Thanks to beauty YouTubers and Instagram influencers, makeup can sometimes feel like something you need a degree for nowadays.
Don't worry, that's not so.
You can create any look you want with just basic makeup tools, but it's important that they're the best quality tools you can get your hands on.
Years ago I was learning under Rae Morris, one of the world's most renowned makeup artists. She was the longest serving makeup director for L'Oreal Paris, and is a four-time Australian Makeup Artist of the Year winner. Here's what she said about a good set of makeup brushes:
"If I'm flying somewhere for a job and I'm without my brushes, even with the best quality makeup in the world, I'm screwed. As long as I have my brushes, though, it doesn't matter which country I'm in, I can go out and buy some makeup, and I'll be fine."
That may not be verbatim - she said this to me 15 years ago - but it's close! So, whether you're a complete newbie or just want to see your makeup game improved, here are the tools you'll want to invest in.
1. MAKE-UP SPONGE
This phenomenon was started by the Beauty Blender in 2003 and since then many brands have caught on to the hype.
Used damp, the makeup sponge is perfect for applying liquid or cream products to your face, and can effectively layer on foundation to build coverage.
Use the rounded parts for pressing - not dragging or swiping - foundation onto your face. Use the pointed part for blending concealer under your eyes or in concentrated areas on other parts of your face. The beauty sponge is also great for pressing loose or packed powder onto your face to set your foundation or concealer. However, if you're a complete newbie, using clean fingers to apply your foundation and concealer is perfectly fine, too.
2. SMALL EYE SHADOW BRUSH
This is a small dome-shaped brush that is compact but still full, and is designed for packing a colour onto the lids. It is not to be confused with a similarly shaped brush that's flat and smooth.
On smaller eyes, once you use the broad side of the brush to press an all-over shade onto your lids, you can use the "corner" or the side of the brush to stamp a darker shade at the outer corners of your eyes for definition.
3. TAPERED CREASE BRUSH
This brush looks most like a calligraphy brush as it's tapered to a much sharper tip, and the bristles are longer than your eye shadow brush.
Fluffier and with looser hairs, this brush is made for layering on and blending out pigments at your outer corners and crease to create definition.
4. BLENDING BRUSH
This is a slightly larger version of the crease brush but less tapered and therefore rounder and fluffier at the tip.
It is for blending out any harsh lines, and is great for drawing your shadow outwards at the outer corner to elongate your eye shape.
If you're after a no-makeup makeup look, dust a neutral colour all over your lids with this brush and you're good to go.
For a make-up job, especially on brides, I keep this brush completely clean of pigments and use it only for blending away harsh lines.
5. BIG POWDER BRUSH
Whether it's gently tapered or roundly domed, this big fluffy brush is for dusting and setting powder all over your face. It's also very good for blending out face pigments like blush, even if you accidentally get a little heavy handed.
6. SYNTHETIC DUO-FIBRE FACE BRUSH
Affectionately known as the "skunk brush", this long, almost cylindrical brush is black at the base with white tips at the top.
Designed for layering on lightweight products, this brush is perfect for gradually building pigments and texture onto the face. For a beginner, it is great to use as a blush brush because it doesn't deposit large amounts of pigment.
Use it to dust blush onto the fleshiest parts of your cheek and blend it outwards towards your temple. Just make sure to tap the excess off your brush after you've picked up pigments with it.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.