Wearing a mask? When it comes to make-up, it’s all about the eyes

Some pros share their tips for doing your make-up while wearing a face covering

As a make-up artist, Keita Moore has become an observer of faces. Months ago, in the early stages of the pandemic, he saw very little make-up when he ran out on the occasional errand. Lately, though, he has noticed that the faces are changing, slowly. Masks are plentiful, as are filled-in brows and lashes coated in mascara.

“So many people are doing this,” Moore says. “It’s fun to get dressed and get cute, even if it’s just to get groceries.”

Dismissing make-up as frivolity would be easier than ever now. Our professional and social lives are scaled down, and we’ve withdrawn inside. Collectively we’ve gone back to basics, and make-up is plainly non-essential. But it is also a cultural artefact, reflecting the aesthetics and ethos of the era. What will our faces show as we live through months or years of the pandemic?

Nick Barose, a make-up artist, looked back and found make-up's future. At the beginning of his lockdown in March, he organised his Brooklyn apartment "to make it more homey, since I'd actually be home," he says.


That's when he discovered reference materials – books, images, magazine tear sheets – he had used as he learned to do make-up. He was drawn to avant-garde beauty editorials of the 1980s, with images of Old Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe. The nostalgia boosted his mood.

“You can listen to 1980s music, put on 1980s make-up and fantasise about a life that’s not yours,” Barose says.

Make-up, he predicts, will take two distinct courses as the pandemic plays out. The first will be practical and edited, emphasizing long-wear products and natural brows and lashes. But for some, make-up will be an escape.

“Our reality is so uncertain that I can see people getting experimental,” he says. “It’s a scary time, so it’s a time when you want to dream more, too.”

Make foundation transfer-proof

Because much of the face is covered, foundation should be used sparingly, if at all. Instead, blend concealer under the eyes and on any uneven spots above the nose. If you use foundation, a light application on the exposed areas is all you need.

"Most women choose foundation for the look," says Keanda Snagg, a make-up artist, meaning that they're going for colour match and finish and are usually not as concerned about performance. Now is the time to consider a formula's staying power, too. Snagg suggests Fenty Pro Filt'r Hydrating Longwear Foundation (€34 from boots.ie).

Moore swears by Premiere Products Blue Marble Selr Spray (€12.70, plus shipping, from ppipremiereproducts.com) a cult favourite setting spray, to keep make-up in place. "A lot of drag queens use it when they perform onstage," he says. "It makes your make-up absolutely transfer-proof. You could lie down on a pillow and there'd be no foundation on it after you got up."

Erin Parsons, another make-up artist, predicts that foundation formulas will evolve to focus on skin care. "Masks will shift how we think about foundation," Parsons says. "When you take them off, your skin is irritated and red. I keep thinking the next generation of foundation will be soothing and protecting."

Emphasise brows and lashes

The new basic face is filled-in brows and amplified lashes. “If there’s one thing we should learn now, it’s how to properly fill in your brows,” Moore says. Eyebrow pencils give users more control of colour density (and most people go too dark on brows), so he prefers them to powders, which can be blotchy.

“People tend to fill in too much at the inner part of the brows,” he says. “Focus on the tail because that’s where most brows are sparse. Brush your brows up and outward and fill in only where you need more hair.”

Pick a pencil with an angled, flat tip. This shape helps you mimic the look and direction of hair growth.

Introduce colour with eyeliner

As our time in masks wears on, make-up artists expect we’ll transition to eye make-up that’s simple yet expressive. Eyeliner is the best tool for these times because it’s uncomplicated. A bright colour is interesting and fun without requiring the layering and dimension of eye shadow.

"My favourite is winged eyeliner in any bright colour – pink, blue, burgundy – anything that's not black," Snagg says. She likes NYX Epic Wear Liquid Liner, (£9 from lookfantastic.com), a waterproof formula. ("You could jump in a pool and it wouldn't budge," she says.)

An eyeliner newbie can start with a simple line along the lashes and, with practice, work up to a wing.

Snagg’s winged-liner technique is to draw a triangle at the outer corner of the eye; then, using gentle strokes, create a line that connects that triangle to the inner corner of your eye.

Embrace the freedom of masks

During his lockdown, Barose made himself up in the style of celebrities representing different eras, like Grace Jones, Donyale Luna and Elizabeth Taylor. "Because I'm being someone else, I feel more free to do things I've never done," he says. "A mask covering your face is similar. It's a superhero effect because you're incognito."

If you favour subdued or minimal make-up, this can be a time to explore, to try new textures and materials. “After a period of minimal make-up, I could see a resurgence of the ‘Euphoria’ make-up – people trying things that are a little weird because they’re not as exposed,” Parsons says.

For example, earlier this year, she used a prosthetic adhesive to affix tiny dried flowers she found on Amazon to the ends of lashes. "People have been asking me about it all the time," she says. "It's so easy to do. It's cute, and it makes you happy." – New York Times