Beauty Breakdown: Kate Mara

“I’m in love with Kate Mara’s look from the ‘House of Cards’ premiere. How can a mere mortal like me score her otherworldly glowy skin and gorgeous eyes?” — Jennifer

Oh, a Mara looking freakishly flawless; what else is new? No matter how far I zoom in on this photo, I cannot find a single blemish. It must be in the DNA… or not. Dun dun dun. Let’s be honest — the key to looking this high-quality picture-perfect is tons and tons of makeup… and a little bit more for good measure. Because you’re not going to be photographed by hi-def cameras with flashbulbs under already-bright lights on a red carpet (I assume), you’ll be able to get a similar perfect finish without layers and layers of product. Good news, right?

Like any perfect skin look, it all starts with a good foundation. Not actual foundation foundation — I’m talking about your skin. Moisture is really important for looking this super-glowy, so at least 15 minutes before you plan on applying your makeup, let your skin have a drink. Of hydration, not vodka. I am obsessed with Boscia Tsubaki Oil for all of my hydration needs. I never shut up about oils, but this one is especially great because, well, everything about it. It’s not thin, but it isn’t thick and it absolutely isn’t heavy, but you only need a couple of drops to spread evenly over your face. It sinks in beautifully and you can see immediately just how much better, brighter, and happier your skin is, especially if you tend towards dryness. Like I said, you only need a little, and you are not going to be like, “Ugh, is this stuff even doing anything?” None of that. It imparts radiance. All you have to do is read the ingredients and you’ll want to put it on your face ASAP.

Once your canvas is all soft and smooth and hydrated, you can start with your makeup. But before makeup — PRIMER! The type of primer you use can vary by your skin type (like, do you need a mattifying or oil-absorbing primer, or extra moisture?), but the one I’ve been using lately is pretty versatile in that it just evens everything out and leaves you pretty… satin-y, I would say. Tarte BB Tinted Treatment 12-Hour Primer: it’s new, it’s great, and it’s slightly tinted so you don’t need as much foundation on top in the long run. It also has SPF 30! Everyone wins! The next step depends on how much coverage you actually need. Do you have a lot of blemishes or skin concerns, or do you just have a few isolated incidents that you can address with concealer? If you generally have good, even-toned skin that just needs medium coverage, Vichy ProEVEN Mineral BB Cream is your best friend. (It’s mine, too, except when I’m having a cystic breakout, in which case I break out the actual spackle.) It won’t make you greasy, but it leaves skin with a gorgeous sheen, like you were just power-walking in the cold (does anyone else do this? no? just me?) so you’re a little glowy and goddess-y.

If you need more coverage, Jane Iredale Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream, over and out. I swear by it for Bad Skin Days because it’s full coverage that doesn’t look like full coverage at all, whatsoever. You just look kinda perfect, and who doesn’t want that? Both this BB cream and the Vichy BB cream are full of antioxidants and nourishing extracts and all that good stuff, so they actually make your skin better over time. A plum deal, if you ask me. Dab your concealer of choice under your eyes, on any spots, what have you. At risk of sounding like I’m schilling for Tarte (I’m not! I just really love their products!), Maracuja Creaseless Concealer is the bomb. Now, as you can see on Kate in this photo, the high points of her face are all glowy, but the areas that can scream “OILY!” the most are semi-matte. You won’t want to use a powdery powder because it’ll make you too matte, so I’ve been using Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Ethereal Light for that same purpose. Use a fluffy brush to dust it over your forehead, down the bridge and sides of your nose, and underneath your cheekbones for dimension.

Now you’ll want to amp up the glow in the other areas, so grab a non-sparkly luminizer. For this purpose, I always have and always will use Benefit High Beam. There’s no glitter or weird stuff in it, it just perfectly highlights the areas you want to highlight without getting greasy or turning the rest of your makeup into a sparkly mess. It helps that the applicator is just a little brush, so you can hit all the areas you want with precision. Inner corners of the eyes, top of the cheekbones, cupid’s bow, the center of the chin: these are all of the areas you want to put the luminizer. Use an angled blush brush to drag a natural brownish rose color from the hollow of your cheek up toward the temple, angling outward. Illamasqua Powder Blusher is the most pigmented, long-lasting blush I’ve ever used; Beg, a muted warm rose shade, is perfect for this look.

Onto the eyes! Or, you know, you can do your eyes first, whatever is more comfortable for you. Kate’s eyes are lined super-precisely allllllll along the waterline with a liquid liner. Maybelline Line Stiletto is my jam forever; I might get a tattoo of it. Just be really careful so you don’t poke an eye out. If you wear contacts, wait until after you do the liquid liner to put them in, because god only knows how many times I have smeared black liquid liner all over my contacts and ruined myself for the rest of the day. Kate has a sparkly silver shade on her lids, so use a small, flat brush to apply any one you like. Then she has a warm rosy brown in the crease, so use a small dome brush to really get in there and blend, blend, blend. The rosy shade creates sort of a halo extending toward the brow bone; it’s not a lot of color, just a sort of suggestion. Then take a chestnut-y brown liner or shadow and blend it lightly underneath the lower lashline, just on the outer half. Blend it up and out so that the line is very, very soft, and sort of connects with the upper lashline.

Curl your lashes gently so that it doesn’t smear the shadow and liner. Clamp it down once at the base of the lashes (or as close as you can get) and then once more halfway down the lashes for Maximum Curling Potential. Kate’s lashes are thick and spidery, a look that I’m loving right now. Apply your favorite black mascara with abandon. Lashings and lashings and lashings! Brush your brows into place, stick ‘em with a clear gel, dab on some lip gloss, and you, my friend, are good to go.

Is there a celebrity beauty look you want to steal? A new product you want to learn how to use? Don’t know which foundation, moisturizer, volumizing spray, or novelty eye glitter to invest in? Want to see how many Momofuku birthday cake truffles I can fit in my mouth at once? If you’ve got a beauty question, concern, or demand, any at all, hit me up on my videophone. I mean, uh, my email. [email protected] — make it ring, or rain, or something like that, babes!