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35 worst common makeup mistakes to avoid

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We all make mistakes, and when it comes to makeup, not even the professionals are safe. Many makeup mistakes are so hard to avoid because there are tons of bad techniques that are often ingrained into us from the very first moment we touch a tube of lipstick. Decades of bad advice from great grandma passed down from generation to generation.

Let’s not pretend we haven’t all had a moment when we’ve looked at an old photo and thought, “What was I thinking!?” Check out some of the top makeup mistakes to avoid and see if there are any it’s time to put behind you.

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1. Not washing makeup brushes

It’s understandable. We’re all a little lazy from time to time, and cleaning makeup brushes isn’t exactly a night of fun times. But skipping out on cleaning your makeup brushes will turn them into a bacteria hub that can cause breakouts and leave your makeup looking not-so-fresh.

Cleaning your brushes regularly will make your brushes AND your face happier. Wash your brushes depending on how often and how much makeup you use. If you’re using tons of makeup everyday, it may be a good idea to get a spray cleaner that you can spritz onto your brushes daily. Otherwise, a nice deep cleaning every week should suffice.

2. Not Moisturizing before applying makeup

Another one of the most common makeup mistakes born out of laziness or just plain rushing through a morning routine is applying makeup to a totally dry face. Lack of moisture on the face will lead to flaky makeup that won’t last as long. For best results, it’s best to use your favorite moisturizer before moving forward with applying anything else.

3. Not changing makeup with the seasons

What works in the summer, may not work in the winter. For example, waterproof makeup is your best bet in the hot weather because you’ll be sweating so much, whereas in the winter, your skin will be much drier and may benefit from hydrating makeup products.

4. Wearing the wrong shade of foundation

Picking the right shade of foundation is really hard, and a lot of us just go years thinking we’ve found the right color when really, we look like we’re wearing a skin-mask. When it comes to picking the right color, lighting is everything. If you’re in a dim store, you’re not getting the most accurate view of your foundation. Find a store that can help pick the right foundation for your complexion, or a store with a lax return policy so you can test your makeup before making a decision.

5. Wearing the wrong shade of foundation for the season

This goes hand in hand with the last mistake. A color that works in winter isn’t always going to be the best choice for the summer, especially if you tan easily. Have several options that you can switch between as your skin tone changes through the seasons.

6. Not blending foundation into the neck

Unless you’re going for a mysterious mask look, you need to blend your foundation down so that it matches the rest of your body. If you go down the neck a bit, and the color looks off, chances are you’ve chosen the wrong color.

7. Not applying foundation correctly

When applying foundation, don’t roughly rub it into your skin. Doing this will make your face look patchy and rough, and any spots will appear more obvious. Instead, pat the foundation onto your face. This is gentler for the skin and allows coverage to be much smoother.

8. Using a color too dark for your brows

Full brows are gorgeous, but using a brow powder shade that’s too dark will leave you with a look that’s more unnatural than full. It’s best to use a brow pencil, gel, or powder that is a lighter shade than your brow hair to avoid an unnaturally heavy look.

9. Over applying bronzer

Bronzer looks great, but many people put too much all over and end up looking like they were cleaning a chimney. Lightly sweep your brush across your forehead, temples, and nose.

10. Testing makeup on the wrong body parts

We’ve all gone into Sephora and tried different colors on our hands and arms, but this is one of the worst makeup mistakes you can make because your hand is not the same color as your face. Whenever possible, test your makeup on the appropriate areas. If it’s foundation, go for the jaw line. If it’s a lipstick, grab a disposable lip brush and put it on your lips.

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11. Using A concealer that is too light

A common mistake is thinking that using a light concealer will help with eliminating dark circles, but this tends to just add a ghostly appearance that actually draws more attention to the eyes. The best thing to do is use a corrective concealer to cancel out the purple and blue undertones of the eyes and then apply a natural concealer over it.

12. Not setting concealer after application

Concealer will often leave a creamy finish under the eyes which then creates that unattractive creasy look. Using a translucent powder is a good way to set the concealer and keep it looking flawless all day.

13. Applying concealer before foundation

It may seem like the logical thing to put your concealer on and then cover your face up in foundation, but this is actually the wrong way to go about things. You’ll end up removing the concealer and pushing it around as you apply your foundation. Instead, put your foundation on first and then apply your concealer on top. You’ll use less concealer this way, too since the foundation is doing half the work for you.

14. Using the same concealer for under the eyes and spots

Since your under eye concealer should be just a hint lighter than your skin tone (but remember, not TOO light!) using the same color will only highlight spots on your face. Use a creamy cover up that matches your skin tone exactly to cover up blemishes and pimples.

15. Creating the wrong shape under eyes with concealer

While you can get the job done by simply covering the darkness under the eyes, a better way to do it is to create a triangle shape beneath the eye to brighten up the entire area and make you look more awake.

16. Wearing too much powder on the face

You may be tempted to pat on tons of powder to help set foundation, and HEY, my powder says translucent on it anyway, so I can use as much as I want, right? Nope. Not only does using too much powder make your face look flat and unnatural, but this is one of the top makeup mistakes that age you because the powder will settle in fine lines and pores. Apply your powder on lightly and just where you need it.

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17. Not curling eyelashes when they’re clean

The best time to curl lashes is right before you apply your mascara. Not only will the mascara help hold the curl, but you’ll do a better job at avoiding the clumpy look that goes along with squishing together wet lashes.

18. Applying too much mascara

Too much mascara is the quickest way to get clumped lashes or the scary spider look. Make sure to use your wand to separate the lashes for a more natural look. Even better, if you have a clean wand, sweep it along your lashes after you’ve applied your mascara to separate them further.

19. Too much mascara on the lower lashes

Using just a touch of mascara on the bottom lashes can really help open up the eyes and make them pop, but putting too much could create a spidery look that will draw attention to the winkles under your eyes. While you shouldn’t shy away completely from mascara on the bottom lashes, don’t go too crazy either.

20. Pumping your mascara

Doing this only serves to push bacteria into the tube from the air being pumped in and out. You should scrape the brush along the side of the tube to get more product while still wiping away the excess.

21. Not using mascara at all

It’s okay to skip out on mascara, of course, but not using it when you’ve gone for a very intense eye look will leave your eye makeup looking incomplete.

22. Storing makeup in the bathroom

It seems like this should make sense because the bathroom is where you get ready. It’s where you have that wonderful big mirror and the nice bright light. In reality, the bathroom is actually the worst place to store makeup because of all the moisture and humidity. Your product will dry out more easily and be even more prone to bacteria. Store your makeup in a cool dry place to extend its life and keep your skin happy.

23. Using too much eyeliner

Using too much or going overboard seems to be an overarching theme here, and that’s because it’s an easy mistake to make, especially when you love the products you’re using. Creating a thick line around your eyes will only create an unnatural ring that makes your eyes appear smaller than they are.

24. Pulling your eyelids to apply eyeliner

This may seem like a good way to make applying a straight line on your eye easier, but this will only mess with the elasticity of the sensitive skin.

25. Sleeping with your makeup on

There are days when we get home late and just want to flop into bed and pass out. Leaving your makeup on over night, however, is terrible for your skin. Wearing makeup to bed can clog up your pores and cause breakouts. At worst, it can age your skin by sucking out the moisture and causing wrinkles. A couple of minutes to spare each night is better than regretting the permanent damage you could do to your face.

26. Applying your makeup in the wrong light

Just like when picking a good makeup color, applying your makeup in the correct lighting is really important. If you’re applying your makeup in the bathroom, you may end up with way too much makeup from the harsh light. A great idea is to apply makeup in a room with lots of natural light, or sit closer to a window in the day time.

27. Never throwing out your makeup

This one is a huge one. If you’re the type that likes to buy tons of makeup, there’s a good chance you won’t get through all of it, but that doesn’t mean you should keep using that makeup for the next 10 years. All products have an expiration date, and its a good idea to abide by them. In general, if you remember using a makeup item over 2 years ago, or worse, you can’t even remember when you bought it, it’s probably a good idea to get a replacement.

28. Using too much eyeshadow from your palette

You can get great eyeshadow palettes that come with all sorts of colors to mix match and blend, but just because there are 10 colors on your palette doesn’t mean you need all 10 on your lid at the same time. It’s best to keep to 3 at most. Use a medium color for the lids, a lighter color for the brow bone, and a darker shade to line the eyes.

29. Contouring when you don’t know what you are doing

Contouring is one of the most difficult things to do with makeup, and it will look just plain wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing. The worst thing you can do is try to sculpt your face without the skills to do so. If you’re not having photos taken, or your not on a television screen, it may be a good idea to just skip out on the contouring all together.

31. Incorrectly applying blush

We’ve all seen the advice to apply your blush directly to the apple of your cheeks, but you can’t just stop there with two round circles unless you’re working as a clown. Start at the apple of your cheek and sweep the blush lightly upward along your cheekbone. More neutral colors are usually the best bet if you’re not fully confident in your ability to apply the blush correctly.

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32. Applying lipsick to unprepped lips

Lipstick is probably the most quick and easy makeup product to use, but applying lipstick to bare lips will dry them out and the color won’t last as long. Instead, use a light moisturizer on your lips and let it soak in before applying the lipstick. Your lipstick will glide on more smoothly, and last longer.

33. Trying to make your lips look bigger by overlining

Overlining can leave you with lips that look awkward and misshapen. Unless you’re going for throwback 1995, blend your liner in and don’t go too extreme with trying to create your own shape for your lips. Chances are it doesn’t look as natural as you think.

34. Not applying primer

You don’t have to wear a primer all the time, but if you spend a lot of time on your makeup and then wonder why it’s not lasting all day, this could be it. Not only does primer increase the lasting power of your makeup, but it helps create a smooth palette to work on by erasing the fine lines and pores in your face.

35. Using shimmery products on oily skin

This will only make your face look shinier, which is probably not what you want if you’re already regularly fighting back shine. Instead, matte products that are a bit lighter than your skin color are a nice alternative for creating highlighting effects without turning your face into the ultimate reflective surface.