beauty advice for the makeup-averse

or, My Mother Asked Me About Makeup

When you grow up granola, and reach a certain age, you don’t get the same initiation into adult female beauty rituals as your friends. When you say you want to shave your legs and wear makeup, your parents tell you not to buy into the capitalist product fake beauty conspiracy. You have to rely on friends and magazines and try to cobble together answers to your beauty curiosities. It took me a good decade to figure out what works pretty well for me, and not without disastrous over-plucking, garish eye makeup, and skincare mistakes.

So it is funny when my mom calls me up to ask me about makeup. She is going to be playing the piano at my cousin’s wedding, and she wanted a bit of a beauty ritual to prepare for the event. Just a little something – because it is an occasion, and because feeling beautiful helps to bring confidence to a performance.

My mom is a naturally beautiful woman – petite and bright-eyed – I’m pleased to think that when I’m older I’ll look like her. She almost never wears makeup, so my advice to her is essentially a pared down version of my own minimal routine.

1. Skin

Eat lots of veggies and drink lots of water – of course I don’t need to tell my Mom this, this is the advice she gives me! Beauty really does come from the inside – I met two raw food/juice cleanse entrepreneurs recently at a networking brunch and was struck at how incredible they looked. Mom eats great – she has better skin than I do as a result – and she doesn’t need to wear any foundation or powder at all. If she wants, a touch of tinted moisturizer will make a small difference.

2. Eyebrows

This is the one area that I think will make the greatest difference to how she looks. Nothing major, just a careful edit allowing the natural shape of the brow to do its thing. Women who have great eyebrows hardly need to wear any makeup at all to look polished and distinctive. It has taken me a long time to get my eyebrows to where I want them to be. I think Elke Von Freudenberg gives the best expert advice on eyebrows.

3. Eyes

I can’t imagine my mom wearing eyeliner. To me, this is the one thing that crosses the line, literally, between natural looks and artistic artifice – plus, applying it takes too much practice. Instead, I recommended my all-time favourite mascara – Clinique Naturally Glossy. This is the lightest, most natural looking mascara I’ve ever tried, and its amazing how one coat manages to make a noticeable difference in a very subtle way.

4. Cheeks

Blush was one of the first socially acceptable forms of makeup, which I learned in this book. Tastefully done, it works really well, giving a heightened illusion of health. I don’t have a favourite blush, I’ve only used a couple, but the ones I like best are creamy rather than powdery, because creamy ones stick to bare skin, whereas powdery ones need a foundation base to adhere to.

5. Lips

Lip stain! I’ve used one from Cover Girl, and for the Canadians out there, Joe Fresh makes an inexpensive lip stain that the beauty bloggers love. Stain takes a fraction of the effort that lipstick does, and looks super-natural. It doesn’t moisturize, so wear a touch of light balm (like Rose Balm) over top for softness and shine.

It pleased me that Mom asked me for advice because I think if she asked someone who is more into makeup, the advice wouldn’t be right for her. I am not anti-makeup at all, it is just that faces and routines are such an identity thing. For someone who doesn’t wear cosmetics, going from all-natural to full-makeup can be truly disorienting. Pros tell me that a heavy layer of makeup is better for photos, but I don’t see that reflected in my own photos where I’ve been “made up” – and I think it is because stuff on my face makes me feel weird, and the weird feeling comes across in my expression.

The greatest learning curve for makeup came along with the gift bags I got when I was going to events as a fashion blogger. Before I had the opportunity to try a lot of products, I found the wide world of tubes and powders very intimidating. I think the best advice I could offer someone who is new to the product game is to take advantage of sampling at places like Sephora, and to follow great makeup bloggers like BeautyGeeks who get to try a wide variety of products and who are able to bring context and intimacy to reviews.

Above all – relax, have fun with it, and take comfort knowing that a little can go a long way. Beauty isn’t just about how you look – its about how you feel, so easy does it.

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5 thoughts on “beauty advice for the makeup-averse”

  1. Great point of view! Growing up I was a bit of a tom-boy but once I entered an all-girl highschool makeup was everywhere. So true about what you eat & drink makes a huge difference.

  2. Monica – it really seems like adjacency to a vast variety of projects is what you need to be properly educated in it. I imagine that in an all-girls school there would be a lot of time and space for product talk!

  3. I’ve recently gone from a no-makeup routine to one including full liquid liner with wingtips. It really does take some getting used to — the appearance much more than the routine. I think you need to make the cognitive shift first or you do run the risk of not recognizing yourself.

  4. Great advice! And actually despite owning (and writing about) a ridiculous amount of makeup, this is pretty much all I wear on a daily basis anyway. With the exception of concealer – one of the best makeup artist tips I ever got was to apply just a touch of it at the inner corners of your eyes… it makes a HUGE difference even if you do nothing else.

    Oh and for skin – this will change your life:

  5. Michelle,

    Thanks so much for the comment – and the suggestion – I’m on CLO now and I swear after 3 days I’m seeing a difference!

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