I often think that my descent down the steps of the bus on my way to work in the morning is a bit like Stars in Their Eyes – you know, that TV show from the 90s where regular people would go behind a pair of huge sliding doors and reappear in a haze of smoke, transformed into whichever popstar they were about to impersonate.
My morning commute is a bit like that but, if anything, more impressive: I step onto the 8.50am bus looking like Hagrid with a hangover and I disembark looking like an actual, acceptable, real-life human. It’s a transformation almost worthy of television.
You see, I’m one of those people. The girl sat opposite you on the train dusting herself in a haze of bronzer. The one squished next to you on the Tube who’s managed to free up a hand to apply mascara in between stations. Some people catch up on podcasts on their way to work – I, on the other hand, use 10 minutes of my journey to apply a full face of makeup. Annoying? Possibly. Will I stop doing it? Absolutely not.
Think: how long does it take you to put your face on in the morning? Ten minutes? Fifteen? Longer, even? These are all precious pre-9am minutes that could have been spent in bed, IMO.
That’s how I came to be a devotee of the commuter beauty regime: I’m lazy. I hate mornings, I hate getting up early and I never leave enough time for my face to de-puff before it’s time to get ready. So, I happily leave the house makeup-free. My hair’s done (mostly), I’m wearing clothes (fortunately), and my skincare has been liberally applied and left the desired 10 minutes to sink into my skin as I lock up the house and stroll jauntily to the bus stop, revived after an extra half an hour in bed.
How to do makeup on the commute
While it might look tricky from afar, trying to hold a mirror in one hand while applying a slick of liquid liner with the other in a moving vehicle actually couldn’t be simpler. You just need a few tricks and tools of the trade – consider this your step-by-step guide to on-the-move beauty bliss.
1. Assemble your kit
First, you’ll need a mini makeup bag. I keep my everyday kit in this Liberty Small Strawberry Thief Wash Bag, £22, Liberty, at all times, and simply transfer it between bags – it’s small enough to fit in a decent-sized cross-body come the weekend, too. That way, I never forget anything – there’s nothing worse than finishing your look and realising you have no mascara, gah.
Also, make sure you have a mirror. The easiest, best space-saving option is to choose one makeup product that comes with its own mirror for ease. Using your phone is not accurate and won’t show up streaky foundation, so avoid this if you can.
2. Choose your tools
Makeup brushes are your best friend here. You don’t want to use your fingers (think: public transport germs, plus you can’t wash your product-laden hands when you’re done) and trying to dampen a beauty blender with your water bottle always ends up with you covered in more water than the sponge – I’m speaking from experience.
Choose three brushes, max: one for your base (I love the Real Techniques Setting Brush, £7.99, Look Fantastic), one for your bronzer (Jones Road’s The Bronzer Brush, £40, Liberty, is a revelation) and another for your blusher (try the Morphe R46 Cream and Powder Blush Brush, £13, Look Fantastic).
3. Makeup time
I think it goes without saying that your usual product selection will require downsizing, so take things back to basics with hardworking, multitasking essentials. These are my go-tos:
Choose something that’s quick to apply and will cover any uneven skin tone in just one swipe. IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream with SPF50, £33, Look Fantastic, does just this – the creamy formula keeps skin hydrated and glowing all day long. The new Nude Glow formula is also excellent if you love a dewy finish.
We don’t have the time or the space for both a brightening under-eye and a spot-covering cream here, so pick one that does it all. For me, Nars Soft Matte Complete Concealer, £25, Sephora, sits well under the eyes to hide bags and is great for dotting over spots, too.
Easy, quick and fuss-free to use, a cream blush stick is your friend here. Trish McEvoy Beauty Booster Lip and Cheek Colour, £24, Liberty, is a flattering shade that works on all skin tones (and also doubles up as a great rich pink for lips, too). Simply swipe across cheeks and blend for a flattering flush.
The finely milled matte powder formula of Jones Road The Bronzer, £32, Liberty, means it can be used as a bronzer, powder, eyeshadow and contour all in one – simply sweep across the high points of your face for a bronze, add a light dusting to set under the eyes, use your finger to add a little shade across lids and press a more concentrated amount under cheekbones for a subtle contour.
Oh, and the compact comes with a large mirror – perfect for applications on the go.
A do-it-all tinted gel, like Glossier’s Boy Brow, £15, Glossier, will add colour and definition to brows in a few swipes – so simple you can do it crammed against the door of a packed Tube carriage. Oh, the joys of commuter life.
The eye makeup:
Nobody has the time or dexterity for intricate eyeshadow when you’re being jostled over speed bumps every few minutes. So, with bronzer acting as your eyeshadow, you could just opt for a swipe of mascara (the waterproof version of Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara, £8.99, Sephora, wins out for me, every time – it’s truly sweat/commuter/long day at the office-proof).
If you do want to add a little something extra, you have a few options. A careful flick of Eyeko’s Black Magic Liquid Eyeliner, £16, Look Fantastic, is universally flattering. Note: if you’re going to attempt liquid liner on the move, you’re going to need a very steady hand and a lot of practice.
Here’s where it’s easy to go bold – a bright lip colour is a quick way to brighten up your whole look. Opt for a creamy balm formula, such as Jones Road The Lip Tint in Pink Rose, £26, Liberty, and simply ‘smoosh’ lips together to disperse the colour without the need for razor-sharp edges.
Prefer a nude your-lips-but-better shade? Victoria Beckham Lip Tint in Poupette, £35, Victoria Beckham Beauty, is the answer for a subtle sheen – this also doubles up as a lovely cream blush-highlighter hybrid when dabbed along cheekbones.
And that, my friends, is it. You’ll need five minutes at a push, 10 is ideal, and hopefully a seat so you’re not trying to juggle several products and a mirror at once (though, in time, it can be done).
So set your alarm clock a little later and give the multitasking world of commuter cosmetics a try. After all, no makeup can give a glow quite like a good night’s sleep – and this way, you get the best of both worlds.