The Do’s & Don’t’s of Desi Makeup

The beauty of makeup (lol!) is that it’s such an amazing way to express yourself – you can be as artistic and creative as you want. You can go for some completely avant-garde looks or a completely natural look all depending on what your mood is that particular day!

But even so, there are certain ‘guidelines’ one should keep in mind when taking on the art of makeup. And while everyone can benefit from these tips, we’ve all met some desi aunties who could definitely use all the help!

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Minnah Khan (@minnah.khan on Instagram), a Chicago-based Pakistani-American makeup artist.


Khan currently works for Giorgio Armani Cosmetics and graciously let me pick her brain on what she thinks some of the best makeup practices are.


1. Match your foundation to your actual skin color, not what you want it to be. 

I think we’ve all at some point come across someone who’s face and neck color doesn’t match – all because they chose the wrong foundation shade!

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 7.31.12 PM

But often it’s not so much that they don’t know their correct shade, rather that they want to look fairer than they are – and this is a whole other conversation about the obsession South Asians have with looking fair.

Khan remembers once helping two Pakistani women choose makeup and even when she pointed out the correct shade, the women insisted on trying on the lightest shade – essentially a shade that would suit “only pale complexions.” Nevertheless, Khan obliged and applied the lightest shade of foundation.

“She looked like an actual ghost and I had to say something,” Khan said.

Even though Khan politely mentioned that the foundation didn’t look good, the women didn’t budge.

“She looked at herself in the mirror and exclaimed that’s exactly what she wanted,” Khan said, adding that she eventually bought the wrong shade.

It’s unfortunate but that’s just what many South Asian women want – the illusion of having fair skin because anything else is not beautiful!

But to avoid such a travesty, here’s what you should do: test the shade on your neck instead of anywhere else.


And if you still can’t figure it out, just go to a professional makeup artist!

2. Know the occasion

Not all makeup looks are appropriate for all times of the day. This is one of Khan’s biggest pet peeves. Her key to makeup is to always keep it natural – “don’t go so overboard with makeup that people can’t recognize you!”


I’m just emphasizing a point. 

Khan says you should really know what the occasion is before you dress for it. If it’s not your wedding or a wedding in your family, don’t go overboard. Keep it simple. She also says to keep in mind that for formal occasions, you can dress things up with accessories and clothes as well. Not everything needs to be done to the max.

“If you’re keeping a heavy, smokey eye, keep the lips natural. If you’re doing a bold lip, keep the eyes light,” she advises.

When we met, Khan herself had a very minimal look. For her, mascara is one of the most important things she needs on a daily basis but doesn’t go out with a full face every single time.

3. BLEND! 

The worst thing is when someone’s makeup isn’t blended, according to Khan. While she knows that on Instagram everyone’s obsessed with the cut crease, that’s not a daily wear look.


“Those people are talented makeup artists and they’re showing off their skills, which they should. But that doesn’t mean you should wear it every day.

This is an issue in many salons in Pakistan as well. Often some brides will have streaks of bronzer on their cheeks and it just looks like a hot mess.


You don’t want to be like this on your wedding day, do you?

4. Trust your makeup artist

This is crucial for Khan. So many people have come to her with certain looks in mind and don’t listen when she advises against them for whatever reason. 9 out of 10 times the person hates it once it’s done because they don’t listen to her in the beginning. And then she has to spend a good few hours fixing everything.


Khan on her wedding day. 

“Working with a makeup artist is a collaborative effort. On my own wedding day, I got my makeup done by someone else. I let her do what she envisioned but she listened to my suggestions and we came up with a look we both liked together,” she said.

At the end of the day, they’re makeup artists for a reason.

You can find Khan on her Instagram page, @minnah.khan.


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