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, 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.

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, 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. 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 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.