I spend a lot of my time poring over and writing about bold (and sometimes questionable) beauty looks from fashion week and Instagram, and makeup artists such as Katie Jane Hughes and Terry Barber are two Insta favourites who aren’t afraid to rock the beauty boat and push the boundaries. If you aren't already obsessed, Barber takes inspiration from mundane objects like kitchen sinks or cold cuts of meat to whip up all manner of looks, while Katie makes a case for vinyl orange lids, glitter lips and sunset eyeshadow. Neither artist conforms to the 'usual' beauty ideals we see on social media – there are no uniform cut creases or sharp winged eyeliner here. Everything is much quirkier.
I look at these creations in awe and am floored by the skill, creativity and effort. But after browsing, I put my phone away and apply the same 'basic' makeup look I’ve worn since my teenage years. So I got to wondering how the alternative makeup looks I’m impressed by would translate into everyday life. Could they inspire me to be bolder? Would I feel embarrassed, liberated, or both? I stopped caring what other people thought about me a while ago, so in the name of research, I gave five very out-there trends a go. As that cheesy (possibly made up) Instagram saying goes: "People will stare, make it worth their while." Well, I'm going to try.
I start by easing myself in with an alternative and colourful trend: yellow blusher. I’ve seen it pop up in beauty editorials and Instagram selfies galore lately, and people somehow manage to make it look passable. I created my blusher using MUA’s Silent Disco Eyeshadow Palette – the yellow hue, Techno, is bright enough to stand out on my cheeks, which are usually dusted with pink blush. I can report it’s very difficult to blend the colour yellow. I try to help the situation by extending the colour slightly into my eyeshadow – have I made it look worse? I add a stroke of black eyeliner for, er, contrast, but the citrus shade doesn’t go well with my colouring. I look like I'm suffering from a tropical disease.
Heading out, I decide to try and preserve my dignity via my clothes, which I’ve kept quite plain in an attempt to counteract my off-the-wall face. I can’t decide if this helps or makes me look even kookier. My boyfriend notes that I look like That Yellow Bastard from the Sin City comics; a niche reference, but not inaccurate. I ask my Uber driver what he thinks of my blush and he confesses he's "seen stranger things" – I don’t think he means the TV show.
After a while, going about your day you tend to forget what's on your face – and why people are looking. I pop into Marks & Spencer, and find a stunning new season knit in matching mustard. Would it be too much? I’m getting stares and conclude this look is a step too far for old M&S. I must leave and find my people. Perhaps an art gallery next time?
Vinyl lids and matching lips
I’m more hopeful about this one. Vinyl lids always look so cool and '80s. Makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes manages to look pretty yet seriously edgy when she wears the look, but I have neither her skill nor her cheekbones. I used MUA’s Silent Disco Palette once again, adding purple shade, Electro, to my eyes and Estée Lauder's Pure Colour Envy in Vengeful Red on my lips. I grabbed the cheapest clear lip gloss I could find for this look, as it wasn’t something I had in my makeup bag. I opted for Miss Sporty, purely because it was £2.99.
While I don’t despise this, I look like Ursula The Sea Witch, who, let’s be honest, is a legend. I take this look on public transport and within five minutes, things have gone awry. The wind has blown my fringe into my (very sticky) eyes, which are also slightly dripping at the outer corners. My vinyl lips look ultra shiny but I daren’t move or talk and I can’t drink my tea.
I snap a selfie as the man opposite looks on in bewilderment. I meet my best friend and say nothing, trying to pretend I look normal. She immediately asks why I "look like Boy George". I admit I did make a beeline for the nearest Boots, using the makeup station tissues and mirror to wipe off the majority of the gloss, but more for practicality than embarrassment. Vinyl makeup is a no from me.
After Preen’s SS17 catwalk featured models adorned with pressed flowers, thanks to makeup artist Val Garland, I’ve seen Instagram squares filled with foliage. Strangely, I’ve yet to see someone wear this IRL. For today’s makeup, I choose to use a classic English flower – the hydrangea. I’ve pre-pressed the petals, which is already 100 times more effort than I’ve put into my makeup for the last decade. Does this count as gardening? I stick these on with hairspray, a little eyelash glue and blind hope. Is eyelash glue safe to use on my cheeks, I wonder? Who knows, but it's probably best not to google. It’s a good job I work for myself as my boss (me) is very understanding of my office attire.
Later, I go to the supermarket and take my flowers with me. Perusing the cereal aisle, I try to ignore staff and customers' double-takes. "You could be going to or coming from a festival!" I repeat to myself in my head. I am looking down more, using my hair as a shield. As I panic-fill my basket in order to leave swiftly, disaster strikes and I lose three flowers to the supermarket floor. Much later, I lie on my bed, not unlike Sir John Everett Millais' "Ophelia". My boyfriend asks: "Just how long are you going to keep those on for?" But I've grown quite attached to my flowers by this point and would totally work this look again – perhaps for Glastonbury, rather than a food shop, though...
Black scribble eyeliner
This is less of a bold beauty look and more of an on-face Art Attack, but after designer Junya Watanabe had models strut the runway with doodle-like scribbles on their face, many makeup homages followed suit.
Makeup artists Val Garland and Terry Barber are also advocates of the extreme eyeliner trend. I used Maybelline's Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner Pen and got scribbling. My attempt was more, let’s say, abstract than the intricate flower doodles I spied on Instagram. I don’t quite know what occasion this look would be appropriate for, but apparently it's not dinner – my friend says I look "quite like Mike Tyson", who isn’t someone I ever thought I’d be likened to, if I’m honest. I also realise I’m prone to frequently rubbing my eyes, which doesn’t mix well with the black scribbles. Would I ever wear this again? Perhaps for a Beetlejuice-themed Halloween party.
"Snogged off" lips
When MAC posts a beauty look to Instagram, you know it’s soon going to be 'a thing'. They shared this image – captioned "lollipop lips at @preenbythorntonbregazzi by @thevalgarland" – of a look created by the legendary makeup artist for Preen's AW17 catwalk show. She told Vogue: "It's about kissing and snogging. This girl goes clubbing, she’s confident and she loves kissing." Val used MAC’s Lipmix and smudged out the line, then used a bigger brush to buff out the lipstick. She then applied gloss "within the lip line but not outside it".
This has a slight Heath Ledger as The Joker feel about it. I don’t understand how models manage to look okay in this; I think I look the worst I have all week. I tried (I really did) to make this look passable, carefully buffing a touch of red lipstick around my mouth, then adding the rest to my lips, but to no avail. To say it doesn’t look good would be an understatement. The men next to me in Starbucks certainly seem confused, and the barista looks at my mouth for about five seconds too long. I do enjoy the air of mystery it gives me, though. Have I a) Just had a really good snog in the toilets? Or b) Really enjoyed my croissant? I send a selfie to my oldest friend and ask how she thinks it looks. I get one word back: "Terrible." Well, that’s the end of that. This could be a great one to try if, like me, you’re never happy with the neatness of your lipstick line, or smudge it within five minutes. I’m usually exclaiming "the lipstick!" when my boyfriend tries to kiss me goodbye, but today he notes he "can’t make it look worse than it already does". Call me a makeup bore, but I don’t think I’ll be trying this again anytime soon.
In conclusion, none of these looks had any positive feedback. They pushed me so far outside my beauty comfort zone. I think I’ll try to be braver with my looks in future (perhaps not snogged-lips-brave, though), and if I were forced to wear one again, I’d opt for the flowers. I have a newfound understanding of the fact that a model can make almost anything look chic, whereas I certainly can’t. Perhaps these trends should stay in the 4x4 squares of social media, where they belong.