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Crucial Update

Sephora Scamming 101: How to Secretly Apply a Full Face of Makeup

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You're only ever in a Sephora to kill time before a social event, which ensures that you're pretty end-of-day gross. To freshen your look without getting caught–or really just having to decline a basket–follow each of the stealth steps below.

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Start from scratch

To avoid the sad facade of old makeup, errand sweat, and lunch-hand bacteria, start over entirely. Washing your face in public is a high-risk move, even more high-risk than applying used lip gloss or caking on a sparkle-flecked bronzer.

First, your hands have sneeze and barbecue sauce on them, so make sure they're clean. Scope out an area of the store within the eyeline of the facial cleanser section, locating a little-trafficked makeup removing station. This is the hard part; Sephora at 6:45 pm is a rosewater-scented waiting room for your town's mass of single career women hoping to touch up before productive after-work drinks. There aren't many places to hide.

Douse your hands with alcohol spray at the makeup removing station to disinfect them, then head to a mild facial cleanser. Pump a dime-size amount of a tester bottle into your clean palm and, without stopping, pivot and return to the makeup removal station you now call your own. I would suggest peeing right there to mark your territory, but that could capture the attention of several Sephora employees and the point of this exercise is to be discreet and circumspect.

Spray your face to saturation with the bottle of water at the makeup removing station and begin massaging cleanser in your face. To evade notice, be cool. Text or pretend to text with a free hand, so it looks like you're just giving yourself a casual face massage instead of performing basic hygiene in public, possibly for the first time that day. Once your face feels sufficiently clean, spray more water on your face from the spray bottle and begin to towel off with the cotton rounds at the makeup removing station. Pat dry with whatever shirt you're wearing, especially if it's dry-clean only. It'll feel luxurious.

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Tone and moisturize expensively

Besides Costco and olive oil stores at high-end malls, Sephora is the best place to take full advantage of what is offered for free. When it comes to toning and moisturizing, use the products you might not shell out for otherwise. Apply a $105 SK-II facial treatment essence, just to see how the other half tones. Moisturize with Caudalie Premier Cru La Creme Riche to feel what it's like to be Catherine Zeta-Jones (she's your beauty idol, right?). It's not even dark yet, but try this Shiseido night cream just because it's straight-up so expensive. Work quickly.

If, and only if, you know you can be low-key and elegant about this, lift up your shirt and apply some expensive stretch mark minimizer to your obliques. You'd probably never buy this product for yourself, but hey, you're still growing and it's worth a shot. Same goes for that cringe-y line of Bliss products FatGirlSlim: you're a feminist for not buying them, and you're a hero for using them for free.

Don't get too comfortable

When it comes to makeup application, each step should be executed with a different brand to sidestep the notice of Sephora employees. Never stop moving. Use the AmorePacific CC Compact for a dewy, if not a little too shiny, complexion. Keep your head down and slink over to Benefit for concealer. Try out a Smashbox contouring kit because you watched this tutorial on YouTube like nine times and thought it looked pretty. Your rookie application method will result in you looking like a dirt-faced extra from Annie, rather than a Bravo reality star with diamond-cut cheekbones. Doesn't matter, keep going. Apply a Bite matte pencil in a bright coral because a girl you were waiting in line with for the bathroom at a restaurant was wearing it and you told her she looked pretty. Do whatever you need to do with your eyebrows to keep up with Korean trends.

Keep it clean

Remember, when applying mascara and lipstick in Sephora, cleanliness is important even when you're attempting to be quick and covert. Think about it this way: Everyone who has already applied those products is as gross as or even grosser than you. One in five samples has mold, yeast, or fecal matter sprouting up on its surface. Don't risk a sore throat or pink eye because you were trying to look like an amplified version of yourself for a one-time Tinder deal or ho-hum drinks with former coworkers. Use the rubbing alcohol liberally and wipe the down the tester lip applicators.

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Know Your Limits

Step away from nail polish, perfume, and hair products. Your five minute hovering manicure is never not going to smudge on your bag immediately. Your blend of scents, mixed together like a suicide soda, will suffocate your peers. Milling around these stations will guarantee that a Sephora employee will approach you and politely ask if you need assistance or a shopping basket. Once that happens, you're on their radar. They'll offer you application tips. They'll ask if they can Clarisonic your hands for you. You've been discovered. You're toast.

The same goes for most hair products, besides a cursory dry shampoo (a goal that can also be achieved at a CVS pharmacy). You've seen the Wen by Chaz Dean infomercial a million times and your curiosity is piqued, but smelling the myriad shampoos Sephora has to offer will only your waste time. Weighing down your hair with Josie Maran argan oil will make it as greasy at the end of the night as it was before your first dry shampoo of the day.

Surrender, if you must

Every single Sephora offers 15-minute walk-in mini-makeovers, including smoky eye application and contouring services. Rugged individualism, timing your personal best record, and talking to nobody are the essential elements of an authentic Sephora experience, sometimes asking for help works. You can also book a 45-minute makeover at Sephora, complimentary with a $50 purchase, but nobody has the emotional energy for the polite small-talk that decision cedes.

Claire Carusillo lives in a bedroom in New York City. Follow @clocarus for an open discussion of books, bread, and eyebrows.