I never wore makeup most of my life. I like makeup just fine, and I bought it every once in a while, but I really only wore it on special occasions. But when I got really into skincare a few years ago and started paying attention to skin–both mine and other people’s–I realized how uneven my skin was.
Or, rather, I realized how mannequin-like all the beauty gurus skin looked.
And I wanted skin like that.
The first thing I did was go on a hunt for perfect foundation. I’ll spare you the details, but it didn’t go well. I went looking for a matte, very full coverage foundation. Every salesperson I asked to help me at Nieman Marcus and Sephora would frown at me and ask, “Why? What are you trying to hide?”
“I’m not trying to hide anything. I just want to look like those girls on YouTube.”
They’d give me both sideye and samples. But none of the foundations I tried gave me the result I wanted.
Finally, I mentioned the problem to my pocket guru–my daughter.
“A foundation isn’t going to give you that mannequin look you’re going for. You need a powder.”
Taking Advice from Well-Meaning People with Dissimilar Skin Is an Expensive Path to Hell
Powder? Honestly? It didn’t even occur to me that a powder would make a difference. I didn’t even own a powder. But, she was pretty knowledgeable about stuff like this, so I bought this fantastic Lancome Absolue Radiant Smoothing powder and she was right– a light dusting over my foundation gave me a beautiful, silky, slightly diffused photo finish.
“Hell yeah,” I thought. “If a little bit of powder can do this…what about that baking shit I see the gurus do?”
I asked my daughter about it, but she just shrugged. “I think it comes from drag queens,” she said. “I haven’t really tried it. You should do it and let me know how it goes.”
So I looked into it. If you don’t know, baking is the technique of using insane amounts of powder to lock foundation and concealer into place. I watched lots of videos. I read lots of blogs. I talked to the girls and guys at Sephora. I needed the perfect powder for purposes and everyone agreed: I wanted the Laura Mercier translucent setting powder.
Treasure in hand, I rushed home to put on my concealer and set it with this magic powder that was going to give me that smooth, unnatural skin I longed for.
I did exactly what the gurus told me. I patted an ungodly amount of powder under my eyes and after five or so minutes, I brushed it away.
And I actually thought I was going to die.
The only positive thing I can say about this experience is thank God I was just playing around and had absolutely no plans of leaving the house. Because my under eyes looked like the skin of an 80 year old fish. Like, I never knew skin had so many creases in it. Every line, fold, crease, wrinkle, crumple, ridge, and crow’s foot was magnified by, like, a million. I’m not kidding. I knew intellectually that skin had texture, but this was like I’d put my skin under the world’s most unforgiving asshole microscope.
I could not wash that shit off fast enough.
Ok, so I had clearly done something wrong. I figured it must be the powder: it must be too…powdery or something, I don’t know. So I switched out the Laura Mercier for the RCMA No Color powder, but the result were the same. Dead grandma eyes.
Turns out I wasn’t doing anything wrong. It’s just that baking can work really well on relatively smooth skin. It’s a fucking disaster on crinkly skin.
This was my very first (of many) failures in trying to reproduce results achieved on twenty-year-old skin. And it taught me a lesson: I need to focus on results, not techniques. Sometimes the gurus will offer a technique I’ll be able to use, but sometimes not. And I need to be more thoughtful about how I approach problems.
For example: my under eyes are actually quite dry (which I hadn’t really realized before) and to give myself the smooth look I wanted, I actually need to super hydrate my under eyes and use a dewy concealer! Which is basically… the opposite of baking. Who knew.
Unbake My Heart
Now, instead of baking for that ultra-sexy YouTube-agram-able skin:
- I’ll plump my under eyes with hydrating under eye masks. Right now I’m using these Boscia Sake Brightening Eye masks, but I bought these Mamonde ones in Korea and I’m really excited to try them
- I prime my under eyes with a hydrating essence (these days I’m using Banila Co’s Miss Flower and Mr. Honey Essence Stick)
- If I’m doing a night-out or more full-face look, I’ll follow up with Shape Tape concealer but not set it. But for everyday I’ll dab on a hydrating concealer like the Glossier concealer with my fingers and then pick up any extra with a damp beauty sponge
I will say that a major disadvantage of my dewy under eye routine is that even waterproof mascara smudges ALL under my eyes. Which is why I wear fake lashes pretty exclusively and have given up on mascara.
So, baking didn’t work. But at least I figured out some techniques to give myself the confidence boost I was really looking for all along.