Eight Easy Steps to Break Out of a Makeup Rut


You’ve been applying the same makeup since last Christmas. You’re feeling less than inspired, and bored stiff is not the look you’re going for. You are in a makeup rut. But don’t worry, it’s easy to break out if you’re willing to embrace change, according to Christian McCulloch, Dolce & Gabbana’s national makeup artist.

“Change is good!” he says. “It's fun to switch things up, experiment, and step out of the comfort zone,” noting that it’s important to try new shades, textures, and looks in order to “discover beauty in the unexpected.”  

McCulloch has become renowned both for his strong, smokey eye and a deep roster of celebrity clients (including Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts and Jessica Biel) who entrust their red carpet looks to him. He definitely knows how to make someone stand out. Here are McCulloch’s eight simple steps to breaking free from a tired makeup routine.

Step 1: Know Yourself

“Everyone wants to look good and feel good. Knowing yourself is the most important way to start expressing a look that’s best for you. Take a good gaze at yourself in the mirror and ask what you’re happy with and what you’d like to improve or change.”

Face charts are a great starting point. Print out some blank templates (search google images) and get your colored pencils and make like it’s your kindergarten art project. Try mixing and matching different colors for your eyes and lips and play around with shading for your cheeks. It’s a simple way to try adventurous color before you apply to your face. When you find the one (or two or three) that you like, tape it to your mirror and experiment on yourself!

Step 2: Find Inspiration (and Copy It!)

“Runway and editorial layouts are great places to find a new look you like. Inspiration is really everywhere—in books, art, movies, magazines, music, social media channels. Find an outlet you love and you’ll see the inspiration start to flow. If you find something you like, absolutely copy it. Through practice, you’ll learn how to make the look your own.”

You know this by know, but Pinterest is a must for keeping all your inspiration ideas stored in one handy place. Love the boudoir look of Myrtle in The Great Gatsby or digging Beyonce at the Chime for Change concert? Pin every image that excites you, so you can come back to ’em later, when you’re ready to test out new looks.

Step 3: Hit the Makeup Counter

Head to your favorite beauty store. It might not change your whole routine, but even talking to someone who views beauty differently will inspire you to change it up, even if it’s just a new lip color.”

Hit up your local counter, and you’ll likely pick up some technique know-how, too. A brand’s artists will often give you complimentary makeup applications, allowing you to try that coral pink lipstick before you buy it.

Step 4: Have at Least 3-4 Different Looks

“I like diversity in makeup and propose changing your look from day into night, from weekday to weekend. I would say everyone needs a professional day look, an evening look, a fresh weekend look, and then perhaps a more dramatic party look. That's three to four looks you should have in your repertoire.”

Don’t get overwhelmed. Many of the beauty products you own—or will buy—can be mixed and matched for multiple looks. For example, liquid black eyeliner can be applied with a thin line for a day look, while at night, you add a second thicker line and wing it out for your dramatic look. Likewise, a peachy gloss can be used alone for your fresh weekend look, and also added over red lipstick for a high voltage sheen at night.

Step 5: Take Good Care of Your Skin

“A solid makeup look starts with proper skin care, followed by a foundation that best suits your tone and texture. I like a velvety or creamy complexion. The new Perfect Matte Liquid Foundation from Dolce & Gabbana is a brilliant way to even out problem skin or problem areas. It lasts all day and has a great finish with a radiant glow.”

Every season, evaluate your skincare routine. In winter you want extra moisture in your day cream—which you may not want in the summer months, when you are focused on oil control. If you aren’t already using one, consider adding a serum or eye cream that, over time, can help even out skin tone and reduce inflammation around the eyes.

Step 6: Perfect Your Complexion

“A good complexion remains more consistent and less changeable from day to day. But you should play with subtle variation and enhancements such as blusher and bronzer.”

Eyeshadows and lipsticks aren’t the only way to tinker with color and texture. Have fun with your base, too! If you normally wear a matte finish, try a naturally tinted foundation instead. Play around with primers to find one that locks in your makeup or provides a dewy base, and experiment with your cheeks. Powder blushes, cream tints, and cheek stains all give different results.

Step 7: Mind the Eyes and Lips

“The eyes and lips are the two most dramatic changes you can make and the best areas of your face to consistently try new colors. Switching the color of your eyeliner or choosing a richer pigmented lipstick is a simple but effective way to change up your entire look.”

Pick a quick switch, and do it for a week. Go buy seven new lip colors and dare to try a different color every day. Or, if you’re feeling less adventurous, pick two new lip products, one gloss and one matte, and alternate. Another simple change with a big impact? Bright-colored eyeliner, especially if you’re accustomed to brown or black. Commit to wearing purple, blue, or green—or get a metallic liner to really make your eyes pop—for a full week, and see how it goes. 

Step 8: Make Palettes Your Friend

“If you're simply bored, or feeling drab, break out a palette, and you’ll suddenly find there's a lot to try.”

If you always use the same colors on your eyes and lips, it may be out of convenience; you have that single shade on hand, and it's right there in front of you. A pre-made palette is like a Crayola box of mini options, allowing you test out a variety of different colors in a single purchase. And, if you discover a new color, texture, or product type you love, you can then invest in a full-size product. See below under "Featured Products" for a few of our favorite palettes. 

If you enjoyed this story, stay tuned for part two on how to break out of a hair rut, coming soon!

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