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Commentary: Does long-term WFH mean goodbye to makeup?

We might have gotten lazy but we will never truly put away our makeup, says beauty expert Kristen Juliet Soh.

SINGAPORE: It’s been 40 days since I last put on lipstick.

That’s saying a lot considering I’m a huge beauty junkie who’s always careful to be seen with a different lip colour. I have every lipstick colour you can think of: Pink, purple, orange, nude, blue, black, green and 50 shades of red.

A few days ago, I had to apply eyeliner for a video we were filming for Daily Vanity. I felt my hand tremble as the eyeliner touched my eyelid.

I couldn’t tell if I was trembling out of excitement or nervousness.

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With many of us working from home for the foreseeable future even under future phases of Singapore's new normal, many women who own an arsenal of makeup have stowed them away like that warrior you see in Chinese period dramas, sealing his sword and vowing to live as a hermit.

But yet that sadness of putting this stockpile away is quickly overtaken by relief, and perhaps, a sense of freedom of not having to wear makeup anymore, since we aren’t going anywhere.

And even if we do, who’s going to notice our makeup when half our faces are covered up by a mask?

But as pandemic uncertainty looms over us, here’s the big question every cosmetics brand and makeup addict are asking: Will going makeup-free be the new normal?

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As someone who interacts with beauty brands and consumers regularly, the good news is I think we will never truly give up our prized possessions.

Sure, the industry as a whole will suffer but women who usually wear makeup will never quit cosmetics altogether.

An eye shadow palette with makeup brushes. (Photo:

While it serves a practical function of helping us put our best faces forward when meeting others, many of us know we want to look and feel good for ourselves.

What is a mundane routine for some can be a playful, creative outlet. Just like how an artist will never stop painting for self-expression, a makeup enthusiast will always wield her makeup brush; her face is her canvas where the possibilities of experimenting with colour and contour are limitless.

That form of self-expression is less about what palettes and primers you use, and more about the personalities you can channel with a stroke of the brush and a smattering of blush.

It’s makeup that lets us know we can be fearless Fiona with bold eyeliner and no-nonsense red lipstick on a Monday, and fun Frieda with eye glitter on a Friday.

It’s makeup that lets us stand out from that homogenous vision of beauty and rewrite norms of femininity.

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Many of our readers have confessed they miss putting on makeup.

Some said they would seize any chance they get to apply something. A few started sharing their makeup tips on social media for fun.

Others put on makeup before they start work – even when working from home – so they feel ready to take on the day and maintain some semblance of control in their otherwise thoroughly disrupted lives.

At play is probably some dynamic of makeup as war paint. There is something incredibly empowering about a bright shade of pink lipstick that makes you feel ready to conquer the world, and mascara that gives you confidence to slay the day.

(Photo: Unsplash/Susan Duran)

We will be moving into Phase 1 of our post-circuit breaker plans this week, and beauty services such as aesthetic treatments, lash extension, brow embroidery, and facial services will still be closed.

We already miss all these things that make us feel good about how we look without makeup. They may only re-open in Phase 3, and we don’t know how long that may take.

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The coronavirus pandemic has reshaped industries and cosmetics too will see two key shifts.

First, I foresee a stronger focus on eye and brow makeup as everyone will be using face masks when we head out.

I predict we will see a proliferation of eyeshadow palettes, eyeliners, mascaras, false lashes, brow pencils and powders – especially since lash extension and brow embroidery services will be closed for a while.

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Second, as video conference becomes a common mode of communication at work and more, products that accentuate features without looking over-the-top are going to become way more popular.

The “no makeup” makeup look and “my lips but better” lip shades were already huge trends before the pandemic, and will likely become the style du jour with more Zoom conferences.

We can expect to see face bronzing products, blushes and lip products in nude shades become the essentials for women.

Other products that will gain popularity include eyebrow and lip tinting kits, magnetic, easy-to-apply false lashes, tinted lip balms and tinted moisturisers.

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Makeup brands are undergoing huge disruption but must use this time wisely to reconsider the role of makeup in a world of social distancing and staying in.

Model Emily DiDonato gives a makeup tutorial in a Maybelline YouTube video April 19, 2020. YouTube/Handout via REUTERS

Apart from the leap to e-commerce, do makeup brands know what we want as consumers when the thrill of trying out testers at Sephora can no longer be a Saturday routine? How would that stimulating experience be replicated through digital media?

In a world of lockdowns and no gatherings, where fashion magazine spreads seem pointless and your Pinterest board has more photos of workplace inspiration and desktop organisation, what I want from makeup is to be inspired again.

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I want to have fun with makeup, not be lectured about what should be corrected or concealed.

I want to feel that flush of confidence course through my veins when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. 

And I want to be reconciled with the tools that allow me to be who I truly am: Someone with potential, bite and enough fight left for another day in this coronavirus world.

At the start of this commentary, I lamented that it’s been 40 days since I last put on lipstick. Just maybe tomorrow, I’ll put some lipstick on for myself.

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Kristen Juliet Soh is the editorial director and co-founder of Daily Vanity.

Source: CNA/el


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