The Minimalist Makeup Trick We're Stealing from Men's Week

Makeup artists at New York Fashion Week: Men's made a great case for letting the under-eye bag shine.
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Eliza Brooke
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Makeup artists at New York Fashion Week: Men's made a great case for letting the under-eye bag shine.
The boys backstage at Todd Snyder. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The boys backstage at Todd Snyder. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Let's talk about under-eye bags. Because backstage at New York Fashion Week: Men's, makeup artists had a surprising amount to say on the topic.

Cheryl and I headed off to the men's shows last week excited to see how the beauty scene would stack up against women's runway shows. Would the male models be subjected to the same rigorous makeup creations as their female counterparts? To that, we got an answer pretty fast. Not even close! 

The makeup teams went for very natural looks at the shows I attended, with most of the guys' faces requiring less than ten minutes to prepare for the runway. That minimal work involved blending in some foundation wherever the guys had a bit of redness — typically around the nose, sometimes on their ears — and brushing up their brows to keep things tidy. No color cosmetics, no contouring and no under-eye concealer.

That last point about not covering up dark circles stuck out, in part because every single makeup artist made note of it and also because it's something that I've come to expect from even the simplest women's look. (Marc Jacobs's totally makeup-free look for spring 2015 being a rare exception.) Each beauty lead had his or her own philosophy behind leaving them in their natural state. At Rochambeau, Shiseido's Colleen Runne explained that covering up the pigmentation beneath the eye flattens out guys' faces. Sil Bruinsma, who led makeup for Mac Cosmetics at Thom Browne, said that the men start looking too doll-like with under-eye concealer — "Especially with the models, who are all good looking guys."

At Todd Snyder, Janessa Paré from Aveda instructed her team to add a touch of concealer where the eye socket begins but to stop well before the lash line. 

"When you cancel out that [natural color] is almost when you need to put blush back on the face because you got rid of some color," Paré said. "There's no balance of color. You look like a mannequin, really.

"On women, we put mascara on, or we contour our eye or do a smokey eye. We're usually covering that area of our eye back up with eyeliner, something. But on guys they're not putting anything," she added.

Interesting. So in a way, no-makeup makeup starts with avoiding concealer that's going to require re-defining the face with other products. But makeup artist Regan Rabanal, who was representing Mac backstage at Orley, encourages women to let their under-eye circles hang out in all their raw, richly hued glory even when they plan on using eyeshadow, liner or mascara afterward. 

"I go right in with eyeshadow or eyeshadow cream and mix that with the eye tone they have naturally, just because I think it looks better and less like makeup," he said. "I feel that people, especially in fashion or the New York woman, want to look real. They want to look like themselves, and the less visibility of makeup, the better. I think it's a great way to bring out your features with makeup and let your features do the talking as opposed to your product."

Amen to that.