Building your makeup collection can be difficult and confusing. There are a limitless number of products out there, with new ‘must haves’ coming out every five minutes. Beauty experts on YouTube and Instagram talk about the 8 concealers and 12 foundations you absolutely must have do a perfect full face. This is a can be bewildering for anyone, never mind makeup newbies. So, I'm going to give what I think the essentials are and why, according to what I use all the time. Adapt this to what suits your needs, budget and ability.

Primer - this is applied after moisturiser but before any other makeup. Its primary job is to help your makeup stay put longer. It can also be used on its own to improve the look of your skin. There are face, eye and lip primers, and all can be useful so buy according to what you use most.

Foundation (or other base) - if you want to smooth out your skin tone and cover minor blemishes and other aspects of your skin's texture, you need a ‘base’. This can be a foundation, bb creme, cc creme or tinted moisturiser. For maximum versatility I would recommend buying a fuller coverage foundation because you can mix it with primer or moisturiser to reduce coverage if you need to but still be able to go full coverage glam if you want to

Concealer - this is used to provide further coverage to ‘conceal’ things like hyperpigmentation and dark circles. It can also be used to correct makeup mistakes like uneven eyeliner or messy lipstick application. Concealer is usually 1 to 3 shades lighter than your foundation.

Setting/finishing powders - this is most important for people with oilier skin types. Setting powder is generally translucent and is used to help keep your makeup - especially concealer - in place longer. Finishing powders can be used to add more coverage and help blend out your makeup to make it that much more ‘flawless’

Blush - ok, so in the interest of full disclosure, I do not understand blush very well. But I do know that swatching is essential. Swatch and swatch until you find a couple shades that give you the kind of flush or glow you're looking for. My go to shades are an earthy peach for spring, orange for summer, mauve pink for autumn and raspberry for winter

Eyeshadow - Largely neutral palette that contains a few pops of bright colours are a great place to start. Since neutral tones are so easy to work with, you'll be able to focus on mastering basic techniques without adding complex colours to the mix. The right eyeshadows can also be used as brow powders, blushes and highlighters and so can save you a lot of money.

Eyeliner - pencil, liquid, pen, cream and gel liners all have their uses. Liquid and pen liners are perfect for a sharp wing whereas pencil liners are better suited for more smudged smokey looks. Cream and gel are the most versatile - in that they can be used for all of the above - but I find them trickier to use.

Mascara - which mascara you buy will depend on what your lashes are like and what you want them to look like. This is where YouTube comes in. Watch lots and lots and lots of videos and once you find a mascara that seems to do what you want, try it out.

NB: liquid liner and mascara are two items I say you can - and probably should - cheap out on. Because they're moist and kept in an enclosed space they are a breeding ground for bacteria. So, since they go on your oh so sensitive eyes, you shouldn't keep them for more than 3 or 4 months. Any longer risks irritation and infection.

Lip colour - I've written a whole article about this so I'm just going to summarise by saying that a good starting point is by getting 3 colours: a neutral, a red and another colour (like pink or purple)

Tools - unless you want to apply everything with your fingers you're going to need some tools. I'd suggest getting a good range of brushes and a couple sponges. Listing them all is an article in itself so watch this space.

Buy all these things, just a couple or none of them. Either way, you'll likely make mistakes and get the wrong things, but that's part of the fun of it (for me at least). Just don't splurge on something high end until you know your skin, skills and style a bit better


Second generation British-Nigerian fat agender person. Style enthusiast, decent baker and lazy poet.

Find me on instagram @mazisahedgehog