Due to my recent frustration regarding a young woman who decided to apply nail polish while sitting next to myself and others on a crowded train, I have been thinking quite a bit about whether or not it is appropriate to apply beauty products in public. I initially focused on the unwritten rules of putting on hair, makeup and perfumed products on public transportation, but then I thought about what’s appropriate in a general setting. Basically, these were my questions: how much is too much? Which products are “okay” for applying in front of other people? Which things should you avoid doing? How can you be as unobtrusive as possible?
So, here they are, my friends: my unwritten rules have no become written. These are the official Gloss dos and don’ts of applying beauty products in public.
Don’t: Spray anything. Anything. Do not do it.
When you spray a product, whether it’s hairspray, perfume, body spritzer, or chocolate-flavored diet spray, you are putting it directly into the air. Guess who else actively participates in breathing the air? Other human beings around you! This rule particularly applies to public transportation, where there typically is not much air circulation, but in general, it is good to avoid spraying things. You could trigger somebody’s asthma or allergies–both of which take significant priority over your desire to smell like roses and patchouli with a hint of Jessica Simpson.
Do: Use a bathroom, if possible.
If there’s a bathroom nearby, just walk to it and use it. This is more for you than anybody else, in my opinion, because you can wash your hands before and after touching your face, which will keep your skin looking better and make your makeup easier to see (compact mirrors can be so misleading).
Don’t: Apply nail polish.
Not only is this another allergy risk, it is also messy as can be. Sure, you might not get any on your cuticles because you’re a total pro, but what if that bottle spills? Or if the train lurches and you accidentally smear your pretty new nail polish all over a stranger’s work clothes? Just do it at home! Or, if you work in our office, do it here.
Do: Know your strengths and limitations.
Applying lip gloss and eyeshadow is easy enough, but if you are already a little uncomfortable with eyeliner, mascara or anything else around that area, I strongly urge you to not apply it in public. First of all, you might get jostled, whether it’s by a human being or simply the movement of the train, bus or plane you’re on, and that could be dangerous. (The perfect tightlined eyeliner will never be worth losing your cornea, I promise.) Secondly, if you are not an expert with a very steady hand, you might just wind up with a mess, and then you’ll have to spend time doing it all over again. Sigh!
Do: Help out a friend if she needs it.
It’s hard to do your own makeup in public (and in private, sometimes), so helping out a friend is always nice, whether it’s letting her know she’s gotten lipstick on her teeth or eyeliner under her lashes. Or just playing beauty shop on a semi-empty train, which is kind of awesome when it’s 1 AM and you guys are just finally leaving the house to go out.
Don’t: Be that guy who tells female strangers that they “don’t need makeup.”
Okay, so this is definitely not intended for you folks actually doing your makeup, but it sure would make the world a better place! Dear strange guys: I get that you think you’re complimenting us by saying we don’t need makeup, but we don’t know you and it’s exhausting to listen to you discuss what we look like, what we should look like, and how you feel about how we want to look. Staaaahp.
Don’t: Apply makeup while driving.
Do: Smile at kids who are fascinated with you doing your makeup.
Every time I do my lipstick or eyeliner on the subway during the day, a small child appears to be interested in it. I was once that tiny little girl who just loved seeing women put on pretty colors, so if you spot one, be nice and give ’em a freshly lipsticked smile. Who knows, perhaps they’ll wind up being the next Bobbi Brown!