This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
Dublin: 22 °C Friday 7 August, 2020

Skin Deep: How to do your own makeup for a black tie affair

You don’t NEED to get it done professionally.


Welcome to Skin Deep with Louise McSharry, my opportunity to put years of obsessing over beauty products and techniques to good use. I won’t tell you something is good if it’s not. I won’t recommend products I haven’t actually tried. As the magical sitar in Moulin Rouge said, I only speak the truth.

I went to my Debs in 2001, when jeans were low-rise and tracksuits were velour. It wasn’t exactly PEAK FASHION, but I found a beautiful dress I couldn’t afford, worked all summer to buy it, and obsessed over my makeup.

YouTube tutorials were but a twinkle in an iMac’s eye, but I had spent years poring over magazines and practicing makeup on myself and my friends, so I knew exactly what I wanted. Makeup at the time wasn’t particularly dramatic, so it mostly revolved around pearlescent mint green and lavender eyeshadow (to match my dress, of course). Nothing complicated, but I had a clear picture in my mind. Everyone else was getting their makeup done, so I decided I wanted  to do that too. There weren’t many options at the time, but I was happy with my decision to get it done at Nue Blue Eriu. It was a fancy makeup shop on South William Street which sold brands you couldn’t get anywhere else, and I loved it. Still, when the big day came, I was disappointed. It wasn’t that the woman who did my makeup did a bad job, it was just that she didn’t do exactly what I had in mind (because she wasn’t a psychic).

Since then, I’ve always done my own makeup for fancy events. I feel better when I’m in control of the situation, and let’s be honest, no one knows my face as well as I do. What I save on makeup artist fees, I spend on product, which feels like a smarter financial move because the product lasts for ages.  I always look like myself, and never have to do that panicked dash home to remove half the product from my face because I’m not happy with the finished job but don’t have the balls to ask the makeup artist to make changes (seriously, we’re Irish, does anyone have the balls?). For me, it’s the only way.

85FF09C1-70A7-4A70-ACBF-CD237FFA9C1F My DIY makeup for the VIP Style Awards 2016

Sure, I hear you saying. Sure you do this, but what about if you haven’t spent a frankly ludicrous amount of time practicing makeup over the last twenty years? What if you actually had a social life during your teen years? What if you didn’t spend literal weeks mastering liquid eyeliner? I hear you. However, I still believe that you can do your own makeup for formal events and be really happy with it.

But Louise, I hear you saying, I like getting my makeup done. That is absolutely fair enough. However, you may find that there comes a day when you don’t have time, don’t have the money, or can’t get an appointment. Wouldn’t it be great if you could be confident enough to do it yourself?

The first thing to do is decide what you want your makeup to look like. I suggest google image searching whatever you’re wearing and ‘makeup’. For example. I’m going to a wedding next week and I’m wearing a yellow dress, so for inspiration I might google image ‘yellow dress’ and ‘makeup’. What you’ll get is an assortment of photographs of celebrities who have had access to the world’s best makeup artists, and there you’ll get some ideas of what might work well with your outfit.

PastedImage-38243 My DIY Wedding Makeup

Once you’ve decided on a look, find a YouTube tutorial. I’ve decided I want to wear a bold red lip with my yellow dress, so I search ‘bold red lip makeup tutorial’. When the results come up, you can select a tutorial based on the thumbnail photo, and the number of views. The videos with more views tend to be made by reputable vloggers, although there are of course exceptions to that rule. The more time you spend watching tutorials the more you’ll get to know which Beauty YouTubers have the style closest to yours. I’m a big fan of Pixiwoo’s channel, which includes videos made by makeup artists and sisters Sam and Nic Chapman. They wear makeup like normal people and look like human beings at the end of their videos rather than mannequins, which is what I’m into. But as I always say – DO YOU!

Watch your chosen tutorial, and if you’re happy with it, watch it again. Take the bits you like, ignore the bits you don’t. You don’t have to have exactly the same products, just find something similar in your arsenal and give it a go. Please note that ‘giving it a go’ should not be happening on the night of your event. In a perfect world you’d practice your look a few times before the big night, but you should absolutely do it at least once ahead of time so that you’re confident about your skills and your product. If you find that there’s a particular section of the video you find challenging, check out a YouTube video dedicated specifically to that skill.

PastedImage-48928 Urban Decay De-Slick Mattifying Powder

The things to remember, no matter what look you select, is that you need it to last. This is something that a good makeup artist will be able to provide you with, but you can do this too if you plan well and think smart. If you’re going for winged eyeliner, it might be worth investing in one you know will last. Mac Liquidlast does not budge. If you’re going for a bold lip, a liquid lipstick will need fewer reapplications. Charlotte Tilbury’s new range is excellent, but so are Wet n’ Wild’s Megalast Liquid Catsuit Matte Lipsticks, and they’ll only cost you about a fiver. Primer is useful when you need your face to stay flawless. My favourite is Hourglass’ Ambient Light Correcting Primer, which evens out your skin tone and gives you a glow from the get-go, but it’s expensive. Rimmel’s Fix and Perfect Primer is an excellent budget option. For eyeshadow, Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer Potion is excellent, as is Smashbox’s 24 Hour Shadow Primer. (A good eyeshadow primer will help you blend and get an even finish, as well.) Finish your look with a good translucent power to add staying ability, Urban Decay’s De-Slick is great, although Laura Mercier’sis basically an industry standard.  Nyx’s Professional Makeup Studio Finishing Powder is a solid option if you don’t want to spend much. Leave your powder at home though, too much applied over the course of a night will leave you looking cakey. If you need a fix bring some blotting papers instead.

Practice, practice, practice. I know you’re sceptical, but give it a go. You can do this. You’ll save time and money, and the skills you gain will stand to you for years. Also, you’ll get to be smug when you tell people all night that you did the makeup yourself.


This is where I usually recommend a new product, but I’m changing it up this week because I want to tell you about a beauty event taking place this Sunday. Makeup Forever Dublin are holding a day long workshop with A-list makeup artist James Vincent. It’s not cheap at €129, but attendees will get a goody bag worth over €100, and James’ experience is not to be sniffed at.

He’s worked backstage at fashion weeks across the world, and made up people like Lady Gaga, Reese Witherspoon and Courtney Love, not to mention having worked on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The man has SKILLS. You can get tickets here - I daresay he’d have a few tips about fancy event makeup too.

Want to get a notification every week when Skin Deep is published? Of course you do! Just send us a WhatsApp saying ‘Skin Deep’ to 083 8120901, and add our number to your contacts as DailyEdge. (If you don’t add us, we can’t message you :( ) We’ll never spam you or share your personal details with anyone, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Check out previous columns>

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article

About the author:

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel