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How to Practice Applying Makeup on a Mannequin's Head

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Whether you're a budding cosmetologist or just want to learn how to apply makeup properly, a mannequin is a good place to start. Mannequins give you a simple way to practice basic makeup application. Using a mannequin allows you to make mistakes, start over or practice multiple looks in one application.

Prepare Your Mannequin Head

Prep the mannequin head (see Resources for suppliers) by using an alcohol-based wipe to clean the entire surface. Some practice mannequins come with a removable cover just for makeup application. If you have one, put it on the mannequin head and clean it in the same way. Let the surface dry completely.

Choose your type of makeup. If you want to apply powder makeup, make sure foundation, eyeshadow and blush are in powder form. If applying liquid or cream foundation, follow with cream-based blush and eye shadows. Apply foundation. Liquid or cream foundation should be applied with a damp makeup sponge. Blend a thin layer over entire face. Let dry for a minute. If using powder or mineral foundation, dip and swirl your powder brush over powder and apply to entire face, dusting lightly.

Apply eyeshadow. The mannequin's eyelid will be thinner than a human's lid, so use a small brush. Keeping application light, apply a neutral base color (taupe, beige or champagne) from lid to brow bone. If using powder shadow, apply a contour color. Use a deeper tone of the same color, (brown, bronze or gold) and apply just in the crease from the inner corner of the eye out to the edge of the lashes. Clean the brush with a tissue and blend.

Apply eyeliner (marker tip is easiest for beginners). Using a liquid liner, apply a thin line from the beginning of the lash line to outer corner. Let dry. If the line looks too harsh, lightly smudge with a clean, dry brush or your finger.

Apply blush. Powder blush should be applied with a brush. Cream blush should be applied with a clean, damp makeup sponge or fingertips. For cream blush, use three small dots. For powder, swirl brush in compact and tap to remove excess. Apply blush from cheekbone, sweeping up to the temple.

Apply lipstick or lip gloss. For lipstick application, use a lip brush. Dip the brush gently into the tube and apply to lip, starting in the center and working out. Dip again and carefully outline the lips. If color is too bright or too heavy, blot with a tissue or fingertip. For lip gloss, use the wand inside the tube. For pot gloss, use a clean lip brush. Apply a thin layer, working from the outside of the lips in.


Remember, working on a mannequin is quite different from working on real skin. The mannequin's skin is harder and less absorbent, so you'll need less product. You are practicing basic brush and application technique. When working on a real face, there will be more movement and pliability to the skin. Don't rest your hand or fingers anywhere that would be uncomfortable for a real person. Try using the brow bone or cheekbone to steady your brush hand.


Never use lip stain or cheek stain on a mannequin. It may leave permanent color on your mannequin. Repeated practice is important to improve technique. Do color experiments and advanced techniques on your mannequin until you feel completely comfortable, then practice on people you know.


Kathleen Gasior has over five years of experience as an editor, reporter and columnist for a chain of weekly newspapers in Northern New Jersey including the "Warren Reporter," "Phillipsburg Free Press" and "Belvidere News." She has been writing for over 30 years. Gasior has a Bachelor of Social Work from Monmouth University and over 25 years field experience. Gasior is also trained in cosmetology.

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