Want boldly made-up eyes above your mask? Here’s how to get the look while staying safe

Jenna Birch

THE WASHINGTON POST – In the age of masks, make-up can be a nuisance. Sweat causes foundation to smudge and renders powder useless; lip colour rubs off on the fabric. The only part of the face that’s unaffected and can be seen is the eyes, which is why bright and bold eye looks are trending among influencers and on social media.

Make-up artist Vincent Oquendo noticed the bold-eye-with-mask trend and is “very much here for” playing up the eyes. “I feel like people are excited to express themselves any way they can, because we’ve been locked up in quarantine for so long,” he said. “Not being able to wear lipstick, I think people are more adventurous with their eye make-up looks. I’ve been seeing a lot of really great coloured mascaras, even some really cool glitter looks.”

But arresting eye make-up requires you to use possibly germy fingers or brushes to apply it. And flaking eye shadow or mascara could get into your eyes, prompting you to touch them. We talked to medical experts about safety strategies to observe and to a make-up artist about how to make the most of make-up, if you do use it. “Of course, if you can avoid wearing make-up during this time, even better,” said dermatologist with Keck Medicine of USC Nada Elbuluk.


“With the coronavirus, but also just in general with bacteria and viruses, we catch them through the portals into our body: the mucosal sites, which absorb germs more readily,” Elbuluk said. The eyes, nose and mouth are mucosal sites vulnerable to viruses.

In addition to possibly contracting the virus from contaminated fingers or brushes, a make-up user also risks exposure to the coronavirus from the products themselves, especially if those products are shared with others or are used outside of the home, ophthalmologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison Sarah M Nehls said. “The make-up could be potentially contaminated,” she said. “The coronavirus has been found on the ocular surface. This is why conjunctivitis can be an initial symptom of infection.”

The most important tip for applying make-up is to wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face to apply it, Elbuluk said. Make sure to honour make-up expiration dates, so your cosmetics are not harbouring bacteria. And wash your brushes on a regular basis. “If you’re dealing with sponges, the disposable ones are even better,” she said, and they should be housed in a clean canister.

Soap and water works for cleaning brushes, but you can also use a special brush cleaner that dries quickly, especially if you do not have access to a sink. “Spray the brush, then use a paper towel to work through,” said Oquendo, who favours the cleaners by Parian Spirit and Cinema Secrets.

As for the rest of your make-up wardrobe – eye pencils, mascara tubes, eyelash curlers and beyond – Elbuluk said these items in your rotation should be cleansed, too. “Reusable make-up items should be cleaned with a gentle soap and water on a regular basis, at least weekly,” she said.

Apply make-up just once, in the morning before you leave your house, rather than doing so in public restrooms or in other places where people will be touching surfaces, Elbuluk said. “Look for products that are longer-lasting and waterproof, so you don’t touch your face to fix the make-up,” Nehls said.

When you take your make-up off, wash your hands thoroughly again, and then use a wipe or make-up remover.


Playing up the eyes is all about prep, according to Oquendo. “A lot of people forget the fundamentals of make-up,” Oquendo said. Creating a foundation with the right tools and creams before applying any make-up is paramount, he said.

“One of my favourite prep products is Lumify Redness Reliever eye drops,” he said, noting that they should not be used with contacts in the eye. “This helps to brighten the eyes and works in one minute.” Many of his clients who travel a lot and who take red-eye flights use the drops, he said.

To rejuvenate tired skin around the eyes, Oquendo recommends the Georgia Louise Cryo Freeze Tools or the Klorane Smoothing and Relaxing Patches. After using them, apply eye cream. (He favours the one by Dr Barbara Sturm.)

Another prep tool is an eyelash curler, which can widen the look of the eyes. However, if you choose a tool of poor quality, you can break off your lashes; Oquendo prefers “tried-and-true options”, such as the Shiseido and Tweezerman eyelash curlers.

Then, lay down the basics for your eye make-up. “I start with a pencil, either kohl or kajal,” Oquendo said, recommending Maybelline TattooStudio in a shade of brown, such as walnut. “Pencils are a little easier to control, and you can use them in the waterline, and I love that this tool is inexpensive and high quality,” and it comes in many colours, he said. “Lay down a generous amount of product; it’s a good time to play around with that pencil.”

You can use an eye-shadow base – such as the NARS Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base or the MAC Cream Colour Base – but Oquendo suggests using white shadow pots. “I’ll use a clean finger or fluffy brush to apply, and then lay eye shadow on top.” It lends a more high-impact look, he said.

Oquendo, who thinks coloured mascara is making a comeback, recommends Shiseido’s ControlledChaos, which comes in emerald, sapphire, black and purple. “You can also apply a black mascara first, then do a top coat – for instance, of cobalt blue. It will create a navy blue, making your eyes pop, but it’s more subtle.”

Finally, use a setting spray to keep it in place; he likes Maybelline’s affordable option, but he also recommends the ones by Urban Decay and Cover FX.

If you are using longer-lasting and waterproof products for safety, as Nehls recommends, it might take a little longer to get used to applying them. Long-lasting products are historically harder to work with and blend, Oquendo said. But once you master them, “you’ll be glad you did,” he said, “because they will wear well.”