7 Fast Fixes for Makeup Mishaps


Smudged lipstick, streaky foundation, clumpy eyelashes—we've all been there! Just as we’re about to head out the door, we catch sight of a makeup mistake staring back at us in the mirror. Now what? The Paula’s Choice Research team has had our share of these moments, and we’ve come up with seven fast fixes for common makeup mishaps. When you don’t have time to start over, these tips help ensure you’ll be on your way (and looking fantastic) in minutes—and we share solutions for preventing the mishap from happening again in the future.
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Mistake #1: Smudged Lipstick

Fast Fix: Take a slightly damp cotton swab or a concealer brush and put a bit of foundation or concealer on it, then trace over where the lipstick has smudged. If the issue is lipstick traveling into lines around the mouth, simply trace the cotton swab or concealer brush around your lipline to remove the excess; then reapply your lipstick if needed.

Stop-it Solution: Unfortunately, some of us have thinner, less defined lips or we have lines around the mouth that lipstick and gloss easily moves into—issues that make it almost impossible to keep lipstick in place and looking beautiful. An anti-feather lipliner is our first line of defense against these issues! It also helps if you stop using creamy or greasy lipsticks or glosses, which are guaranteed to travel into lines on just about anyone, (except maybe Angelina Jolie). If you don't have lips like Angelina, don't fret, using a matte lipstick with a matte lip-liner is an excellent way to keep lipstick on longer and minimize smudging.

Mistake #2: Too Much or Poorly Blended Foundation

Fast Fix: Use a slightly damp makeup sponge and stipple it over your face to soften and blend out the excess foundation. If you don't have a sponge, blending with a clean kabuki or foundation brush will also work. Be sure to blend around the jaw and hairline, too. After you've finished blending, don't forget to apply a light dusting of pressed powder to smooth everything out!

Stop-it Solution: Sometimes when you don't get optimal results from a foundation, the problem is actually the technique you're using to apply that foundation. When using a new product or learning how to apply sheer or full-coverage foundation, it doesn't hurt to get a makeup lesson (available by appointment at some makeup counters) to be sure you're using the right technique for your desired results. Then, experiment at home when you have time to concentrate on your technique!

If your technique is tried and true, and you still have problems, the issue is most likely your foundation. If the texture of a foundation is too thick or too thin, it won't apply evenly and the results will be disappointing—having the wrong color only makes matters worse! Making sure that your foundation is appropriate for your skin type is also an important part of looking your best. Take the time to explore the Best Foundations reviews on Beautypedia to make sure you're using a well-formulated foundation that's suitable for your skin type and coverage needs.

Remember, it takes time to apply foundation smoothly and evenly, so on days you're in a big hurry, you may want to skip the foundation and dust on a pressed powder instead.

Mistake #3: Too Much or Poorly Blended Eyeshadow

Fast Fix: For pressed-powder eyeshadows, wipe off the excess eyeshadow or blend hard edges with a soft, full eyeshadow brush that doesn't have any product on it. After that, you can improve the look by using an eyeshadow brush to apply a lighter shade of eyeshadow on top of the area you want to soften.

Stop-it Solution: Flawless eyeshadow application depends on two main factors: First is the size of your eyelid; consider the eyelid as a canvas—the size of your "canvas" is a major consideration in how eyeshadow should be applied and which looks will work for you. For example, a person with small, deep-set eyes requires much less eyeshadow to create definition than a person with larger eyelids and more space between the eye's crease and brow bone.

The second consideration is the tools you're using. Without question, using brushes gives you the most control and creates a cleaner, more polished look. Plus you should have a brush for each color; don't use the same brush to apply a dark brown eyeshadow and a beige eyeshadow. The price of an eyeshadow has nothing to do with how it will go on; check out our list of Best Eyeshadows on Beautypedia to explore our selection of the ones that apply beautifully and smoothly.

Mistake #4: Over-Tweezed Eyebrows

Fast Fix: Select a matte eyeshadow and use a good brow brush to fill in any sparse areas ("holes") in your eyebrow shape. Brunettes should choose a shade that matches or is slightly lighter than their brow color, while blondes should choose a shade slightly darker than their natural brow color. Applying a color that is dramatically darker or lighter than your actual brow color always looks unnatural.

Stop-it Solution: There's no denying it's difficult to find the patience for reshaping your eyebrows, but ultimately, the best solution to filling in over-tweezed or too-thin eyebrows is to put down the tweezers. Our mantra is let ‘em grow, let ‘em grow, let ‘em grow. Remove only the hairs above and below your brows, and nothing else until you get the shape back. If your brows aren't growing, you can consider prescription Latisse, which is designed to promote eyelash growth, but also will promote eyebrow hair growth.

During the waiting process, consider enlisting the help of a professional at a brow bar or brow-threading salon for assistance. These experts will be able to help you create a brow shape that is full, symmetrical, and and flattering to your face—and they can help you deal with the awkward grow-out stage.

Mistake #5: Clumpy Mascara

Fast Fix: Apply a very small amount of water or, if it's a waterproof formula, a silicone-based makeup remover on a spoolie brush or a clean mascara wand, and then gingerly wiggle the brush across the base of the lashes to soften the dried mascara and separate the clumps. You can try this with a dry mascara or spoolie brush, but the makeup remover or water works better to smooth big clumps. (The key is to use only a teeny-tiny bit so you don't break down the mascara that you want to stay on your lashes).

Stop-it Solution: To avoid clumpy or messy eyelashes, make sure your mascara wand has only a minimal amount of mascara on it. For some mascaras, this may mean gently wiping the brush with a tissue before applying. Next, apply mascara starting at the base of the lashes, slightly wiggling the brush back and forth as you move it out towards the ends of the lashes. To create more volume without clumping, apply additional layers using short upward strokes—and do this before the first coat dries.

If your mascara is still clumping or flaking, the issue is most likely with your mascara—not your application technique! Don't worry, getting a good mascara doesn't require breaking the bank on department store brands; there are many excellent drugstore options as well. Check out our list of Best Mascaras on Beautypedia for several options that perform beautifully for less than $10!

Mistake #6: Concealer Creasing into Lines Around the Eyes

Fast Fix: Wash your hands, and then use your ring finger to smooth out any concealer that has begun to crease. Prevent the concealer from creasing by setting it with a small amount of pressed powder. For best results, use a small brush or sponge, making sure to blend the powder from where the eye and nose meet, softening out to the temple where any crow's-feet lines may reach; you want to avoid putting excess powder on wrinkles.

Stop-it Solution: Be sure to prep your eye area with a thin layer of a good moisturizer (it need not be an eye cream); apply sparingly because overdoing will cause creasing. Choose a concealer that is appropriate for your skin type, is smooth, easy to blend, long-wearing, and opaque enough to cover any undereye darkness. The thinner the texture, the less likely you are to experience creasing. Check out our list of Best Concealers for reliable options. Always set your under-eye concealer with a powder (ideally, a powder with sunscreen!).

Mistake #7: Too Much or Poorly Blended Blush

Fast Fix: When you accidentally apply too much blush, the first impulse is to blend the color out over the entire cheek area (in an attempt to sheer out the color). Don't do it! You'll be left with strange rosy patches reaching down to your jawline. Instead, use a clean powder brush (preferably, one with densely packed hair) to pick up and blend out the excess product by rubbing the brush in small circular motions between the apples of your cheeks and your temples. Double-check to make sure there are no hard edges—if there are, blend them out using a slightly dampened makeup sponge.

Stop-it Solution: Blush may seem like a beauty basic, but it's not without challenges. Be sure you're applying blush with a full-size blush brush. The brushes included in most compacts are too small to provide proper application, and guarantee you'll get a stripe of color, which we see on women every time we're out. Good blush brushes have longer, looser hair that can pick up color and apply it evenly. This is important because you want to start out with a sheer amount of color, and then apply more only if necessary. With makeup, it's always easier to add than subtract!

When applying blush, start by using the fullest part of the brush to pick up color and then tap off the excess. Smile (to find the rounded apples of your cheeks), and then relax your expression and use an upward, controlled swirling motion to apply blush from the apples back toward your temples.

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! See Paula's Choice Makeup.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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