Saturday, April 7th, 2012

By Dustin Hunter, Makeup Artist

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Dustin Hunter has been designing various media since his early teen years. Studying several different art forms, Hunter’s creative background ranges from illustration and photography to fashion and interior design to music production and makeup artistry. He has worked for over a decade as a professional illustrator and his retail interior design concepts have been featured in nation-wide publications, receiving recognition for their uniqueness and creativity.  Check out his blog and YouTube channel!

5 Expert Tips for Prom Makeup

While I don’t do prom looks much anymore, in high school it wasn’t uncommon for me to have an hour or two set aside before each dance for doing my friends’ makeup.  Here are some of the earliest lessons that I learned on my own… all those many, many, many, many, many years ago.

PROM TIP #1: Pick one, lips or eyes?

The simplest way to start your makeup look is to choose an area to focus on: lips or eyes. In beauty makeup, you typically focus on one and downplay the other to create a natural balance. Want to wear a bold and dramatic eye look? Pair it with a muted lip instead of a bold one. Just remember that “muted” doesn’t mean concealer-mouth, land of the dead lips either! Über pale lips can be just as “bold” as bright red ones.

PROM TIP #2: Play up your best features.

If you can’t decide on an area to focus on, think about your favorite features. Every girl I’ve ever known has had a part of their face they love best. Usually, it’s lips or eyes (often we will draw attention to these areas when talking to someone we’re attracted to by placing a pen near the mouth or resting fingertips at the temples, “pointing” at the eyes). If you have an area of your mug that you love most, then choose that as the focal point for your makeup.

PROM TIP #3: Match the frame with the painting, not with the furniture.

Nothing is stopping you from matching your eyeshadow to your dress (lots of women do), but if you find yourself struggling, choose colors that complement your natural coloring (hair, eyes, and skin) instead. It will look more effortlessly flattering. One of MY favorite beauty books is “Color Me Beautiful” by Carole Jackson. It’s an oldie, but believe it or not, still has some solid tips for matching your makeup to your coloring (it’s also a really fun read, especially if you can get your hands on one of the original editions from the 70s)!

PROM TIP #4: What to bring in your purse.

Blot papers instead of powder help keep the shine under control without adding layer upon layer of powder, which will build up and look cakey.  But do bring powder, though, because it is a good idea to use it right before photos are taken, along with lipstick and/or gloss, cream concealer for emergencies, travel-size can of hairspray, breath mints, and make sure something you have has a mirror in it!

PROM TIP #5: Photo time!

Avoid MSF-style, high-shine powders when you’re doing your makeup. A natural glow is good (I LOVE shine on the skin), but if you’re going to have photos taken, you run the risk of looking greasy or sweaty instead of glowing. Matte is always a safer bet for photos (especially conveyor-belt style photography like you’ll find at a dance). Pick your foundation and powder carefully. Products with a SPF rating often use ingredients like titanium dioxide in them that will bounce light back in flash photography, making you appear several shades lighter than you are.

Most of all, remember that being comfortable is one of the most important parts of looking good. If you feel uneasy in bright red lipstick, it will show, and you won’t have a good time. It doesn’t matter what anyone else things as long as you like it! Oh… but also… Don’t dress like a baby hooker! You know who you are. I’ve seen you at the mall on prom night looking like the first 15 minutes of Pretty Woman. It’s not grown-up looking and the rest of us talk about you behind your back. Yes… yes, we do. Have fun!

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24 thoughts on “5 Expert Tips for Prom Makeup

  1. Lolly

    “Don’t dress like a baby hooker! You know who you are. I’ve seen you at the mall on prom night looking like the first 15 minutes of Pretty Woman. It’s not grown-up looking and the rest of us talk about you behind your back. Yes… yes, we do. Have fun!”

    LOL <3 I love this!

  2. I love this. Great, easy to follow tips, Dusty. ‘Don’t dress like a baby hooker’ that’s like Life Pro Tip 101 for teens 😉 x

  3. Great tips! Love the last one about the photo-ready makeup:)

  4. Cathee T.

    You’re so right about these! Something else I took away from my own unfortunate prom makeup experience: If someone else is doing your makeup and you don’t like how something turns out, tell them!

  5. Miss J

    OMG. DYING at that last part there, LOL.

  6. Christina

    No high-shine products?
    So what would be some products we could use for glowy skin?

    • Ainsley

      I think he means more like, don’t use a luminous all over powder. It’s still fine to use a bit of highlighter on the cheekbones, imo.

    • It won’t ALWAYS look bad and if you have a lot of control over your photos then I LOVE shining skin! I use clear gloss all the time for photography – BUT not the kind of photography you see at a dance. It’s quick and there isn’t much time to fuss around. A little shine in the highlight areas can work but any shine you add just runs the risk of looking sweaty. Matte is almost always no-fail with photos like that :)

  7. Oh, how that last paragraph left a really bad taste in my mouth.

    • Jenn

      I’m with you on this one. I thought the article was really endearing, thoughtful, and practical….but that last bit wasn’t funny to me.

    • My second most-viewed video on YouTube is me applying makeup… drunk off my butt! It also has the MOST “dislikes” of any video of mine AND the most positive comments from people saying how it made their day better because they laughed!

      This is what I’m comfortable with: I’d rather say something that makes 99 people laugh and one person upset, than say nothing at all.

      There’s a bit of humor in almost everything I do. I certainly never set out to offend, but I know it can happen. Maybe I’m like Coca Cola… but you really wanted a Pepsi. That’s okay! With nearly 7 billion people on the planet, it’s pretty easy to find the soft drink you want :)

  8. Carie

    ” I’ve seen you at the mall on prom night looking like the first 15 minutes of Pretty Woman.” Haha, this killed me!

  9. Chelsea

    Could I use natural colors as well as dress colors for my makeup look?

    • Totally! You can easily do a neutral eye and pull the dress color into the crease (or liner, depending on the dress – if it’s red you might not want red rings around your eyes 😉

      It’s not really a rule, just a “tip” to get you out of the rut you can find yourself in – trying to match the dress and the makeup :)

  10. Leah

    Okay, I just gotta say that I’m so glad someone is giving some love to “Color Me Beautiful!” My mom had that book and I read it cover to cover as a kid several times. (I was kinda a weird kid, though!)
    I still use the things I learned in that book to determine what I look good in and what would look good on other people. My friends love going shopping with me because I’ll always find clothes that are the perfect colors for them. I also rarely make mistakes when picking out makeup and clothing shades for myself; I’ve known I was a “Summer” since I was about 7 years old!
    Anyhow, I know it’s off the topic of prom makeup, but I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who uses that book as a point of reference!

    • It’s a WONDERFUL book isn’t it?! People don’t give it enough love AT ALL but it’s rock solid. It’s fun to read, funny, smart and no matter what era you’re in (my copy is from the 70’s) you can still apply it to today. It’s one of my all-time favorite beauty books!

      When I was a kid I thought I was goth… little did I know it was just because a Winter and looked fabulous in black! 😉 LOL

      • Alison

        I love to use Sci/Art colour analysis to find the clothes and makeup that suit me (I’ve never read “Colour me Beautiful”, but I’m sure the principles are similar.) – I’m a huge believer in wearing only what is flattering on YOU, instead of what just looks great in itself (Really, do you want people to think you look gorgeous, or the dress?). People invest so much time and money to make their hair and skin look good, only to wear clothes and makeup that wash them out and make their skin look worse. It just doesn’t make sense!

        As a side note, I’m a Winter too – a Deep/Dark Winter, which is Winter with a bit of Autumn mixed in. Not completely cool, but neutral with a cooler influence. I wouldn’t want to wear any other colours – these are just perfect on me. Its nice to see some people around here who have heard of it!

  11. Margarett

    Am I the only one who heard Dusty’s soft voice reading this in my head? So soothing. I love how he is informative and entertaining. I also have one of his screen savers as my computer’s background. Such a Renaissance Man. :)

  12. Liv

    Hi there! Im from NZ and completely love this site! Its my homepage! Haha hey I was just wondering, I am doing my little sisters makeup for her formal, and I was wondering some good foundations that wont end up looking lighter or white in photos? Thanks heaps!

  13. Anastacia Nickolai


  14. Alejandra Rodriguez Cebrian


  15. pinupstylist

    Dusty, thanks for the wonderful Prom Makeup Tips! We are huge fans, and we can’t wait until your new blog goes live!

  16. pinupstylist

    Dustin, thanks for the wonderful Prom Makeup Tips, we are huge fans, and can’t wait until your new blog goes live!