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Clean Chic: The Art Of Doing Less In An Age Of Doing More

If you have ¾ hour to spend filling your brows then forget reading this and spill your time-bending secrets. For everyone else, there is a natural movement afoot.


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Beauty is a bona fide time thief. A wholly enjoyable, coquettish little imp of a thief admittedly, but one that adds pressure nonetheless. But if we're being optimistic, lockdown has given us some time to hone and perfect it, but there'll be no 4.45 alarms in order to crack the new 'contouring' or 'baking'. 

Because unlike fashion, which delights in feigned insouciance (‘Oh this old thing? I just threw it on), in the world of beauty and makeup application, even a simple fold of skin gets its own air time; The Cut Crease, infiltrator of your feed, stealer of your time.

So to this we say ‘mo makeup, mo problems’. In fact, anything with an ‘Insta’ prefix is already about 7 steps too many. So here’s to the art of cutting down, paring back and ultimately doing less in this crazed age of doing more.

“It feels as though there are two contrasting worlds at the moment; the no makeup makeup vs the Instagram universe, but most people live in the real world.” says MAC Cosmetic’s Director Of makeup Artistry Terry Barber. “To me, makeup that has an ease to it and looks as though it could have been done in real time feels very ‘now’. Anything more and you’re veering into TV Presenter territory, especially in natural daylight.”

According to Barber this doesn’t mean that you can’t go glam, it just needs to have a certain ‘breeziness’ to it. “Eyes and lips have had a bad rap but I love a smudged, smoky eyeliner with a strong red lip as long as there’s no definition in the brows and very little skin. It’s about balancing the makeup in different ways and having the expertise to make it effortless.” The aim, according to Barber, is to look like you’re doing it for yourself and not for the grid.


“The idea of ‘realness’ is a big thing in beauty,” says Barber. “It’s that glowy, natural skin and a freckly nose based on the outdoors rather than a flawless face.” The opposite directive of beauty of yore where pores were carefully powdered and lady-of-the-manor complexions were made to look like they’d never been defiled by the outside world. But now the wellness sphere has seeped into everything from our social lives to our sex lives so it’s not surprising it’s infiltrated our makeup bags too. “The new effortless is connected to health and wellbeing,” agrees Barber. “I love that blusher has come back in a big way but as post-gym flush rather than colour for the sake of colour.” According to Barber it’s all about ensuring that your look is grounded in reality.


skin is in

Was it Confucius who said “Get your skin right and the rest will follow”? No? Ok, well we’ve called it anyway but the point is, once you have a great canvas, it frees up time to be a little more creative. “These days great skin is more about clever concealing,” explains Barber. “It’s about knowing how to correct those bits that give the overall impression of naturally amazing skin with a glisten on the cheekbone and a few secret serums or an amazing lip balm thrown in.” As with many of the makeup artist greats, Barber’s weapon of choice is a selection of teeny brushes that he uses to spot-conceal because “no one outside of the fashion world wants to look ‘raw’.” Then you can just leave the rest of your skin the f*** alone. “Foundation all over just doesn’t feel right anymore, it takes over a beauty.” Expertise is key apparently. “I love a bronzer for example but not necessarily the ones that make you look tanned. It’s about picking the right tone – usually a taupey grey or one with a hint of mauve to it – and using it to pull the face together or disguise concealer under the eyes rather than sweeping it over the whole face.”

le tweak, c'est chic

Modern makeup is about tweakments; those little tricks that you just know will instantly make you look…well, better. It’s the brushing up of brows and the curling of lashes; the baby botox in a world of veiny, frozen foreheads if you will.

“I’m finding that people want a brow that opens up their face – one where you see the spaces between the hairs rather than that very filled in, shaped brow that looks like a drawing,” says Barber. But don’t be fooled; this approach may have an ‘ease’ to it but it’s no less arty; “Brushing up brows is an art-form in itself,” explains Barber. “For the inner section of the brow you might push the hairs the wrong way to add strength, the middle section might be swept over in more of an arc whilst brushing the ends straight up opens up the face.” And the same principal applies to lipstick; “Everyone has a lip shape they need to discover,” says Barber. “The current lip-fillered look where everything is all a bit too round and plump feels old. Instead it might be about pushing the cupids bow up towards the nose whilst keeping the sides straighter for a Kate Moss-inspired upper lip.”

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