Think of your face as a grid.
Draw an imaginary line vertically down through the center of your nose, and a horizontal line going across the tip of said nose. The more something interacts with these lines, the more noticeable it is. Following this logic, a small pimple on the very center of the nose is going to attract more attention than a larger one near the jawline, and the same concept applies to makeup.
A grid can help us figure out where to focus our efforts. Should we spend more product and effort covering up that blemish near our cheekbone (bingo!), or that one near our hairline? Or should we aim that concealer brush at that red mark on the center of our chin, or the port-wine stain near our earlobe?
But maybe concealing isn’t your problem. Maybe you want to enhance your bone structure instead.
If you have a rounder face (ain’t you a cutie?), apply a darker contour shade from the horizontal gridline halfway up to the vertical line, and about a third of the way from the lower end of the vertical line to a third of the way to the horizontal, keeping along the border of your face.
If your face could be described as triangular (a description I hate, but, alas, the makeup world has yet to come up with a better term for it), do the same as you would for a rounder face, except swap in a highlight shade for the area below the horizontal gridline, or forego this step altogether.
For those with a square or rectangular face (which just means your forehead may be a bit wider and your jaw is a bit more pronounced than someone with an oval face), buff a contour shade midway between the endpoints of the two lines (or the four corners of your face), rounding the edges.
And if you have an oval face…well, lay down those brushes. An oval shape is generally considered the easiest to apply makeup to, which is why the steps above aim to shape the other types more towards this goal.
Cheek color should never fall below your imaginary horizontal line, no matter what (this was an old film and theatre technique used to age actors or make them appear ill).
Now, draw an imaginary vertical line through the center of your pupil; blush should never be applied further in than this line.
How about the eyes?
The space between your eyebrows should be approximately the width of one of your eyes. To help us find where our brows should end, take any straight object (pencil, brush, etc.; really, any old thing will do), and draw an imaginary line from the corner of the nostril on the same side through the outside corner of that eye. End your brow just inside this spot.
And an important thing to remember about brows in general: they’re sisters, not twins. Brows that have been meticulously shaped, drawn in, powdered, and plastered so that they look completely identical are going to appear much less natural than those that have a little flair to them. I think most people prefer similarity when it comes to brows, not perfect symmetry.
To achieve a curl in your luscious lashes that will last and last, imagine them as a flat, straight line. Divide this line in half. Divide one section of this in half again, and then take the outside part of this and divide in half once more. Here, you should have a demarcation line at halfway, three-fourths of the way, and seven-eighths of the way.
Place your curler at the very base of your lashes and then at these three parts, holding down for five seconds or so, to create a realistic curl rather than a single crimp.
A simple trick to keep eyes looking their best: divide your lid into three equal parts (or, for those who prefer fractions, thirds). A shade can be applied fully to each of these, and blend to a new shade at each line of demarcation (or a single shade may take up two, or all three sections). Many people tend to divide their eye in two, which can not only make eyes appear smaller, but more oblong as well.
I know, I know. Sectors and lines and demarcations all hearken back to days of math-filled drudgery in classrooms with unwashed blackboards and gum-encrusted desks (those ones with the metal bars running from the chair to the actual desk portion on one side so that you can’t swing your legs out that way…).
But these grids are your friends, and they want you to look your best.
P.S. If you enjoyed this post, there’s also a Part 2: More Makeup Math and Gettin’ Down with Geometry.