Help! What’s the Correct Order to Apply Makeup? Beauty Guru Bobbi Brown Fills Us In

Photos by Ben Ritter

Makeup legend Bobbi Brown clears up this beauty debate once and for all.

If you’ve ever gone down a makeup tutorial rabbit hole on YouTube, you’ve probably come out of the other side scratching your head. That’s because the rules for how to apply makeup properly aren’t technically universal: Some beauty pros like to apply concealer after foundation, while others always apply it beforehand. And while we’re all for experimenting with different ways to get dolled up (or simply get ready for work), it’s important to have a basic understanding of the correct order to apply products. It’ll help ensure your makeup lasts, looks fresh and even, and sets properly. 

And who better to clean up the chaos around this issue than the legend herself, Bobbi Brown? Below, the makeup aficionado shares the timeless steps she abides by to achieve flawless, everyday makeup, no matter the occasion.

bobbi brown how to apply makeup in the correct order
Credit: Ben Ritter

What’s the correct order to apply makeup?  

If you’re doing a full face of makeup, this is the order I do it in:

1. Moisturizer: Always start with a moisturizer on both your face and neck. Choose a moisturizer based on how your skin is feeling that day. If you’re really dry, then go with a richer formulation, but if your skin feels fairly hydrated, then go with a light moisturizer so you don’t get too oily.  

2. Eye cream: The skin around your eyes and eyelids requires a specialized eye cream. Apply it under the eyes and on the lids. This preps the eye for makeup application, so concealer or eye shadow goes on smoothly and doesn’t look cakey.

3. Concealer: After you put on the eye cream, do your under-eye concealer. Use a shade that’s two shades lighter than your regular foundation shade that’ll conceal shadows and cover any dark pigmentation under the eyes. I like using a pencil to control the placement of the concealer.

4. Tinted moisturizer/foundation: If you use a tinted moisturizer or foundation, or you just do some spot coverage to cover any redness, this is where you’d do that.

5. Tinted balm: I don’t wear foundation, but I love a multi-purpose tinted balm that moisturizes the skin but also gives the cheeks a perfect glow. 

6. Brow pencil: Fill in your brows with a pencil (or eyeshadow applied with a brow brush) that matches the color of your brows. 

7. Eyeshadow: Apply your eye shadow(s) next. I start with a light shade all over the lid, then use a medium shade to cover from the lash line to the crease. You can also use a dark shade to line your eyes with a brush, or just layer the shadow on top of a pencil liner for more definition.

8. Eyeliner: I put liner on the eyes after eye shadow, so I can see where we need to add definition to the eyes. 

9. Mascara: Personally, I only use black mascara and usually do two coats. Note: if you curl your lashes, do that before you apply mascara so you don’t break your eyelashes. 

10. Blush: Add a pop of blush. Just smile to find the apples of your cheeks and apply it there, with either a brush or your fingers to achieve that naturally flushed look. You want to create a healthy glow —that look you get after you exercise or take a brisk walk outside.

11. Lip: Whether it’s just a gloss or a full lip, lip color is the final finishing touch to your makeup look.

Does the order change whether you’re applying more of an everyday natural look, or going more glam for an event or night out?

I never do all of these steps in one day because I’m actually wearing less makeup now than I ever have. My everyday natural look is the first five of these steps (that I do in five minutes), but the order of the steps never changes. 

five makeup steps Bobbi brown
Credit: Ben Ritter

If you want to go a little more glam, just add in the extra steps you like, and have some fun!

Do primers actually do anything?

If you’re using the correct moisturizer, I don’t see the need for a primer. Choose a moisturizer that’s right for your skin type and that contains lots of good-for-you ingredients. That’s going to create the perfect palette to apply makeup onto. To me, primer is an unnecessary added step. 

Some beauty influencers apply eyeshadow first, so none of the powder crumbles down onto your face makeup. What’s your opinion on that?

Unless you’re doing very heavy makeup, like an extreme smokey eye or very dramatic theatrical makeup, I always prep the face first — moisturizer, concealer, foundation, balm — and then start on the eyes. 

Do you need to use a setting powder or setting spray to top off your look?

If you have oily skin, and tend to get very shiny, then I’d use a light powder in the places that look oily. But if you don’t need the powder, then don’t use it, because it can start to look cake-y  — especially on mature skin that rarely gets oily.

I don’t recommend setting sprays. If you’ve chosen the right makeup for your skin, then your natural glow should be all you need.