18 Makeup Myths You Should Really Stop Believing
It's time to ditch the bad beauty advice that's keeping you from reaching your full gorgeous potential.
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Skip the sketchy beauty tips
On social media, beauty influencers are constantly telling us what we should or shouldn’t be doing with our makeup—and sometimes it’s downright awful advice. Some of these seemingly innocent beauty mistakes could be sabotaging your style, making you look older, or even encouraging you to try some unsafe practices. Celebrity makeup artist Geoffrey Rodriguez, who has worked with Gigi Hadid, Padma Lakshmi, and Emma Watson, acknowledges how easy it is to believe these beauty “facts”—but says it’s essential to separate fact from fiction if you want a truly flawless look.
So, which makeup myths are the biggest offenders? Experts have a long list, and it includes everything from layering too many products on your skin to thinking you can’t pull off a certain look. Learn the truth—and a few expert tips along the way—and you’ll be on the path to looking instantly put together and completely gorgeous.
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Makeup myth: You always need makeup primer
Is primer truly essential? “One of the greatest myths is that primer is needed for long-lasting makeup,” says makeup artist and hairstylist Marcia Williams, founder of Embellish Beauty Concepts. But this extra step can clog pores and make greasy skin look greasier. The real key to great makeup is starting off with a clean palette. “If your skin care routine is done prior to makeup application, this is a great start,” Williams says. “That and setting powder, which will give you a long-lasting effect. Always remember: Less is better.” Try a tinted powder like Maybelline Lasting Fix Banana Translucent Setting Powder, which blends easily and doesn’t leave a chalky look.
Makeup myth: You don’t need sunscreen if your makeup has SPF
There’s really no wiggle room here: You need to apply sunscreen every day, even if your foundation has SPF in it. If you want true protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays, says Williams, this is one step you can’t skip in your beauty routine. The Skin Cancer Foundation backs this up, explaining that most cosmetic formulations just don’t have enough sun protection in them to fully protect your skin. Don’t worry—that extra layer of SPF doesn’t have to feel heavy or goopy. For a light feel, try Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid Daily Facial Sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SPF 70, or one of these other sunscreens specially designed for your face that you’ll be happy to wear every day.
Makeup myth: Women over 40 can’t do shimmer
“Go for it!” says New York–based makeup artist and beauty expert Amanda Christan Burran, whose celebrity clients include Sarah Jessica Parker, Natalie Portman, and Sheryl Crow. “Gold, peach, brown, burgundy—they all look amazing and sexy on the eyes,” she says. No matter what age you are, Burran recommends this trick for keeping your eye shadow on point: Apply a matte base color; then blend a colored shimmer shadow over it. Focus on the lower part of your eyelid and blend up into the crease of the eye. Then brush a super-light highlight shadow under the brow to bring the whole look together. Voilà! We love a buildable product like Make Up For Ever Star Lit Liquid because it allows you to play around with whatever amount of shimmer you choose. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to make a few adjustments when wearing shimmer and other makeup with glasses.
Makeup myth: You need foundation for a complete look
If you take good care of your skin, you probably don’t need a thick spackling of foundation to pull off a flawless finish. In fact, it could easily just make you look overdone. Burran says to skip the foundation and instead try a tinted moisturizer, a nourishing face cream, or a very sheer, dewy foundation (just a few drops) to let your natural skin shine through. “It’s beautiful to have healthy skin and show it,” Burran says. “A tinted moisturizer gives the face a sheen that looks youthful.”
For an extra special touch, apply a light shimmer highlighter on the outer corners of the eye to brighten the whole face. Or add a tiny bit of shimmer to your favorite tinted product. Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30 adds a healthy glow to skin—no heavy application needed. While you’re at it, skip the powder if you want to keep your natural glow, and try one (or more!) of these 19 “no-makeup” makeup tricks.
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Makeup myth: Women of color can’t wear bright makeup
Rodriguez remembers a time when women of color were cautioned against wearing bright colors. “That is simply false,” he says. “Bright color on women of color looks fantastic! From a bright lip hue to a pop of color on the eyes, it can all work and look extremely chic and sophisticated.” Even more than that, feel free to play around with bright colors on lips and eyes to create a playful mood. We are obsessed with Maybelline Expert Wear Eye Shadow in Acid Rain; it adds drama and definition to nearly any skin tone. You’ll find more great options from these 20 Black-owned makeup brands that are good for women of every skin shade.
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Makeup myth: Makeup doesn’t expire
It’s time to clean out your makeup bag! “There is a recommended shelf life for cosmetics,” Williams says. “There are ingredients in makeup that will start to break down over time. Expired makeup can also grow bacteria, which can have an adverse effect on your skin. Many cosmetics may not provide an expiration date, so always be vigilant and remember to refresh your makeup bag after 12 months.” Keep track of your products’ expiration dates easily by labeling them. That way you’ll know exactly when you opened each product—and when it’s time to toss them.
Makeup myth: Expensive brands work better
No need to break the bank to get your beauty on—there are good and bad products in all price ranges, says Michele Green, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City. In fact, many of the active ingredients in anti-aging skin-care products are the same, no matter where you buy them or how much they cost. “While, sure, expensive products are going to work for you, so will some of the much cheaper options,” Dr. Green says. “Don’t just look at the price tag and assume you’re getting what you pay for.”
If your face needs a quick pick-me-up, try Maybelline’s Instant Age Rewind Eraser. Dot it under your eyes or on spots or discolorations, or even use as an eye shadow base, and you’ll see truly magical results. But don’t just take our word for it—this $8 product has more than 43,000 rave reviews on Amazon!
Makeup myth: Lip plumpers give you the perfect pout
Don’t be fooled by the advertisements. Lip plumpers don’t actually make your lips fuller. Rather, these products irritate your lips with ingredients like menthol and hot pepper so they become swollen temporarily, says Dr. Green, and that can actually be harmful. Pass on the OTC plumpers, and instead fake luscious lips with a pretty lipstick and liner. Sephora Collection Rouge Gel Lip Liner in Bellflower goes on as a pinky mauve that flatters nearly every skin tone. Top it with a more intense shade of lipstick or even a clear or slightly frosty gloss like Sephora Glossed Lip Gloss in Wild, a pretty blue-violet pearlized shade. By the way, here’s what your favorite lipstick color says about your personality.
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Makeup myth: Not everyone can wear red lips
Love classic red lips but think you can’t pull off this look? Not true! “There is virtually a shade and texture of red to suit every skin tone,” says Rodriguez. “Red accentuates fuller lips, and a brighter red can make thinner lips look fuller. Red is also the perfect way to look instantly vibrant, polished, and confident, which can be quite useful for Zoom meetings.”
There are a number of guidelines about how to choose the right shade of red, but this pro tip simplifies everything: If you look better in silver jewelry, you’ll look best in red lipstick with blue undertones. If gold jewelry is more your thing, go for orangey reds instead. One of our favorites? This Haus Laboratories by Lady Gaga Sparkle Lipstick. The vegan formula adds the perfect amount of oomph and is incredibly long-lasting.
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Makeup myth: You need to choose either a bold lip or a strong eye
Rodriguez says you can totally throw this one away. “While perhaps not for everyone, the right combination of a bold lip color with a stronger eye look can look very sophisticated,” he says. “[But it] takes a great deal of confidence to pull off correctly.” If you’re new to this, try layering color and building up to the boldness. Start with your eyes and then move onto your lips. Check out the effect in the mirror: Does the color look balanced? Great. Still want some more color? Keep building up with light brushstrokes and application until you have a bold and balanced look. Another great way to create dramatic eyes is to use dramatic eye liner. Maybelline’s HyperEasy Liquid Pen Eyeliner goes on like a dream, minimizing mishaps, and can act as the perfect frame for your shadow.
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Makeup myth: Women of color don’t need sunscreen
The sun can damage skin of any color, and no matter your skin tone or pigmentation, you should be using sunscreen every single day of the year, whether the sun is shining brightly or the sky is full of clouds. While most of us pay attention to sunscreen during summer months, sun damage can happen at any time—even through car windows. Williams’ favorite sunscreen for women of color is Black Girl Sunscreen. “It does not have that white residue when used,” she says. “It’s clear and disappears into the skin.” In addition to wearing sunscreen religiously, here are another 14 ways to prevent skin cancer.
Makeup myth: Makeup harms the skin
Chemicals in beauty products are often scrutinized for being potentially harmful to the skin and body. But makeup can actually protect your skin from pollution, says Linda Mason, a makeup artist from England who has worked with an impressive array of A-list clients including Kate Moss, Brooke Shields, and Cameron Diaz. The key is to remove it fully at night, so it doesn’t clog pores. To keep skin as clean and clear as possible, Mason recommends gently wiping off makeup every night and rinsing with warm water and a creamy cleanser like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser.
Makeup myth: Concealer should always be lighter than your foundation
“Once upon a time, with a full face of makeup, a lighter shade under the eyes created brightness,” notes Rodriguez. “While a good concealer should provide coverage for dark under-eye circles, broken capillaries, [and more], if it is lighter than your skin tone, it will only draw attention to or emphasize anything that you are trying to conceal.” For that reason, you should try to blend your concealer to your skin tone, making it undetectable.
For a little brightness under the eyes, Rodriguez suggests trying a highlighter. Use an extremely light hand when applying and be mindful that you don’t apply too much or it will settle into lines around the eyes. Start at the inner corner and dot gently directly under your bottom lash line, blending as you go. Yves Saint Laurent Touché Éclat Radiant Touch Highlighter practically created the category for products that hide and brighten. Be careful, though, since sometimes concealer can make your dark circles look worse.
Makeup myth: Always line your lips before applying lipstick
Pre-lipstick liner is supposed to create definition around your kisser and keep your lipstick from feathering. Unfortunately, the liner, which tends to outlast the lip color, can leave a ring around your lips once the lipstick wears off. Here’s a trick to prevent that: “First apply your lipstick, then use your liner to define the outside rim of your lips,” suggests makeup artist Vanessa Ungaro. Or try a lip base like Nyx Professional lip primer in nude before lip wear. Apply all over lips, as well as just outside your lip line, to prevent feathering, and then follow with your favorite lippie.
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Makeup myth: Pumping your mascara wand helps spread the product
Attention long-lash lovers: Do not pump your mascara wand into its tube! You may think this strategy helps to get more mascara on the wand or distributes it evenly across the length of the wand, but according to Ungaro, the pumping action just pushes air into the tube, which dries out your mascara faster. Some makeup artists recommend using a clean piece of reusable cotton fabric like these cotton rounds to clear excess product from your spoolie brush. After it’s clean, dip the brush back into the tube. Looking for a great new mascara? Try the #1 selling mascara on Amazon and see why it totally lives up to the hype.
Makeup myth: Dust your whole face with bronzer to look tan
Bad idea, unless you want to look like you’re trying to star on your own reality TV show. The thing is, brushing bronzer onto your entire face creates that dreaded line of demarcation between your face and your neck, and it makes you look like you’re wearing an orange mask, says Ungaro. For a more natural, believable glow, dust bronzer over the areas of your face that the sun would naturally hit, like the bridge of the nose, forehead, cheeks, and chin. Until you get the hang of things, try this gorgeous Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Bronzer in Light and apply with a big fluffy brush.
Makeup myth: All-natural products are safest
Not so fast. “A product might be 100 percent au naturel, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a bad reaction to it,” says Samantha Jozic, a New York–based makeup artist. If you’ve experienced discomfort or reactions to beauty products in the past, Jozic suggests visiting your local allergist and getting tested to find out what really does (and doesn’t) work for you. “The truth is that a product from your dermatologist might work better for you than the one from the local organic market, depending on your sensitivities,” Jozic says. For a derm-approved product without the appointment, try Dermadoctor’s brand-new Calm Cool + Corrected 1% Colloidal Oatmeal Eczema and Dermatitis Clinical Repair Balm, which soothes and repairs even the most sensitive skin.
Makeup myth: Real women can’t pull off a smokey eye
A dark, sexy smokey eye isn’t just for models and movie stars. It can provide a modern and fun look for your more dramatic moments. For pro-style application, Burran suggests blending eyeliner with a great eye shadow brush or Q-tip and using a high-quality eye shadow that blends well. For a little less drama and an incredibly wearable look, start off with deeper taupes or browns. Try a cream eye shadow like Revlon Colorstay’s Creme Eye Shadow in Chocolate, which is super easy to blend.
Now that we’ve debunked these makeup myths, learn the truth about the hair myths that are ruining your hair.
- Geoffrey Rodriguez, celebrity makeup artist
- Marcia Williams, founder of Embellish Beauty Concepts
- Skin Cancer Foundation: “Making Your Sunscreen Work With Your Makeup”
- Amanda Christan Burran, makeup artist and beauty expert
- Michele Green, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City
- Vanessa Ungaro, makeup artist