How to use those makeup gift sets

With the right tips, those makeup gift sets can help put your best face forward

CorrespondentJanuary 30, 2013 

  • Online tutorials Want to learn how to apply makeup? There are plenty of online tutorials. Search for “beauty gurus” to get step-by-step tips for using makeup. “There are so many people who are so talented on YouTube,” says Raleigh makeup artist Nnebuchi Nwankwo. “They are doing all these interesting techniques before you’re seeing them on celebrities.” She likes Pixiwoo ( and Tatiana Ward (

Maybe you got a makeup gift set for Christmas. And you were thrilled.

After all, those grab-and-go kits are a great introduction to a range of eye shadows, lip colors and blushes at a discounted price. Drugstores have always offered the multi-palette kits, and now high-end cosmetics makers and mega makeup marts like Sephora and Ulta have given them cachet.

In fact, sales of makeup gift sets grew 26 percent in the first 10 months over the time period year earlier, according to a survey by research group NPD just before the holiday gift-giving season began.

Yet a month later, you’re looking all those colors and you’re feeling – overwhelmed? Confused? Just plain lost?

Take a breath and look at the kits the way makeup artist Nnebuchi Nwankwo sees them – as a grand opportunity.

“Any woman can become a skilled makeup artist, at least on her own face,” says Nwankwo, a Savannah College of Art and Design graduate who owns Dream Weavers hair salon in Raleigh (

“Every woman can learn to do the best face on her so that she has it for days when she wants to look a little more polished.”

Clients are bringing their makeup gift sets to Charlotte makeup artist Elizabeth Tolley (

“I had a couple of people who have come in since the holidays and wanted to learn how to use them,” says Tolley. “One client said she didn’t know how to use it or even if she should use it.”

We asked Nwankwo and Tolley to offer some tips for using those makeup gift kits.

• Get wise: Google your kit’s name to get reviews and then search YouTube for videos on how to use it. “For a new person who is new to makeup, those tutorials are so good,” Nwankwo says. “That can take some of the mystery out of what you are using.”

• Test it: Apply makeup to the back of your hand with a Q-tip. Is the color deep and dark or nearly sheer? Deeply pigmented eye shadows and lip colors go on darker, so you need less to get a payoff, Tolley says; the color stays true. Sheer shadows work well on lighter skin tones; add layers to get more color.

• Get cheeky: Blush gives cheeks shape and makes eyes pop, Tolley says. Berry and plum colors work on medium to deep skin tones, from olive to mahogany. Pink and peach tones look good on ivory, tan and beige skin tones.

• Transform it: Take a kohl or gel eyeliner, dip it into a bright eye shadow and use it to line your eyes. A creamy liner holds onto shadow so you can deposit it above or below your lashes.

• Smoke it out: To create the popular smoky eye look, use a dark color, like a gray, brown or navy, on your eyelids. Smooth a lighter version of that color into your eyelid crease, then highlight under your eyebrow with a light color, like white or gold. “You should start (on your lids) with a darker color and as you go higher, you want to get lighter and lighter,” Nwankwo says. “You can mix any colors, as long as you think in terms are dark, medium and light.”

Sheon Wilson ( is a fashion stylist and writer of Refresh Your Style, the N&O monthly makeover feature.

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