We get it–prom preparations are not cheap. But DIY prom makeup can totally help cut costs.
After buying your dress, booking a limo and getting your hair done, sometimes coughing up even more cash to get your makeup done just doesn’t seem worth it. You may be thinking: “Why am I going to spend all this money just to have it on for a few hours?” Or maybe you’re nervous you’re makeup will end up looking like a disaster, even though it’s been done by a pro (which has been known to happen). Just because it’s prom does not mean everything needs to be done by a professional.
But getting your makeup just right can seem quite overwhelming. There are so many things to take into consideration: the color of your dress, your skin type, the weather, what products to use, etc. On the other hand, the greatest benefit is that you’ll be able to experiment with different products and colors and practice before the big night—so everything will go smoothly for the main event.
We’ve rounded up a list of 15 essential tips that will have you doing your makeup like a pro in no time.
1. Prime if you need to
You want your makeup to look flawless all night, so prepping the skin correctly is essential. In this case, you’re going to need to know your skin type really well. Do you tend to get shiny throughout the day? If so, you should use a mattifying primer, like Becca’s Ever-Matte Poreless Perfecting Primer, which will keep oil at bay and refine larger pores. On the other hand, if your skin gets dry and flaky you can skip primer, but make sure you moisturize well before applying foundation.
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2. Use a photo friendly foundation
You’re going to be taking photos all night, so you want your skin to be picture perfect. There are foundations out there that are specifically made to look fantastic in photos, like Makeup Forever’s HD Foundation. The most important thing is to test the foundation before the night of to make sure it works for you. You can actually ask the employees at your local Sephora for small foundation samples to try out before buying.
3. Match your foundation to your chest and blend it down your neck
Many times, our faces can be either lighter or darker than our bodies. By matching your foundation to your chest and blending it down your neck, you are ensuring that everything is one, uniform color.
4. Be wary of HD powder
Tons of brands now make finely-milled, loose silica powder, which is often marketed as “HD powder.” While these products are meant to give a “soft focus” effect to the skin, when used incorrectly, the results can be pretty scary. Ever see pictures of celebrities on the red carpet where it looks like they dunked their faces in baby powder? That’s the result of poorly applied HD powder. Silica powders dissolve when they come in contact with moisture, which gives a beautiful finish to the skin. When they encounter dry patches, however, they cling to them and create that ghostly, white cast you see so often in flash photography. We’re not saying that’s going to happen to you, but if you want to be safe, avoid them.
5. Contour, but don’t go crazy
You probably always see your favorite Instagram or YouTube celeb practically paint their face with concealer to “contour and highlight.” But think about this: when is the last time you saw someone on the cover of a magazine or in a movie like that? Probably never. And that’s because real makeup artists don’t contour like they’re putting on war paint. Contouring should subtly sculpt the face, and when done correctly, it will look beautiful in pictures.
You’ve probably heard a million times that you can contour with bronzer–don’t do it. You should be using a cool toned shade, like NYX’s Blush in Taupe, which will mimic a natural shadow. Your cheek contour should begin above your ear and end just where your eye starts to create the most natural shape.
6. Go a bit heavier-handed with your blush
Flash photography washes everything out, that’s why it’s okay to go a bit heavier with your blush. But don’t go too crazy, you don’t want to look like a clown. Try adding just a touch more than you normally would to your apples–and don’t forget to blend everything well.
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7. Fill in your brows
If there’s one occasion you should be filling in your brows, it’s prom night. Your eyebrows frame your face and pull your entire makeup look together, that’s why making them polished and defined is crucial. Use a light hand and fill in any sparse areas with a brow powder instead of a pencil (The waxy formula tends to catch light and flash back in photos). And of course, make sure you’re brushing everything out with a spoolie–no one likes sharpie brows.
8. Prime your eyes
We can’t say this enough: An eyeshadow primer will ensure that your eyeshadow won’t crease and slide all over while you’re dancing the night away. Plus, shadows will apply smoother and more vibrantly.
9. Choose a color palette that complements your dress
You want your whole look to be cohesive. If you want to play it safe, stick to the same undertones of your dress when choosing the color palette of your makeup (so pair a warm toned dress with warm tones in your makeup, etc.). But if you’re feeling a little more daring, don’t feel like you need to match your makeup to the color of your dress exactly. Try playing around with complementary colors. For example, a blue dress can look awesome with a pop of orange lipstick, a purple dress will look stunning with smoldering, golden eyes. And if all else fails, you can never go wrong with a classic, black smokey eye.
10. Define your lower lash line
Shadow underneath the eye can be a scary thing—a bit too much and you can end up looking like you have a black eye. However, when done correctly, it actually opens up the eye and prevents your eyeshadow look from being too top-heavy. Use a small brush to sweep color very close to the lash line. If you have small eyes, leave the inner third blank, to create the illusion of bigger eyes. Make sure you’re blending everything out so there are no harsh lines. If you really want that extra pop, skip black and line your waterline with a nude pencil.
11. Don’t feel like you need to wear false lashes
Sure, false lashes can really give your eyes that extra edge, but it’s your night and you need to do what feels comfortable to you. If you have a hard time applying them, or just find them uncomfortable, don’t wear them! You can give your eyes definition with multiple layers of mascara, without having to worry about lash glue and pesky corners lifting up all night.
12. Line and fill in your lips with lip liner
No matter the lip color, you want it to last. By lining and filling in your lips with a lip pencil, you’re not only defining them, you’re also creating a base that will make everything last longer and preventing your lip color from bleeding.
13. Choose your lip color carefully
There are no rules as to what lip color you should wear on your prom night. It’s important to keep in mind, however, how high maintenance the color will be. If you’re going for a nude, you can quickly swipe on a gloss or a lipstick and go. If you’re going for a more bold color, however, like a red or a hot pink, you’re going to have to deal with the upkeep all night. Decide if reapplying and making sure your lip color doesn’t smudge or get on your teeth is something you want to worry about all evening.
14. Use a setting spray
Setting sprays are a beautiful thing. A few spritzes of this wonder-product on top of a setting powder (We love Urban Decay’s All Nighter Setting Spray) and your makeup will be locked into place—no need to worry about sweating your makeup off on the dance floor.
15. Bring products to touch up
Unfortunately, makeup can’t stay looking as perfect as it did when you first applied it. That’s why it’s important to bring a few products to touch up throughout the night. We recommend carrying just the essentials, like concealer, powder, blotting sheets and your lip color.
Originally published April 2015. Updated March 2017.