pin up makeup step by step

You don’t have to be Dita Von Teese to get good pin-up beauty products. Even if you’re low-maintenance and/or low-budget when it comes to your makeup routine, I promise that stunning red lips and the perfect cat eye are possible with as little as fifteen minutes and $70.

The pin-up look is all about simple, matte skin as a canvas for high contrast lips, brows, and eyeliner. I’m not going to recommend a specific foundation — that’s all about what personally works for you. (Diorskin Forever Flawless is my jam, but it’s pretty pricey at $49. You can definitely find a drugstore option that works well.)

After foundation, I do my eyes next: brows first, then liner and mascara. This order of operations prevents smudging one while doing the other. A good brow pencil, mascara, and eyeliner brush are essential. Depending on how tight your budget is, you can add a potted eyeliner and highlighter to the mix.

First, highlight under each brow with Benefit Watts Up! or any nude, shimmery eyeshadow, and fill in each brow with Anastasia Brow Wiz (which I promise is worth the $21).

For the quickest, easiest lids, just dust them with the same pressed powder you use over your foundation. As far as eyeliner is concerned, Rimmel’s Scandaleyes Gel Eyeliner is $6 of waterproof drugstore goodness, but in a pinch, you can also use your mascara with a small-tipped eyeliner brush.

pin up eye makeup
The eyes: highlighter, brow pencil, eyeliner, and mascara. That’s all you need. Really.

To achieve the perfect cat eye, um… practice! That’s really all there is to it. Having the right tools and learning how different lines create different looks can help speed along the learning process.

Long, flat lines will create a wider-set look. This is great for people with close-set eyes. For doll eyes that look wider (my personal favorite), take the liner all the way to the inside corner of each eye and pair a more rounded top with a winged tail. If you’re not sure where to draw your wings, you can always cheat by using a credit card as a guideline. Just hold it up to create a natural line between your outer eye and the end of your eyebrow.

Mascara has never been my beauty forte. If you have a fancy favorite, that’s fine, but right now, I’m wearing this Maybelline Volum’ Express drugstore mascara. It’s $6 and gets the job done—no flaking or smudging.

In addition to a solid cat eye, red lips are what define the pin-up look, and I have got this part on lock. Sephora Collection Cream Lip Stain in Always Red is my everything. I love it more dearly than any red lipstick, stain, or gloss I’ve ever owned, and I will shed genuine tears if they ever discontinue it. I’ve worn it at least two or three days a week for the last two years, and I’m now own my third tube of the stuff, which only costs $13.

At this point, I don’t even bother with lip liner, but you can if that’s your thing. It doesn’t seem to make a difference in definition or feathering for me. I just slather it right onto my gigantic mouth with the wand applicator, turning the tip upside down to get a sharp edge.

It dries to a vibrant, matte finish, looks good on pretty much every skin tone, and stays on aaaaaaall day. As a caffeine junkie and daily devourer of sandwiches, I do have to reapply around the inside of my lips after eating, but the outside line stays put without feathering for, like, ten hours without fail. My boyfriend even calls it the “magic stain” and wants to know why all of my lipsticks can’t be like that. Why indeed!

When it comes to blush, I have a confession: I’ve always been afraid of it. It’s so easy to end up looking like a flushed pink anger monster, and I was so traumatized by the makeup my friends’ mothers would heap on my face at childhood figure-skating competitions that, as an adult, I almost never wear the stuff.

So, if blush is your thing, do a little natural glow, but don’t go too crazy. Me, I just smear a dash of the same highlighter I use on my eyes on the apples of my cheeks and blend it up toward my ears.

pin up makeup brand
The final results!

Pin-up makeup is one look truly worth mastering. It may not be the latest trend, but it’s timeless. I’ve taken these products with me on month-long trips to tropical countries, to weekend weddings, and on my annual pilgrimage to the Black Rock Desert. They are my 15-minute solution to every lazy morning, fancy party, and evening I spend too long binge-watching hedgehog videos to get ready for a night out.

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