The Only Makeup Advice You’ll Need To Make It Through Your 20’s

Congratulations, girl. You made it to your twenties. Your mid-twenties, even! Good work! You’re a grown-ass lady now. Except I’m sure your parents probably still pay for your iPhone. It’s OK, I’m 25 and mine do. You’ve probably learned a lot since you left high school, saw the world from the bottom of a Smirnoff bottle, maybe got a degree, kissed some people who were bad news. That’s the way it goes down.

But now you’re a big girl, and perhaps you’re drowning in student loan debt or working a shitty retail job. You’re probably going to get your heart stomped on once or twice. Someone you love more than anything might die. You’re definitely not where you thought you were gonna be when you were a dreamy 14-year-old. And that’s OK. It’ll happen for you eventually. But in this day and age where everyone’s scrambling to compare girls in their twenties to Lena Dunham and writing insipid essays about “millennials,” you might need a little foundation to keep you from losing your shit.

No, literally: foundation. I’m not saying that makeup is the end of all problems, nor am I suggesting you slap a ton of the stuff on your face every day. I’m only saying that I couldn’t have traveled through my twenties thus far without some lipstick.

Here’s what you need in your proverbial survival kit:

A “grown-ass lady” perfume and a “trashy bar” perfume

I think it’s important to act like an adult when appropriate: at a job interview, at your boyfriend’s nephew’s baptism, at a wedding where you have to read a poem that took you three weeks to write since you’d never been in love. I also think it’s pivotal to have more than a few sloppy bar nights where you fall and bruise your knees and wind up at a diner with a boy at 3 AM. I think Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere is the perfect modern, sophisticated retelling of a fragrance your mom probably wore at your age; it will smell familiar, but not old and fusty to your precious little palate. Conversely, anything from the Britney Spears line of perfumes will do just fine for the nights you drown your skin in glitter.

One killer red lipstick

Or ten. The only red lipstick you truly need is MAC’s Ruby Woo. Of all my 80+ lipsticks, this one is my favorite, my trusty sidekick. It’s bright, retro cherry red. It packs a lot of punch and it refuses to budge from your mouth. If you’re afraid of red lipstick, I suggest starting by blotting it on as a stain or wearing it around the house for a few days until you’re confident. Wearing red lips to clean your bathroom is fun! Take it to the streets. Hold your head high. I promise the compliments will come. Red lipstick can veer ladylike, but it can also be a great “fuck you, world!” on days when you’re hungover and feeling haggard. Don’t bother with lipliner till you’re in your thirties.

A foolproof game plan

By this I mean a makeup look that you can do quickly, makes you feel pretty and polished but still like yourself. For me, this is foundation, eyebrows, mascara, bronzer, highlighter. Done in six minutes. Never underestimate the power of great brows. If you plucked yours to death in 2004 and they’re still not growing back the way you’d like, learn how to use a brow pencil to fake it. I recommend Make Up For Ever.

The basic smoky eye

A “starter” smoky eye is easier than you think. All you need is a dark shadow, preferably a dark sable brown (less harsh than black), a smudgeable liner pencil and some mascara. Brush the shadow over your lid, then line your upper lashline and use your fingers to smudge and blend outward just a bit. I like to draw a little into my lower waterlines. Pile on the mascara. Sometimes, the best way to make a statement is with some sooty, dramatic eyes. This also looks super-sexy when you sleep on it.

Strong, dependable makeup remover

I don’t care if it’s liquid (Target makes a good one) or wipes that you keep by your bed for impromptu sleepovers and wasted I-can’t-possibly-use-SOAP-right-now late nights. You need a good makeup remover to clean shit up when you’ve cried mascara all over your face.


Girl, if you’re in your mid-twenties and you don’t have some sort of skincare regimen, I’m here to help.

Figure your shit out: what kind of skin do you have, and what do you need to take care of it? Invest in quality products (I love Arcona, it saved my skin a few years ago) if you’ve got shitty skin like me. If you have insurance, see a dermatologist! But you should definitely have a good cleanser, a gentle scrub to use twice a week, a light moisturizer and perhaps an at-home peel or a mask. I think Mario Badescu products are wonderful and they’re not incredibly expensive. Plus, masks are super fun and boys LOVE doing them with you; trust me. (My *straight* brother is obsessed with Queen Helene Mint Julep mask.)

Body shimmer

Notice I said SHIMMER, not GLITTER. Everyone looks prettier with a bit of light reflected off their collarbones. Dust some on your shoulders, on your shins to make your legs look longer and if you’re going dancing, go crazy with it. You know what they say: you’re only young once, so you might as well sparkle. Thought Catalog Logo MarkAdvertisement

About the author

Kara Nesvig

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