I worked on a TV show and one day I went to talk to our talented makeup artist, Kari, a feisty Northern Londoner who loved to use the C-word.
”Were you up all night drinking and crying?” she asked me. I wasn’t, but as I looked into her large mirror encased in blinding truth lights, I saw what she was seeing: puffy eyes, dark circles, a sallow complexion, and drained-looking skin.
“It’s the first day of my period,” I told her. She nodded, sat me down, and proceeded to transform me into a non-zombie human with BB cream, concealer, an air-brush foundation gizmo and brightening cream. Within five minutes, I went from haggard to pretty.
I felt like a brand new woman and later that day, I got my dream job, dream boyfriend and dream wardrobe. Those last three are lies, but my skin looked so flawless.
Whatever is going on inside my body tends to advertise itself on my face. I get a face rash from allergies, a puffy face if I consume too much alcohol or salt, and bags under my eyes if I don't sleep enough, or drink enough water, or if the cosmos aren’t aligned just so.
But nothing is worse than period face.
I’ve developed tactics to deal with it thanks to trail and error, makeup artist friends, and my natural proclivity toward witchy natural skin remedies.
Sudden changes in temperature aren’t reserved for menopausal women. When I have my period, I’m either too hot or too cold. All the time. And when I’m too hot, I get sweaty. And when I get sweaty, it happens on my forehead and above my upper lip. There’s no rosy-cheeked glow going on here--it’s straight up hatless farmer sweat.
It especially sucks if you’re wearing foundation because it’s all, “I’m melting!” and then it runs down your face, disappears, and leaves you feeling disgusting.
A few weeks ago, Marci and I were at the Artists & Fleas market in Williamsburg. It's a warehouse-type space with a lot of eclectic merchants selling their wares, a TON of people browsing, aaaaand no air conditioning. Within a couple minutes, our sweat glands began to stage a revolt against the sweltering room.
Then, like the porcelain Victorian beauty she is, Marci produces a fan from her purse and begins waving it in her face all classy like. It was brilliant. It dawned on me that fans are the graceful solution to my menses sweats. Those neon, motorized mini fans aren't as classy, but they work, too. (Marci also spotted Lenny Kravtiz that day, so she's my hero forever.)
Face mists feel SO GOOD to use during that delicate time right before and during your period. Annie’s rolling-papers-as-blotting-papers trick is another antidote to surprise period sweats. Blotting away my monthly "glow" makes me feel like I’m removing toxic sweat from my pores without actually washing my face. And it makes me look a bit better, too. I guess.
A bonus is that you have rolling papers handy in case you want to smoke. Lucifer knows you need one right now, because if you're like me, you're also broken out, retaining water, and in a manic, emotionally fickle mood that you can't control.
When I’m in this sorry, crampy, bloated, sweaty state, I don’t like to wear makeup. Or talk to people. Or go outside. But if you want/need to look really good for some reason and your period skin is like, “I look like you feel, biatch,” you might want to think about putting it in its place with an airbrush-finish foundation.
Kari, my makeup artist pal, had a hardcore, air-powered, plug-in machine situation that distributed itself evenly on my face like sweet kisses from the foundation fairy. It probably costs a bazillion dollars. For us plebeians, there’s Sephora’s Instant Airbrush Foundation, which you spray on for that flawless look. (Unfortunately, it only comes in a three colors. Come on Sephora!
The idea of using airbrush foundation for an outdoor summer function during menstration is actually making my skin itch right now, so if that’s your sitch, there are other options.
A light, powder based foundation like bareMinerals Original Foundation gives great coverage, contains SPF, and feels so light that you don’t notice you’re wearing anything. Like Hanky Panky panties for your face!
You could also apply your favorite light foundation (mine is NARS Sheer Glow) with a foundation brush to achieve skin perfection. Tarte Airbrush Finish Bamboo Foundation Brush is amazing for this.
A good, DIY natural mask for period skin is my Nonna's refreshing and soothing yogurt mask. Put it on cold from the fridge and relax as it does its thang.
My hair is extra greasy during my monthly. The whole experience sort feels like your body's trying to expel all the gross stuff, all at once, from everywhere.
I don't like to wash my hair every day, so I rely on dry shampoos to deliver me from the evils of a greasy scalp. Pssssst! works great, smells pretty like grown up baby power and the bottle is retro and adorable. I spray it at the roots, wait a few minutes and either brush or shake it out.
My undereyes resemble Gollum's during those four to seven days when my uterine lining rips off and bloodily escapes my body via my vajayjay. Too much? My face looks downright drained. Because it is sort of being drained, right? Ugh.
If my eyes are super puffy, I stay cool as a cucumber by putting... cool cucumber slices over them. It helps to perk your eyes up and reduces swelling. Doing this feels nice in combination with the aforementioned yogurt mask. Another option is to tea bag it by covering your peepers with cold, wet, caffeinated tea bags. For the undereye darkness, I use Korres’ Wild Rose Instant Brightening Eye Treatment during the day, which actually does exactly what the name says. Hooray!
I’m a devotee of MAC's Studio Finish Concealer to cover my dark circles and other unflattering face incidentals, but I recently discovered Benefit’s High Beam brightener. I love it because it’s shiny and pinkish and offsets the purpley-greenish hue of my undereyes.
Increasing your water consumption will only do good things for you at this point in your life, so try to, my little doves. (Sorry, I've recently become obsessed with Game Of Thrones. Doesn't Annie look like a grown up Arya Stark? And why does everyone keep dying? It's ruining my life.)
Pampering of all sorts is needed around period time. Luxurious baths, long naps, reality TV marathons, chocolate binges, crying at car commercials, do it all and do it well. You deserve it.
Of course, there's a totally different route to go when period face strikes: disguise.
Hats, large sunglasses and scarves are all great face masking techniques that make you look like a hot, mysterious lady of the Carmen Sandiego variety while hiding the horrors of the monthly curse (or the monthly blessing, cuz you ain’t pregnant girlfriend!!! High fives all around).