Makeup and I go way back. While my friends at school were preoccupied with which member of Busted they'd kiss, marry, or avoid, I spent my time scouring the aisles of Superdrug for a foundation thick and heavy enough to blanket my sudden acne. Puberty isn't particularly kind to anyone, but alongside raging red spots, it gifted me excess facial hair (thanks, PCOS), acne scarring, and hyperpigmentation.
It's fair to say that makeup was something of a crutch. My initial goal was a flawless base, but bold lips and Instagram-worthy eye makeup became a distraction tactic. I learned how to do a killer contour and fashion a feline flick sharp enough to do some damage. Being seen without makeup made me nervous. I'd even sleep in it at friends' houses.
When I started earning, makeup soon became a fun hobby. I landed my job as beauty editor at Refinery29 UK and it turned into a lifestyle I adored — and still do. Up until March this year, not a day went by where I didn't rock a full face. I'd wear the latest game-changing foundation (that'd be Kevyn Aucoin Stripped Nude Skin Tint), dip into the coolest eyeshadow palette (currently Dior Backstage Amber Neutrals) or habitually swipe on a great lipstick (always Max Factor Colour Elixir). But when the UK was placed under lockdown, my hour-long makeup routine went out the window. Dates and face-to-face meetings were cancelled. I woke up a lot later than usual. I felt lazy and I just didn't see the point.
Of course you don't need me to tell you that the idea of having to wear makeup for other people, or to be seen as "presentable" to the outside world, is redundant. But wearing a full face out and about made me feel more put-together and self-assured. Delving into my beauty bag just to sit at home felt like a waste — and I'm not alone in thinking this. It made me question who I really wear makeup for.
At first I thought I looked a little peaky without my trusty Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Bronzer and Glossier Lash Slick, and I'd constantly apologize for my lack of glow in professional Zoom meetings. Then, two months in, something changed. I didn't do a double-take whenever I caught myself in the bathroom mirror, or shrink away from 9 a.m. video chats with a bare face. In virtual catch-ups, no one commented that I looked tired or sick. In fact, friends, colleagues, and family barely noticed a difference. I very slowly got used to seeing myself without the camouflage — and actually, I didn't hate it.
My everyday approach to makeup is now minimal, not mask-like, and I vow to keep it up — not just because it's much cheaper or feels liberating to save so much time in the morning, but also because it's about time we thought of skin texture as entirely normal. I've written about the "skin neutrality" movement usurping skin positivity and encouraging people to accept their skin gripes, but I struggled to get on board. Now I know its power, as ditching the heavy makeup has made me confront my skin head-on — the first step to acceptance.
I've weaned myself off foundation and instead look to a good concealer for quick and easy touch-ups here and there. Tarte Shape Tape Contour Concealer tucks away spots and dark circles without leaving a trace. Uoma Beauty Stay Woke Luminous Brightening Concealer is light yet substantial concealer, and blurs blemishes and blends in seamlessly.
Most days, mascara is all I'll wear to look (and feel) alive. Gucci Beauty Mascara L'Obscur lengthens and thickens in a single swipe but makes lashes look natural and fluffy, not spidery. And don't underestimate the power of a good eyelash curler, like Laura Mercier Artist Eyelash Curler, for opening up eyes without the need for any product at all.
Lastly, groomed brows make all the difference. I simply brush mine upwards using a spoolie brush. If you want a touch more definition, try Il Makiage Hypnotize Fill & Fix Brow Shaper, which boosts scant brows without making them look overly made-up.
A consistent skin-care routine also makes a difference: People who rarely wear makeup often tend to have seamless skin, but by no means is mine perfect. Up-and-down hormones means I'm constantly battling the odd breakout, but a handful of smart skin-care products have helped nix skin worries. The key is using them consistently, as it can take weeks of using a product to see a difference. One upside of lockdown is that I could try all the exfoliators and retinols on my list without worrying about the side effects, like flaky skin or purging.
The first brilliant product is Medik8 Blemish SOS Rapid Action Target Gel, which contains 2% salicylic acid to unclog pores and bring down red spots in next to no time. I use this with The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser morning and evening to improve skin texture. Once or twice a week, I'll enlist Reflekt 1 Daily Exfoliating Face Wash to help smooth and refine my skin. For eyes, Curél Moisture Eye Zone Essence is a featherlight gel-cream that doesn't clog pores or make skin puffy. Instead, it plumps out fine lines and works as a great barrier for acne products, like exfoliators and retinol, that can irritate sensitive skin.
For stubborn whiteheads and under-the-skin spots, dermatologists recommend a nightly retinoid treatment like No7 Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex or Differin. Of course, SPF is a must during the day: Look for non-comedogenic versions, like Ultrasun Face Anti-Aging Lotion SPF 30, which is less likely to clog pores.
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Now, the thought of going back to wearing a full face doesn't really appeal to me. It became something quite mindless, which is a shame considering how fun makeup can be. If I ever miss the feeling of getting ready and putting on a face to meet the world, I'll take the chance to experiment: Saweetie's cloud eye makeup, vinyl lips, '00s emo...
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