I learned some startling truths the day I got a full makeup trial at City Centre mall in downtown Edmonton, in preparation for my wedding this December.
First: My skin is f*cked. “Do you have rosacea or something?” the makeup artist un-sweetly blurted out. Admittedly, I do have red undertones and my face is still adjusting to the bone-dry Alberta air, but a chronic skin condition isn’t to blame. “I just moved here from Toronto,” I said, neglecting to mention that my beauty regimen consists of the cheapest cleanser and moisturizer I can find.
Second: I’m aging. With the right Insta filter, I don’t look a day over 26 (I’m 30). But after the makeup artist spackled on an opaque coat of foundation, I suddenly noticed bags under my eyes and lines—running from my nose down to the corners of my lips—that could rival those of a ventriloquist’s dummy.
Instead of looking like a radiant Cara Delevingne (if she were to wed at, say, the Tate Modern), I resembled Nuptial Barbie. What part of my look—the short undercut, Zanerobe hammer pants or camo jacket—told this woman I might appreciate navy blue lids, candy pink lips and kabuki-like foundation? But this sort of #weddingmakeupfail can happen to anyone, anywhere.
In need of major S.O.S, I called in the pros. After much questioning, consultations and a whole lot of trial runs, I’m laying down the new wedding makeup commandments for the badass bride.
Forget That “Airbrushed” Effect
The caked-on look that can make brides unrecognizable to their friends—and in the worst cases, to themselves—frightens me, but since my tendency toward redness gets worse when I’m nervous, my everyday tinted moisturizer just won’t cut it. I surrender to liquid foundation (albeit a lightweight version) and ask Gordon Espinet, senior vice president of makeup artistry at M.A.C Cosmetics, for his best trick to avoid looking fake-faced. His answer is simple, but genius: “After brushing on foundation, use a dense sponge to remove the excess and embed the rest into your skin.” This blends away brush marks and sheers out the coverage, and sopping off the extra makeup means there’s nothing left to settle into my fine lines (so there’s no chance of a puppet show at the altar).
Avoid the Real Housewives Tan
If there’s one thing naturally pale brides have in common in the lead-up to their weddings, it’s the desire to bronze themselves—either by spray tan, sunbed or the original UV. While I wouldn’t risk a blotchy sunburn or that nasty fake-tanner smell, I’m worried about looking too pasty for my winter wedding.
“The modern look could be less tanned skin and more of a romantic rouge on the cheek,” says makeup legend Laura Mercier. “To help it stay on longer, do a cream cheek first and then set it with matching powder blush on top.” My face is already red (remember?) so I’m wary of applying too much colour, especially given all the blushing and champagne-swilling that will occur on the big day. But with my newly perfected complexion, a rosy cream blush adds just the right flush to make me look fresh in photos.
Turn Up Your Brows
Immaculately tweezed is more traditional, but I love a big, bold brow à la Lily Collins. The man-repelling trend might not be timeless, though. Veronica Chu, international makeup artist and CoverGirl spokesperson, recommends brushing brow hairs upward for a dialed-down—but still statement-making—alternative.
I test the waters with a brow gel from Stila which comes with a two-sided wand: one side for applying the creamy tint and one for fanning out arches to achieve the desired shape. The light caramel colour is now part of my everyday rotation, but I’ll go a shade darker on my wedding day for emphasis.
A semi-smoky eye is the go-to look for just about all modern brides. “In my lifetime of doing brides, 90 per cent want that,” says Chu. I want to add colour to my lids, but not so much that I feel like a clown.
“Dirty colours are coming back,” declares Mercier. “Colours that are muted with grey or another neutral like caramel—so they’re not bold and punchy,” she says. If you don’t have a palette of toned-down hues handy, Mercier recommends dusting a taupe shadow overtop any pastel shade. I give it a try, turning a sweet lilac shadow into a not-so-cloying mauve, which makes my green eyes pop.
Lash Out (Tastefully) Large
I’m wary of false lashes—dark, Kardashian-like doll eyes are too Japanimé for my taste—but I can’t deny the impact a fuller fringe makes in photos. I pick a subtle pair that doesn’t resemble spider legs and give them a whirl at my engagement party; they look and feel so natural that I totally forget about them until they’re half-sticking into my eyes the next morning.
Light pink or peach lips are key to the soft, pretty look most brides want. But that’s not my jam. For the big day, even makeup minimalists need to amp it up, advises Chu.
“It shouldn’t be too neutral because in pictures, it’ll almost look like you have no lip,” she says. Taking this advice super-seriously—and with fall’s runway-driven dark lip trend in mind—I’m thinking a deep berry stain will make the right statement (and pair nicely with my mauve eyeshadow). Make Up For Ever’s Aqua Rouge Lip Colour in #13 Purple stays put on my lips no problem; the line also includes a bright orange shade that I’ll save for my bachelorette party. The best part? It won’t rub off on my groom-to-be.
Ditch the French
“Anything overly artful gets dated really fast,” says Chu about wedding manicures. But I’m not keen on the ubiquitous (and overdone) French mani, so Chu recommends architectural lines versus soft curves, like a half-moon with a graphic black square. Simple nude nails are also trending for weddings, she says.
I try a few different looks with straight lines and neutral colours: completely nude feels blah, while black-and-white gives me mime vibes. I decide on a black-and-nude version of Chu’s modern half-moon.
What I Learned
I probably shouldn’t torture my mother by wearing Day-Glo purple lips à la Rihanna, but I don’t have to look like an ad for David’s Bridal, either. I’m thinking happy medium: I’ll play up my brows and cheeks, dust on mauve eyeshadow and apply a dark lip stain for a dramatic holiday pout. Less Barbie, more badass; steeze over tradition; and most importantly, 100 per cent me.