Rediscovering the true joy of make-up

Roberta Schroeder
·4-min read
Photo credit: Erik Madigan Heck
Photo credit: Erik Madigan Heck

From Harper's BAZAAR

In the make-up realm, something is shifting. As we begin to cautiously emerge from a year spent largely in confinement, the routines and restrictions of pre-pandemic beauty feel, like many things, much less essential.

That’s not to say the death knell has sounded for make-up, however; while we might no longer apologise for turning up to a meeting (virtual or otherwise) bare-faced, the joy of slicking on a favourite product will always remain. But now is the time to call on your kit for different reasons: make-up has become a route to the rebellion and the freedom that, post-pandemic, we’re all itching to embrace.

The thing is, routines inherently restrict the creativity that underpins the true joy of make-up. We’ve long heard ‘there are no rules’, so why do we behave as though there are? Just look at the rise of the beauty tutorial. But as less of us feel compelled to copy the influencers, are we no longer using make-up to fit the mould?

After all, we’ve seen it with fashion. Are you styling your summer dress with 'ugly' trainers? A suit with a feathered mule? Perhaps, weather dependent, your favourite jeans are now regularly worn with Birkenstocks? Even some of the fashion world’s most in-demand designers – think Cecilie Bahnsen and Simone Rocha – subvert the obvious beauty of their fantastical dresses with clomper shoes and ankle socks.

These may sound like rumblings rising from Gen Z, and in many ways they are, but there’s no reason we can’t all embrace the desexualisation of make-up and find joy in creative freedom. It's a shift that brands like Glossier and Byredo – the latter of which has recently launched a sleek, undeniably sophisticated make-up line with rebellion at its heart – are capitalising on. So too are the new school of thrilling make-up artists making their name on Instagram: see Celia Burton, Bea Sweet and Katie-Jane Hughes for scrolling satisfaction.

There will always be a place for a red lip, but pairing it with a cat-eye flick and false lashes feels predictable this spring. Now, the way to wear a favourite shade is with a bare or contrasting eye that upsets the balance, hitting refresh. The same applies to eye colours: while a neutral palette can always be relied on, there’s something to be said for the uplifting appeal of a solid swipe of sky-blue, orange or even pink (see Bridgerton’s Nicola Coughlan at the Golden Globes). Not only will a pastel palette enhance your skin tone, it’ll boost your mood, too.

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After years dominated by Kardashian-esque contour and the inflated proportions of reality TV, few things feel more freeing than a dose of unexpected colour, be it a carefree swipe of powder or meticulously crafted work of art. There’s no required skill set, no paint-by-numbers tutorial, and no rulebook to follow.

Make-up artist Celia Burton has noticed a subtle shift away from the prescriptive approach to make-up. “In my feed anyway, there are fewer cut creases and more soft washes of colour; less solid brows and more fluffy fronts. I think everyone’s priorities have changed so much since Covid-19 hit. Make-up has become even more about self expression and experimentation, and you can see that in the content being created now.”

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Of course, colour can be intimidating – especially when you’ve spent the past year wearing nothing on your face but a mask. To ease yourself in, Burton suggests starting with “a subtle wash of colour to see what suits you and makes you tick the most”.

To amplify the intensity of a colour you already own, or to try using it in a different way, consider applying powder wet. “Powder eyeshadows now are mostly safe to use wet as well as dry, and this is a great way to dip your foot into the bright shadow pond without losing yourself completely. Dampen the brush before you dip it into the pigment and blend the shadow out while it’s wet. This keeps the colour soft and sheer, so long as you blend in circular motions before it dries, and you can build up the layers gently until you’re happy with it.”

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Burton’s vision of post-pandemic make-up is, she says hopefully, one driven less by covering up and more by creativity. “There’ll be bold pops of colour on eyes, but not lips yet – we’re still masked up a lot of the time. Eyeshadows will be blended and soft; cut creases are very pre-lockdown. It’ll be about bright colours, warm tones, or strong shimmery pigments applied gently and blended all the way up to the brow bone. Eyebrows will be outgrown and un-threaded – the more brushed out the better, and secured with just a little matte brow fix. God, we’re all going to look great!”

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