Doing Your Face

| Mar 25, 2019
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By Stacy B. Haven

My absolute favorite part of being EN FEMME is putting on my makeup. The dramatic change that good makeup can make is incredible. In real estate they say, the three keys to finding a good property are “location, location and location.” For our purposes, the three keys to that perfect makeup are practice, practice and practice.

Over the years I’ve found that effective practice requires some good models to work from, some good advice from trusted compatriots, and a well cared for canvas to start on. The following things have given me a starting point from which to grow.

Create A “Rogues'” Gallery

I keep a large file of magazine photos that I like, and just wish I could emulate. One photo may have great eyes, another the perfect pout, and yet another that hair to die for. I have found and collected many photos of people who have facial features and proportions similar to mine. I use these as a model when I practice.

I have also collected boxes full of magazine photos that I can never hope to look like but there’s no harm in trying, right? Books on fashion photography are another great resource for rogues to copy. My tendency has always been to put on too much makeup. That makes sense, because I enjoy it so much. By using the specific looks in my rogues’ gallery I temper that impulse. Copying others keeps me from using all the weapons in my arsenal of beauty products and usually helps me create a much more believable face. I also use the rogues’ gallery for putting together period outfits. For instance, getting the hair, eyes, brows, and lips all to match for a 1920s look (one of my favorites). Another great use of the rogues’ gallery is help in working on specific features. You can probably find one model with eyes similar to yours, one with similar lips and another with the perfect facial shape. By practicing each individually, you can achieve some surprising results!

Beauty ChangesWhat Are We Doing Here?

The purpose of makeup by and large, is to alter facial proportions. Throughout history different cultures have decided that certain features and proportions are more beautiful than others. A striking example of how ideas of beauty change over time is: ‘first and second beauty composites, 1982’ which is a composite of Betty Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, and Marilyn Monroe, on top. With a composite of Jane Fonda, Jacqueline Bisset, Diane Keaton, Brooke Shields and Meryl Streep on the bottom.

As you can see from the ‘first and second beauty composite’, the 1940s and 1950s beauties had relatively light but dramatic eyes, high arched brows and full dark lips. The 1960s and 1970s composite shows how the brows are less groomed, the eye’s darker all around, and the lips lighter. One thing remains the same. The overall relationships of the parts on the face haven’t really changed. It is this timeless relationship of parts that we use makeup to achieve by pushing in and pulling out features with highlight and shadow.

Shadow and Highlight: The Secrets to a New Look

The simple way to think about highlight and shadow is, dark areas recede, and light areas are pushed forward. Have you ever held a flashlight to your chin at Halloween? The reason this looks weird is because we are used to having shadows on our face cast by the sun or lighting above us rather than light below us. Try putting a flashlight above your face, and you’ll see an exaggerated version the shadows your face casts naturally. What makeup does is put artificial shadows on the face. Dark areas look like shadows, light areas look like areas in full light. Too dark a shadow, or a shadow with a sharp edge can be more distracting than no shadow at all. Shadows look more feminine if they have soft edges, so blend the edges of shadows to create a soft edge.

Facial Proportions, Overall:

Most books on makeup that you find will have a section discussing basic face shapes. Typically mentioned are: rectangular, square, oval, round and triangular. Compare your facial shape with some of the shapes in your rogues gallery, and you’ll undoubtedly find many that are similar. Look at how these faces have been made up to soften the sharp edges and corners. Also note, that it usually doesn’t take a lot of makeup to accomplish that softening of features. Use some blush or contouring powdered that is 2 shades darker than your base makeup to push areas back in space. Use lighter base makeup or highlighter, to bring areas of your face forward. Here are some examples of how highlight and shadow can work for you.

Shortening a long face — a little dark contour under your chin and along your jaw line will create a shadow and slightly shorten your face. It also works wonders for softening your jaw line. In addition if your forehead is large, (like mine), a little contour powder at the hair line on each side of the widows peak helps too.

Making those cheekbones ‘pop’ — take a soup can and lay it on it’s side. Now, shine a light above it. Notice how the can is lightest on top, and the light fades into shadow on the side, with a full shadow on the bottom. Think of your cheeks as little horizontal soup cans. Okay, now that you’re done laughing, look at your rogues’ gallery. Female cheeks tend to be a little fuller than male cheeks, this is emphasized by the narrowness of the female jaw.

Now, females usually use contour give the appearance of higher cheeks, and blush to add a little color to their face. The biggest makeup mistake people make, I think, is using too much brightly colored blush right on their cheek bones. Women are guilty of this too! Many males have high cheek bones already, so the trick is to define them and give them a little fullness.

Put some highlighter from the outer edge of your eye, toward the top of your ear. This will give your cheeks more of a ‘top’. You may also add highlight to the apples of your cheeks to fatten them up a little. Blend! Then, using earth tone blush or contour powder, put the darker color under your cheek bone, go from your ear toward the corner of your mouth. Don’t go too far, only to about perpendicularly under the outside corner of your eye. Now we’ve defined the full light and full shadow on the cheek, and we need to blend together a middle tone right on your cheek bone. Viola! It’s soup! It’s okay to add a little blush for some color on the cheeks, just not to much!

Dealing with a large nose — I’ve got a nose that really is out of femme proportion! Here’s what I usually do. Place contour powder on each side of your nose. go sparingly because, any time you use too much contour, it can look fake. I also sometimes shorten my nose by putting contour on the underside by my nostrils. This in combination with a stripe of highlight down the center of your nose will do everything from straightening a crooked nose to streamlining a wide flat nose.

Softening a jaw line — Some contour powder along the lower jaw bone to the joint and an arc of contour on that square joint, work wonderfully. don’t forget to blend down toward your neck and up toward your face to soften the shadow.

Making eyes look bigger — a little white eyeliner on the bottom inside rim of the eye makes your eyes look bigger. I know you see a lot of dark liner inside the rims of many models eyes but this really makes your eyes look smaller, not bigger.

Making a narrow face look wider — highlighting along the top of the cheek bones from the outer eye to the ear will help widen the face.

Other things that can help with a square jaw or face are: large earrings and large glasses. Large earrings will help hide a square jaw by covering and or distracting from the sharp corner. Large glasses can help by making your face look smaller, and if you use magnifiers (available for sewing), they’ll make your eyes look even bigger! Big hair has the same effect as big glasses, it can make your face look smaller, and your head look bigger and more in proportion with your body.

Again, I can’t emphasize enough that you need good models to look at. It is critical that you really look too. So often, we think we know what something looks like, until we really look at it. What happens when we don’t really look, is that we paint what we think we see, and it becomes a cartoon. A cartoon is the last thing one wants to look like in public!

Here are some basic proportional rules for the face.

Horizontal (eyes): Please note the beauty composites photo earlier in the article, note that the basic relationships of the parts on the face are the same, despite the completely different looks. Here’s how to move your parts around, to fit the ideals. Look in the mirror. Do your eyes look wide apart or close together on your face? The rule of thumb is that there should be a distance between your eyes equal to the width of your eye (1/3,1/3,1/3). Since eye spacing surgery is not an option, we can alter the eyebrows and emphasize with eye shadow.

If your eyes appear to be close together, tweeze the ends toward your ears to lighten them up a little. Or, with eye shadow, it’s as simple as applying darker shadow towards the outside corner of the eye, and highlight or no shadow on the inner corner of the eye. False eye lashes work too, when worn on the outside corners of the eye. Trim false eyelashes in about 1/2. Not only do they last twice as long, they also are less obviously ‘false.’ For eyes that appear too far apart, put darker shadow on the inside corners of your eyelid, and lighter shadow on the outer corner. Or, tweeze some eyebrow on the inside ends near your nose. This effectively makes your brows look farther apart, and thus your eyes closer together. I highly recommend you consult a professional beautician If you want your eyebrows waxed. Waxing will give you picture perfect brows that can then be maintained with minimal tweezing.

Vertical (eye brows): I find that my most important feature is my eyebrows. Eyebrows like glasses frame the face. Eyebrows show expression and emotion, and as we have already noted can help with your eye spacing horizontally. Eyebrows can also help with your facial proportion vertically. The rule of thumb for vertical proportion is that the distance from your chin to the bottom of your nose should equal the distance between the bottom of your nose and your eyebrows. So, by changing the arch of your brow you can alter the distance vertically on your face. Again, I strongly recommend you consult a professional for any waxing. I prefer high thin arched brows, very much like the 1950s. These seem to fit my face. Here’s another time you should consult your rogue’s gallery in search of those perfect brows. You can also shorten your lower proportion by putting a little contour powder on your chin. Or shorten your upper proportion by shortening your nose a little, as described earlier.

Less is More: A well known modern architect Mies Van De Rohe, said “less is more.” He was talking about the addition of superfluous decoration to an already perfectly beautiful unadorned structure. Makeup philosophy is similar, in that the more you put on, the less one notices the beautiful structure, (i.e. you) underneath. Another well known post modern architect Robert Venturi, said “less is a bore.” No matter who you agree with, Mies or Robert, it’s a good idea to think about the setting you’ll be in when you are dressed to go out. Many makeup mirrors have different settings for different types of lighting. I usually try to use the ‘daylight’ setting, because if it looks good in daylight honey, it’ll look good anywhere! Fluorescent lighting will give you a greenish cast, and makeup colors will wash out a little. Putting on makeup under fluorescent lights will ca away from black lights, they really make you look awful! Think about the crowd who will be there. What’s the occasion? Evaluate your ‘audience,’ so to speak. This will help you select the right amount and style of makeup.


There are many great books on makeup technique out there. If your local community organizations do not have a library of such publications, (many do) the public library is another great source for such books. Some of my favorite books are:

Francesco Scavullo, Women
Corson, Stage Makeup
Way Bandy, Designing Your Face
Kevin Aucoin, The Art of Makeup
Cindy Crawford, Cindy Crawford’s Basic Face

Don’t run out and buy these. See if you can find them at the library first, and look them over to see if they’ll help you. If you do want to buy a copy, try the local used book store, there are usually lots of other titles in the women’s health section and the photography section that are helpful.

If nothing else, it’s important to have a good model to look at and practice, practice, practice from. Have a good time.

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