I was doing my makeup and casually taking some photos of the process for my personal reference. But as I was browsing through them on the computer, they inspired me to turn them into something for the blog. It’s something a bit different, maybe a bit personal even, that I felt like sharing.
I fully admit my skin is far from perfect. In fact, it’s very problematic – I’ve been suffering with face and body acne, and extremely oily skin since I was 10. Yes, suffering, because at 28, that means I’ve been dealing with it for 18 years. Apart from the fact that it often literally hurts, it also gets frustrating when you can’t fix it with a simple cream, and when all your peers have long outgrown that stage (or never been affected in the first place).
I know many people have a hard time believing me when I mention it, because it rarely shows when I’m out and about – but that’s the power of makeup. For those of us who have not been blessed with perfect genes (more like cursed with the bad ones), we can still fake it.
Sharing your bare face online when there’s all this negative critique isn’t easy, but I thought it was important to do so anyway. Many other bloggers and instagrammers have began doing more before and afters, and I always find them quite fascinating. We always seem to think everyone else has it better off than us and that they’re just naturally perfect because we rarely see them without makeup; with skin, it’s something especially personal because it’s the first thing we notice and if it’s not beautiful, we can quickly start feeling our confidence drop or even disappear. I’ve been like that for years, and I still can’t fully get rid of the mindset; I guess that’s both a negative and a positive thing, though. Negative because it brings unnecessary shame about something I have little control over, but positive because I haven’t given up and I keep searching for new techniques and products that can help me.
I’m not “confident” showing off my acne, but over the years I’ve been consciously trying to not let it affect me how I feel about myself. Especially now that I know the reason behind it. For the longest time, doctors refused to take me seriously (“oh it’s just a few pimples, have you tried Vichy?”), but recently I got an explanation for my neverending problems. I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS.
I’m sure many have heard about the condition, but it basically means my hormone levels aren’t as they should be, causing inflammation that leads to oily skin and acne. That’s why all the potions my doctor lazily prescribed never helped much. There are other symptoms that come with it as well, but I’m not going to go into too much detail as it’s not relevant for today’s topic. I’m only mentioning my diagnosis because I often find people think acne can be easily solved with a proper skincare regime (it can help to a degree by healing them quicker, but never completely eliminates them because it’s hormonal).
Again, I was inspired to do this post because my makeup turned out really nice today, and I’ve had a very bad skin month so I think the difference is very visible. I didn’t just focus on skin, even though that’s the main point here, I applied a full face of makeup to show how it can transorm both my external appearance and my mental state.
The camera does hide some issues, but this is what my skin looks like without any makeup. I have lots of hyperpigmentation from years of damage that’s made my face look a shade darker (foundation can be so tricky to find because of this!), there’s a fair amount of redness, my pores are huge with plenty of tiny pitted scars, and there’s not a single place on my face that I could righfully call “clear”. Some days it gets better, some days it gets worse.
Here I applied my eye makeup and eyebrows first (the latter are a whole other issue and will get a blog post of their own one day) and did my skin last to avoid messing it up. My foundation of choice for years when I need higher coverage has been the Clarins Everlasting Foundation in the colour 103 Ivory. It’s the best match I’ve found for my skin tone in terms of shade, it’s one of the lightest ones in our drugstores and surprisingly neutral. I would prefer it to be slightly more yellow, but as long as it’s not pink, I’m glad I at least have something and I just add the yellowness later on with powder.
It’s a medium to full coverage foundation, not too thick but well pigmented and blendable, and as you can see it covers a lot on its own. There are still some spots peeking through, mainly on my neck which is harder to see when working. For application, I first use a brush (either the Zoeva 122 Petit Stippling or the Etude House Secret Brush 121 Skin) and then bounce a wet sponge over to get rid of any potential cakeyness. After that, I take a tissue and blot away any excess moisture of the foundation that might cause issues later on. It mattifies the skin slightly and prepares it for powder.
I didn’t use any concealers here yet, and I also haven’t applied any powder or blush.
Following liquid foundation, I use the technique of pinpoint concealing to hide individual blemishes. I take a small pointy brush like the Bdellium Tools 760 for tiny pimples, or a slightly larger MAC 219 for bigger ones, and carefully dot the concealer on them. The best technique I learned from Lisa Eldridge years ago – you don’t need to drown your whole face in layers upon layers of foundation, instead use one well blended layer and address the reimaining blemishes with a high coverage concealer. I use either the Vichy Dermablend or ArtDeco Camouflage Cream or Catrice Camouflage Cream.
Then I apply a generous amount of loose powder using a powder puff. Powder puffs work a lot better for me than brushes because I can load a lot of product on them and really press them into the skin with a firm hand. Lightly dusting something all over doesn’t do a thing for me, it just can’t last because my skin is so oily, it needs a lot for the liquid foundation to really set properly and stay on for more than an hour. It’s almost like the current trend of baking, but I do it on my entire face. It looks very matte, but with all the oils quickly coming in it doesn’t look flat on me, just velvety. As much as I love glowy skin on others, I take away as much shine as possible because it helps so much in disguising my large pores. My most used powders are the ELF High Definition Powder and the ELF Mineral Booster, both yellow coloured. As previously mentioned, I have a lot of redness, and yellow counteracts it perfectly without making me look ashy like a green powder/concealer would.
Finally, I define my face with a dark contour and some blush. At this point, some of the concealer might come off of the angrier blemishes as you’re brushing the skin, so I go back in with the tiniest bit more concealer and pat it over the blush – keeping in mind not to try and cover it completely, it can still stay a bit red to blend with the blush better!
Lipstick is something that also helps a lot in taking the focus away from skin, so I almost always wear it. I go for neutral or brownish reds most times because they don’t accentuate other red areas of the face like a brighter, more orange or purple toned ones might.
For real life and daily makeup, the above is enough. But when you put something on the internet, you want it to look its best – especially if that includes your face. While I don’t Photoshop my looks too extensively (I do it to some degree; a photo is just not real life and colours tend to look different in 2D, so at least fixing the curves is a must), knowing good natural lighting and camera angles helps a lot when it comes to photography. I don’t own any professional lighting yet so I use the sunlight coming from my windows. I never stand in direct light, that accentuates pretty much every imperfection I have; instead, I look for a place in my room that’s somewhere in the middle of the lightest corner and the darkest. Having a white wall nearby helps bounce the light better. It takes some trial and error, but with the right light, my skin looks softer and healthier.
But the most important role, as I tried to show in this post, is still that of the foundation application. You want a good base before stepping in front of the camera so you don’t have to fiddle with editing too much later on, it can quickly look fake and overdone.
I follow the same technique shown above, the only difference is I apply two layers of liquid foundation (sometimes three) instead of one like I did here, and I put on a layer of compact powder after the loose to set everything even further. I can get away with that because for the camera, more is more. In real life, that would be too heavy for me and I’d rather have a blemish peek through than have that much piled on as I find it uncomfortable and too obvious. Settling for middle ground works best for me.
A few quick words. I’ve been a bit down because of my skin lately, but as mentioned before, I try to reason with myself that it’s not something that defines me. I can go out with no makeup on, it’s not the easiest, but sometimes I really don’t care which is a good thing and shows I’ve come quite far. I don’t apologize for the state of my face to people, that’s something that annoys me so much when others do it, especially if it’s the first thing they do when you meet. There’s nothing to apologize for, you didn’t have acne on purpose to offend my eyes. I don’t really want people to tell me I look “beautiful even without makeup” like I often see in the instagram comments when someone else posts a bare skin photo. I think beauty is something else entirely, and using it to describe acne just doesn’t seem right to me. Acne will never be “beautiful”, but that also doesn’t mean I automatically have to feel ugly. I’m just trying to be “fine” with it. This Summer, it miraculously disappeared for a little over a month, and I can’t believe how free I felt. That’s never happened before. I still didn’t feel “beautiful”, but I was comfortable in my skin and that’s what means the most to me. I was on a wholegrain, sugarfree diet for other health related reasons, so unless it was a very strange coincidence, it must have helped with balancing the hormones. I’m trying to get back to that healthy eating plan, but it’s not as easy as it sounds when you’re a picky emotional eater and obsessed with chocolate (and you start eating that chocolate when you’re down because of your skin). I’ll also be going to the doctor’s to help me find a way to keep this at bay. The fact that I’m trying to accept myself doesn’t mean I’ll stop looking for a solution. It just means I’ll be fine if I don’t find one.
Thank you for reading! 😊