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Makeover Madness: Maximize Learning with Free Appointments Everywhere

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I'm kind of a sucker for a pro makeup application, either as an observer or as the subject. I always come away with something valuable, a new application technique or tweak, inspiration for a look different from my usual, or appreciation for a cosmetic I don't already have or wasn't using quite that way. (Right now I'm geeking out about this simple look from Chanel's Fall look. That eye shadow application would work with any shade or texture and look amazing on almost anyone, and I love the subtle cheeks and stained-lip finish.)

Many makeup advisors offer free applications at the counter. Sure, there are disaster stories about clumsy final results or unexpected drag-queen-esque transformations, but some great artists I know started as department-store make-uppers before moving on to celebrity faces and successful editorial/advertising careers. Sometimes you luck out with the artist you get.

Special events such as the Toronto Film Festival bring out the pro types. Look for the Smashbox TIFF trailer Friday on Charles St. south of Bloor near Avenue Rd. at the Museum subway stop; all this weekend outside the just-opened Murale store at the Shops at Don Mills; and on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday downtown at King and Peter streets. And check out Sephora's Film Fest goings-on -- a focus on red-carpet glam is a way to try on a sexy new look you'd probably not try on your own. (New store openings are also prime makeup-session times -- have you visited the eager staff at Murale yet?)

And of course it's the beginning of a new shopping season. Brand artists at department stores everywhere are particularly keen on offering makeup sessions to showcase their Fall 2009 collections. If you're not in Toronto right now, or in a Murale city, beeline for The Bay at the end of this month. From September 26 to November 21, select Bay locations across Canada are offering complementary makeovers every Saturday morning. (You can likely score complementary appointments any time, but an event means extra attentiveness and free samples.) Participating brands include Chanel, Dior, M.A.C, Nars and YSL.

Learn-better Tips: if you're uncertain about your own everyday technique, go to your appointment with your makeup already done as you usually do and ask for a helpful critique. Could be all you need is a different concealer colour, or tips on where to apply it most effectively, or a couple of new eye-makeup tricks. The best place to start with the learning is the place you're already at -- you learn more from correcting something than starting all over. If you can, go with a friend who'll take notes or record everything with her trusty digi cam, and whose session you can watch for tips when it's her turn in the chair.

And say hi to the staff when you see her. Guaranteed she's going to be AWOL for the next several days, loitering at makeup counters, pestering makeup artists... she's like me in that way. Don't tell her I said that, though.

Photography by Matadin Vinoodh and Van Lamsweerde Inez, courtesy of Chanel.