Embracing natural beauty: Asian makeup transformation Part I

Makeup is not about masking, but taking pride of who you are.

Despite a recent rise of Asian faces in fashion world, the unique physical beauty of Asian women is rarely featured in western mainstream media, needless to say being praised. As one of the many Asian girls brought up in traditional eastern culture but living in a western country, I am being bombarded by Western aesthetics daily, which I found is particularly hard to relate to when it comes to makeup. Beside the preference of much more implicit beauty, facial anatomy also inevitably decides that we need to be made up differently, instead of wearing unsuitable styles and fighting our natural features.  After seeing many Asian girls wearing theatrical type of heavy makeup or resorting to plastic surgeries, just to mimic the standard Western facial features, I feel the importance to show that Asian are just as beautiful, and this can be easily achieved by choosing the right makeup styles.

Yileen was the first person popped out of my head.  Maybe it’s because our similar background (both are Asian of course, studying PhD in plant sciences in the same department), plus her endearing and cheerful personality made her even more approachable. Although she was a bit surprised at first (she never considered herself a model), I quickly assured her that it would be a fun experience.

For the first look, I want to keep it as light and natural as possible. The idea of proper makeup has to be heavy and made-up keeps lots of women from wearing it daily, missing numerous opportunities to feel better and look better. Therefore, I didn't use any dramatic contouring or eye lining to alter Yileen’s delicate features. Instead, I subtly adjusted the skin tone and balanced her features.


Yileen's before and after. All photos were taken under the exact same light setting and were 100% UN-RETOUCHED to honestly reflect the makeup.  Photos by Geoff Jones. Click the image for large view.

This look is very simple to achieve (less than 20 mins) and is definitely suitable for everyday wear! How to achieve the look? Keep reading!

1.      Base:  

I used a light-coverage liquid foundation on top of a thin layer of BB cream, to even out Yileen’s face and tone down the ruddiness. Although it is always said that you should use foundations match your natural skin tone (which is pink for Yileen), the foundation I chose was yellow-based as her neck and chest are both yellow-toned. BB cream is fantastic as a multifunctional makeup base, and can be worn alone for minimal coverage. Avoid caking on foundation if you have blemishes. Just spot conceal them. I used a liquid concealer under her eyes and over blemishes. Powdering was skipped as she has normal skin, and doing so left a healthy sheen.

2.      Contouring and highlighting:

I am usually a contour maniac, but I didn’t contour Yileen’s face at all as it’s already in a beautiful oval shape. Chiselled cheekbone and concaved temple are not always flattering, and over contouring can make your face look muddy and fake under day light. Fuller cheek with softer edge often give a much more youthful look (That’s why women with round face tend to look younger), and is more suitable for Asian women’s delicate features.

For highlighting, I used a liquid highlighter on the highest point of her cheekbone and nose bridge on the top of the foundation. Only selectively highlighting features that you want to emphasize, and use highlighter sparingly. Super shiny skin looks great in fashion/beauty editorials, but is not wearable in daily life, as you may just look greasy and dirty.

3.      Complexion:

I used a very light touch of peachy cream blush on the highest point of Yileen’s cheek, and carefully blended out it upwardly towards her ear and downwardly towards the tip of her nose. There are generally two typical mistakes women make in terms of applying blush for everyday makeup: First, abusing the amount of blush they use. Blush is used to imitate the natural subtle flush underneath the skin, so you know you used too much when the cheek colour gets more attention than other features.  Second, place the blush too low and/or too wide on the face. This will create an illusion of droopy cheek.  Rule of thumb to avoid it? Suck your cheek in and never go pass where it sinks.            

4.       Eyes:

I firstly used a light, shimmery golden shadow over Yileen’s entire upper eyelid, blending out from the lash line to just below the brow bone.  The same shadow was also used on her lower lid, concentrating on the inner corner.  A dark matte brown was then used on the 1/3 of the outer corner of both upper and lower lids to contour her eyes. Instead of strong liner, I used a push liner brush with the darkest brown to tightly line her upper lash line. Notice that there is no black shadow used? That’s because it can look harsh during day time. For a natural look, brown is very flattering on most skin tones, especially for Asian girls. I then curled her lashes (Well, that was a bit effort considering how straight they were!) and put two coats of mascara on.

 Due to the flatter eye structure, most Asian women don’t have obvious eye sockets with much eyelid showing. I've seen girls draw a crease using dark shadows to fake a socket; however that never looks very flattering in real life. Again, work on your natural features! Carefully layered and well blended colours in different texture and depth give a much more sophisticated yet natural look.

5.      Brows:

I am normally pedantic about eyebrow, but I didn't reshape Yileen’s at all, as it is in harmony with her features even they are not perfectly symmetric. I just lightly filled it in with a medium brown eye shadow using a dome shaped brush to avoid harsh lines. If you watch Korean drama, you will notice that most actresses kept their eyebrow very natural with minimal shaping and filling. This is opposite to the super neat, arched eyebrow trend worldwide, but can definitely give a younger, more refreshed look on some faces (Francois Nars is also a non-believer of eyebrow shaping).

6.      Lips:

The only feature I changed rather dramatically is Yileen’s lip colour. Her lips are in perfect shape, but due to the pink undertone, they appear rather red and draw much attention away from her other beautiful features. I muted them first with a concealer and used a peachy pink lipstick on top of it. As they are rather plump, I skipped gloss. 

That’s not all! I then tweaked the first look to make it perfect for a romantic date or an evening out! A short interview of Yileen talking about herself and her feelings about the transformation will be also featured in the second part.  And of course stay tuned for more stunning images :) 

(Special note: Certain makeup applications described as inappropriate above are only applicable in the context of daily corrective makeup, as they may be used for character and editorial makeup.)


Your friendly makeup artist,


Copyright © 2013 Mary Li Makeup artist, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Nothing within this post, including text or images may be reproduced without my expressed permission.

Read Part II of this transformation now at: http://marylimakeup.com/embracing-natural-beauty-asian-makeup-transformation-part-2/