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How to apply perfect make-up with your hands


For years, beauty experts have extolled brushes as the only way to achieve a flawless finish. But we're heralding in a new dawn in make-up application. Vive la revolution!

Aged 12, while reading Bliss, I learnt that to apply make-up, you needed an arsenal of expensive brushes. Fast-forward 16 years and I’m backstage at the s/s 2013 shows, watching make-up artists use their hands to buff, pat, tap and smear. But surely this defiant act can only result in misplaced, daubs in all the wrong places?

ABOVE: A make-up artist gets hands-on backstage at Alexander Wang

Instead, by warming it between their fingers, make-up literally melted into the skin, creating a lit-fromwithin radiance. At Alexander Wang, DKNY and Valentino, lips were stained, eyes shining and cheeks flushed with the kind of glow usually provided by 90 minutes of Bikram yoga.

At Marni, make-up artist Tom Pecheux explained: “By warming foundation between my hands and pressing it over serum using my fingertips, it becomes part of the skin; you feel the glow, you don’t see it.” It doesn’t look like make-up but like perfect skin oozing health in all the right places. Hands up if you’ve wasted time and money on tools to attempt no-make-up make-up, only to be left with visible brushstrokes and smears? That’s making it too difficult. The reality is simple.

“Using cream or liquid formulas that can be blended lends an overall softness,” says make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury, who used her hands at Prabal Gurung, Sportmax and DSquared2. The benefits of this are twofold: massaging boosts circulation prompting radiance; and building up thin layers results in a seamless finish. And it’s free. “Hands are the two best tools you own,” says Andrew Gallimore, UK make-up ambassador for Dior. “They force make-up to have contact with the skin. Push it on, press and build.”

Six months later I’m trying to fathom how to do it like a pro. “For a natural-looking contour, have a good feel with your fingertips to understand where to place the shadow,” explains Gallimore. “Tap your fingertips around the cheek, feeling for the ledge, then stroke along that line with your index finger. That’s the perfect placement.” It works. By using your hands, you become at one with your face and understand where to apply make-up for a finish that’s beyond natural. Try it.


Get hands on to create a fresh, natural daytime look. Feel your face as you read this...

INDEX FINGER: This finger is directly linked to the brain and the most responsive to temperature changes (according to Melita Ryan, hand specialist in the neuro-physiologist department at the London Brain Centre). It heats up fast — good for blending — and exerts the most strength. Smudge Double-Wear Pencil, £16, Estée Lauder, into the lash line or press on eyeshadow (minimising the ‘pigment drop’ on cheeks that brushes can cause).

THUMB: The fleshy part of the thumb is perfect for applying blusher, as it’s exactly the same size as the cheek area you want to cover with blush. After foundation, press the pad of the thumb into a cream blush (try Crème Cheek Colour in Rosebud, £20.50, Laura Mercier) and gently pat onto the cheekbone.

HEEL OF THE HAND: Use the chubby part that hinges with the thumb (a bit like a chicken fillet shape) to contour. Apply Shade & Illuminate, £55, Tom Ford, into the hollow of your cheeks, then push and roll, ‘smooshing’ it to smooth out any visible lines.

PALM: Blend Mineralize Moisture SPF15 Foundation, £26, Mac like a moisturiser. Rub between your palms to warm the product and sweep from the middle of the face outwards, working into the skin.

MIDDLE FINGER: This long digit is perfect for dabbing on a lipstick stain without the others smudging it. Use also to pat liquid or cream highlighters like Face Sculpting Palette in Kick Start, £12.50, Topshop Make-Up, onto cheekbones, brow bones and the bridge of the nose. This motion helps reflective particles lie flat.

LITTLE FINGER: The pinky works with creams or powders. “Use it to dab pale shadow into the inner corner,” says Andrew Gallimore. “I call it a fingerprint of eyeshadow.” Try Color Tattoo 24Hr in Eternal Gold, £4.99, Maybelline New York.

RING FINGER: This finger has the softest touch — ideal for this delicate eye area. Charlotte Tilbury advises tapping around the eyes and temples “in a pitterpatter motion” to stimulate blood flow, plumping up the skin for an airbrushed effect. Try Hydra Life BB Eye Crème, £29, Dior.

Picture credit: Ellen von Unwerth, Ian Walsh, Getty. Hand model: Laura Lorente at Hired Hands



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