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Make-Up and Feminism: Some Rules of Thumb to Follow when trying on Make-Up

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By Clare Jennings, aka @msdoingitall

Kia Ora, whanau! Over the last few weeks, since my first little foray into writing for Sans Pareil, I’ve been focused on bringing the self-care rituals I’d been loving during lockdown. As we’ve moved into Level 2, I’m putting out the continuation of these practices in my everyday life.

Today I wanted to share with you my other love, well, my first love, really. One that is so much more enriched by the love-bombing I’ve shown my skin. 


That love is make-up. Oh makeup, how I love thee. I can pour over online stores for hours, watch endless YouTube offerings from the Booty Guru’s in the know and follow tutorials from the best in the business, to improve my application techniques.

I find makeup so empowering. Which some may say is an absolute impossibility, given the reputation that has been unfairly apportioned to makeup. It has become glaringly obvious to me that to be interested in makeup is seen as frivolous, juvenile and supremely self-indulgent – though I could not disagree more with that view.

Make-up, to me, is a creative outlet that my day-to -day life doesn’t allow for. It’s beautiful. It empowers me to be as bold on the outside as I feel on the inside. Sometimes even more so!


As a feminist cis-gender woman, I’ve had people online (mostly men, tbh) accuse me of not being a feminist, because I love make-up, fashion, and all the things that make me feel beautiful and put together – which is not for men. Never EVER for men. For me. So imagine my joyful surprise to find my feminist idol, Clementine Ford, is also a lover of make-up and glitter, and is an unashamed ‘girly girl’ too.

During lockdown she entertained us all with some really engaging Instagram stories, where she talked all things make-up, even treating us to some tutorials on her recent purchases. Good times!! 


Now, when it comes to makeup, I’m a high-end brand devotee. Hourglass, Pat McGrath, Chanel and Marc Jacobs, Charlotte Tilbury, Anastasia Beverly Hills and Tom Ford, and oh so many others. I’m definitely a proponent of quality over quantity (well, quality AND quantity, if I’m to be really accurate).

I’m definitely not one to shy away from a full beat on the daily. During lockdown, I think there was only a handful of days that didn’t see me applying a full face of make-up. Having unlimited time to play with it was like a dream! It was incredible to see how my make-up game improved with my well-cared for lockdown skin. 

Over the last few years, I’ve gotten to know my likes and dislikes when it comes to my choices. I am very fair-skinned, with cool undertones – which means I’m white AF. The underlying colour of my skin is kinda pink. Through much trial and error I’ve realised two things:

1) Anything with even a hint of orange in it makes me look like I’ve rubbed Cheezels all over my face.

2) Most people I follow online for makeup content have the kind of skin undertones that do not make them look like they have rubbed Cheezels all over their faces – even when they use something with a hint of orange in it.  

It was a relief to finally figure that out! I couldn’t understand why the lovely peachy pink blushes, and warm-toned lipsticks that I lusted after, just looked so wrong on me. 

I remember during one visit to an upmarket cosmetics store, the assistant kept steering me towards a particular shade of blush, even though I kept saying it wouldn’t suit me. Though she wasn’t having a bar of it. In the end it took me taking her out on to the street with the blush applied to my cheek so she could see in natural light just how awful it looked. She was so confused! It was confirmation to me that it was important to research long and hard before parting with your hard earned cash. Those kind of mistakes are very, very expensive.


To break it down a little, one simple rule of thumb, is to know what your undertone is and what colours tend to suit that undertone. Undertones are generally broken down into cool (pink), warm (yellow) and neutral (a mix of pink and yellow).  To find your undertone quickly, look at the veins on the underside of your wrist. What do you see? If, like me, they are very blue/purple, then you likely have cool undertones. If they’re green, then you probably are a warm-toned babe. If you can see both, or neither, then you can probably guess your undertone is neutral.

These undertones are probably most important to understand when you are trying to find your perfect shade of foundation or concealer. It’s glaringly obvious when you’ve not been shade-matched well, as the demarcation lines under your jaw will be very noticeable. That being said, when you get it right, it all just blends in perfectly. 


These undertones aren’t just in our skin though. Our hair also has them. Cool/ashy shades are very different to warm/chestnutty ones. Nowhere is it more important to get that one right than our brows – I love a good fluffy brow! Long gone are the slivers of nothingness we once sported back in the 90’s. Welcome back to those stunning caterpillars of the 80’s. Except now, they’re much more groomed, and we have wonderful products available to us to get them looking their best. 


Recently I was lucky enough to spend some time with Catherine Tong, the wonderful owner of my new favourite beauty cornucopia – The Skin Wardrobe. I’ve spoken about them in a previous piece, but only about their fabulous Scandinavian skincare I’ve been loving during lockdown. This visit, however, was all about make-up, in particular, brows. I was lucky enough to try out their very-soon-to-market eyebrow pencils and brow mascaras.

Next week I will be bringing you an interview with Catherine, and something extra special – a giveaway! So stay tuned, friends, you’re not going to want to miss that one! 

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