Trading Faces: A Makeup Lover Switches Beauty Routines with Her Friend

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Alex Nursall)

This is the true story of two friends, picked to flip-flop makeup routines (or lack thereof) for a day, have their adventures chronicled, to see out what happens when people stop being polite…and start getting real (okay, so it’s not really that dramatic.)

Meet Alex and Colleen. Alex (left) is the a makeup-spreadsheet-wielding lipstick enthusiast; Colleen (right) is the cosmetics neophyte friend along for the ride. Here, they share their innermost thoughts when faced with, well, new(ish) faces.

The Introduction

Alex: I want to start this by saying that I have a spreadsheet dedicated to my makeup collection. It’s partly to keep it organized, but partly it’s because I just have a real stupid love for spreadsheets. It’s even color-coordinated! LOOK AT THIS THING:

(Image credit: Alex Nursall)

Anyway, I love makeup. I don’t wear a lot of it day-to-day (I can’t stand wearing foundation and tend to wipe off my lipstick the moment food comes near my mouth), but I always wear it to work and have been dedicated to it since I was 12. You can pry my forest green lipsticks from my cold, well-manicured hands.

Colleen: Maybe it’s my Anne of Green Gables complexion or my compulsive pressing of the snooze button, but I’ve never developed much of a makeup routine. While I have gotten lost in the cosmetic space shuttle that is Sephora, I’ve never left with more than one tube of tinted moisturizer. Makeup just seems to really stand out on my skin, so I usually just opt for the no-makeup look (#brave). Couple that with my love of staying in my bed until the last possible moment, it just isn’t part of my day-to-day. I might add a little lipstick (if I’m getting married or something) but that’s about it.

Alex: I once saw Colleen come into work wearing lipstick and was like, “YES, COME TO THE DARK SIDE.” She didn’t seem too interested in that, but still, I thought I would try in sort of a Darth Vader-y sort of way (on the upside, I didn’t have to cut off her hand to get her to do this, so win-win). For the purpose of this article, we switched routines for the day to see what that would be like. I dropped off a makeup bag full of powders and sprays and mascara primers and she gave me a tube of tinted moisturizer (if you’re wondering, it was Laura Mercier in Porcelain and it was too light for me, so I didn’t end up using it and just used my own moisturizer instead). I wouldn’t really describe myself as high-maintenance, more like moderate-maintenance. Think less Ferrari and more Nissan Altima. I have a solid morning routine, but it only takes me about 10-12 minutes normally and I don’t tend to change it up much, aside from lipstick colour (NOTE: I have so many lipsticks I could wear a different one every day for almost 2 months). I actually wrote out a short how-to for Colleen because, as mentioned before, I’m the kind of person who actively updates their dang makeup spreadsheet.

Let’s take a look at that how-to, shall we?

(Image credit: Alex Nursall)

Colleen: I wake up 80 minutes before work and around half of that time is spent commuting to the office, so any extra time is usually dedicated to taming my hair until I head out the door. Strictly speaking, makeup for me is about a 30-second routine. While 10 minutes doesn’t seem like a lot, that’s 20 times longer than what I normally do! I typically don’t even wash my face (morning or evening), which I know for many people is practically sacrilege. I think the fact that my skin still looks good can be chalked up to 50% luck and 50% practicing The Secret (I kid). I think it’s safe to say that I belong in the low-maintenance camp, basically the Razr Scooter to Alex’s Altima.

The Switch

Alex: The main thing I got out of this was the feeling that my morning routine was missing something. I got dressed, combed my hair, and then just stood there while my arm kept rising up by itself to grab my mascara. It was like DAMNIT ARM, NOT TODAY. My partner kept joking that I looked lost and I even felt a touch out of whack. I ended up saving exactly no time because I slept in a little later by accident, so I was still jogging out the door in the morning. Great job, me! To give you a quick breakdown, my normal routine goes: concealer, setting powder, brow pomade, blush (and occasionally highlighter if I’m feeling ~*~fancy~*~), blush (really into Clinique’s Nude Pop lately), mascara primer and mascara, and lipstick. It feels like way more when I write it down.

Colleen: I was a little apprehensive going in and got up a good half-hour early. The very necessary cheat sheet was a succinct yet daunting ten steps, and the ironically named finishing powder was only step three!You wish, finishing powder, we’ve got seven more steps to go! After getting my bearings, it was kind of like a fun scavenger hunt. I can see how the ritual of makeup application could be a calming or fun way to start the day. Plus, as a side activity, it turns out it’s a great way for someone to expand their vocabulary. “Tarte Pomade” – that’s French for brow filler! (Maybe, I didn’t look it up but I like to think it does because putting it in French makes it more fancy, obviously.)

Alex: Fun fact: I’ve had brightly coloured hair for the last like, 9 years, and had gotten the last of it cut off the previous Friday, so this was the first time everyone at work had seen me with my natural hair colour (along with most of my friends, including my husband), so everyone ended up being dazzled by my boring hair and not noticing my makeup-less face. It was pure, uncut me. I could feel my eyelashes fluttering in the wind as I walked to the streetcar. I was like some sort of wood nymph, if wood nymphs were mid-20s office workers wearing clothes bought at The Gap five years prior. Maybe like, really underwhelming wood nymphs, I guess.

Colleen: When I applied Alex’s lipstick I actually gasped. It was brown, which was not what I was expecting. (ALEX: It was Urban Decay’s 1993 if anyone is wondering) The alternative was a deep purple she had also included in the makeup bag, but as far as I was concerned the makeup gods had spoken (and I was wasn’t about to add a step eleven). When all was said and done I was pretty proud of my handy work. It was a bold daytime look for me but I think I pulled it off.

Alex: I kind of missed wearing lipstick? I wear it almost every day, so it was both nice to not have to think about it getting all over everything and weird to just leave it at home. I mean, I still had about six in my purse because I am always carrying a small arsenal of lipstick (what if I have to leave a note on a car windshield? I have to at least carry one, obviously), but the only thing I actually used during the day was a little bit of lip balm in the morning so that I didn’t have weird lizard lips. I came into Colleen’s office when I arrived and she had already gotten a line of lipstick around her coffee cup, so I was immediately like, “NOW YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL, MUAHHAHAHAHA.”

Colleen: I took the TTC to work to safeguard against the possibility of inclement weather sweeping all ten steps of makeup right off of my face. During my ride, I found myself not only surveying how much makeup I was wearing compared to each and every one of my fellow subway passengers but also guessing if they were looking at me thinking either a) “That’s a lot of makeup for 8 am!” or b) “Wow, does this girl have a series of YouTube tutorials that I could watch? Let me subscribe to your newsletter!” No fewer than three people at work asked me why I was “all dolled up” (because it’s apparently the 1920s), but I didn’t mind.

(Image credit: Alex Nursall)

Alex: I should’ve spent more time during the day referring to Colleen as a harlot. Did you know that Kansas tried to outlaw the wearing of makeup by women under the age of 44 in 1915? IT’S RUINING SOCIETY, JEEZ LOUISE.

Colleen: I felt really bad for Alex all day. She looked terrible. (ALEX: Haha, she’s just joking. Right? RIGHT? ANSWER ME.)

The Reveal

First up, a make-up free Alex:

Second (but not least), a dolled-up Colleen:

The Aftermath

Alex: Hilariously enough, my skin actually got worse not wearing makeup. I woke up with like, 8 zits, which is kind of bull. It was mad that I didn’t pamper it, apparently, and is now getting its revenge. I immediately wore makeup the next day. Like, I know I don’t need it. I also feel confident not wearing it, but it makes me happy. Besides, what would I do with that spreadsheet? I’d have to print it and burn it as some sort of cleansing ritual. The one real upside was that I didn’t need to try to remove what feels like a never-ending layer of mascara from my face at the end of the day. I swear that I rub and rub and rub and MORE MASCARA KEEPS COMING OFF EVERY TIME. HOW IS THERE STILL MASCARA ON MY EYES?

Colleen: This probably comes as a real surprise, but I do not own makeup remover. I do own toilet paper and hand soap, however, and as it turns out, that it is not as good. As such, the next day I went totally makeup free not counting the stubborn remnants of Monday’s mascara. Has anyone ever in the history of makeup ever been able to take off all their mascara at once? It’s doubtful. Like Alex, a shake up to my regular makeup regime isn’t likely.

Alex: To answer the above question, no matter how well I think I’ve removed my mascara, it always seems to end up in a dusty line under my eyes the next morning. Anyway, it was a fun experiment for the day. The funny part was that, when I actually wore makeup the next day, no one noticed that I was wearing it again until I put lipstick on (at which point a co-worker went, “You’re wearing makeup now!” at around 4 PM). I find that people only really tend to notice makeup when it’s either really heavy or involves a lot of emphasis of the lips or eyes. A light wash of eye shadow, blush, and mascara tends to go unnoticed. Now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be updating my spreadsheets.