7 Ways To Break Out Of A Makeup Rut

Reignite your creativity with this step-by-step guide to banishing the makeup doldrums!
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Reignite your creativity with this step-by-step guide to banishing the makeup doldrums!

It can happen to anyone: you fall in love with a signature makeup look and before you know it you haven't worn a non-pink lipstick in 10 years. BAM. You're in a beauty rut. 

Having just broken out of a beauty rut myself, I compiled a list of tips on how to get back to your former, freer makeup glory. 

1. Identify your issues.

Even when one’s job is to play with makeup, you often default to similar things that you know look good and don’t take forever to apply. For me, I also have to be aware of what shows up well on camera--and that can often be a challenge.

RIP, old Nikon.

RIP, old Nikon.

I have been far too reliant on my makeup uniform--bright blush, highlighter, neutral eyeshadow, cat-eye liner and pink lipstick. I worry that without it, I won’t look like myself. At least half of rut-busting is mental preparation, and just remind your irrational brain that if something doesn’t work, you can always take it off. It’s makeup, not a tattoo.

2. Figure out your non-negotiables.

No matter how wacky I get with the rest of my face, I won't skip filling in my brows or applying mascara. This is mostly practical--my hair is dyed dark, but my brows and lashes are still blonde, so unless I want to look like a naked mole rat (with great bangs) I have to darken them to match.

NOBODY wants to look like a naked mole rat.

NOBODY wants to look like a naked mole rat.

It’s OK if you feel like you MUST conceal under your eyes, or if you don’t want to leave the house without pressed powder. You don’t have to alter everything about your makeup all at once--just make some changes.

I may not ditch filling in my brows, but maybe I can change the color I use to do it. I may not want to skip my black mascara, but maybe I can add some glitter liner to my lashes so that I sparkle when I blink. There’s still a lot of wiggle room within structure!

3. Get inspired.

The internet is amazing. No matter what your style is, you can find someone who’s elevated it to an art form (and probably has a great Instagram feed to match). Go looking for beauty inspiration that’s different from what you usually rely on. What are you drawn to? What do you find really striking? How could you make that work for your life?

I don't have Pinterest, but if I did, intense blue eye makeup, orange lipstick and colorful parrotfish would definitely be all over it.

I don't have Pinterest, but if I did, intense blue eye makeup, orange lipstick and colorful parrotfish would definitely be all over it.

When I did this, I found myself drawn to makeup that reminded me a of tropical fish--especially brightly colored eyes and warm-toned lips. I decided to incorporate those elements into my beauty routine and see what I could come up with.

4. Do the opposite of what you usually do.

What would your makeup look like if you did everything the total opposite of what you normally do? Try it out and see what works! You never know what you could be missing.

For example: I usually wear a lot of black cat-eye liner, where the focus is on the extreme geometric shape. I also almost always use white kohl on my waterline to make my eyes look bigger.

What if I closely lined my eyes with a bright blue, taking the focus off the shape of the liner and onto the color? And what if I lined my waterline with bright blue-green eyeliner, something I have never ever done?

I'll tell you what happens: IT LOOKS AWESOME.

Cool.

Cool.

I’d never have fallen in love with this if I hadn’t tried it out. As MC Scat Cat and Paula Abdul once taught us, sometimes the things you think will be ridiculous together actually work out beautifully!

5. Don’t abandon sense.

I got a little drunk on change as I was experimenting with colors I don’t usually try, and nowhere was this more evident than on my lips.

Purple and coral work together, right? Especially with gold glitter?

Purple and coral work together, right? Especially with gold glitter?

So inspired was I by summertime shades and the spirit of change that I tried out things that are just straight up not for me. For example, I cannot deal with the “lips the same color as my skin” look, and bubblegum pink gloss makes me look jaundiced. However, an intense orange shade (Chanel Rouge Allure Lip Color in Eccentrique) surprised me by being very flattering on my sunkissed complexion.

Left: NO. Right: YES.

Left: NO. Right: YES.

If you don’t like something that you’ve been told SHOULD look good, it’s OK! However you do your makeup, it should make you happy. Nobody is happy if they’re suffering through a trial of a barfy shade of lip color.

6. Remember that brains are tricky.

The best thing I can tell you is this: If you don’t immediately love something new, give yourself time to get used to it. A lot of the time the issue is what I (lovingly) call “a brain problem,” rather than a product or application problem. Brains are very stubborn and they kick up a fuss when we change something they’re used to seeing a certain way. Often they’ll be yelling “THIS LOOKS TERRIBLE” when you really look great--just different.

ACTOR PORTRAYAL OF ALLE'S BRAIN.

ACTOR PORTRAYAL OF ALLE'S BRAIN.

There’s no real way around this, other than to give some time to every new look or product that you try out. That way, you can coolly evaluate how much you like it without the pressure of your brain freaking out about it.

7. Get creative and have fun!

Makeup should be a source of joy. Sometimes I forget this, because I’m so focused on what people expect me to look like. I put so much pressure on myself that I forget to be creative, and it’s important to take the time to remember that.

When I was shooting the pictures for this story, I didn't worry about looking as Alle-like as possible. I just had fun. I let the colors speak to me and I ended up looking incredibly bright and gorgeous.

Am I a pretty tropical fish yet?

Am I a pretty tropical fish yet?

Maybe we can’t be as wild and colorful as we want to all the time. We all have jobs, and with those jobs come expectations about how we should dress, look, and be. This bright parrotfish makeup isn’t appropriate for an office, but experimenting with orange and gold lipstick really made me realize how much more fun I could be having with my look. 

Count the colours!

Count the colours!

I’m not sure I’m officially out of my rut yet. But I’ve remembered that what I love about makeup is so much more than looking just one way, and I intend to put that into practice.

How do you guys break out of a beauty rut? Where do you look for beauty inspiration? Tell me everything!