Saturday, May 19, 2012

Makeup - Rationale and Yikes (!) Sensitive skin.

I can do this the most justice by linking you to this article from PLOS. You absolutely must scroll down to where you can click on the photographs they have of the same women in different amounts of makeup and learn (much to your chagrin) that you, too are probably influenced by a petty bias! I was very annoyed with myself to find that I was. An amount of makeup beyond "covering up zits and using lip gloss" but less than "darkened night-club, sexpot glam" makes women appear more likable, successful, trustworthy and competent. Obviously this is a cultural bias. But it's our culture (I'm talking about North America), so its kind of hard to escape, like it or not.©Science-y Hair Blog 2013

Here's my experience with makeup.
1) Apply eyeshadow for an evening "out."
2) Weep my way through the evening, make determined effort not to claw at itchy, swollen eyelids.
3) Swear I'll never do that again.

Or this:
1) Find a foundation I like that's light, unscented and not itchy or thick.
2) Keep it for 3 years because I don't use it very often. (Yeah, 3 years is too long).
3) Next time I need foundation - it's been discontinued and the new one is like poster paint or full of itchy ingredients.

Rats. A little makeup helps people take us more seriously (in context, anyhow), but it drives people like me to distraction. So what is it about makeup that gives it such power? It turns out, the answer is really simple. Contrast. Darkening of the eyes and lips. Smoothing and evening the skin tone, no matter how dark or light your skin, provides better contrast for a bigger difference between eyes, lips and face. How you use makeup is not as important as that you increase the contrast.

Contrast of facial features is a feminine characteristic. More contrast looks more female. Less contrast looks less female. And looking more female and more "beautiful" (meaning more contrast, more even-ness) gives you an advantage.

So what to do if your skin goes on strike when you wear makeup?

1) Even out skin tone.
  • Find a lightweight, fragrance-free foundation to conceal red areas (scars, zits, that area around the nose or under the eyes).
  • Cover acne or raised areas with a darker foundation.
  • Use powder if you hate liquid makeup, just make sure you use face lotion underneath and have it with you for touch-ups.
2) Eyes: Darker... somewhere
  • If you can't use eyeshadow on your eyelids - fill in your eyebrows with an eye pencil or eyeshadow.
  • Use a clean baby toothbrush to put coconut oil, olive oil, hypo-allergenic hair gel (this works really well!) or petroleum jelly on your eyelashes instead of mascara (then wash it when you're done).
  • Use foundation makeup (or powder) on your eyelids to even out the skin color.
  • Sometimes (I make no promises) you can find an eyeliner that doesn't itch. Maybe look for  liquid ones.
3) Lips - choose a lipstick or colored lip balm a shade or 2 darker than your own lips.
4) Especially if you're over 30, blush will give you more contrast on your face.

I can't say much about how to apply any of this because I don't much like applying makeup. These are just my work-arounds.©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
A little 1% hydrocortisone ointment is handy for any time you use a product that your skin reacts badly to.


  1. That's a fascinating article. One thing it left out--couldn't really include--was the effect cosmetics have on how the wearer perceives herself.

    In spite of having relatively clear skin as a teen, I dealt with adult acne for almost 20 years. For much of that time I wore fairly heavy foundation (but otherwise "professional" level makeup) to attempt to conceal the blemishes and the scarring they left behind. I always felt much more confident in makeup and never left home without wearing it until just a few years ago.

    In the past few years, my skin has finally cleared up, and the scars are almost completely faded as well. I'm happy to finally feel comfortable wearing a more "natural" look, and often even no makeup at all in public.

    After a lot of experimentation with makeup tips, I've found a great technique for covering redness, dark under-eye circles or hyperpigmentation from acne scars: use a narrow makeup brush designed for lipstick to stipple a small amount of concealer (I use a concealer stick) onto the area in small, light strokes until the desired affect is achieved. A makeup sponge can give a similar affect, too. Once all desired areas are covered, set the concealer with a light dusting of powder.

    You should select concealer and powder that exactly matches your facial skin tone or is only slightly lighter. I actually use two different shades of concealer and mix them to get what I want, and sometimes do that with powder too, as my face darkens in the summertime.

    Once your skin tone is evened out with the concealer and powder, you can apply other cosmetics as desired. I will often just put a light dab of blush on my cheeks to give them some color and apply tinted lip balm, and call it good (FYI--tinted lip balm can work as a blush, too, if your skin doesn't do well with powder blush). This is a low-maintenance look that almost appears to not be made up at all.

  2. Thanks for your insight and great suggestion. Where I live, the "professional" makeup as shown would probably be considered a little "overdone" but I'm sure that varies by region.

  3. I have sensitive skin, too, which means I just didn't wear make up. When I turned 40, I discovered mineral make up (warning, not all brands are the same) and tried that. My skin loved it! As in it actually improved my skin! Then, of course, the brand I loved got discontinued, so I stocked up for about 5 years worth of make up. (This stuff never goes bad.)

    I also ended up doing lash extensions, because I just couldn't handle the whole eyeliner/mascara/eyeshadow thing.

  4. I have read that about mineral makeup. Still a little leery and looking for an eyeshadow that isn't glittery because as much fun as that sounds - it looks silly on me.

  5. I used to wear mineral makeup and liked it pretty well... although it kind of dried out my skin. But I have a friend who has allergies to nickel and she couldn't wear it. Just an FYI. Now I pretty much stick to a tinted moisturizer, blush, and mascara. Physician's Formula (found in most drug stores) has and organic line.

  6. I know what you mean. I don't like the glittery stuff either. I'm matte, all the way :)