Make-up that you wear for work might not be as dramatic as make-up worn for special occasions, but it should still be applied more thoughtfully than make-up worn to the grocery store. While how much office make-up should be worn varies depending on your job role and industry, some essential products are universal.

First the basics

  1. Foundation: I recommend a mineral powder foundation because it offers different levels of coverage, is easy to apply and blends well without streaking or leaving lines of demarcation. It  looks natural, and stays put all day. Many women who use mineral powder foundation do not need to use a concealer or setting powder, though some still prefer to add these products to their regimen. Mineral powder foundation also contains fewer chemical ingredients, is less likely to clog pores, and is less at risk for contamination.
  2. Powder blush: Again, I recommend a mineral powdered blush—this can either be loose or pressed, and should use natural pigments. Blush can be used to brighten up the skin tone, but can also be used as an eyeshadow for touching up on the go or, if time is tight, in the morning while getting ready. A light dusting of blush on the apples of your cheeks [smile!], on the forehead, and on the eyelids can really enhance skin tone. I recommend applying blush with a large, fluffy brush, a little bit at a time. It is easier to add more colour than it is to remove excess colour.
  3. Eyeshadow: While each season brings new colour trends for eyeshadow, I recommend sticking to a neutral colour palette for the workplace. Neutral colours include brown, taupe, ivory, tan, beige, gray, charcoal gray, and black. Sometimes a muted plum or forest-green tone can be used as an accent on the eye, but women working in very conservative environments should use these colours with discretion. Mineral shadows are available in loose and pressed forms, are easy to apply, and last all day. Eyeshadow brushes of varying sizes and shapes can be used to achieve different looks. For work, stick to one or two shades of shadow—a third accent shade may be applied sparingly for a special presentation or if the workplace environment is less conservative.
  4. Mascara: Keep it simple, keep it black. Brown mascara rarely shows up even on lighter skin tones and lashes and coloured mascaras are inappropriate for the workplace. I recommend only one coat on the bottom lashes and one to two coats on the top lashes. Use a lash comb to remove any clumps. Mascara is often full of toxic chemicals, but safer formulations are available. Look for mascaras that are free of parabens, petrochemicals, and tar. Safer formulations include natural waxes like beeswax and carnauba or palm wax, natural gums like that from the acacia tree, and other natural ingredients.
  5. Lip colour: Lip colour is available in a variety of different textures, finishes, and application methods. Some women prefer a conventional lipstick in a tube; others prefer sheer tints or shiny glosses. For work, stick to colours that are close to the natural colour of the lips—not further than one or two shades lighter or darker. Anything too far off may appear distracting or unprofessional. Also stick to a matte, satin, or creamy texture. Shiny glosses or shimmery finishes may also appear unprofessional and may not stay on as long. Look for lip colours that are made with natural pigments, waxes, and oils such as jojoba, beeswax, and iron oxides since many conventional ones contain lead and other heavy metals, as well as petrochemicals. Remember that a large amount of what is applied to the lips gets ingested, so pay close attention to lip product ingredients.

Optional add-ons

Other products that may be added to the make-up bag are concealer, eyeliner, and lip liner. Concealers must match your skin tone—ones that are darker or lighter may actually attract more attention to the blemish or area to be covered. With eyeliner, again keep it really simple and stick with black for work. The application should be a sharp, thin line along the lash line—nothing too thick or dramatic. Lip liner should be neutral and should match the colour of the lips, not the lipstick. This allows for a more natural look without unattractive lines of demarcation.

Your professional appearance not only represents you, but also the brand or company being represented. It’s important to present an appearance at work that is confident, elegant, and polished—especially if the job requires attending conferences, giving presentations, or representing a specific brand. Properly selected and applied make-up can help you achieve this look.

This was first published in the August 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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