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Image / Beauty

How to walk away from a makeup counter looking (and feeling) like yourself

by Aisling Keenan
07th Dec 2018

Avoid that all-too-familiar sinking feeling when having your makeup done. Here’s how to make sure your trip to the makeup counter ends happily…

I was caught out the other day. I was in town, ploughing around, getting bits done. No makeup on, hair in a bun, basically wearing loungewear. I was planning to just head home for the evening and work, but very last minute I was asked to go to dinner with friends of mine who I knew I wouldn’t get the same chance to see together again. I immediately confirmed that I was available – in two hours time I would be having dinner and enjoying my evening. Then I realised – I’m makeup-less and have nothing with me.

Absolutely this is a first world problem – ‘poor me, I have to go to dinner with no makeup on!’ – but I still felt like I looked like an ingrown toenail so something had to be done. I decided to pop in to one of the many beauty counters that were in the nearest department store to me and see if anyone on a counter could sort my mush out, and pronto.


In my haste, of course, I wasn’t specific enough with my instructions to the lovely girl who was doing my makeup. All I really said was that my brows were important to me and that I didn’t want lots of eye makeup… Not enough guidance, as it turns out.

I made several mistakes thereafter (which I’ve detailed in the tip list below) but the upshot? I left the counter feeling good. Then, as I was leaving the department store, I caught sight of my reflection and let out an audible gasp.


I was the very embodiment of a bronzed goddess, but not so much a goddess. I looked like I’d taken a holiday on the surface of the sun. In defence of the lovely girl on the counter, the makeup application was flawless and faultless – I just didn’t look like myself. I never wear bronzer, I never wear pink blush (and she had gone to town with that) and I rarely overdraw my lips and guess what? Yep, my lips looked much bigger. Granted, many women would be up for all of the above, and again, the makeup looked lovely. I just didn’t feel comfortable.

It got me thinking about the fact that having makeup done is ‘me’ time, it’s an experience for so many women, and when you pay for something like that to be done, you want it to go well. Not to mention the fact that how you feel in your makeup can make or break an evening’s enjoyment. And so here, with hindsight being 20/20, is my list of things I wish I’d done to avoid the WHO IS THAT I experienced at that counter.


Irish people are unfailingly polite, generally, and this behaviour at a makeup counter will earn you the title of “such a lovely customer” but might also see you win the ol’ bronze medal for services to contour. So be polite, but also demanding. You’re likely paying for the service, whether directly or by buying products, so don’t worry about appearing slightly diva-ish.


Tell the artist what you like, what you usually do, and specifically what you want. Never use gel liner? Tell them. Prefer a matte finish foundation? Express it. Want your face to match your neck? Yep, sometimes that needs to be specified.


Ask the makeup artist if you can hold onto a handheld mirror while he or she works. That way, intermittently, you can check yourself out and make sure nothing untoward is happening. It’s easier to stop something before it happens that it is to correct it after the fact. So if there’s enough highlighter on you that your face could land planes and he/she goes in with more, you’ll know and can stop it from getting out of hand.


As much as it’s vital to tell the makeup artist what you would like to look like, also mention what you would not like to look like. Your definition of “fresh, dewy and with subtle eye makeup” could mean something entirely different to ten different makeup artists, so go into detail. If you like a subtle eye but love red lipstick during the day, say it. If you favour a soft brow but love blush, tell them.


It can be helpful also to show the artist pictures of the look you want. Bearing in mind all the time that when you’re pale-skinned and have fair hair, you’re unlikely to leave looking like one of the Kardashians and vice versa. Another helpful hint? Show the artist pictures of you as you would like to look. Pick the day your makeup was flawless (to your exacting standards) and show them that.


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