In the age of masks, makeup can be a nuisance. Sweat causes foundation to smudge and renders powder useless; lip color rubs off on the fabric. The only part of the face that’s unaffected and can be seen is the eyes, which is why bright and bold eye looks are trending among influencers and on social media.
Makeup artist Vincent Oquendo has noticed the bold-eye-with-mask trend and is “very much here for” playing up the eyes. “I feel like people are excited to express themselves any way they can, because we’ve been locked up in quarantine for so long,” he said. “Not being able to wear lipstick, I think people are more adventurous with their eye makeup looks. I’ve been seeing a lot of really great colored mascaras, even some really cool glitter looks.”
But arresting eye makeup requires you to use possibly germy fingers or brushes to apply it. And flaking eye shadow or mascara could get into your eyes, prompting you to touch them. We talked to medical experts about safety strategies to observe and to a makeup artist about how to make the most of makeup, if you do use it. “Of course, if you can avoid wearing makeup during this time, even better,” said Nada Elbuluk, a dermatologist with Keck Medicine of USC.
Strategies for using eye makeup safely
“With [the coronavirus], but also just in general with bacteria and viruses, we catch them through the portals into our body: the mucosal sites, which absorb germs more readily,” Elbuluk said. The eyes, nose and mouth are all mucosal sites that are vulnerable to viruses.
In addition to possibly contracting the virus from contaminated fingers or brushes, a makeup user also risks exposure to the coronavirus from the products themselves, especially if those products are shared with others or are used outside of the home, said Sarah M. Nehls, an ophthalmologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “The makeup could be potentially contaminated,” she said. “[The coronavirus] has been found on the ocular surface. This is why conjunctivitis [pinkeye] can be an initial symptom of infection.”
The most important tip for applying makeup is to wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face to apply it, Elbuluk said. Make sure to honor makeup expiration dates, so your cosmetics are not harboring bacteria. And wash your brushes on a regular basis. “If you’re dealing with sponges, the disposable ones are even better,” she said, and they should be housed in a clean canister.
Soap and water works for cleaning brushes, but you can also use a special brush cleaner that dries quickly, especially if you don’t have access to a sink. “Spray the brush, then use a paper towel to work through,” said Oquendo, who favors the cleaners by Parian Spirit and Cinema Secrets.
As for the rest of your makeup wardrobe—eye pencils, mascara tubes, eyelash curlers and beyond—Elbuluk said these items in your rotation should be cleansed, too. “Reusable makeup items should be cleaned with a gentle soap and water on a regular basis, at least weekly,” she said.
Apply makeup just once, in the morning before you leave your house, rather than doing so in public restrooms or in other places where people will be touching surfaces, Elbuluk said. “Look for products that are longer-lasting and waterproof, so you don’t touch your face [to fix the makeup],” Nehls said.
When you take your makeup off, wash your hands thoroughly again, and then use a wipe or makeup remover.
– Makeup tips for playing up the eyes
Playing up the eyes is all about prep, according to Oquendo. “A lot of people forget the fundamentals of makeup,” Oquendo said. Creating a foundation with the right tools and creams before applying any makeup is a lot like “having the right underwear on,” he said.
“One of my favorite prep products is Lumify Redness Reliever eye drops,” he said, noting that they should not be used with contacts in the eye. “This helps to brighten the eyes and works in one minute.” Many of his clients who travel a lot and who take red-eye flights use the drops, he said.
To rejuvenate tired skin around the eyes, Oquendo recommends the Georgia Louise Cryo Freeze Tools or the Klorane Smoothing and Relaxing Patches. After using them, apply eye cream. (He favors the one by Dr. Barbara Sturm.)
Another prep tool is an eyelash curler, which can widen the look of the eyes. However, if you choose a tool of poor quality, you can break off your lashes; Oquendo prefers “tried-and-true options,” such as the Shiseido and Tweezerman eyelash curlers.
Then, lay down the basics for your eye makeup. “I start with a pencil, either kohl or kajal,” Oquendo said, recommending Maybelline TattooStudio in a shade of brown, such as walnut. “Pencils are a little easier to control, and [you] can use them in the waterline, and I love that this tool is inexpensive and high quality,” and it comes in many colors, he said. “Lay down a generous amount of product; it’s a good time to play around with that pencil.”
You can use an eye-shadow base—such as the NARS Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base or the MAC Cream Colour Base—but Oquendo suggests using white shadow pots. “I’ll use [a clean] finger or fluffy brush to apply, and then lay eye shadow on top.” It lends a more high-impact look, he said.
Oquendo, who thinks colored mascara is making a comeback, recommends Shiseido’s ControlledChaos, which comes in emerald, sapphire, black and purple. “You can also apply a black mascara first, then do a top coat – for instance, of cobalt blue. It will create a navy blue, making your eyes pop, but it’s more subtle.”
Finally, use a setting spray to keep it all in place; he likes Maybelline’s affordable option, but he also recommends the ones by Urban Decay and Cover FX.
If you are using longer-lasting and waterproof products for safety, as Nehls recommends, it might take a little longer to get used to applying them. Long-lasting products are historically harder to work with and blend, Oquendo said. But once you master them, “you’ll be glad you did,” he said, “because they will wear well.”
Jenna Birch is a freelance health journalist and author of “The Love Gap.” She wrote this story for The Washington Post.