Makeup Basics Part One — Skincare

I recently received this email:

Being a guy I don’t usually wear makeup, but on occasion when going out I’ll throw some mascara on and maybe some nail polish. I like to be exuberant at times and was thinking of getting some eye shadow too. But in honesty I know next to nothing about the basics of makeup. Can you enlighten me?

Dear Soon-To-Be-Enlightened,

This is a pretty big topic, so I’ve broken it down into a few segments to make it easier to read & digest. This first section is on SKINCARE.

Just because you’re a man, your routine needn’t be any different from a woman’s, though I was once told about a marketing executive who made a mint by re-branding an exfoliating scrub as a “scruffing lotion” for men. Geez.

I heard a rumour a little while ago that Dave Navarro (of Jane’s Addiction & Red Hot Chilli Peppers fame) was bringing out a men’s cosmetic line, but according to his blog, it’s rubbish. A shame really, as the man surely knows his way around an eye pencil. Yes, sometimes he looks a bit like an evil magician, but he pulls it off. Rest assured, he’s not the only one dabbing on the old war-paint!! Apparently U.S. sales of men’s skincare products rose 13 percent in 2004, to $59 million (from here). Another man who wears make-up with finesse is David Bowie… but don’t tell Michael Douglas. (Shame he’s so judgmental, he was hot the year I was born.)

Now, please listen, as this is crucial: Applying make-up is like painting a canvas — you have to prepare the surface you’re working on! If you don’t do this, it doesn’t matter how dexterous you are or how many brushes you own, it will still look bad.

Click below for an iCiNG exclusive video on skincare — I go through my skincare routine & explain how it works, & I’m followed up by Si├ón of Lush Cosmetics talking about some products for men. (If you’re reading this in an RSS reader, you will need to come through to my website to see the video!)

Here are the key points to remember:

Assess your skin type. If you’re not sure, you can use the following chart. The amount of ticks you get in each row indicates how likely it is that you are that skin type.

Once you know your skin type, you can go on a crusade to find the best products for your face. One thing I learned from managing a Lush Cosmetics store for so long is that when you ask most people what their skin type is, they will reply “sensitive”. About 8/10 people do this. The fact is, your skin actually isn’t that sensitive — it’s just that most skincare products are saturated with alcohol & chemicals! No wonder you’re in pain, red & blotchy or exploding like fireworks!

A basic skincare routine consists of a cleanser, a toner & a moisturiser. Depending on your needs, you might want to spring for a neck cream & an eye cream too. An eye cream is important because the skin around your eyes is far more delicate than anywhere else on your body, & once you start to get wrinkles there, reversing them is a lot of work. A neck cream is a good idea primarily because it is one of the first places to show age, along with the back of your hands — neck cream & sunscreen on your hands are your best defence.

The cleanser’s purpose is to clean your face. You can use something gentle, or you can choose something with a bit of scrub in it. Some people alternate between both. I use Angels On Bare Skin by Lush — it gives me a gentle scrub which I use every day. The “scrubbiness” in Angels On Bare Skin comes from the ground almond they use. It’s a beautiful product, I have never met anyone who didn’t love it. It’s also good for all skin types. The best thing about it is the large amount of lavender oil used — lavender is a fantastic oil for the face as it helps to balance sebum production, meaning that if you’re too oily, it’ll dry you out a bit, & conversely, if you’re a bit dry it will give you the oil you need.

Toning is the second step in the process. It’ll remove any last traces of cleanser, get rid of excess oil & typically soften your face a bit in preparation for moisturiser. I never used to use it, but I find that my face feels much smoother & cleaner when I do.

Moisturiser is probably the most important part of your skincare routine. One common misconception is that people with oily skin shouldn’t use moisturiser — this is complete hogwash. Everyone needs a certain level of moisture for their skin to function at its best, including those of us with oily skin. Some people use a different moisturiser at night, but this is optional & something to think about later. You should avoid putting moisturiser around your eyes, as the skin there is much more delicate than anywhere else.

A lot of people don’t understand this part, especially men: Using soap on your face is not acceptable, unless it is made specifically for that purpose! Body soap is typically made of quite harsh ingredients & after a few years, it will show! Put the soap down or I will come bursting into your bathroom in a rage!

Your best weapon in terms of divining a routine is to consult with knowledgeable salespeople. You can go to a department store & tour around the counters, or you could try The Body Shop, L’Occitane, Origins or Lush. I am a huge Lush advocate because when I worked there, I really saw the products work miracles on people… but it is entirely up to you. For men, there are some companies which do specific men’s ranges like Nivea, Clinique, etc. Walk around the counters, talk to the staff, get their opinion. Be prepared to spend some time asking questions & listening to what they have to say. If you can, take as many samples as they offer. Otherwise you could arrive home with hundreds of dollars worth of product that is completely wrong for you.

When you start using products on your skin, observe how your skin behaves for three weeks. Sometimes what you’re using just doesn’t agree with you, & it can take up to three weeks for it to show. I received some make-up remover from Napoleon Perdis for Christmas, & was happily using it for a couple of weeks, when all of a sudden, my skin threw a tantrum. Given the make-up remover was the only new thing in my routine, & there had been no changes in my diet or stress level, I had to stop using it. It’s a shame, because I liked it.

I hope this was helpful! Coming soon are parts two & three of this series — make-up application & choosing colours that suit your skintone. Stay tuned!