This page explores glamour makeup and how to think about it.
Even if you’re a veteran of some skill, a lot of what I say on this page may not be familiar to you. For instance, even those who are gifted with makeup rarely understand the evolutionary science underlying beauty, which turns out to be surprisingly useful knowledge.
This page describes how to think about glamour makeup. How to apply it is currently outside of my real of expertise, but I’ll direct you to some great resources on YouTube.
Glamour makeup is beauty makeup taken to a greater extreme. Refined glamour is achieved by carefully and thoughtfully adding stunning and attention-grabbing touches to the natural beauty look in subtle and elegant ways.
Natural beauty makeup seeks to imitate the subtle stimuli which signal maximum fertility and sexual availability - youth, health, emotional welfare, the presence of estrogen, arousal - without drawing attention to the fact that the user is even wearing makeup.
Glamour makeup trades invisibility for blatancy to selectively take those stimuli and amplify them into super-stimuli which go beyond what is natural, triggering attraction more strongly than nature can.
A super-stimuli is a stimuli which triggers instinctive reactions more powerfully than anything found in nature.
This kind of super-stimuli is why Jessica Rabbit famously turns real, actual men on sexually, in spite of being 'just' a cartoon character. She has exaggerated signals of fertility and arousal that real human women simply can't match:
And to top it all off, she’s constantly lit in a diffuse spotlight which highlights her perfectly no matter what the light in the room happens to be.
Even the fact that doesn't have remotely human skin texture works in her favor: her skin is preternaturally smooth.
The male mind consciously sees a cartoon character, but instinctually sees the most fertile woman who ever lived, and who's 1000% DTF right now. (She’s not actually bad, though: she's just drawn that way.)
This is precisely how glamour makeup works: it trades subtlety for the sheer, overwhelming power to trigger male sexual attraction and arousal, by selectively amplifying cues of natural beauty beyond what is natural. Even the word glamour itself - a Scottish word for a magical enchantment - refers to the super-natural.
Let's look again at the list of things natural beauty makeup does, and compare them to glamour makeup:
Why Glamour Makeup
This isn’t so much a why, as a when. You apply glamour makeup when you want to attract sexual attention from men (and can get away with doing so). Dinner parties, clubbing, special events. And photoshoots where you want to be sexy, rather than ‘merely’ beautiful.
And there are situations which are inappropriate for glamour makeup.
For instance, since glamour makeup is about sex, a young girl will nearly always look foolish wearing it. This is why people feel derision rather than alarm in response child beauty pageants: it’s not so much that the concept of child sexuality is instinctively silly: when the same young girl is being intentionally sexualized - an 11 year-old Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, for instance, or a 9-year-old Brooke Shields in Pretty Baby - the look can be so alarmingly effective it literally creates a society-wide moral panic. It’s specifically the use of glamour makeup in a situation which purports to be innocent which triggers people’s derisive reactions.
Similarly, as Sabrina Anji relates in her video (below right), simply wearing professional-level glamour makeup while grocery shopping is enough to arouse the derision of other (likely jealous) women.
The first mistake of very little girl trying out makeup for the first time is to go heavy with everything. More is better, right?
In fact, it's surprising how many adult makeup artists are blind to the phenomena of way too much makeup, especially when they're the one applying it.
When I was young, I had the fortune to have a rule of thumb for glamour makeup described to me in this delightfully obnoxious way:
You might notice that even Jessica Rabbit doesn’t wear all three, foregoing noticeable blush. If she did, it would be one step too far, and she’d be less attractive, looking like a cheap tramp rather than a refined, painfully glamorous beauty.
This is rather over-simplified, and high-level makeup-artists (MUAs) for editorial-style shoots occasionally create stunning (and painfully hot) ‘clown-whore’ looks when the intent is to put a high-fashion, high-taste spin on the tawdry or provocative.
But still, the 1-2-3 above provides a reasonable (and easy-to-remember) rule of thumb for how to approach glamour makeup.
Any division of makeup into discrete levels is necessarily arbitrary, but again, the fact that a rule of thumb is an oversimplification doesn’t mean that it isn’t useful. And I find it useful to divide makeup for each area of the face (eyes, cheeks, lips) into 5 levels: natural, light, medium, heavy, and exaggerated.
The Clown-Whore Look
The (usually) lovely Sabrina Anijs' example of just too much,
from her video ‘You Wear Too Much Makeup’
Undetectable natural beauty makeup, providing added beauty without showing obvious makeup usage. Maybe you look at her face closely and ask "is she or isn't she?"
If your answer is 'maybe,' or even 'probably,' it's either natural beauty, or natural beauty makeup. Suitable for a teenager maintaining a ‘good girl’ reputation at school.
A slight exaggeration of natural attraction triggers beyond what is normally found in nature, so that you actually have to look to be sure that makeup is being worn.
You have to look for a second, but the answer this time is 'oh, yeah, definitely.'
A moderate exaggeration of what is found in nature, or a subtle violation of what is natural (such as blue or metallic-gold eyeshow).
You only need a glance at here face to know she's made up.
A strong exaggeration of natural attraction triggers, or a fairly noticeable violation of nature.
Her face draws your attention because of the exaggeration of her look.
An extreme exaggeration of natural attraction triggers or violation of natural looks.
Because of the exaggeration of her look, her face draws your attention from across the room, and if you’re a man, draws you to her physically, like black hole, with the promise of immediate, hot sex.
Especially in the American Midwest, many women only have one makeup look, or maybe two, usually something like looks 3 and/or 4 above. In their limited playbook, eyes, cheeks, and lips are either all applied, or none of them are. Makeup is either on, or off.
But that’s a mistake, because you rarely want to go heavy on all three, and because you miss out on a lot of possible looks that way.
Rather, you want to think of eyes, cheeks, and lips as entirely separate zones, and to think bout what you want to do with each of them, and what effect you want to achieve.
As the eyes become darker and more smokey, a young woman looks more mature and more sophisticated, and eye shadow is the primary weapon of every teenage girl hoping to buy alcohol without getting carded.
Dark eyelids are also a facial signal of sexual arousal, but notice that while the images on the right are definitely sexier and more sexually inviting, they don’t necessarily make the wearer look like she’s ready for sex at this very moment.
Redder lips are correlated with physical health in women. And health is correlated with fertility.
Like dark eyes, redder, darker lips are also a sign of sexual arousal in women. Also like dark eyes, however, they don’t give the impression of immediate desire for sex. Instead, they make the wearer look ripe, which is to say fertile, which is itself to say: immanently ready to be impregnated. Also, desperately kissable.
On the left, a woman ready to participate in the hunt. On the right, a woman potentially holding an apple in one hand, and her swollen belly in the other. Nothing speaks to a man’s evolved attraction triggers more loudly than that, for obvious reasons. No way would my instincts let her risk herself: protect and fuck.
Good blood flow creates slightly rosy cheeks, and this correlates with physical health, which in turn correlates with fertility. The two images on the left show the color typical of healthy cheeks.
High levels of color in the cheeks, however, is correlated with physical arousal. In the presence of sweat, this could indicate exertion, but in its absence, deep red cheeks usually mean sexual arousal.
As you can see from the images above, the impression on the viewer of the images on the right is of a woman who is immediately and rampantly sexually aroused. She is DTF, right now. If you will forgive the directness, as a man, I instinctively expect her nipples to be hard and her pussy wet, and for her to respond very favorably to an aggressively deep kiss.
It is because of this direct signaling of sexual arousal that most of the looks in fashion magazines involve either no blush at all, or little enough blush that it’s hard to tell that the model is wearing any.
Nevertheless, heavy blush can create some very interesting looks, as we’ll see below.
Mixing and matching intensities provides a wide variety of effects. I’ll walk you through the basics.
Unusually, I’m organizing the looks primarily by the amount of blush used. Blush sexualizes a look, and the highest-level makeup artists rarely use it beyond nearly-imperceptible levels. With notable exceptions.
The vast majority of looks in fashion magazines involve natural or light levels of blush, similar to these.
Below, you’ll notice the clear trend of innocent-to-sophisticated with increasing eye shadow from left to right, with a progression from relatively sexless at the top to inarguably fertile-looking at the bottom, with increasing lip-color intensity.
Also notice that there aren’t any of these looks which are questionable in their tastefulness. They’re safe looks. All of them work, and none are objectionable. You are generally safe, using light blush. You wouldn’t wear the looks at the bottom right to Sunday school, but if you wore them to a grocery store, most people would just assume you were going somewhere special after.
Medium blush starts bringing hints of immediate sexual availability to the mix, signs of actual sexual arousal, making every look at least mildly sexual. In the image on the upper left of the set below, and maybe the image below that, the sexual effect is less pronounced, and our instincts say the visible blush could be abundant health, emotional arousal, or light physical exertion, say, after being on the elliptical for ten minutes.
But there isn’t a single other image from the set below that doesn’t trigger my instincts to say the the woman is hot for it at this very moment.
I note these images especially as particularly illuminating:
Heavy blush says sex, and it brooks no arguments. Even the image on the top left, with natural eyes and lips, while appearing to be an innocent, speaks to me of a woman ready to fuck at this very moment.
None of these are bad looks, especially in a photo shoot. While some cross the line into tawdry, they are sexy, without exception, portraying desirability at its most intense. And sometimes you want to portray desirability at its most intense. The question is: what does the photo call for?
These looks are undoubtably provocative. While most fashion photographers shy away from heavy-blush looks, some of the greatest names in fashion photography (Ellen Von Unwurth or Steven Meisel, for instance) are far less scared, having the courage to indulge in them freely and often.
And why wouldn’t they? Provocation can be a prerequisite of great art.
Like eyes and lips, blush can be extended beyond what is naturally possible. Such looks are rarer, and are normally seen when exaggeration is desired for the sake of shocking the viewer out of his or her complacency.
The same as I said above remains true, but two more factors come into play. First, it becomes apparent that the look is intentional, which triggers the subconscious to look for meaning. Second, the look, if done well, appears stylized, rather than simply about beauty.
My preferences for beauty and glamour makeup run towards subtlety, natural looks, and exaggerations of natural looks. I want a woman’s entire look to make a statement so that the woman is the art, rather than putting art ‘on’ the woman (this is my feeling about tattoos, as well). For that reason, my default favorite makeup for my female models to wear is natural beauty makeup, rather than glamour, with glamour coming into play only if both the model’s skill with glamour makeup and the shoot’s feel suggest it.
That said, here are my personal preferences for glamour looks.
Blush should be red. I generally prefer that blush remains extremely light unless there is something particular in the look we’re going for which requires more.
Eyebrows I prefer eyebrows which don’t look so defined that they could be described as ‘pencilled in,’ and eyebrows which start and end naturally rather than with sharp points.
Eyelashes I prefer eyelashes which are more natural for the model’s color, staying away from black for blond and redheaded models. Thickness depends on the overall look, but unless there is a particular reason to go extra-heavy, I prefer that the model err a bit on the side of natural-looking. Looks with more aggressive and darker eye-shadow can warrant more aggressive and darker eyelashes. I strongly prefer that models avoid false lashes: they always look fake (and to me, usually rather foolish). If a model needs more lashes than she has, I can add them very (very) easily and quickly in the image editing process, and they’ll be far more realistic than false eyelashes ever look.
Eyeliner I prefer eyeliner to be largely invisible, either using tight-lining to make it disappear into the lashes or blending it smoothly into the eyeshadow. I prefer that the camera can’t see a hard, sharp line of eyeliner. I generally strongly prefer models to avoid hard, sharp lines and ‘extended’ eyeliner looks such as ‘Cleopatra cat-eyes’, unless it is done with special artistry and to achieve a special effect.
I prefer eye shadow which is correctly shaped for the eye. That subject by itself is too complex to go into, it lies outside my areas of expertise, and it changes from person to person based on eye shape and placement, so if you’re using eye shadow, you should do your own research.
I strongly prefer eyeshadow which is well-blended and which fades naturally at the edges, rather than having defined edges. I generally prefer eyeshadow in shades similar to what occurs naturally around an aroused woman’s eyes: reds, grayish purples, and browns.
As looks grow more intense and less natural, I still prefer good blending and reasonable lashes, but more intense eye shadow supports thicker and darker lashes. I still prefer to stay away from sharply defined edges and corners (as seen on the top right, below), but with some strong looks they can begin to make sense. They’re aesthetically iffy in my book, though, drawing attention to themselves at the expense of beauty, so it would be wise to run them past me before a shoot, rather than springing them on me.
As looks grow more intense still, variations on natural color can begin to work, though I still prefer these to remain closely adjacent to natural colors, rather than entirely unnatural. Deep reds and blacks work well, (black is especially useful for achieving goth or grunge looks), while blues and greens should be veer strongly towards dark grey, rather than being punchy.
I find that metallic bronze and deeper golds work especially well for blonds and redheads, while redheads look especially good in copper (and do surprisingly well with burgundy, as well).
Punchy, unnatural eyeshadow colors call attention to themselves at the expense of the model’s beauty and sex appeal, as do ‘artistic’ designs such as drawings, patterns, and ‘striking’ themes, which typically serve to make the model look foolish, rather than exotic. These also quite simply get the point of makeup artistry wrong: the point is not to put art on the woman, the point is to make the woman into art.
Here are some examples of what to avoid:
As with eyes, I prefer lips to look naturally beautiful and sexy, or to present a subtle exaggeration of what is natural. My default favorite sexy look for a shoot, if your lips are healthy, is subtly pink lip gloss that lets the natural texture of the lips show through, but which simulates the color of increased blood flow and the glistening of moist, well-licked lips. With this level of intensity on the lips, the lips should be defined only by their natural line and the effect of carefully drawing on the lip balm.
To create more intense looks, I prefer natural colors: rosy pinks, purplish reds, and reddish purples, since these colors mimic or exaggerate natural beauty, rather than creating an unnatural ‘look’.
As lip color gets stronger, I find that it is most alluring if the lip color is translucent rather than opaque, allowing the natural texture and color variability of the lips to show through, rather than simply covering it up. This is a look requiring healthy lips, but if your lips can support it, lip stains are generally more erotically fascinating than solid lipsticks.
I personally prefer medium gloss at minimum, and that is a fairly safe level of shine for any shoot, but for more extreme looks, I much prefer always pushing in the direction of more gloss, rather than less. As you can see from the picture, these looks exude pure sex.
Even for really extreme looks, I strongly prefer natural colors, and to stay purplish, rather than go bright crimson, unless there is a reason within the overall look which calls for such a bright color ‘pop’.