Here's How To Do Your Makeup For Graduation

by Jessica Thomas
A beautiful female college holds mortarboard up high in celebration after her graduation.
SDI Productions/E+/Getty Images

It's graduation season, which means your Facebook and Instagram feeds are probably inundated with graduation photos. Lucky enough to be one of the people posting those pics? First of all, congrats. Secondly, you're probably wondering how to do your makeup for graduation photos so that your Instagram is on point (and so the picture that's likely going to be hanging in your parents house for years to come has you looking your best.)

I'll be honest, graduation outfits aren't always the coolest out there. From the giant, shapeless gown to the hair-crushing graduation cap, you're kind of fighting an uphill battle. Of course the real purpose of graduation is to celebrate years of hard work, but let's be honest — those photos are important. Why wouldn't you want to look great in the images that immortalize one of the biggest accomplishments of your life so far? Luckily, you still have plenty of freedom to be creative with your makeup look.

Graduation makeup is all about looking natural and effortless, but there's also a few key tips that will make sure your makeup photographs well. It might not be the time for a dramatic smoky eye, but if you follow these guidelines, your pictures will look timeless for years to come.

1. Make Sure You Look Like You

This seems obvious, but it's worth saying anyway. Most people will tell you to stick with a neutral look for graduation photos because it photographs best. Regardless of whether that's true or not, if you rock a red lip every day or love your winged eyeliner, wear it for your photos. You'll thank yourself later.

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2. Pick Products Designed To Last

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundaiton Primer, $16, Sephora

MAC Pro Longwear Nourishing Waterproof Foundation, $33, Nordstrom

It's May, and that means it's hot and sticky in most parts of the country. That's why it's crucial to pick products that are designed to last all day — for me, that means wearing a primer and picking a longwear foundation. It'll help your makeup stay put if you're planning to take your photos at the end of a long day.

3. Don't Forget The Blush

Bare Minerals True All-Over Face Color, $18, Amazon

Blush isn't a product I wear every day, and if you're the same way, you may still want to wear it for your graduation photos. Giving your face a little color and dimension with blush and it'll really pop in graduation photos. I love this warm color from Bare Minerals because it isn't too bright or colorful. It's kind of a combo blush/bronzer, and it looks really natural on.

4. Stick With Neutral Eyes

This probably isn't the time to bust out your brightest shadows or dark smoky eyes. You're likely taking your pictures outside (after all, natural light is best), and dark eye makeup can look a little harsh in outdoor lighting. Makeup artist Manna Kadar picks a neutral palette for eyes in this tutorial, and I love the final product.

5. Use More Powder Than Normal

Neutrogena Shine Control Powder, $13, Amazon

As I said earlier, hot and sticky weather is pretty much the norm for graduation weekends. Photographs can make you look shinier than you normally would, so it's a good idea to wear powder and carry it with you for quick reapplication. A matte face won't photograph to make you look greasy in photos.

6. Make Sure Your Lips Are Hydrated

Motives Hydrating Lip Balm, $19, Motives Cosmetics

Whether you're a lip balm, lip gloss or lipstick junkie, pick whatever color or shade you think is best for your graduation photos. But make sure you drink plenty of water and use plenty of balm in the days leading up to graduation. Cracked or dry lips will show up extra dry in photos, so you'll want a little product on your lips no matter what.

7. Don't Forget About Your Nails

Essie Nailpolish In Ballet Slippers, $9, Amazon

This may not be super obvious, but don't forget to paint your nails before graduation photos. If you want to get a photo where you're holding your diploma (which you naturally will), chipped nails are a surefire way to distract from the subject of the photo. Even if you don't like to polish them, make sure your nails are clean and groomed. I like pale pink like Essie's Ballet Slippers for its perfect neutral look.

Images: SDI Productions/E+/Getty Images, Fotolia, Courtesy of Brands