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A Quirky Gal’s Make Up Routine

On most days my “makeup routine” consists of brushing my teeth & spraying my face with toner after hitting snooze 4 times, then (god-willing I remember) putting on my men’s Old Spice deodorant before my little legs speed-walk me to class.

Girl with pink headband scarf, wearing mascara, rose lip tint, and highlighter.
This is the finished product for work one day, so I was really trying.

On the rare occasion that I actually do my full makeup routine, people either think I’m ridiculous or a genius (mostly because I heat up my eyelash curler in my bra —seriously, why don’t more people do this??). I like to apply my makeup at a leisurely pace, which is the main reason I don’t do it often. It can really be quite a meditative experience to watch my face in the mirror as it slowly transitions from crackhead energy to dewy goddess. I’ve never been heavy into the makeup gurus or beauty bloggers; my makeup education was through the form of dance recitals and theatre tech weeks. So, I’ve got some…unconventional habits and ~homegrown~ techniques.

Now, without further ado, I present…

The Helen Marie Make Up Application Method, patent pending.

First Up, Toner

I have only been using toner for about a year, but it’s one of my favorite products now and something I use practically everyday. Something about face sprays just seem glamorous to me. I have a vague memory of some movie-makeover montage where Pablo or Marco or whatever his name is spritzes the heroine, but Google has forsaken me in my search for an answer.(Please comment if you come up with it— serious inquiries only). 

I start out with toner, not only because my face in the morning usually looks like I slept underneath an 18-wheeler, but because it makes applying liquid concealers and foundation a much smoother process. I usually indulge in an extra spritz when I’m done with my makeup and/or mid-day for a refresh.

My favorites are Lush Eau Roma Water and Rose Water Toner from Plum, a little shop in Nashville, IN. I also prefer alcohol-free toners because they don’t dry out my skin.

Proof of my highly uncooperative skin. The most fateful day when I used Olay lotion after using apple cider vinegar as toner. Not. The. Move.
Next, my savior, concealer

I would like to thank not only God, but Jesus, for concealer. One of my biggest physical insecurities is the darkness of my under-eye bags. I swear covering them up is like playing whack-a-mole. Every time I think that they’re hidden, I turn a single degree to the side and catch sight of those dastardly punks again.

Evidence of how BAD my eye-bags can be in the morning.

My dark circles are hereditary and intensified by allergies, with which I have been blessed in abundance. Such fun! I’ve been using Covergirl concealer for years. The thickness is at the perfect point between substantial enough to actually tame the darkness and not so heavy that it looks like I have finally run off to the circus to be a clown.

I apply my concealer first, partially out of habit since sometimes that’s all I wear, but it also lays a foundation for my actual foundation. Concealer is like the bra of the makeup world; without the perfect fit, an otherwise lovely outfit just looks a little strange. Think about it.

This is the closest product Covergirl sells to the one I have right now.


For the past six-ish years, I’ve opted for a tinted moisturizer rather than wearing foundation. I think dance recitals have ruined me because my first time wearing foundation, it was about 25 shades darker than my natural skin tone and caked-on to combat the stage lights. I love how lightweight bb creams tend to be, but I’ve finally settled on a foundation that doesn’t suffocate my skin. If I’ve learned one thing through my inevitable awkward phase that comes with the special special time that puberty is, it’s that stage makeup has just gotta stay on the stage. And that’s showbiz, baby. 

Me wearing my stage makeup, that I’ve now learned to leave on the stage.

The foundation I use now is Estēe Lauder Double Wear Light in Ecru. I apply it with a brush instead of my fingers just because I have enough issues with staining my clothes– I don’t need any more opportunities for that.

I’m gonna segue into liquid “bronzer”…

The women at Ulta really saved me from myself and my theatre kid urges by strongly suggesting I stick to the lighter shade of foundation. I bought it at the beginning of the summer, wishfully thinking that I would get a nice golden brown tan. I’m constantly mixing paint to find the perfect color for my paintings, but it never occurred to me to do the same with foundation. Now, I add in a dab or two of a darker foundation (NARS Sheer Glow in Aruba) to my regular one and mix it on the back of my hand to match my skin as needed. 


Since baby ballerinas generally don’t have well-defined cheek-bones, it’s hard to gauge where to apply bronzer on a six-year-old’s face. To solve this problem, my mom always had me make a fishy face when she did my show makeup. This technique works great for me even as a 20 year old; (I’ve still got cheeks reminiscent of a six-year-old). It also doesn’t hurt that I have RFF (Resting Fish Face– as in I revert to fishy-lips while I’m thinking pretty frequently). I use Hoolla bronzer from Benefit and apply it with the brush that comes with it. I then blend it in with a bigger fluffy bronzer brush that I got from Walgreens or CVS. 


My blush process has the same roots as the bronzer’s. When I was a munchkin, my mom would say “apples!!” which meant I was supposed to give her a big ole smile. Doing so makes the squishy part of my cheeks look like apples, and that’s the zone the blush goes.  I’ve popped around from brand to brand with blush too, but two I really like are Milk Lip + Cheek Stick (I use this one now) and Maybelline Dream Bouncy. I use a blush stick because I think it’s way easier to control, both in the area covered and the amount applied.

Onto my favorite: Highlighter

Whenever I wear highlighter, my dad, without fail, thinks I have some “white stuff” on my face and proceeds to wipe it off. I swat at his hand and reiterate for the 1500th time that it’s intentional, but thanks for looking out for me. Because who am I kidding, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility that I’d have powdered sugar or acne cream or acrylic paint somewhere on my face at any given time…That’s what’s so fun about highlighter, straight men are severely confused by it so no one can accuse us of wearing it to impress them!! Boo & hiss @thepatriarchy! 

I was wayyy behind the curve on highlighter and only started wearing it when my friend accidentally ordered two compacts (court-what is the right word for a unit of powder highlighter??) from Kylie Cosmetics. As seems to be a trend, I made the move from powder to liquid and now use Glow Milk. I love it mostly because it’s SO fun to paint it on my face with the little nail polish-like brush, but also because it’s my favorite color: iridescent.

Eyelash curler and mascara

I read in Teen Vogue long ago, to heat up your eyelash curler to improve the effect. The blurb said to use a hair dryer to warm it up, but mine is more of a wall decoration hanging on a hook in the bathroom, so I opted for another method: my bra. I definitely didn’t make this up, but I can’t remember who did, so let’s pretend it was me. At the very beginning of my makeup process, I wedge the curler under my left boob and the mascara under the right. By the time I get to my eye makeup, they’re both nice and toasty. 

I truly can take all the help I can get when it comes to my lashes, so I make sure that my bottom lashes are well attended to. I hold the wand close to my eyeball and blink several times to coat my bottom lashes. Then, after I reinsert the wand in the bottle, I wipe off the excess back into the bottle, but leave a smidge on there to swipe onto my top lashes. From there, it’s pretty standard. Just swipe and twirl and get carried away until it looks like there are clumpy feathers hanging off my lids. Well, I try to avoid the last part, but I’m trying to be honest here. 

Best case scenario, I apply two coats of one of many mascaras I have in my bag. I switch around from brand to brand frequently. My eyelashes most definitely have a vendetta against me and they intentionally build up an immunity to mascara as soon as I find one I like. Right now, I’m on Better Than Sex by Too Faced, but I’ve also briefly enjoyed Ubame Milk mascara, Maybelline Mega Plush, Covergirl’s Peacock and Roller Lash by Benefit

Now that I’ve exposed myself and my wacky makeup habits to the world wide web, it’s really the least you can do to let me know if you also do any of this. I know I’m wonderful and fabulous, but I still want validation. Please. 

Also tell me if you think of the movie scene; I’m very serious about that one. 

Cheers, ladies & gents! Hope you enjoyed learning about my process! 

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  1. I always use two different kinds of mascara – bc they always are supposed to do different things: lengthen, volume, etc.!! I will be trying the boob trick too!

  2. Oh also, use a little dab of blush on the tip of your nose and a slight brush on your forehead to create the illusion of sun-kissed color xox

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