It’s one of the most well-known rules in pageantry: to get top scores you need to look great. And to look great, you must have a great pageant makeup look. But it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Pageant makeup is completely different from any other type of makeup. Typically, there’s more highlighting and contouring than bridal or prom makeup. And there’s a heavy emphasis on the eyes, with muted lips, in all aspects of competition. But how do you Get Smart with your Pageant Makeup? Here are my top pageant coaching solutions for your pageant makeup problems.

To begin, you need to identify the competition look you’re trying to achieve. Check out the pageant website to get an idea of what type of visual image the pageant prefers. Analyze the looks of the past five winners, as well as the contestants in the Top 5 for the last two years. If the pageant doesn’t have an updated website, check out their Facebook page or look at pics of titleholders on Instagram. Decide which look the pageant prefers. Is the look Minimal Makeup, Girl-Next-Door, Hollywood Red Carpet, Full Glam, or something in-between?

Now that you’ve identified the pageant’s preferred makeup look, go ahead and analyze your look in selfies and competition pics. Do you typically wear more makeup than successful contestants? In a more Natural or Girl-Next-Door pageant, this could leave the judges with the impression that you’re high maintenance. Are you wearing less makeup than successful contestants? In a Hollywood Red Carpet or Full Glam pageant, the judges may be concerned that your look isn’t ‘polished’ and determine that you’re not ready for the crown. If you take the time to analyze the preferred visual brand of the pageant, you’re one step closer to capturing the crown.

Now that you’ve determined the preferred look you need to decide how to achieve that look at the competition. There are basically two choices here: hire a makeup artist or do it yourself.

Using a makeup artist for your competition can pay off with big scores. A qualified makeup artist understands the unique needs of pageant contestants. Your makeup needs to look absolutely perfect- not too little, not too much – and it needs to hold up day and evening. Look for a makeup artist who has worked with successful contestants competing in that particular pageant system. If your makeup artist has not worked this particular pageant system before, ask to see their portfolio. Resist the temptation to hire a bridal, prom, or special occasion makeup artist who has never done makeup for a pageant competition. If they haven’t worked a pageant before you’re taking a big risk with your scores, and that risk might not pay off.

Many pageants require that contestants do their own makeup and some contestants just love to do their own makeup. It’s a great idea to invest in a makeup lesson with a professional pageant makeup artist. If that’s not an option, there are tons of great makeup tutorials on YouTube to help you learn the skills you need. You’ll want to look for videos on applying and blending foundation as well as contouring and highlighting. Look for videos that teach you a specific eye look that you’re trying to achieve, such as ‘smokey eye’ or ‘cat eye.’ And if you’re like me and can’t put on false lashes to save your life, there are great videos that walk you through that step by step.

The secret to great DIY pageant makeup is to practice, practice, practice. And don’t just evaluate your work in the mirror. Take some selfies from a variety of angles to make sure you’re picture perfect. By practicing your pageant makeup skills, you’ll be ready to create your best look during all aspects of the competition.

What is your favorite pageant makeup tip?