I’ve always been a fickle fan of makeup, mostly because I was never sure how to apply it. In high school I just caked my lids in a solitary shade of brown or black, and in college I called it a day with some eyeliner. If it ever impulsed me, I’d purchase eye shadow as long as it came as a palate with some kind of color-by-numbers picture on the back.

And then the strangest thing happened. I applied as a contestant in a local cultural festival – essentially, a pageant – and placed.

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Keep in mind, my beauty skillz had in no way manifested themselves, but being so often in the seat of a  makeup stylist caused me to pick up a few of the basics. I suddenly had to reapply lipstick in the middle of the day and keep my new eyelashes faithfully glued on. I was both disaster and eager student until, eventually, I moved on to advanced-beginners techniques, like darkening my eyebrows and putting wings at the tips of my eyeliner.

And after nearly a year of needing to wear makeup, I’m still just learning things that kids in high school have long ago mastered.

However, I recently attended a MAC makeup session that managed to enhance my makeup knowledge while simultaneously (albeit gracefully) assaulting my bank account. The attendees circulated through three makeup stations that had looks focused on fresh and natural, drama and color, and “suburban urban.” With my minimalistic history, I was sold on everything that was demonstrated to us in station 1. Here’s what I walked away with:

From left to right: Brow finisher, brush 224, brush 187, studio moisture tint (medium plus), prep + prime lip base and mineralize concealer.

The brow finisher I bought to restock my dwindling supply at home. It’s a wax-like stick that helps to keep brows (and the shadow I use to darken them) in place while also giving them a bit of health and shine.

Brush 224 is a blending brush and everyone at the event raved on how it would do all the hard work for me. I’m one of those kids who blends with my pinky finger (do not confess this to MAC personnel or people who are generally more fabulous than you) which works fine if you like the “I just rubbed all my eyeshadow off” look.

This big 187 brush serves multiple purposes, but I bought it as an applicator for the studio moisture tint. I’ve had a real tumulus relationship with foundation because I have freckles and love them to a fault. Foundation, in most cases, tends to cover them up and make it very obvious that I’m wearing makeup. MAC’s moisture tint, however, gave my face invisible coverage that provided much needed daily moisturizer and SPF – essential for a girl with freckles in Hawai‘i. I was told that I shouldn’t apply this foundation with my fingers (another silly question) and so I picked up that fancy brush to ensure I did things right.

Because I was wearing lipstick so frequently, I learned the hard way that I had dry lips. The prep + prime lip base is a type of lip conditioner that I picked up to replace one that I bought at Sephora, which left my mouth feeling like I had caked petroleum jelly on it. The lip base goes on smooth and preps the lips for lipstick or gloss. Without something on top, it feels a little waxy, but I had this on during my pageant night and it kept my color from feathering out.

Then of course, there’s concealer. This is probably something that every woman should own, at least for use in emergencies (ie. a pimple). I like a product that has multiple uses and I was won over when my stylist used it to cover some redness around my nose and those dark circles under my eyes. Tying in to my aversion of foundation, I stayed away from concealer for the same reasons and didn’t own any until this class. An atrocity! While most of my blemishes occur outside of my befreckled zones, by magic, it doesn’t conceal them either.