Do you remember buying your very first makeup product? For me, it was mascara. Putting on mascara in eight-grade was my quiet little rebellion against the school system that forbade so many of the things teenagers love. Mascara made me feel dangerous but without any repercussions. I still had makeup on, but you wouldn’t notice it unless you look really closely. So, I didn’t get into trouble.

Now that I think about it, that mascara was my gateway to a lifelong obsession with makeup. And like with any gateway drug, things escalated and I began getting hooked on more and more makeup. By the time I was in high school, I already had a huge collection on which I spent a good portion of my lunch money.

But high school was a time of experimenting and today I only own a small bag of products. As a grown-up woman, I know exactly what works for me so I don’t need to hoard piles of foundation, lipstick and what-not. But getting where I am now was a long process. If you’re new to makeup or want to take it more seriously than you used to, here’s a guide on everything you need to know about when buying makeup.

Choose Skin-Friendly Makeup

Like moisturisers, cleansers and other skincare products, not all types of makeup can suit your skin. Even if you invest a lot of money in buying expensive and professional-grade products, they still may not work for you. Whenever you’re buying makeup, you should always read the label so that you know the product is suitable for your skin.

First, you need to check whether products like primers, foundations and highlighters are non-comedogenic and oil-free. This is essential, as you want to make sure they won’t clog pores or cause dead skin cells to accumulate. Additionally, you also need to take your skin type into account. For instance, a liquid foundation with a matte finish is perfect for oily and acne-prone skin. On the other hand, if you have dry skin, avoid matte formulas and opt for moisturising foundations that will help hydrate the skin. And if you want your face to have an added glow (without the use of a highlighter), opt for foundations and primers that contain vitamins, such as E and C.

Take your time and analyse the ingredients  list. If you’re uncomfortable scanning the ingredients at a store, try purchasing makeup products online. I for one, hate the uncomfortable feeling when I’m comparing several products and I can feel the salesperson throwing annoyed glances at me.

Know Your Skin Tone

The colours of your makeup will determine whether a product can make you look good or not. Just as clothes in certain colours tend to flatter you more, the same goes with makeup. With that being said, it’s important to pick makeup in colours that complement your skin tone. There are four different skin tones: fair, medium, olive and dark.

But finding the right foundation isn’t just picking a fair, medium or deep shade. You will also need to examine your undertone – the subtle hue underneath your skin. There are three undertones: warm, cool and neutrals. The base of the skin on people with warm undertones can range from peach to yellow or golden. On the other hand, cool undertones have hints of pink and bluish hues. Neutral undertones are a blend of both cool and warm hues or can match your actual skin tone.

Because it’s not immediately obvious, figuring out your undertone  can be tricky. Usually, the best method is to observe the veins in your wrist under natural light. If they appear slightly green, you have a warm undertone. On the other hand, if they look more bluish or purple, your undertone is cool. If there’s a mix, you’re a neutral undertone.

Now that you have an idea of what your undertone is, you can move on to choosing the right makeup products for your skin. But given the unlimited range of products and available shades, you may still need to undergo some trial and error. The following tips can give you an idea on what shades to look for in your foundation.

A cool undertone will requite using a foundation that appears slightly pink. But if you have a medium to deep skin tone with a cool undertone, then you’ll need a foundation shade with a hint of brownish-red. Neutral undertones are the easiest to shop for as you only need to take your skin tone into account. But if you have olive skin with a neutral undertone, you may want to pick a foundation with a slight gold tone to neutralise the “greenish” shine of your skin. If you’re a warm undertone, the foundation should have a subtle yellow hint if you’re a medium skin tone or a golden hint if you’re on the olive or dark side.

Don’t Follow Fads – Follow Your Features

Following makeup fads isn’t a smart thing to do, trust me. In the early 2000s, pencil-thin eyebrows and glitter eye shadows were all the rage. But even the prettiest of celebrities weren’t able to pull them off. In fact, nobody was. Because it didn’t look flattering on anybody.

But even if you see a model in a magazine and think, “well that looks cool on her, I should try it too”, it doesn’t mean that it will suit you. Observe your features to see what will look best. For instance, if you have a lighter complexion and blond hair, those thick drawn-on eyebrows that are so popular right now won’t be a flattering look for you. Also, consider whether you can realistically achieve a certain look, like for example, contouring. Contouring takes a lot of time and effort. Plus, you need to practice it a lot before you can pull off a look that doesn’t turn you into a clown. In any case, I bet that contouring and drawn-on eyebrows will make us cringe some years from now, so don’t feel too pressured to do your make up in this way.