“Cream To Cream, Powder To Powder”


As always, I want to talk about some hard and fast makeup rules that are complete bullshit. No blue eyeshadow is one, no red lipstick on redheads another. Like, it’s paint on skin; everyone can chill on the prescriptive shit. Do you like the way it looks on you? Great!! Wear it!! Bye!!!!

The only time I’ll concede to a beauty rule is when it concerns texture, not trend. That’s why I feel compelled to tell you the rule I follow basically 98% of the time. My beauty school teachers helpfully shortened into a kind of mantra: “cream to cream, powder to powder.”

Everyone has their own unique and beautiful snowflake preferences, but there is a correct way to apply makeup, and there is a correct way to order your products. In terms of features, I was taught to always apply makeup in the following order:

1. Prep (moisturizer, primer, lip balm)
2. Eyes (conceal, eyeliner, color/contour)
3. Skin (conceal, foundation)
4. Contour (blush, bronzer, highlighter, and anything else that gives shape to your face, if you’re into that sort of thing)
5. Lips (primer, color)

The only exception here is to always leave mascara as the very last thing; one teacher referred to this as leaving the face “active.” It’s the hardest product to remove and should be saved until you’re completely sure the look won’t require any touch-ups, i.e., no longer “active.”

Within that order there’s a hierarchy of products: creams first, powders last. “Cream” refers to, duh, cream-based products, whether eyeshadow, foundation, or lip color, but it also technically covers liquids. Liquid foundation and products like Benetint weren’t explicitly part of their catchy slogans but they still count. So, concealer is a good example of a cream formula, as are tube lipsticks. This is also the part where I point out that cream formulas are all multi-purpose even if they aren’t being marketed as such; a Nars lipstick is just as effective as a cream blush as their favored Multiples, and vice versa. I used to use concealer as a lipstick base if I wanted a particularly strong color (like a blue or black or white for certain fashion editorial looks) because it would help block the natural pink or red from peeking the through.

Powders, on the other hand, are more or less exactly what they are. For the most part, creams give color, powders set. Even colored powders are more for setting than they are for pigmentation, in my very humble unsolicited opinion. So within the above order of applying makeup, you still defer to creams first, powders second. A cream blush goes on before a powder foundation, for example. But, personally, I think creams and liquids are a better texture for almost all makeup looks, particularly as we go into these sweaty summer months. The consistency does a better job of mimicking real skin and yes that is the most disgusting thing I’ve every typed!!

Powders can give a really good depth to a cream color — I normally recommend that everyone line their pencil eyeliner with a matching powder eyeshadow to set the color and make it look a little richer, and sometimes I’ve even dusted a little red eyeshadow on red lipstick to keep it from bleeding — but really, in all cases, powders are just for ending a look: sealing the color and trying to stop any oil from getting through. Once you’ve put a powder on, YOU ARE DONE. Drop the tools and step away.

If you DO choose to recklessly disregard my perfect advice, you will live to regret it. Applying a cream or liquid on top of a powder will almost always cause a really gross reaction between the two textures — kind of a flaking, but it’s really almost like the powders are curling up away from your face. It’ll give the impression of really dry, scaly skin, probably because the powders are like “ew gross I hate this I want to run away from your face.”

The ONE personal exception I make for this rule is my liquid highlighter — I put it on after I put on powder because I don’t want the powder to dull the sheen of the liquid, but I also don’t really put powder on top of my cheekbones anyway, so. Don’t tell my makeup teachers on me. I promise I haven’t broken any other rules since I left beauty school.

The second part of this rule is about application: cream and liquid products always, always need SYNTHETIC brushes, and powders always, always need NATURAL HAIR brushes. When I see someone apply a cream with a natural hair brush I want to scream. One time I think I actually DID scream at Anna for using a natural hair brush with one of my lipsticks!! Sorry Anna, but that’s so gross. Synthetic hair brushes are designed to hold a cream and then wipe clean; when you put a powder on, it’ll just slide off, but if you put a cream on a natural hair brush, it’ll embed into the fibers and be a real bitch to clean. You’ll be scrubbing that brush with baby shampoo for days. Seriously, don’t do it. It’s disgusting.

So, what have we learned today?! Creams are cool, powders are great, don’t mix them out of order, wash your brushes, do what I tell you, the end!! This weekend I forgot and put my Benetint on after my powder and I spent all day regretting it, so if I can help you avoid that cruel fate I will sleep well tonight. How was your weekend?!