)
- Cream Blush
- Setting spray
If you also used other cream products, such as a cream highlighter or contour, you would apply it at the same step as cream blush.
You can alter this order depending on the types of products you are using.
Correct Order of Brow Makeup
This is difficult, because there are many types of brow products: pomades, pencils, powders, gels, etc. Most people only use one or two types of brow products.
For the most part, you should use a pomade, pencil, or powder product first. Use gel last to set your brows in place.
That section was a bit easier, huh? Haha! I highly suggest reading my full guide on eyebrow products if you are looking for more information.
Correct Order of Lip Makeup
I’m pretty sure you can figure out how to wear lipstick on your own, but there are certain items that should be applied before or after others – if you choose to use them.
If you’re wearing multiple lip products, layer them like this:
- Lip liner
- Lip gloss
If you’re wearing two shades of lipstick for an ombre effect, apply the darker shade first and the lighter shade on top.
I usually only wear lipstick, in which case the “order” doesn’t matter!
Pin this for later:
My Order of Makeup Application
I usually apply my makeup in this order, with minor adjustments for cream products when I use them:
And I finish off with setting spray at the very end!
The routine and order of my makeup has changed a lot over the past year. I used to do my brows first, then face, then eyes. I’ve totally flipped that around, and that’s okay. Your routine can change day-to-day to fit your needs for that day.
Don’t feel like you have to listen to beauty gurus that say you “HAVE to do your eyes first!” or “it’s dumb to do brows before foundation” or whatever else they claim. The order of your makeup application is more about personal preference than anything else.
I hope this post helps you. If you have any specific questions, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll try to help!
What order do you apply your makeup in?
After reading your blogs I’m very much confident about doing makeup myself at home.
Hello, Kailey! First of all, thank you so much for these very clear, detailed, text guides. Honestly, I learned better from this format, and to me they are much better than videos.
I have a question, I don’t know if you could address it on this page? I am a trans woman, and the biggest challenge for me is covering the beard shadow. In looking around, I’ve seen the concealer be applied prior to the foundation. Could you clarify that?
Also, I do not like covering my face with foundation. Do you think there is a way to apply concealer/coverage only over the beard shadow, and leave the rest of the face free? I have freckles I really like, and I wouldn’t want to hide them.
Thank you so much!!!
Hey Valerie! I am so glad this format is helpful for you!
I don’t have experience with your exact makeup struggle, but yes applying concealer before foundation can be helpful when you’re covering any darkness – from discoloration, to tattoos, to shadows. The reason why: concealer is typically higher coverage and thicker than concealer so it can totally cover the darkness, then your foundation on top will match that area to the rest of your skin. You can also try color correcting if concealer isn’t enough; typically an orange or red toned color corrector is considered best for covering darkness, and they are used when covering tattoos, so I would assume that it would help in your situation as well!
I understand not wanting to use foundation all over your face. You can try applying products only on half your face and see how it looks, but I’m going to guess that it will probably look a bit funny/uneven – like too “makeup-y” on the bottom half, and too bare/natural on the top half.
Ideas for this:
1. Try a tinted moisturizer – I love the one from Colourpop. It has enough coverage that it will even out any minor discoloration (you’ll still need concealer for the lower half of your face, though) BUT is sheer enough that your freckles should show through!
2. Cover the darkness as needed, and then use a powder foundation/tinted setting powder over your whole face. This will hopefully make the finished texture of your skin (both with foundation and natural) look similar, so that you don’t look like you’re only wearing half a face of makeup.
3. I know you said you prefer reading to videos, BUT there are definitely YouTube people who can help way more than me. I hope my suggestions help, but if they don’t I bet trans creators have solutions that I’ve never thought of!
Remember, makeup has a huge learning curve and the more you practice the better you’ll get! Keep trying – the worst that’ll happen is that you have to wash it off and start over 🙂
Hey Kailey! I found this article super helpful so thanks! I was hoping you could explain to me a little of your routine for prepping your face before makeup. I know you should cleanse your face but after that I’m not totally sure haha. Should you apply a toner, primer, and all that other stuff? I’m just hoping for the order and products that you would use or suggest for prepping your face!
I’m so glad you found this helpful, Ava!
I didn’t specify the exact makeup prep, because a lot of it depends on your personal skincare. I personally don’t use toners and a ton of other skincare products in the morning, so I typically wash my face, apply moisturizer, sunscreen/SPF if I’ll be outdoors (especially in the summer), and then a makeup primer.
If you normally use a cleanser, toner, and other skincare products in the morning, you can totally do that before your makeup! I would just give your skin enough time to absorb those products before you apply makeup on top, at least 5 minutes. If you use skincare products that will cause your skin to be more sensitive (like some acids, retinols, acne products, things like that) make sure that you apply SPF too to protect your skin from burning easily – makeup won’t protect you from UV rays! If you do a full skincare routine in the morning, it would probably be like: cleanser, toner, serums, moisturizer, sunscreen, makeup primer. That said, I’m not a skincare expert, and you totally don’t have to use all those products if it doesn’t benefit your skin. My skin is better when I use less in the morning!
Some skincare products can also interact poorly with some makeup products. I have some serums that I absolutely cannot apply before certain primers, because they make my makeup separate. It’s trial and error!
That was a long answer… The short answer, is do whatever normal skincare routine you typically do in the morning, then a makeup primer, before you apply your makeup.
I hope that helps a bit and isn’t more confusing, ha!
I am one of those aging individuals who need actual # steps to follow.
When do I apply my yellow color corrector?
Before, after primer
Before, after foundation
When do I apply my concealer?
How do you apply eyeshadow for people who have droopy eyelid syndrome? Not the hooded eyes but the type that is more or less always been this way from genetics and has now become more prominent with the creepy, loose skin?
Just a few of the questions I’d love to pick your brain about.
Also, scientific research has proven that for every one person who is brave enough to ask these questions, there are at least 150-250 or more individuals wishing they had the answers as well.
Maybe through up a page such as this dedicated to the aging generation who is trying their hardest to keep up but are failing and actually just throwing in their lady towels.
I love that you asked all these questions – you’re totally right, that when someone has a question there are usually MANY more that have the same question, but haven’t asked!
Usually: primer first, color corrector, foundation, then concealer. I say “usually” because sometimes ingredients in certain primers can make the color corrector separate on top – if you find that they don’t layer well, put primer only in the areas that you won’t put color corrector on. For example, if I want to color correct under my eyes but my primer and color corrector don’t layer well, I’ll make sure to not put primer under my eyes.
Applying foundation before concealer often helps people use less concealer, because your foundation will cover some spots that you might have used concealer on if you reverse the order. You CAN use concealer before foundation if you want, but I prefer using foundation first so I use less concealer overall.
For the eyeshadow, trying to hold skin taut (either with your fingers, or by raising eyebrows to bring the eyelid skin upwards, or both) to give yourself a more flat surface to apply eyeshadow to might help (and is a trick I’ve seen people use online). Following tips for hooded eyes can also help, such as bringing the eyeshadow above “the crease” where your skin folds. I’ve also seen that using smaller sized eyeshadow brushes can help, too.
I would love to create a page of makeup tips for “mature” skin (as it is called in the industry). As I learn and gather information, that is definitely something on my radar.
Hope this helps a little! Kailey
Hi! Thanks you for this! It’s super helpful. If I take my shower right before bed, cleanse and moisturize, can I start my makeup routine in the morning with just a primer, or should I cleanse, moisturize again and then prime?
It depends on your skin. For me personally, my skin starts to become a bit oily again overnight, so I need to wash my face before applying makeup. I think that most people do a morning skincare routine before applying makeup, but you don’t 100% have to!