Q. Rose. Peach. Tawny. Can I trust the woman at the counter to tell me what shade of blush I should buy?
A: Yes, if you also trust her to tell you what color dress you should be wearing and what color your hair should be. To put it another way: "Absolutely not," says makeup artist Sonia Kashuk. It's best to try a blush the same way you try a foundation: Bring a mirror to the store, dust a different blush on each cheek, and then go to a window or outside to see how it looks. At the drugstore, where you can't test it, look for a shade that is likely to be wearable on a variety of complexions, like a translucent pink stain or a muted pink.
Keep reading: Val's guide to blush and so much more
Q: I'd like to try a little powder bronzer, but I'm not sure where to apply it. Can you help?
A: Gladly. Though bronzer is one of the quickest ways to warm up your complexion, if you use it incorrectly, it can make you look as if you'd had your face lightly coated with fine sand, rather than spent a relaxing afternoon at the beach. To avoid the former, start by sweeping a blush brush across the bronzer, and shake off excess. Apply it to the apples of your cheeks, making circular motions toward the temples, says makeup artist Ashunta Sheriff. Dust a bit over the bridge of your nose. Maybe you'll want to stop there. But if you're feeling bold, brush a bit across the top of your forehead, just below the hairline.
Keep in mind: Use a bronzer like a blush but with a much lighter touch.
Keep Reading: Val's guide to buying the right beauty products
Q: When is the best time to tweeze my eyebrows? And why do my tweezers get dull after a few months?
A: Tweeze after a warm shower or bath, if you can; the steam softens the hair follicles, making hair easier to remove. Natural light is the best for seeing fine hairs, says Anastasia, the celebrity brow expert. (I take a little magnifying mirror over to the window. And when I'm through tweezing, I put that little mirror right back under the sink so I don't terrify myself with a random peek when I'm unprepared for it.) Starting at the inner part of the eyebrow and working out toward the temple, tweeze any strays in the direction of hair growth. When you're finished, apply some witch hazel or aloe vera gel to soothe the area.
Tweezers get dull from excessive use, or from using them for purposes other than eyebrow shaping, says Sania Vucetaj, owner of Sania's Brow Bar in New York City. So if you're using yours to open soda cans, quit it (or buy another pair for your grooming needs). Sania likes the Tweezerman slant tip tweezer ($20) because it's precise and lasts a couple of years. Anastasia (naturally) likes her own slant tip tweezers ($28); she says the angle makes it easier to tweeze on the browbone than needlepoint tweezers, which can pinch or puncture the skin around the eyes.
Bottom line: Have your brows shaped by an expert first, then tweeze only the strays after a shower; and don't use your tweezers as a household tool.
Keep reading: Dos and don'ts for achieving—and maintaining—perfect brows
Q: Why do I always sneeze when I tweeze my eyebrows?
A: I called Cynthia Boxrud, MD, assistant clinical professor at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (she's an ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgeon) on the off chance she'd shed some light on your—bless you!—odd predicament, and what do you know, she just happened to have spent about a year researching a paper on the anatomy of the medial aspect of the brow. Which means she's very knowledgeable about sneezing as it relates to eyebrow plucking. The facial nerves include the trigeminal, which has a branch that extends from the brow down into the tip of the nose. Sometimes, when plucking your eyebrows, that nerve is stimulated: Aaachoo!
Bottom line: You may be able to avoid sneezing by pressing your finger anywhere against your eyebrow as you tweeze, which, according to Boxrud, can short-circuit the wiring of the trigeminal nerve.
Q: My dark eyebrows are sparse and patchy. Black brow pencil looks like magic marker, so how do I fill them in?
A: I'm really glad you asked; too obviously drawn-on eyebrows can make you look crazier than a sack of weasels. First, consider a visit with an eyebrow expert who can shape them. Then at home you can fill them in with either powder or a soft pencil matched to the color of your brows or hair, whichever is lighter. For powder: Use a hard, angled eyebrow brush; with short, light strokes, work from the front of the brow to the back, filling in bare spots. For pencil: Be sure the pencil is soft, which makes blending easier. Again, use short, light strokes. After filling in, run a spoolie brush (an unloaded mascara brush) through your brows to make your work look natural.
Keep in mind: Whether you use powder or pencil, keep your touch light and strokes short.