"How do I do my eyes?" is one of the commonest questions posed to makeup artist Lidean Erasmus. One of the commonest mistakes she sees is the wrong choice of foundation.
The bubbly dynamo is on a mission to help women become more confident about using cosmetics. In her role as national makeup specialist for Elizabeth Arden she travels throughout New Zealand advising beauty consultants and doing in-store makeovers for customers, so she is well and truly familiar with their everyday concerns.
Women who tell her: "I have to have my face on before 7am to get out the door. I might have a last meeting at 6pm."
These busy corporate women want to know how to get a look that lasts. In response to this demand, Elizabeth Arden has developed a programme called Boardroom Beauty in which Erasmus goes into businesses to guide female staff on achieving appropriate looks.
"Work makeup should look neat, tidy and fresh - and not too over the top," she says. The problem is that some women struggle with confidence or know-how. This extends beyond those who are not interested or are afraid of using cosmetics to those who do visit beauty counters.
"They sit down with a makeup artist who does a great creation, then at the end of the day it goes down the sink."
Erasmus says demonstration needs to extend to education. The how to, why to and where to of good makeup application and what works for different occasions. "The whole idea is to get them excited about putting on their makeup."
* Don't do anything that draws too much attention to any one area of the face - go for work-makeup balance.
* Morning makeup should not take more than 15 minutes, and can take much less.
* Do get on board with primers for eyes, face and lips, especially eye primer, to help makeup go the distance.
* Lip liner should be used not just to define, but to fill in the lips, thus avoiding ugly contour lines.
* Consider cost. The likes of brow tinting at $30 every few weeks could be replaced by a good brow powder kit for $50 which lasts for two years. Quality lipsticks and foundations will save you time on touch-ups and irritation about poor performance.
Most women want a straight-forward regime, says Erasmus, but one that is personalised rather than generalised. She likes to talk to women about their needs and to determine their cosmetic inclinations. "I find out if they are a true minimalist or like expressing themselves." A woman who doesn't feel comfortable will soon go back to old habits.
She ran me through the Boardroom Beauty approach recently (see her tips below) and though the workshop is aimed at businesswomen, its commonsense principles apply more widely, including to women whose job may not require such a high level of grooming. She cites her dealings with stay-at-home mothers, women who work in male-dominated workforces and don't want to appear too girly and those in the rural sector. "A farmer's wife may be busy outdoors, but then she may have to sell some produce or meet a supplier." Full make-up might feel out of place for such women, but sound skincare and knowing about the likes of tinted moisturiser, mineral powder foundation or a sweep of bronzer can offer a quick and easy update.
South-African born Erasmus says her experience working here and overseas, including running one of Arden's busiest London counters, has convinced her that all types of women appreciate learning the tricks of her trade - even if only for special occasion use. For those whose work is partly judged on presentation, gaining the tools to craft a good appearance is more than window dressing, it's a vital workplace skill.
"Casual it down if you want to for any other day of the week."
TOP TIPS FOR BUSY WOMEN
* Get your skincare sorted.
* A good foundation is a must. "You can do the most amazing eyeshadow and lips, but if the foundation is wrong ..."
(Radiant formulas suit a drier complexion and mattifying ones are best for oilier skins. Coverage can be medium or full or use mineral tint or powder for a lighter look. Get colour-matched and select the shade that "disappears into your face. This will ensure you don't have ugly tidelines around your jaw or hairline. Too dark a shade will look muddy and can't be toned down, whereas something a little light can be warmed up with bronzer and blusher meaning you can get by with just one foundation year-round unless your seasonal colour change is marked).
* For a special occasion makeup when more coverage is wanted, apply extra foundation to the central cross of your face (brow, nose, chin and across the cheeks) and amp up eye and lip colours.
* Brushes are best for applying product, but fingers are better than sponges for foundation as these wastefully absorb product. (Cleanse brushes every week or two with shampoo and conditioner. If using sponges remember they harbour dead skin cells and need routine rinsing to deter bacteria build-up).
* Use concealer sparingly on problem areas and apply it after foundation so you don't over-use it and get a cakey look. Befriend blusher. "Every woman looks healthier and more youthful with a slight flush to her cheeks."
EASY ON THE EYE
Three eyeshadow shades are all you need to create both everyday and impactful eyes. Add intensity by applying the shadow wet. A low pearl sheen is suitable for older women, but nothing too metallic. (Lidean Erasmus recommends Beautiful Colour eyeshadow with Eye Fix primer underneath.)
1. Use the lightest shade all over the eye area, from brow to lash-line. "This can give an instant brow lift."
2. Use the mid-tone shade just above the crease. Erasmus says the usual advice to apply in the crease doesn't work on those with deep-set or aging eyes. The colour disappears and the eyes can look tired and dull. Work in the area just above the actual crease and blend from half-way out.
3. Use the darkest shade as a liner and out along the upper lash line. Women with glasses need to realise that, depending on their prescription, eyes can be magnified or made to appear smaller. "Do something so all you see is big sparkling eyes, not black holes."
Elizabeth Arden's Boardroom Beauty programme can be booked by businesses. It is best suited for groups of 10-15 women, with a minimum of five required for the complimentary hour-long interactive makeup tutorial. Lidean Erasmus can also be booked to follow her group presentation with one-on-one 30-minute sessions for staff. For details contact Amanda Tarbitt, ph (09) 529 3212 or email firstname.lastname@example.org