Makeup Monday: Face Makeup, Getting Fancy

Welcome to Makeup Monday, my weekly series on makeup; academic and postacademic job market and productivity posts will continue on Tuesday and Friday as usual.  For the story of how the #MM series came to be, see Why Makeup,Why Now?

[Weekly Reminder: I’m not going to engage in discussion of why any academic should or should not wear makeup. I have no interest in that debate. If you feel strongly that makeup is a tool of the patriarchy, I hear you, and I understand where you’re coming from. However, I don’t agree with that as a blanket statement. I believe that makeup can be for some people a means of self-care and creative expression that is both empowering and pleasurable. I would request, for the purposes of this post series, that anyone who dislikes makeup, disapproves of makeup, or wants to argue that no academic woman should be judged on the basis of makeup (which nobody is claiming anyway), please, keep it to yourself. I will not engage with makeup-shaming here or on any Facebook or Twitter comment threads. I support your right to not wear makeup, and suggest you come back for my other posts on other topics.]

Last week I shared my basic go-to products for the face.

Today, as promised, I’ll share the the things that I consider a bit… fancy: highlighter, bronzer, and setting spray.

Although this post is only getting up at midnight Monday night, in fact I did my entire makeup routine first thing this morning, so eager was I to take a selfie and share my “fancy” finds with you. And when I sat down to my laptop and opened Professor Is In on Facebook I had a note from a reader: “I need some escape from the news to girly fun. Anxious for Makeup Monday!

Alas, as often happens, life intervened. But, 11:56 PM is technically still Monday!  Better late than never, here we go….

Highlighter, bronzer, and setting spray:  these products are, for me, 100% the result of having an 18 year old daughter who loves makeup.  I sincerely doubt I would have really embraced these trends, if Miyako hadn’t absolutely insisted that she be allowed to “contour” me at least once before she left for college. Being pretty skeptical, I bought a cheap contour kit at TJ Maxx (my go-to spot for noncommittal makeup purchases) and let her have at it. 

It was… interesting.

I mean, don’t forget, I was around the FIRST time contouring was in. And I was ambivalent about it in 1983 too.

I’m not sharing the name of the contour kit, because in the end, I didn’t use it again. We weren’t impressed with the quality.

But Miyako was SO EXCITED about the idea that I would join her in a life of contouring, that I let her talk me into going to Sephora and getting a FORTY DOLLAR Nars bronzer. I had a bad feeling about it….  and sure enough, once it was home and in actual use, I realized that it wasn’t even remotely a good shade for me — way too dark — and that Miyako’s cast-off Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer from an old Ipsy bag — a little lighter and pinker brown than the Nars — was not only a way better color match but also basically free. And smelled like hot chocolate to boot.

I was so annoyed.

I let Miyako take the Nars to college — the color is great on her half-Japanese skin (hmm… was this her goal from the start??*) and I used the Too Faced until another product came my way, once again from Ipsy, and I fell in love: The Balm Cosmetics Instain Long Wear Staining Powder Blush (in Pinstripe).  Because it’s a dark-rose/terracotta shade, it’s much better on my skin than any bronzer, and because it’s a cross between powder and stain, it STICKS. In other words, it’s not like a fluffy  powdery sparkly blush that floats all over; it’s kind of sticky and quite matte, which makes it ideal for contouring.

I have it on in the picture; what do you think?–>

Also in the picture: my highlighter, Laura Mercier Matte Radiance Baked Powder in Highlight-01. Oddly, I am not sure why I own this product; I think maybe it was part of a free gift of some kind-perhaps from Sephora?  Anyway, this Laura Mercier highlighter actually sat, unused and unloved, in my “drawer of rejected makeup” for a very long time, while I ran off to jump on  the highlighter bandwagon with It Cosmetics Hello Light Anti-Aging Luminizing Creme Stick. This highlighter stick is a nice product, which like my beloved Dr. Brandt primer from last week, does the current “glow” thing without obvious glitter.

But… even so… it is pretty shimmery.  It’s definitely a highlighter. As in, one morning, Miyako said: “your highlighter looks great!”  Which is nice, but not the look I’m going for. I don’t want people to look at my face and see HIGHLIGHTER. That’s just weird.

So, one day, rummaging through the drawer of rejected makeup as I’m wont to do, I happened upon the mystery Laura Mercier, and decided to give it a try.  And, truly, it is the highlighter of my dreams. Why, you ask?  Because it’s matte.  So it somehow (don’t ask me how) is both shiny and matte… simultaneously? What? How is that even possible?

I don’t know, but that’s basically what it is. So you get light, without shine. Or shine, without shimmer.  Or… I don’t know. It’s just good.

OK, so now I have on my foundation and blush, and a little contour, and a little highlighter, and after I do my eyes and lips (which I’ll be talking about in future posts), well then, I finish up with one of my newest happy additions to the routine: finishing spray.

Returning once again to my obsession with durability…  my makeup needs to last. It needs to last through 12+ hour travel/speaking days, and it needs to last through dance classes in mid-summer.

Over the course of many trips to Sephora and Ulta, it was naturally impossible to miss the hype over setting spray. My first response to it, like it is to many things makeup, was: “gah who needs THAT?”  And then, as I applied my Ph.D. analytical brain to the problem of getting makeup to stay on my face, one day it occurred to me: perhaps *I* need that!  I soon found an Urban Decay All-Nighter Setting Spray for a great price at Nordstrom Rack, so I thought–what the heck, and bought it.  As usual with everything Urban Decay on my skin, it did absolutely nothing. (I continue to be mystified about this makeup brand and the hype around it.)  But not one to give up easily, I decided to make another inexpensive foray. A quick search online revealed that NYX Setting Spray is widely beloved, so once again at Nordstrom Rack I found the Dewy Finish for about $7, bought it, and lo—it does EXACTLY what it says. It sets my makeup, holds it in place for hours and hours, and adds a really nice.. uh..dewy finish to my otherwise determinedly undewy middle-aged face. I really, really like it.

Although–make sure your makeup is well blended before you spray! If you don’t, you could look like this –>

So, there you have it: my take on “Face Makeup: Getting Fancy”! Or at least, that was my take. Until today’s Ipsy bag delivered up to me: It Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Pressed Anti-Aging Finishing Powder.

Of course my first thought upon seeing it was “gah, who needs THAT?”  So, I suppose you can expect to see a blog post about how I can’t live without it, sometime soon…


*Apparently not; she just texted me: “I haven’t used the Nars powder bronzer because I’ve switched to stick makeup entirely; foundation, contour and blush–all stick.”

Similar Posts:

Posted in Makeup permalink

About Karen Kelsky

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.


Makeup Monday: Face Makeup, Getting Fancy — 8 Comments

  1. Hi Karen–

    Thanks for this. Instead of setting spray, you may also want to give primer a try. I personally like Smashbox’s Photo Finish foundation primer (often on sale in trial-size at Nordstrom Rack).

    Looking forward to more posts!

  2. You are fantastic! So glad I just found your blog. I’m not crazy about contouring either. It doesn’t quite make sense for an average weekday, and I always, without fail, notice it on 90% of people’s faces when I see them in person.

    – Luxury Chronicles

  3. Can you explain contouring to this PhD brain? Like is it easy to do and where do you put the bronzer and what is the effect?

    After your last post I realized that we have similar make up desires so I purchased the foundation, sponge, and primer. Great suggestions! I’ve been a Laura Mercier highlighting moisturizer gal for a while, but happy to try some new products, as I’ve started wearing more make up. Looking forward to your eye post, as I’m always looking for suggestions.

  4. My understanding is that you generally want a matte contour in a taupe shade, not an orange-toned bronzer. The cooler tone is supposed to mimic a real shadow, which is usually more on the blue side. Your mileage my vary depending on skin tone. Full disclosure: I tried contouring once in an attempt to look older. I failed, despite keeping it subtle but applying enough to look a little more chiseled. People commented on how young they thought I was. I’d welcome any “How to look old enough for the job when your face doesn’t” hints.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.