It is a truth universally acknowledged: breakups are the worst.
They manage to combine all the most awful things in life into one horrible event: hurting people, crying, feeling totally alone in a dark pit of despair, not getting your stuff back.
Right now, I’m dealing with major breakup aftermath. Even though it was the right thing to do, I still feel like I’ve been beaten with an emotional tire iron. And my daily look is best described as “something that’s been dredged up from the drain.”
While it’s natural to mourn the end of a relationship, I’ve been looking pretty horrible, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t care. Because I do care! I want to look good, even as I’m ordering pizza for the third night in a row and crying at my dog!
So let’s talk about breakup beauty, and how to look your best while you feel your absolute worst.
They tell me that crying is a normal, healthy way to get rid of sad feelings. That's great, but why can’t there be a way to do that that doesn’t make your eyes bright red and swollen in the process? Ugh.
I’m a super-ugly crier, so my entire face puffs up and gets red the second I have an emotion. Plus, my under-eye skin gets incredibly irritated from wiping away tears. It actually peels and cracks sometimes.
So instead of de-swelling creams, which can cause broken skin to scab, I keep my eye puffiness under control with a couple of gel packs thrown in the freezer to get cold, then wrapped in a scarf or washcloth and draped across my eyes for about fifteen minutes.
A couple drops of Visine in my eyeballs helps reduce the redness from crying and not sleeping enough. If you’re a contact lens wearer, you’re probably going to want to switch to glasses, because crying with contacts in is AWFUL.
This is gross to admit, but when I get stressed I pick at my face. There is no blemish too small to escape my sterilised clutches. I really get into it. After an hour in my bathroom I look like something from American Horror Story.
Obviously this is REALLY BAD. Scraping and picking at my face only provides momentary relief from bad feelings, and isn’t worth the long-term damage. I should be focusing on making my skin look it’s best, not torturing it out of despair.
Part of that is using what I called “the green stuff” when I was younger: Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque.
It’s fantastic. I blob it on pretty thick and oh man, it is SO SOOTHING. The smell of it is as psychologically calming as it’s possible for something that comes in a tub to be.
When I rinse it off, my skin feels brand new: clean, soft and fresh. It takes away the redness from my skin and helps dry up and heal any spots.
It’s cliche because it happens: You’re in the midst of a breakup and suddenly you get the overwhelming urge to change your hair. Bangs, you think. No, a pixie cut. No, bright red. No, a perm. Suddenly, you’re buying hair dye online and wondering where your fabric scissors are.
STOP. Sometimes I think going through a breakup is like being really drunk--you have a lot of feelings, you don’t make the best decisions, and you shouldn’t operate heavy machinery. Scissors, permanent dye, DIY perms--these are all heavy machinery.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t shake up your look, just don’t do it YOURSELF while you’re under the influence.
I went to the other extreme and didn’t wash my hair for a week. To avoid dealing with it, I’ve been wearing it like this:
Rather than continuing to ignore it or making a bad home haircut decision, I impulse-bought Organix Renewing Morroccan Argan Oil Intense Moisturizing Treatment. I can’t tell you the last time I did something nice for my hair, which might be why it’s always so annoying.
I glopped the treatment on (after finally washing my hair), threw it under a showercap and sat in a very hot bath for half an hour, pondering my life and feelings.
Obviously, I didn’t take these pictures as life was happening; I used the treatment in the morning and took these pictures in the afternoon. And guys, it was a minor miracle.
This is after blow-drying my hair with a round brush. That’s it. No straighteners or curling irons, no shine creams--nothing.
Not only is it not frizzing all over the place, but it feels soft and manageable. Those are things I can almost NEVER say about my hair. Amazing! And so much better than grief-shaving half my head.
I am not going to tell you that the most important thing during a traumatic life event is what you look like. Priority number one should always be taking care of yourself emotionally. Deal with those feelings, yo!
But for me, and I think for many people, looking good is a big part of feeling good. Makeup isn’t magic; it can’t stop you from feeling sad or heal a broken heart. But there’s something to be said for putting on a great lipstick and knowing that you look like a million bucks.
Makeup also helps avoid having the awkward “Are you OK? You look AWFUL,” conversation a million times a day. I’d rather not get into why my relationship failed when I’m running to Starbucks, you know? And one can’t wear sunglasses ALL the time.
Plus, you’re statistically more likely to run into your ex when you’re all red-eyed and awful looking. So let’s give ourselves the illusion of control with some basic “get a grip, girl” makeup.
For skin, Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream. I don’t know if BB creams are as magical as they say, but I really like this one. It gives more coverage than a tinted moisturiser, is lighter than foundation, looks really natural in both real life AND in pictures, and has SPF. What’s not to love?
I put the BB cream all over my cleansed and moisturised face, concentrating especially on areas that are red or blotchy. Go easy on dry patches (they happen around my nose when I’ve been crying), because trying too hard to cover a peely spot often looks worse than the actual peely spot itself.
Finish up with a little bit of powder to set everything. Use a brush to keep it light.
A little bit of colour on your cheeks goes a long way towards making you look well-rested and happy, which is why blush is freaking MAGICAL. Pick a shade that suits you--I’m using MAC Powder Blush in Pink Swoon--and dust a little bit on the apples of your cheeks. (Those are the chubby bits when you smile.)
If your eyes are super-sore, skip wearing contacts. Trying to put those suckers in when your eyes are in agony is TORTURE, and you want to feel better, not worse.
In my experience, the key to eye makeup that covers a multitude of sins is to keep it very simple. Pick an eyeshadow that is about one shade lighter than your skin--I used MAC Eye Shadow in Shroom, because I’m pale--and lightly dust it all over your eye up to your brow.
Then, take a shimmery white or champagne shadow like Stila Eye Shadow in Kitten and apply it at the inner corner of your eye (this will hide more lurking undereye darkness) and right under the arch of your eyebrow.
Curl your lashes to make your eyes look big and shiny and apply a couple coats of waterproof mascara like MAC Splashproof Lash. If your eyelids are sore or you’re feeling fragile, skip the liner. Nobody wants to spend ages on fabulous winged liner only to cry or rub it off.
The best trick for making red eyes look less red is a little bit of white eyeliner along the lower waterline. I’m not the first person to advocate this, but hey, it works. Use a soft pencil, like MAC Eye Kohl in Fascinating, so you don’t have to press hard.
Filled-in brows always make you look put together. A slanted brush and a matte eyeshadow are all you need--it looks less harsh than gel or pencil.
Use little strokes in the direction your brow hairs grow, follow the natural curve, and voila! Better than natural brows.
Skip mascara on the lower lashes. Even if it’s waterproof, it’s liable to rub off, and trying to scour off blotches of product is skin irritation you don’t need.
Because I have really light eyelashes, I don’t like going without mascara--so I’ve used a soft grey eyeliner, MAC Technakohl Liner in Greyprint, to give my eyes some definition instead.
For lips, there’s really only one thing you can do here: pick a colour that makes you happy. Maybe that’s a bright, a neutral, maybe it’s straight-up Chapstick--whatever, as long as it makes you feel good.
And that’s it! Face the world knowing that you look your best while time is healing your wounds, and remind yourself that you won’t feel horrible forever. Which is true, even though it’s so hard to believe when you’re in the middle of it.
Do you guys have any reassuring break up tips or advice for me? Is your breakup style “thing that’s been dredged up from the drain” or more “thing that lives under a rock in the woods”? How do you get through it? How many times in a week is too many to eat pizza? Asking for a friend.