wikiHow to Apply Makeup for a Professional Setting

Four Parts:Preparing the Appropriate Makeup RegimenEvening and Highlighting the FaceDoing the EyesDoing the Lips

One challenge many women face is choosing the right makeup for a professional environment. It can be difficult to know how little or how much makeup is acceptable for professional settings. Yet makeup can be important. A 2011 Harvard study showed that women who wear wear makeup - but not a ton of it - are considered more competent, likable, and trustworthy.[1] This guide will help you create a makeup look suitable for any professional setting.

Part 1
Preparing the Appropriate Makeup Regimen

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    Consider yourself and your way of life. Are you someone who wears makeup regularly? Or are you just getting started? Do you want to wear makeup in a professional setting or do you feel you have to? Even though there is research showing that women who wear makeup at work are often perceived as more competent and likable, this isn't a hard and fast rule. Lots of high-powered women don't wear makeup in a professional setting and have not been taken less seriously. So do what feels best to you and what you feel comfortable doing.[2]
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    Think about what kinds of makeup you're interested in wearing. Foundation? Concealer? Mascara? Eyeshadow? Lipstick? Blush? The world of makeup is a big one, so think about what exactly you want to highlight, as you may not want to be putting on a full face every day. Ask yourself which features you want to accentuate and enhance.
    • Remember that look needs to stand the test of time; you don’t want to have to keep retouching your look when you have to dash from meeting to meeting.[3]
    • Consider how much of a luminance contrast you would like. Luminance contrast refers to how much the eyes and lips stand out compared with skin. Recall the old fairytale of how Snow White’s lips were as red as blood, and her skin was as white as snow? That's the luminance contrast in action! This concept is still popular today; recent research has shown that makeup makes women appear younger by increasing the contrast between facial features (like eyes and lips) and skin tone.[4]
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    Know what kind of professional setting you are in. A CEO might wear different makeup to work than a bar owner, and it's important to stay setting-appropriate.
    • Decide whether your professional environment is conservative (very formal, a suits-and-pantyhose kind of setting), business casual (less conservative but still buttoned up and professional), or casual (no dress code or standard). If you're in the last category, then you don't really have to worry - you can do your makeup however you want! Nevertheless, the suggestions below may give you some fun things to consider or try.[5]
    • Look at respected individuals around you in your field, and see what kind of makeup they wear on a daily basis.
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    Gather your supplies. Once you've decided what you want to wear, you'll need to see what you already have and what you need. The average person will most likely need some sort of foundation, neutral eyeshadow, mascara, and lipstick. If you are more experienced with makeup, you may use a few more products.
    • If you're a newbie to makeup, you might want to visit a makeup store or counter in department store and get some one-on-one help. Makeup artists and consultants will help you choose the right color products for your skin tone and facial features. Getting the right shades and complementary colors for your skin and feature is what makes makeup enhance your natural beauty, rather than turn you into a frightening weekday clown!
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    Prepare the night before. Prep your weekday looks on Sunday evenings, so that you don't have to spend time planning what to wear and how to match your makeup. This will also save time during those busy morning rushes to get out the door.[6]
    • Pull out a couple of eye shadows, lipsticks, your blush, base, and mascara, and put them in a makeup bag by the sink in your bathroom. That way you won't have to rummage through your drawers to find a particular color right when you're trying to make it to work on time.

Part 2
Evening and Highlighting the Face

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    Start with foundation to even out your skin tone. Using your fingers, a small makeup sponge or a foundation brush, apply an even layer of product all over your face. When applying foundation, less is more.
    • If the foundation does not match your skin tone, there will be a harsh line around your jawline. Either find a foundation that suits you better, or blend the foundation down your neck for a better result that looks more put together.
    • Make sure your base isn't too thick. It is better to apply light coverage than to look like you have caked on way too much product, especially if you want the look to last throughout the day.[7]
    • The "dewy skin" look can be beautiful, but it does tend to get shiny over the course of the day. Matte foundation is the best choice for this reason.[8]
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    Use a light powder. Lightly dusting a face powder over your face will create a smooth, matte look. Most importantly, face powder helps to control shine and sets the foundation in place.
    • If you're worried that your face will get oily and/or shiny throughout the day, carry some blotting papers and your face powder with you so you can do some touchups at lunch if need be.[9]
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    Use blush to enhance your skin and bone structure. Using a blush brush, sweep the blush of your choice on the upper cheekbones.
    • While you might love the rosy, "fresh our of the cold" glow that blush gives, you might consider being a bit more conservative with blush for professional settings. Too much blush can overwhelm the face and create a slightly garish and overdone look.
    • Think of blush as a way to add a touch of color to the smooth and even base you just created. Be careful about using anything too shimmery; that said, a touch of shimmer looks nice under the fluorescent lights of an office. For once you can use the light to your benefit, as it will bounce off and accentuate your cheekbones.[10]
    • Use something sheer in which color can be built upon.[11]

Part 3
Doing the Eyes

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    Start with a primer. A primer will keep the eye shadow from caking into the creases of your eyelids as the day goes by. This is key for your eye makeup to last all day without you having to retreat to the bathroom to re-do it.[12]
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    Put on eyeliner. You can use an eyeliner pencil or a gel or cream and a small, angled eyeliner brush. Start from the outer corner and draw right along your lashline. Continue this line all the way to the inner corner of your eye and then stop.[13]
    • A thin, even line all across your lashes will make them look thicker and more lovely.
    • Try brown or grey eyeliner if you want something less bold than black for an everyday look.[14]
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    Apply eyeshadow. Using a clean brush, apply a light sweep of the eye shadow of your choice across the lip (the part under the curve where your eyeball meets the socket). Blend it so that the color brushes evenly across your lid, without streaks or naked patches.
    • You will probably want to go for subtlety, rather than show off your blending skills. Save those for after work!
    • Earth toned eye shadows are universally flattering. They're also a lot more than "boring browns." For example, they can be rich red-browns, brilliant bronzes, light washes of golds, delicate taupes and silky greys. [15] There are truly a ton of options when it comes to subtle shades.
    • Glittery colors should be avoided. Save your bright, neon, and sparkly shades for the weekend![16]
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    Apply mascara. Roll the wand from the base to the end of your lashes to help separate and lengthen lashes.[17] A light brush of mascara is sufficient for a professional setting.
    • Don't skip the mascara! Of all the eye products, it's probably the most important. Mascara defines and lengthens your lashes and is necessary to create that much sought-after luminance contrast because it makes your eyes look larger and pop.
    • Make sure that eyelashes stay separated after application. Don't let the mascara clump the lashes together.
    • If your eyelashes tend to stick straight out rather than curl slightly, use an eyelash curler to build the curl before applying mascara.
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    Pay attention to your eyebrows. Your eyebrows do more than protect your eyes; they're also a focal feature on your face and can be very expressive. Keeping them neat and tidy is well worthwhile.[18]
    • Keep them plucked (but not overly) to create a nice strong brow. If you don't feel comfortable or able to pluck yourself, visit a salon for a wax. Waxing lasts longer and you can consult with the stylist about the shape you'd like and what suits your face.
    • Enhance your natural brows by filling them in with powder or a tinted brow gel. Remember to fill in, rather than draw on. This is what separates the professional woman from the cartoon character.

Part 4
Doing the Lips

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    Choose a lip color. Unlike with eye colors, you can feel comfortable experimenting a little more with lip colors. That said, tones that are light to moderate in color saturation are the most recommended.[19]
    • Most skin tones suit soft pinks or nude-browns. Matte, pinky nudes are currently very popular and create a polished, sophisticated and natural look by highlighting and not simply covering your lips.[20]
    • Remember that if you choose a brighter color, it will likely fade as the day goes, so you'll want to remember to check and reapply as needed.
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    Apply lipstick directly or with a lip brush. Using a brush can help create a fuller look across the entire lips. Make sure not to overdraw your lips, which can look fake and unappealing.
    • A lip brush is good to use especially if you're going for a brighter color. With the brush, apply lipstick starting at the center of the upper lip and moving outward towards each corner.[21]
    • Remember to check that you didn't get any on your teeth - there are few things more embarrassing than showing up to a meeting in a professional setting than having lipstick on your teeth and not realizing it until later,
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    Add a little gloss or balm. Glosses can add a bit of a sheen to a matte lipstick and catch the light nicely. If you're someone who frequently rubs your lips together, gloss or balm can also help protect the integrity of the lipstick underneath.
    • Glosses or balms are especially good for anyone hesitant to the idea of wearing lipstick. A a sheer finish with a tinted balm or gloss can enhance your overall appearance, even if you forgo lip gloss.[22]
    • A flavored gloss or balm can also be a good idea if you don't like the taste or smell of your lipstick.


  • Remember: Less is more! Use makeup to bring out your features, not to cover them up.
  • You makeup should make you feel comfortable and amazing. If you’re busy stressing about your eyeliner, how can you hope to focus on what needs to be done?


  • If you are in a professional setting that has rules about makeup for health and safety reasons, please follow those rules first and foremost.

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Categories: Makeup | Personal Care and Style