Quickie Responses to Recent Wall Posts

By Voxy  

No, I didn’t drop off the face of the planet. I may have perhaps loosened my grip on it for a bit, but I have not been sucked out to space by a giant black hole, unless by “black hole” we mean my research project, in which case that is exactly what *did* happen, how did you know? Still trying to claw my way back to regular blogging.

In the meanwhiles, two quick responses to recent wall posts.

A Biologist asked if we could discuss Kate Middleton’s wedding makeup, and the answer is OF COURSE WE CAN! I didn’t post about it earlier because (as is so typical for me) I had Big Plans to do a post with a “what she looked like” picture compared with a “what I think she should have looked like” picture via Photoshop. Have I done that? No I have not.

Here is my take on the whole business. There is no question that Kate generally knows her way around a makeup bag. Her eyeliner wasn’t crooked, her lips weren’t misshapen — all of that is fine. My problem with it all was not her technique, but her choices, and what those choices tell us about how she wants the world to see her.

Now, you should know that before the official engagement photo was taken, a makeup artist had done her makeup, and she hated it and took it off and insisted on doing her own. So there is already a history here of wanting to be controlling about this. Which I get.


One of the things that makeup does for us is allow us to emphasize the features and characteristics associated with qualities we want to portray ourselves as having. Ruby-red lips = sexy. Smoky eyes = mysterious. Etc. So when you are choosing makeup for a public appearance, you should think about what you want to broadcast about yourself. This is especially true when the public appearance is your wedding and it is being broadcast around the world and BILLIONS OF PEOPLE ARE WATCHING.

So what were Kate’s choices? Ones that made her look old, hard, pinched, and … I have to say — controlling. What makes me say that?
— eyes tightly lined with black, all the way around
— brows that are too heavy and strong close to her nose, which makes her look like she’s perpetually wanting to squinch them up in annoyance
— a too-heavy hand with blush (and again, I don’t think this is a technique issue, I think it’s a choice issue)
— a sad lack of fresh, youthful colors and the dewiness of youth. That makeup could have been the makeup of a 50-year-old, not a 29-year-old. Everything is too taut, too tense, too full of harsh lines and contrast.

What do I wish she’d done instead? That’s what I want to show you via a Photoshopped picture.

Then there’s the other issue — I can’t believe the Queen let her get away with doing her own makeup. If you are marrying the future King of England, you have a public image to consider, and it is your obligation to uphold the good image the royal family is trying to present of itself by being a team player. Does this mean losing some corners of personal freedom? Yep. For God’s sake, they can hire the best makeup artists in Britain — I can’t believe that any of them would have made her look clownish. A good makeup artist can work with you to help you get the look you want in a better version than the one you could have produced yourself. You can’t convince me that Kate was better off — in actual execution, in concept, or in significance — doing her own makeup than by having it done for her.

And now for something completely different.

Ab_grp asks the very pertinent and timely question: “[N]ow that summer is just around the corner I was wondering if you have any tips for maintaining a polished look without appearing too made up. For example, today I feel that I am wearing too much eye makeup with my tank top and capris. Still, I don’t want to look as, um, natural as I do when I first roll out of bed. Is there a post on this that you could direct me to, or do you have any thoughts on finding that balance? Thanks!”

Ab_grp, are you suggesting that we don’t all roll out of bed, toss our hair back, and saunter to the bathroom looking like the women in Dior ads? Perish the thought. ;)

I think there are two ways to go about this:

1. Use less product.
2. Look like you use less product.

In the end the goal is the same, but most of us will probably end up reaching it via option #2.

You will want to have, in your bag of tricks, a “no-makeup makeup” look. This is not actually “no makeup” — it’s the set of products you use to make people think you are wearing no makeup. In summertime, this is a good base look for everyday, and if you are feeling like being a little bold it is easy to take one feature out of this look and jazz it up just a bit for something that is a little more interesting but that still doesn’t look like a full face of makeup.

What will you need for a “no-makeup makeup” look?

1. Primer of your choice. If you are going to try to convince people you are not wearing much makeup, you will want the canvas to be in as good a condition as possible.
2. A sheer-to-medium foundation or tinted moisturizer in something that is as close to your actual skin tone as possible.
3. A colorless, translucent, or lightly tinted powder for getting rid of shine. If your skin is very good, and/or if you like mineral powder foundation, and if your primer is good enough, you may be able to forgo a cream or liquid foundation or TM in favor of just primer and powder.
4. A concealer that can be used on dark circles, blemishes, and eyelids.
5. An eyeshadow in the neutral brown family, something light that covers any remaining discoloration but that is close enough to your skintone that it doesn’t look like eyeshadow. My go-to shade has been ULTA Cocoa, but I think they stopped making it years ago. A light taupe for cool tones and a light neutral-to-warm brown for warm tones works well.
6. A brown eye pencil (brown always looks less made-up than black). Try reducing (or eliminating entirely) any eyeliner on the lower lid.
7. Black or brown mascara, applied lightly.
8. Clear brow gel. If you feel like adding color to your brows makes you look too “done up,” skip that part, but do groom them with clear mascara.
9. A peach-toned blush. Creams are nice for summer if your skin isn’t too oily, and they often look less like makeup than powder blushes. Peach almost always looks less made-up than pink.
10. Clear or tinted lip gloss or balm.

From this basic summer set-up, you can always choose to bump up one feature or another. Maybe you want a slightly more bold eye, so you dust a little blue or violet shadow along the upper lash line. Or you want a bolder lip, so you use a lipstick (applied gently and concentrated more on the center of the lips than the edges), with a balm or gloss on top to soften it. Or you play up the cheek with a little bit of bolder color (or by dabbing some of your lipstick on the apple of your cheek and blending, which is one of my favorite things to do for summer because it’s subtle).

What you really want is something that is clean, well-groomed, and shine-free. If you have really good skin, you can probably do this by actually using less product. Most of us, unfortunately, have to fake using less product by just making different choices.

Other tips and tricks, or other comments about the Royal Makeup? Please share them in the comments!

Kate Middleton photo via People; The Earth via http://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/5679642883/
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  1. avatar ab_grp
    Posted July 9, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Dear Voxy, I just wanted to send a belated thank you for answering my wall query about how to look natural without looking TOO natural. I have been using the tips you provided, and they have been enormously helpful. You are the best.

    I would still love to see your Photoshop version of Kate’s wedding makeup!


  2. avatar a biologist
    Posted May 14, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’m glad other people thought she looked harsh and aged. In truth, I was surprised by her choices. From the other photos I had seen she looked naturally pretty, youthful, and graceful.

    Full black eyeliner is really difficult to wear well, it seems–excepting women of naturally dark complexions or when doing a more costumey look, like goth or punk. Even Princess Diana would wear it and look less beautiful. Thanks for the tip off to the blush and eyebrows as well. I will exercise caution with mine.

    In fact, Middleton is illustrating why pre-Vixen A Biologist had a makeup artist do her makeup for her own wedding. I feared making myself look like that.

    Both Kate and Pippa needed less tanning in my opinion, but I tend to be biased against major tanning as it makes me think of those leathery ladies from my youth.


  3. avatar chaosbydesign
    Posted May 10, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    That’s one of the longest quick responses I’ve ever seen. ;)

    Indianalitchick, I’m British and I do not think she looked great (in terms of makeup, anyway). It was the eyeliner that bothered me the most; it’s too overpowering and obvious. In the picture on the cover of the Time magazine covering the wedding, it looks like she has a large hairy spider where her eye should be. That should not happen.

    I also agree that it is suprising that the Queen did not insist on a makeup artist. Just because Kate did not like what a makeup artist had done previously (and I’ve seen the results of a bad makeup job by makeup artists — they certainly don’t always get it right) that does not mean there are NO makeup artist in Britain capable of doing an acceptable job. Her makeup made her look much older than she actually is.

    I didn’t realize that American tan hose (or, as I’d call them, tights) were inappropriate in Britain.


  4. avatar Indianalitchick
    Posted May 10, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink | Reply

    I commented on Kate’s makeup on another “academic” site, and, according to the British, she looked great. Maybe there are cultural differences re: makeup? Same thing with pantyhose: evidently in Britian,”nude” hose is called “American tan” and isn’t considered appropriate, hence all the black hose at the wedding.


    • avatar elsie
      Posted May 11, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

      It seems that that heavy black eyeliner is very popular with British women. I remember Billie Piper using it a lot on Doctor Who, and I saw quite a lot of it on the wedding guests as well. I can’t stand it myself, but it seems a British fashion.
      Last summer when I was in Britain, I found myself disappointed by a lot of the fashion I saw on women my age (mid to late 40s). I was hoping to be inspired and get tips, but much of it seemed to me to be clothes and make-up that were too young for the women wearing them.


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