Dressing up for the evening used to mean reaching for the scarlet lipstick and black eyeshadow. While evening make-up does demand different techniques from daytime, looking glamorous doesn’t involve putting on heavy colours with a trowel.
‘If you vary your nighttime make-up too dramatically from day, you’ll feel as uncomfortable as if you went out in someone else’s dress,’ says New York make-up artist Michael Criscuolo. ‘If you don’t look like you – if that face in the mirror seems like a stranger – you won’t relax and enjoy yourself.’
These are the five most important factors to consider:
1. The occasion
You wouldn’t wear the same make-up to a summer picnic supper as you would to a formal prize-giving ceremony or a smoochy disco. Think through what’s appropriate.
2. The time of year
Summer demands lighter make-up; winter can take a more dramatic look.
3. Your choice of clothes
The same make-up that works with a tuxedo-style evening suit will look overpowering with a pale satin spaghetti-strap dress.
4. The lighting
That famous beauty Lady Diana Cooper was rumoured to ring hosts beforehand to check on the lighting: was it to be kind candles or sidelights, or the merciless glare of overhead beams?
5. How little time you have to get ready
Think this one out ahead and – like a Girl Guide – be prepared. Have make-up and a complete outfit ready at home, or if you’re going from work, pack make-up and sponge bags, evening clothes/accessories – and don’t forget the spare pair of tights and a fabulous, party-worthy scent.
Tips from the pros on party make-up
- Bobbi Brown: ‘Think deeper, richer shades rather than just one extra-heavy application of your usual make-up’
- Michael Criscuolo: ‘Look at what you’re wearing during the day and then add in some colour that enhances that for night’
- Maggie Hunt: ‘To avoid nasty surprises, check your make-up in several different mirrors in your house or office before going out, and don’t forget to look at your neck and bosom to make sure there’s no dramatic contrast with the skin of your face. Use concealer on any blemishes, then powder.’
- Our tip: don’t experiment just before a party; always have a dress and make-up rehearsal before a big evening.
However long you have, start by drinking a big glass of water to de-stress yourself; swallow a couple of algae tablets, if you like (spirulina, blue-green algae, chlorella). If you’re hungry, eat something quick and energising like a banana. Then stand up straight, shoulders down, and take four slow deep breaths.
The 5-minute timetable
- Brush your teeth
- Turn your head upside down and brush or comb your hair; tie it back or fluff it up
- Touch up lips, eyes, blusher
- Spritz on scent
The 30-minute timetable
If you’re at home…
- Put on some upbeat music
- Take off make-up
- Have a 5-minute power shower. Wash hair only if it’s supershort
- Put on moisturiser and leave for 5 minutes while fixing hair
- Do your make-up: foundation, eyes, powder, blusher, lips
- Dress and spritz with scent
If you’re at work…
- Blot T-zone to remove shine (or whole of face if it’s all shiny) with soft tissues (not loo paper – it’s too hard)
- Sweep face with a dry make-up sponge to remove the morning’s foundation, powder and blusher
- Use a cotton bud dipped in eye make-up remover to take off any shadow and mascara
- Wipe off lipstick with a tissue and a dab of Vaseline
- If lips are flaky-dry, smooth over moisturiser and brush with a soft toothbrush
- Spritz with mineral water (buy Evian spray, or use a plant mister)
- Touch up foundation – compact foundations are ideal for this
- Reapply eyeshadow, blusher, lipstick – with gloss if you wish, and fresh coat of mascara
- Spritz with scent
The 60-minute timetable
Despite the extra time, don’t be tempted to dawdle or to experiment either with make-up or with clothes – it invariably leads to being late, because you’re lulled into a false sense of security. Stick with the basic 30-minute strategy but add in some of these options:
- Wash and style hair
- Substitute long scented bath for shower
- Or, if you’re flagging, opt for a quick energy booster: dance around wildly to your favourite music, follow with a brisk body-brushing all over, before diving into a power shower
- Smooth in body lotion so you feel silky all over
- Touch up nails and give yourself a 2-minute hand and foot massage
- If your back hurts and everything aches, put on soothing music and lie flat on the floor for a few minutes, head supported by a couple of paperbacks, knees up and apart, feet flat. Let your body sink into the floor and visualise yourself in a calm, quiet, warm place.
Make-up bags for parties
- Emery board
- Foundation (preferably compact all-in-one)
- Eye make-up – shadow, liner, mascara, brow pencil
- Clear or tinted nail polish
Sponge Bags for Parties
The above, plus:
- Eye make-up remover
- Cotton wool buds
- Dry make-up sponge
- Mineral water spray
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
Maggie Hunt’s evening make-up for The Beauty Bible
You can adapt this comprehensive step-by-step guide to suit you individually. If, for instance, you have no blemishes, you won’t need step 1. This look and these basic shades will suit most women. However, the basic steps can be varied by different colours on eyes and lips (look at our other suggestions).
Since your evening might carry on until dawn, Maggie has designed this make-up to stay put for up to 12 hours. You don’t want to find that the lights have gone up and your make-up has disappeared. As with all make-up, the secret is blending, so take time and make sure that each colour (except, of course, for your lipstick) merges imperceptibly into the next.
12 steps to a perfect evening face:
1. Paint blemishes with a small brush dipped in concealer or foundation, or pat on concealer with your ring finger; dab the blemishes gently until they have softened or, with any luck, disappeared. Do not rub.
2. To give a flawless base, look straight into a well-lit mirror and pat on a light-coloured, light-textured concealer or foundation; start from the inner corner underneath the eye and work outwards along the dark shadow. Lower eyelids and brush or pat on an even coat all over the eye zone, from lashes to brows, including the hollows on either side of the nose. Finish by applying your usual foundation lightly wherever else you need it. Put all this on lightly – you want the overall impression to be as natural as you’d look by day, especially if you are wearing a low-cut dress which shows lots of bare flesh.
3. Before the foundation has set (and settled into any fine lines), powder lightly all over the face using translucent loose powder. Apply with a clean powder sponge, cotton wool pad or velvet puff. Whisk off any excess with a clean side of the sponge or pad, or with a big powder brush.
4. Now sweep an ivory semi-matte eyeshadow all over the eye area from lashes to eyebrows; this is the base for your eye make-up, whatever colours you choose, and will give 12-hour staying power. Also put the same shadow on the V above your upper lip to accentuate fullness (this is particularly effective for anyone with a thin upper lip).
5. Contour and define eyes with a semi-matte mid-brown eyeshadow (you can go for taupe/grey browns or a more golden shade). Dip your eyeshadow brush gently in the shadow and blow off any excess before applying. Put a folded tissue under lower lashes to avoid loose particles on your cheeks. Don’t go up to the brow bone, and avoid that little oval-shaped pad of fat on the inner corner of the eyelid. Then gently wing the shadow up and out towards the temples to lift the eyes; never take it further than the end of the eyebrows. Blend the shadow into the skin.
6. Shape face and contour cheekbones, if necessary. Use slightly darker powder to slim down a broad nose, cheeks or face, disguise a double chin or bring down a high forehead. Always blend the dark powder in carefully – don’t give yourself stripes. (Practise before a big evening out till you’re happy with the results.)
- for a broad nose, brush dark powder down either side of the nose.
- for a long nose, brush some darker powder on the tip.
- for round cheeks, suck in cheeks and lightly apply darker powder in the hollows, blending backwards to the ear.
- for a heavy jaw, dust darker powder slightly under and slightly over the jawline, following the shape of the jaw.
- for a double chin, brush powder onto the fatty part.
- for a high forehead, sweep darker powder hairline.
7. Brush on translucent powder or brighten up your face with a bronzing powder swept across cheeks, down the nose, on the brow bone, or the whole of your face if you wish. For naturalness, don’t go darker than the chest and neck. Or you could try adding a bit of highlighter to upper cheekbones and brow bone, to give a glow if you know the lighting will be subdued.
8. Now that you can judge the impact of the rest of your face, finish your eye make-up. Choose a soft golden bronze with just a touch of shine and apply across the inner two-thirds of the eyelid, up to the eye socket. Now define the outer third in a sideways V-shape, using dark brown or charcoal, smudge-blending the edges of the powder together.
9. Define eyes in black (or a dark smokey shade) with either eyeliner pencil (for the softest finish), cake liner (medium soft) or liquid eyeliner (most dramatic).
10. Apply mascara top and bottom – two coats, if you wish.
11. Define brows with powder or pencil, if necessary.
12. Paint on lipstick, define shape with lip liner, then add gloss if you wish.
Other evening faces
These looks will give you ideas for eyes, lips, cheeks and finishing touches, to incorporate into your party make-up.
The Paloma Picasso Look
This is a dramatic look: try it with a tuxedo, a little black dress or any dark, rich colours. It is sensational with black velvet and a décolletage. Go for a strong accent on lips, eyes, cheeks and skin colour. Women with pale skins appear even paler and very dramatic in contrast. Medium to dark skins, or dull complexions, will take on a fresher, clearer and more vibrant tone.
- For a perfect canvas, you may need a foundation that covers fairly well, like Lancôme Maquilumine.
- Such powerful colours can be ageing, so do try this out this look with products you already have before investing in an exotic new palette of colours.
- Scarlet nails are the finishing touch.
Pastels, Pearls and Silver
Once the epitome of 50s’ style, pastels and pearls are now very right again. They suit women of any age with traditional English rose-style light hair and fair skin. This look is also wonderful with grey hair and goes perfectly with shiny satins and silks, in pastels or ice-cream colours.
- Keep foundation light and dewy and don’t use heavy powder.
- Don’t ever be tempted to put pink immediately around your eyes – it makes any woman look like a white mouse. Instead, smooth on semi-matte neutral colours toning with your skin tone: try beige, ivory, deep grey, sand, pale peach. Brush deeper or contrasting colour – e.g. deep rose, honey, brown, taupe – into the socket line and under the lower lid. Add a hint of pink above the socket, and brown mascara.
- Remember, shine draws light, so don’t put it anywhere you have lines. Use silver eyeshadow to highlight the centre of the upper lid and brow bone. Line with silver, right behind the lashes, top and bottom.
- Lips should be pale but interesting; try applying a rosy colour, then rubbing or blotting off so just a stain is left. Then outline lips and top with pearlised or silvery gloss. (Experiment mixing eyeshadows in lip gloss.)
- Wear toning pale nail varnish – frosted, if you like.
The Midas Touch
Intense golds, coppers and bronzes are wonderful in the evening. Wear this rich Renaissance look with black, velvets, metallics – or go angelic and wear it with white or cream. You can adapt this make-up at any age by varying the intensity. Use a foundation that matches your skin or, for fresh, flawless skin, try a tinted moisturiser mixed with a little foundation.
- Teens to late 20s can go for all-over shimmer and kohl-rimmed eyes, with soft light gold dusted over lids and up to the brow, with a deeper colour (e.g. gold bronzer) on the lids.
- Older skins look better with softer shades smudged into a smoky effect, plus subtle touches to add sparkle – e.g. gold shadow dotted over your usual eyeshadow to highlight the arc of the brow, or gold gloss mixed with your favourite lipstick.