Laura Geller Makeup Studios
1044 lexington Avenue, near 75th Street; 212-570-5477
The Goods: One-hour lessons take place in private, pink-walled rooms filled with brides and socialites. The products, from Hydro Gel to glosses, are all Geller’s own. My stylist advised beginning with my eyes, so I could “make a mess”—which is what she did—before applying foundation and blush. A handy face chart—my colors applied to a paper face—was a parting gift. ($95, plus tip.)
Bottom Line: Meticulous instruction, but the final look was a little too Dynasty.
Rating: Three stars
Elizabeth Arden salons & spas
691 fifth Avenue, at 54th Street; 212-546-0200
The Goods:Their approach to the “perfect foundation” is off-putting—a laser contraption shoved up against your neck reads skin tone; a computer mixes up a tiny tube you can buy for $44. The very public makeup area made concentrating on the lesson a challenge. Advice to “treat your face like a painting” wasn’t practical enough. ($55, plus tip.)
Bottom Line: Too much why, not enough how.
Rating: Two stars
1113 madison Avenue, at 84th Street; 212-452-4252
The Goods:Ahnert’s townhouse is as upscale as her clientele (Isabella Rossellini, Catherine-Zeta Jones). My stylist began by sweeping Eye Fix, a cream base that dries to powder, from lash to brow. She dusted both lids with a neutral color called Sand before adding Ash Lilac in the creases. She used black plus sparkly violet shadow to emphasize lash lines, and for contrast chose a peachy-pink lipstick called Pashmina. ($125, plus tip.)
Bottom Line: Helpful instruction, but Ahnert’s line can be pricey.
Rating: Four stars
Borja Color Studio
118 East 57th Street; 212-308-3232
The Goods:After creating a base with Lancôme waterproof concealer and Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk foundation, makeup artist Robin Narvaez, who globe-trots to weddings when not doing Vogue fashion shoots, handed me the bronzer and the blush (Laura Mercier) to apply myself. She simplified smoky lids into three steps with Chanel shadow: a medium base color (Willow), a dark gray (Carbon) along the lash line, and a highlight shade (Lilly) under the brow. ($125 plus tip.)
Bottom Line: The interactive approach forced me to learn. Unbiased recommendations from multiple product lines.
Rating: Five stars
Multiple locations; (see maccosmetics.com)
The Goods: Choosing from their hundreds of shades can be overwhelming, but my artist made a quick and apt selection. She spread Phloof! (silvery pink) across one lid, then delicately blended in Stroke of Midnight (navy) before talking me through the other half of my face. We finished with a “dewy” Moisture Fix cream. Free face chart and mascara. ($90 plus tip.)
Bottom Line: A dream for drama queens who aren’t afraid of color.
Rating: Four stars
Multiple locations; (see sephora.com)
The Goods:My artist was sweet but extremely inexperienced. After she made several attempts to find the right shade of Bobbi Brown foundation and BeneFit Play Stick concealer, I decided not to fight a Nars blush that was way too drab. It went downhill from there. (Complimentary.)
Bottom Line: You won’t pick up anything but bad habits.
Rating: One star
Here’s how Mally Roncal, Celebrity makeup artist and Sephora Spokesperson, would fill your makeup bag.
1. Shu UemUra’s eyelash curler is a little flatter than most, so it’s easier to get all your lashes in. It makes you look like you’ve had eight hours’ sleep—and, of course, you haven’t!
2. A Peachy Shimmery Blush for instant glow. I’ve used Nars’s Orgasm on every skin tone from Kelly Osbourne to Beyoncé.
3. Cherry Lip Gloss like Glazed Cherry from Sephora is sexy and girly and instantly makes you look glamorous.
4. Concealer and Blemish cover, because everyone has dark circles and zits. Tony & Tina makes a great herbal one.
5. Black Pencil Eyeliner is so versatile—use Delux Beauty’s across the top of lash lines for fifties cat eyes, smudged for a smoky look, or along the inner rim of the top lid for thicker-looking lashes.