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The Makeup Maniac

The Makeup Maniac: A case for messy makeup

October 4th 2015 / Anna Hunter



If you’re a perfectionist, look away now; things are about to get messy in the makeup stakes from autumn onwards. Here’s why that’s a very good thing...

In How To Be A Parisian Wherever You Are, Caroline de Maigret and Anne Berest describe an attitude to beauty that I think is thankfully beginning to be adopted on planet fashion, and will hopefully filter down to inform our culture as much as (hopefully more than!) sartorial trends do:

“Despite all their routines, the Parisienne retains her little imperfections, cherishes them even (the gap in her smile or her slightly crooked tooth, her prominent eyebrows or strong nose): these are the signs of a certain strength of character and allow her to feel beautiful without being perfect.”

The tome that this quote was taken from may not be the finest intellectual work of our age, but that doesn’t mean that the observation is any less valid; embracing imperfection can take beauty to a whole new level, one that can’t be reached via botox, surgical knives or cosmetic dentistry. You don’t have to be parisienne to take part either.

Imperfection was practically a trend on AW15 catwalks, with the beauty oracles at MAC declaring ever so slightly haphazard makeup as a modern and invigorating :

“It suddenly feels right to redefine the idea of sexiness...and come to the realisation that it’s moved far and away from cliché [...] think makeup that has been worn all day, or night, and is all the better for it.”

After seasons of ‘no makeup makeup’, beauty is coming back to life, but reflective of real life too. It may be showcased on otherworldly supermodels at the shows, but the ‘lived in’ effect is refreshingly down to earth. MAC director of makeup artistry Terry Barber emphasised that imperfect makeup needn’t be ‘grungy’ or ‘gritty’, but individual and ‘nuanced’:

“It’s makeup that unravels the story of the woman who wears it. Last night’s mascara, rubbed-off liner, creased kohl and nebulous shadow are the key components.”

Makeup artist Lyne Desnoyers even goes so far as to say that you could try rubbing off makeup that looks too ‘done’ once applied, which not only creates that much coveted ‘effortless’ impression, but also gives you no excuse not to cleanse thoroughly (Terry promotes ‘fresh skin’ as a key component if everything else is a bit wayward):

“Apply by working through makeup backwards. It’s about putting it on and taking it off until the perfect remnant remains.”

A bit like nailing stylishly ruffled hair, devil may care makeup may initially appear like a lot of work for something that looks like it only got out of bed a few minutes ago, but the right products and textures will settle seamlessly and make imperfect makeup as easygoing to achieve as it looks. Here are a few fuss-free ‘imperfect’ staples to have to hand:

A trusty concealer: Given that you’re not aiming for ‘flawless’, a full face of foundation could be overkill. Use concealer where you need it but otherwise adhere to Caroline and Anne’s take on keeping it real:

“Skin should look natural. Freckles can appear in spring along with the first rays of sunshine. Sometimes your cheekbones blush when you lie, and your whole face flushes when you are intimidated. You must not stifle the stories behind the natural colouring of your skin. For this reason, it must be shown, revealed, exposed.”

If you don’t feel quite ready for a full facial exposé, I rate Clarins Instant Concealer, £21.50, for both its dark shadow and blemish disguising talents.


A rich kohl pencil: Kohl is smudgy by nature; it was made to be messy. Do as makeup artist James Molloy did at Sass & Bide and emulate Carine Roitfeld inspired sooty liner by sketching MAC Eye Kohl in Smolder, £14, through the upper and lower waterline, allowing it to ‘travel naturally and weather around the eye’. Then smudge it deep into the lash line with a shadow or liner brush.


A dusky cream eye shadow: Taupe, charcoal, fawn, chocolate...the shade’s up to you, but keeping to a natural colour palette will enhance the nonchalant appeal of imperfect makeup. A cream is not only a doddle to apply with fingers but looks immediately raw and well worn on application, with no harsh lines. The pros were smearing MAC Pro Longwear Paint Pot in Groundwork, £16, ‘an invisible but eye-brightening cream “real shadow”’ over many a lid this season.


A nimble highlighter: Contouring and carefree makeup don’t really go together, so instead of sculpting the ‘perfect’ bone structure, light up your best bits instead. Highlighter sales have grown by 48.5% in the past six months according to the NPD Group, and for uncomplicated application, Burberry Fresh Glow Highlighting Luminous Pen in Nude Radiance, £25, is hard to rival. Scrawl it on wherever you want eyes to linger.


A basic brow gel: Be it clear or coloured, a simple, swipe through brow gel will keep things in line with minimal architectural work on your part.

In addition to smudging, smooshing and blending, you could just let life do it’s thing, as implied by the brilliant Mr Barber backstage at Marques Almeida:

“This is beauty created by rain showers and overheated public transport...life in the city...that mouldy, end of day makeup that women actually end up loving.”

If that’s not getting the London look, I don’t know what is. I do love it when the trendsetters give a thought for mere commuting mortals. When rolling with the punches and not spending too much time getting ready in the ladies loos post work is the height of chic, I for one am en vogue (but not perfect, obviously).

Love smudgy, sweaty makeup or can’t bear it? Comment below or tweet me @AnnaMaryHunter

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