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Beauty mistakes that aren’t actually mistakes at all

Makeup or beauty mistakes happen every day, even to the most seasoned beauty veterans. Smudges, smears, or smashed products are cold, hard facts of the cosmetics life. But you don’t actually need to grab your micellar water or a makeup remover wipe to take it all off and start over every time you experience a product application fail. 

In fact, with a little creativity, imagination, and ingenuity, as well as some additional tools, like cotton swabs, your makeup flubs may not actually be mistakes after all!

Here are some creative tips from the experts on how you can turn your beauty and makeup “mistakes” into total wins.

Buying the wrong color

Celebrity makeup artist Nikki Allure, who has worked with superstar Cardi B, has a great fix for those times when you have purchased the wrong shade of contour, foundation, or concealer. If you shop online and pick a hue that ends up being too dark, too light, or not bright enough, don’t go through the hassle of sending it back or worse — letting it sit at the bottom of your makeup drawer, untouched, unused, and a waste of cash. She tells me, “I use [those] for different things, such as an eyeshadow base.”

That’s a brilliant reversal of function. A contour cream or concealer can act as an eyelid primer or a base, helping your powder shadow last all night. It can also turn up or tone down the shadow color placed over top. 

Smudged mascara

Have you ever applied mascara to your lower lashes in order to darken and thicken them, only to end up with smudges on the delicate skin right beneath your eye? Don’t fret or wipe it away, which could amplify the mess. Instead, makeup artist Mindy Green recommends that you “grab a cotton swab to blend it and call it liner.” That way, you don’t waste product and enjoy the added benefit of a sultry eye look. A little under-eye smudge is totally mysterious and unexpected, giving you that good-girl-gone-bad vibe.

Samantha Agostino, lead makeup artist at ECRU New York Beauty, has a similar solution for lower lash smudges, telling me, “Mascara can be a dupe for a wet liner to create a smoky effect on the bottom lashline; just use an angled brush to load up product from the wand.”

Broken powder products

So you dropped a powder eyeshadow or a highlighter compact and the product itself is cracked, yet most of the powder still remains in the pan — we’ve all been there. Don’t allow that compact to sink to the bottom of the abyss that is your makeup bag or purse, but also don’t cut your losses and toss it! It is salvageable. Green says, “Add broken eyeshadow [dust] to a clear lip gloss to create your own heavily pigmented gloss.” 

But wait, there’s an even better suggestion. Green notes, “If you’ve lost [or broken] a few, you can blend shades to make a custom color.” There is no such thing as wasted makeup with this hack.

Using too much translucent powder

If you think you’ve made a makeup mistake and used too much translucent powder on your face, think again. The product exists to add luminescence and it’s really hard to overdo it. Plus, your fluffy brush is your BFF, since it can further diffuse the product if it’s not giving you the end result you want. Stylist and makeup artist Liz Everett tells me, “I don’t know if you can actually use too much, because you are solidifying the finish. As long as you do a great job of sweeping it gently with your brush after, you are all good.”

Hillary Kline, a freelance makeup artist in Minneapolis, has another tip for when you may need to neutralize the face powder. “Use a setting spray that has a dewy finish to it and won’t make your face look dry,” she tells me. 

Using too much lip liner

Lip liner isn’t just a tool for creating a precise, perfectly shaped lip a la Kylie Jenner. It’s also a secret weapon that helps lipstick, no matter the texture, adhere all day. If you are tracing the perimeter of your mouth and find yourself using too much color or drawing imperfect lines, just go with it. In fact, Everett recommends filling in the surface of your entire lip with liner “so that your lipstick or gloss will last longer.” 

It’s the exact same concept as an eyeshadow base — liner assists lipstick in staying put and intensifies the color that’s layered on top of it.

Mixing foundation with your primer

A full face of makeup has a running order of which products to apply and when, so you may think you’ve made a mistake if you go out of order. Primer usually goes first, giving you a flawless canvas on which to add concealer, liquid foundation and/or powder, and contour. Usually, a primer is applied prior to foundation, adding an extra layer of moisture and ensuring that makeup stays on longer. However, if you somehow mix your primer and foundation, it’s totally okay. The team at The London School of Make-Up, says, “By mixing your foundation with some primer, you can achieve a more translucent look, which helps your makeup to blend perfectly in with your primer.”

This leads to a softer focus visage and creates a natural look. You retain the coverage your foundation provides, without looking like you’ve slathered on a metric ton of product. It’s all about light and light.

Eyeshadow fallout

Makeup artist Emilie Rudman, who launched the Emilie Heathe line and runs the MLE STUDIO, has brilliant solution for repurposing eyeshadow fallout. You know what we’re talking about: “You’ve just added your favorite shimmer shadow to your lid with your favorite soft brush, but in the process are left with a ton of shadow all over your face,” she says, recounting a makeup situation we’ve all experienced. But it’s not the end of the world. Rudman continues, “Take a soft face brush or your finger and blend this shadow right above the cheek bone and use it as a highlighter.”

Obviously, this technique only works with light and shimmery shades. You can’t employ the same trick with dark, matte shadows or you will be left with a sooty mess on your face.

You didn’t pack enough products

If you are traveling and were forced to pack efficiently due to TSA regulations, and inexplicably forgot your favorite eyeshadow palette, there is no need to head to the drugstore to spend more money on the same products you left at home. 

If you have smartly packed other products, like face powder, they can multi-task in your favor. Rudman says, “Your face powder can also be used as a shadow, but also as a shadow base. This will prevent liner from bleeding, mascara from transferring, and cover those dark spots.”

Broken concealer

Makeup artist and Pretty Girl Makeup CEO Christina Flach has a terrific tip for salvaging broken or smashed powder and cream products, which can be expensive, and therefore it’s extra frustrating when they end up broken. But never fear! They are not unusable. “Utilize containers, adding some broken powder with bronzer to make the perfect light bronzing powder that also will take the shine off while giving a bit of color during the winter season,” she tells me.

But what can be done to reuse a broken concealer stick? Flach says what’s leftover can be “added to a bit of your favorite moisturizer for a fabulous hydrating under eye cream.”

Going overboard on brows

If you overdid it with your eyebrows, added too much powder or created a little too much definition with a kohl pencil, you don’t actually need to wash your whole face and start over. You can easily tone down an overdone brow with this time-saving method. Kline suggests that you “take a makeup sponge, apply a little bit of makeup remover to it, and dab over the brows. It will lower the intensity of your brow.” Toning things down is easy, as long as you are careful with both your tools and your technique.

Unwashed brushes

Neglecting to wash your makeup brushes every couple of weeks or so is a really bad habit. However, if you simply haven’t had the chance to clean your tools, it can have a positive benefit, as long as you don’t do it too often! 

Ami Mallon, who serves as Global Corporate Educator for Osmosis Colour Mineral Cosmetics, tells me, “Even the most germ-phobic of us can have moments where we forget to wash our brushes. The good news? If you are in a hurry, the makeup of yesterday can be the makeup of today, as well! A dirty eyeshadow, blush, or foundation brush can mean today’s beautiful recycled look.” 

Basically, the leftover color on the hairs can be used to create a light, easy wash of color on your lids or cheeks. It’s literally “next day” makeup.

Smudged winged eyeliner


The cat-eye flick is hard to master, even for makeup vets. There are tons of products (felt tip pens, angled brushes paired with gel pots, the Vamp Stamp) available to help achieve that perfect wing. Drawing a wing can be frustrating and is often a bust, but don’t be deterred. 

Emaneula DeFalco, founder of Dirty Little Secret Cosmetics, tells me, “Not every wing needs to be sharp enough to cut your ex-boyfriend. A smudged liner can bring a sexy sultry look without having to do a complete smokey eye.” 

To get this look, DeFalco says, “Just take a gel liner and literally smudge it out with a brush or your finger. If anyone asks why your wing isn’t sharp, tell them they can’t sit with you.” #Burn

Her larger point is more important — it’s totally okay to seek a not-so-sharp or unpredictable wing.

Makeup is art, Beauty is spirit


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