The Only 3 Makeup Tools You'll Ever *Really* Need

Plus, how to smudge, blur, and blend the right way.

Woman Wearing Makeup
(Image credit: Jeff Allen)

The exactly-right blend leads to so many good things—cookie dough, remixes, an enviable girl squad. And yep, a seamless makeup application. Fortunately, smearing and smudging your makeup for a beautifully blurred effect is way simpler than you think. The secret? Pairing an easy-to-work-with cosmetic with the right tool. Here's how it's done.

GIF - Smudging Eyeliner

(Image credit: Jeff Allen)

Expertly Smudged Eyeliner: It's essential to start with a creamy liner that doesn't dry too quickly, explains makeup artist Andrew Sotomayor, who used MAC Eye Kohl in Teddy (opens in new tab), a bronze shade. "This one gives you play time, but then stays in place all day," says Sotomayor. To intensify the smolder, he first swept the eyelids with a base of pewter eye shadow from Maybelline New York The Blushed Nudes Palette (opens in new tab).

The Tool to Ace It: Stick to a synthetic-bristled brush—it won't soak up any of the cream liner—with a tapered end. The dome shape helps diffuse the line as you stroke it from the inner to the outer corner of your eye.

GIF - Contouring

(Image credit: Jeff Allen)

Precisely Blended Contour: A prominent cheekbone creates a shadow in the hollow of the cheek. Faking that recess by adding a darker shade will make your facial structure pop. Unless you're restaging Robert Palmer's iconic video (opens in new tab), a first-rate contour is meant to be invisible. Make it seamless by using a powder. "It's easier to blend than a cream," says Sotomayor. He used Becca Lowlight/Highlight Perfecting Palette Pressed (opens in new tab). Apply the color in a thin line just below the cheekbone, and then blend, blend, blend till the stripe is indistinguishable from your skin.

The Tool to Ace It: Use a soft, fluffy brush. "Anything with densely packed bristles will leave a heavy trace of makeup," says Sotomayor.

GIF - Putting on Lip Color

(Image credit: Jeff Allen)

Cleanly Blurred Lip Color: "Blurring can turn a creamy lipstick into a stain. Pressing the color into your lips also makes a bold, matte color look modern and organic, since it'll take on the texture of your lip," says Sotomayor, who used Maybelline New York Color Blur in Plum Please (opens in new tab) here. A little of this lip color goes a long way, so apply it on the center of your lips and then blend it out.

The Tool to Ace It: The crayon from Maybelline comes with a built-in silicone smudger on one end. The material won't absorb the lip color, leaving it where you want it—on your lips. Plus, it's easy to clean with a wipe or soap and water.

Nina Judar
Nina Judar