Beauty IRL: How To Wear Pastel Makeup Without Looking Like A Cupcake

Warm weather means hot pink lipstick and a golden tan, but this sluggish, middling weather that can’t make up its mind means that you have a two-week window to fuck around with the kind of colors that you think don’t normally work. Let’s talk about pastels, and how to wear them without looking like an Easter egg.

You can interpret this as a very literal thing, and seek out the kind of pale and chalky colors normally found in a child’s Easter basket, but I don’t recommend it. “But I’m a special snowflake who wants to wear whatever the hell I want on my face,” you tell me. Fair enough. But if like me you have a deep fear of looking too girly and try to remain as fuss-free as possible, this is the one beauty mountain you have yet to climb. I’m here to help.

Lips: Pastel lipsticks can be flattering in the right light! If you really want, go IN. Mint green and powder blue lipstick, with a cat eye and an all black spring-goth outfit looks fresh and unexpected and only crazy in your head, because really, no one is paying that much attention to whatever you’re wearing, doing, reading or boning. A Barbie pink or electric lilac lipstick with a lot of mascara and a a clean face looks somehow chic and Palm Beach grandma. Here are some examples.


These lip glosses from Bite look terrifying in the tube, but because they’re thick like super glue and very glossy and sheer, they go on a little gloppy, but in general, flattering. I liked the purple more than I thought I would, since lilac is a color I tend to avoid, but look! They’re pretty on a face that hasn’t seen real sun in months, and will be that much more fly with some sun on the skin and a white sundress. I might actually wear these. Maybe. There was a yellow shade in there that looks like I’ve glossed my lips with donut frosting or a more, erm, natural substance, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down. I do not recommend that shade unless you want to look like you’ve spent a lot of time on your knees.

If you want an actual lipstick as opposed to a gloss, I hear this one from NYX is good.

Eyes: Black eyeliner is standard, navy is fun for nights spent off your couch and out in the world, but the icy, bright pastels are never, ever a consideration. Something about pastel eye shadow reads too mod, in a way that doesn’t compute with what I wear normally, or the way I like my face to look. But, after poring through endless slideshows of spring fashion looks in an attempt to figure out how to wear any of this shit, I noticed that the key to pastel eye makeup is to temper it with a shitload of black. Black makes everything better, right? So, if you’re going to do like the mags say and “wash your lids” in a gentle whisper of pale pink, or baby blue or mint green, go HAM with the black eyeliner after you’re done. Then you’re girly but tough. A walking contradiction. A miracle of modern beauty, bucking conventional beauty while somehow adhering to the trends. If you want to try this bold and terrifying new look, here’s a palette that has all the colors you could want.


If the idea of spending more than five minutes, max, on your eye makeup is abhorrent to you — Hello! I agree — then trace a super skinny line of pastel atop your pre-existing black liner. I like this mint color from Stila, but I refuse to wear it as anything but an accent color.


Nails: Something about still wearing dark colors on my nails feels wrong even though it was maybe snowing a tiny bit last night, and it’s April. I’m picky to the point of obsession about what goes on my nails, though I am probably the only person who notices. When it’s warm enough to leave the house in shoes that don’t require socks, I get extra fussy about the color that’s on my nails.

Regular pastels, with their chalky white bases, look, to me, like I dipped my hands in a vat of house paint and let it dry. It’s too early for the eye-searing neons or pure, stark whites that are my one true love. That’s why Field Fox from CND is the absolute best transitional nail color I have found. It’s nude-mauve-taupe-rose and it’s pretty and soft.  I will be hoarding it for years to come.