Low-Maintenance Makeup & Beauty Rules

Do you wear makeup daily? If you do, I applaud you. There has never been a morning in my life when I've voluntarily forgone 20 minutes of extra sleep necessary to make my face even amateurishly presentable.

That said, I still manage to receive (sometimes weird*) compliments on my skin. My hair is frequently appreciated, and yes, people do called me pretty. I don't feel particularly lacking in the facial self-esteem category.

I'd venture to say that most women I'm close with share a similar sense of confidence when it comes to personal care. They comprehend that makeup does not make or break their beauty; that less is truly more. In spite of this, they're also not afraid to break the rules and "play" whenever the mood strikes them. I admire these kind of people. To me, they appear more genuine.

Over the years, I've collected tips from these kindred spirits, as well as cultivating a few of my own. Today, I thought I'd share them -- shame free.

Rule #1: Cold cream is the only makeup remover you will ever need.

Unless you're into all that organic-botanical-100%-pure-for-my-ultra-sensitive-skin crap, your fingers need not stray beyond the confines of this glorious green-capped jar. I'm talking about that good, old-fashioned white cream that feels like kiddie paint and smells like your grandma's bathroom. The very first time I had my face painted at a carnival, Mom handed me some cold cream and a washcloth and I managed to mop that Minnie mug right off, all by my six-year-old self. Yeah, a first grader can use this stuff. It can handle anything from stubborn eyeliner to matte lipstick. I have yet to find a more effective alternative for as great a price.

Rule #2: Exfoliate beyond the face.

Having spent most of my winters in the Inland Northwest, where the dry air sucks the last drop of moisture from your skin, I am constantly plagued by what a dear friend of mine once termed "white people bumps." The backs of my arms and tops of my thighs would be freckled in a tiny, pinkish grid of what looked like large goose pimples. When I moved to the Puget Sound region, I was surprised to find that they didn't clear up, despite the increased humidity. Forced to take matters into my own hands, I took up the roughest face exfoliator I could find and began attacking my arms and legs with the stuff almost daily. Today, my skin's still dry as ever, but my bumps have faded significantly. Nothing should stop you from extending this to other troublesome spots -- like foot calluses or kneecaps & elbows. Go wild.

Rule #3: Blowdry your hair 80%

This is something I've picked up from various magazines, and I'm pretty sure it's saved the life of my hair. It's a great secret to getting volume without having to spend an hour in front of the mirror. After combing out your locks, flip your head upside down and blowdry all over until sections start feeling mostly dry. Flip your hair back upright and begin drying in smaller sections until almost fully dry. How do you tell if your hair is 80% there? Ideally, your hair will feel mostly dry all around, with just a little moisture in it. Realistically, my hair ends up being perfectly dry on the top and sides and slightly damper near my neck. And that's okay.

Rule #4: Use sunscreen.

I don't care how much you "naturally tan," you're going to thank me when your skin doesn't look like a dune field during your mid-life crisis years.

Rule #5: Simplify your daily makeup by unlocking your Power Triad.

It's a workday morning and I have a million other things to do besides making myself presentable. On days like this, I call upon my personal Power Triad (capitalized because I made up the term just now.) Your Power Triad consists of the three makeup choices that will most immediately enhance your face. For example, I have faint brows & deep-set eyes, and I'm prone to under-eye circles. Ergo, my Power Triad routine would involve a quick fill-in/darkening of my eyebrows, a light coat of mascara on my top lash, and some concealer to brighten up my circles. I can forgo blush & lipstick because I flush easily and have fairly well-defined lips. If you have zero cheekbones and protuberant, narrow-set eyes, you might find bronzer, eyeliner, and eyeshadow more effective.

Rule #6: Skip the foundation. 

If someone can make a good case for foundation, speak now or forever hold your piece. As far as I'm concerned, this skin-clogging nightmare paint should be reserved for stage and film, and never see the light of day otherwise. I've never seen anything in a foundation that a good face powder couldn't take care of just as easily. The most common complaint I hear from my foundation-obsessed friends is that they have terrible skin, and they use the cosmetic to conceal that. While I've never experienced full-blown acne and therefore can't imagine the lengths I'd go to vanquish it, I'm almost certain that sealing the bacteria under an array of makeup chemicals isn't going to encourage a clearer complexion. Let your skin breathe and dot these problem areas with a light concealer instead.

Rule #7: Buy Chapstick (or your lip balm of choice) in bulk and keep it EVERYWHERE.

This is a rule I've been meaning to implement for a while, because I'm always misplacing my Chapstick at the most dire of times. At any given moment I need at least five: one for the car, one for my purse, one for my work drawer, one for my nightstand, and one nomadic stick that's allowed to drift from pocket to pocket. I've heard that Chapstick itself has an addictive quality -- that our lips become used to the moisture and simply dry out faster when we forget to use it. While that's somewhat discomforting, there's nothing like a dry winter's day when I realize I've left that bugger at home to make me throw all caution to the wind. If you're a Vaseline or Carmex fan, you can also use it to add some shine to your eyes and cheeks!

Rule #8: Check your labels.

I'm not talking about makeup labels here (though I probably should be); I'm talking about your clothing labels. On my past few shopping trips, I've found "100% Polyester" on more tags than I care to recall. It's in almost everything, and it's just about the worst investment you can make in anything. I would say the only exception is if you're getting one of those blouse-y oversized tank tops with arm holes that swoop far below your pits. Anything else and you're just asking for an infestation of stink and ruin. Polyester is cheap, so of course it doesn't hold up well. It also locks in body odor, so within a few wearings your beloved long-sleeved (overpriced) Free People dress is practically unwearable. Save yourself the money and the heartache: skip anything with more than 25% of this devil-weave.

Rule #9: When you go out, drink twice as much water as you do alcohol.

I don't drink half as much water as I should on a daily basis, but I make double sure to rehydrate when I'm alcohol-ing. An easy rule to follow is spacing out your drinks with two glasses of water in between. Not only will you stay hydrated longer, you're also likely to feel full before you overdo the french fries or add the extra cocktail. Don't beat yourself up if you occasionally drink (or eat!) more than you should -- but do dignify yourself with some water by the end of it. Your body will thank you later.

Rule #10: You're never fully dressed without a smile.

I know I sound like an after-school-special here, but it's a rare occasion that smiling hasn't made me feel more at-ease, energized, and personally gorgeous. I've also noticed that people walk away with a much higher opinion of me than when I play the statuesque status card (reserving my smile for people I think "deserve it.") It took me well after puberty to get comfortable with the casual smile, particularly during ballet performances, and in the meantime my mom taught me a clever alternative: if you can't look happy, just look engaged. Eyebrows lifted, eyes wide, cocked head, softened lips. I should add a disclaimer here -- This is not to say I haven't met plenty of non-smilers who are perfectly nice and well-adjusted. A great example is those who've inherited the so-called "bitchy resting face," a phenomenon where one's relaxed expression seeming to connote general irritation with the world around her. This is also not to condone the very issue which "bitchy resting face" springs from: the ridiculous concept that women owe everyone an unflappably cheerful disposition. Those weird guys on the street who jeer "Why the long face, cupcake?" are obviously not worth your pearly whites. For the general population, though, I maintain that a smile will work wonders. It invites people to your level and still maintains an air of mystery -- everyone will wonder what the hell you're so happy about!

*Like the Office Depot employee who said I had "skin like a baby's" before we'd spoken two words otherwise.


  1. As far as power triad goes, look into ombre blush! This sensation has gone beyond hair to serve as the most functional fad in face-pinking. My personal favorite is Proenza Schouler for MAC ombre blush in Sunset Beach (link below)...but you can try others! The "beauty" of this product? You skip all of the confusing highlighters/illuminators/brighteners and rock contouring all from one compact.

    As for the other two, I love Bare Minerals Flawless Definition Volumizing mascara because it NEVER cakes off or clumps. The formula itself is non-irritating and lasts until I get off of work at midnight- hurray!

    Finally, I already use a lotion and a serum on my face so I don't want too many more products in the mix. It's essential to combine sunscreen and sheer coverage in one and no one executes better than Peter Thomas Roth. Sometimes even tinted moisturizers end up veining across you face and his magic potion is the brilliant exception.


  2. Awesome feedback, Charlotte! I've seen that ombre blush before and have always been curious to know how it works... Great to have beauty tips from one of the most beautiful people I know! xoxo