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ISLM Rants: Does Your Office Makeup Choices Depend On The Environment At Work?


What Is Office Appropriate Makeup?

Quite often than not, I read about how women limit their makeup choices because of the industry they work in... Limiting lipstick shades to basic neutrals and at the most toned down pinks, a strict no no to eye shadows and in many cases even skipping foundations in order to avoid that "made up" face... Of course, to counter these observations, there are a group of women who take pride in going "against" the norms and sport Red lipsticks every now and then or go through with a gorgeous smokey eye, subtle enough to not look OTT and yet making sure that it is noticed...

No I am not judging cause many a times I am guilty of doing the latter and well there are days when I am also guilty of doing the former...

So what is the right thing to do? What does office appropriate makeup really mean? Does it mean going for something so basic (makeup wise) that your inner diva is left wanting for a lot more or is it flouting the rules of the workplace cause well after all it is a free country...

Well yes for many of us, makeup depends on our moods and well many a times on the situation as well. Like for example, when I know my manager's happy with my work, you'll see my going all out with my beloved MAC Ruby Woo and yet on days when I have a presentation to give that I am not sure of or if if my review meeting is scheduled, I invariably reach out for a nude or an MLBB shade of a lipstick...

The question is how does one strike a balance? How does one satisfy the makeupistas within us and yet look professional?


  1. Hii..i think it does depend on the workplace n the work culture a lot. Cos when i was in a private company,the work environment allowed me to experiment with makeup even in office.. and wear a bit bright colors which do not look OTT, but now when im going to work in a psu,i know its going to change n i'l have to choose bit neutral shades in makeup..but yeah,il also try that trick of urs,like if the boss is happy with my work n i have met the targets,then i can choose some bold shades ;)
    Otherwise it has to be neutral but noticeable.

  2. atleast to is influenced more by people around u with whom u move, hangout & work with at your workplace.... coz u really don want ppl giving u second looks for being out of place...being in the IT sector, I move across different projects in a year & the people & their vibes around me has been a big factor to decide wat kind of clothes & makeup I wear to office...

    also societal culture... i hv worked in 3 cities - chennai, hyd & bang.. n i m yet to come across one person sporting an e/s to the office... i too hv fallen victim to the same n till date my e/s shadow stash is something tat needs bad improvement!

    red is something i hv never worn to office... its mostly pinks,peaches & corals for me... even fuchsias.. I too tone down my makeup when there is a presentation due.. but not to the extent tat it goes unnoticeable...

  3. You know this is exactly what i was thinking a few days back.. i love getting dressed up for work but i always have to limit myself as far as lupstivks n colors r concerned.. sucha pain.. still trying t figure out how t strike th right balance..

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  5. The work environment plays a very important role in deciding what I wear and what kind of makeup I'd like to sport.
    Many times women who do makeup and dress up are thought to be more self absorbed and not serious. Which is extremely annoying. I even remember an instance when my once a manager to a co employee that all she cares about is dressing up and coming and is not interested in work.
    So to get that serious look people end up doing makeup and dressing up in a way that would portray an image that they take their work seriously.

  6. For me yes the work environment plays a very important role in deciding the kind of makeup I will be wearing. I am not much of a makeup person though, just some kohl and a lipstick. Also, there are days when I feel a little more daring and opt for bright lip colors. But most of the time I keep it subtle. As far as satisfying our inner makeupista is concerned we have Saturday and Sundays for that. We can go all out and over the top :P

  7. I think it depends on your work environment and your colleagues. When I was working at an ad agency a few years ago, I often wore bright coloured eye liners and bright lipstick (not on the same day). But now I work in an extremely conservative place and the tiniest hint of anything 'different' is noted and commented upon. Now this would not be a big deal, but people will also untiringly question you about it and pass judgment about your 'character' (sometimes directly to you) because you wore makeup. A coworker once commented to me deridingly about some girl who wore kajal, eye liner and lip gloss. She said 'she's simply doing this to attract boys; there's no need for things like this.' Another woman in a senior position commented to my dear friend, who was just applying nivea lip balm, that her husband thinks that women who do that are call girls! No joke! My reaction was and always will be "WTF!!"
    Initially, I was a little intimidated and generally toned down everything, but these days I don't hold back - hello bright eye liners. I know how to talk to such fools.
    However, there might also be places where bright makeup is frowned upon as unprofessional rather than disreputable. I mean, if it's a financial company or something really serious, I can see how bright lipstick might attract a few glares. In that case, it is up to the woman to either explain that it doesn't affect her standard of work or toe the line.

  8. This is so true! Not just makeup but this applies to outfits I wear as well. Working in an IT industry i have experienced so far that people around me think -"eyeshadow is something which should be worn only in weddings, red lipsticks are only for filmstars, foundation- umm are you crazy?,skirts in office-excuse me this is a workplace and not a ramp, dresses in office - we are in India and not in NYC" I always feel like dressing up and going to office but somewhere I have to put limitations. I use a liner, mascara for my eyes, foundation and a peach,coral or pink lipstick and I stick to formals mostly trousers and shirts (then I have to hunt for different kind of shirts or blouses because I cannot play around with dresses and skirts) Its really sad that we are forced to adapt to this environment because I have seen many of my friends getting all dolled up and going to office (of course they work abroad! *phew*)

  9. My favourite topic after lipstick shades :p

    Yes, we do limit our makeup based on the office environment.... I have realised that my makeup is a lot more muted when I am in Mumbai office as against the Delhi office, in the same organisation! Thankfully, the atmosphere in my organisation allows me to wear makeup and I have done it all... worn coloured liners, bright lips, heavily kohled eyes or even red lips to work! The trick I feel is to not overdo it and still remember you are in the office to work. Because all said and done, your different makeup will attract attention and can distract people!

    The other side of the spectrum are the women who just wash their face and land in office! No grooming at all... someone needs to tell these ladies that makeup can be used to enhance your looks without looking over made up. And a little effort goes a long way in improving their appearance. I remember reading a report where ladies who wore makeup in moderation were more successful at work because they were considered taking their job more seriously. They put in more effort to get to work!

    This was a great rant topic Suma.. it is so interesting to read the opinions of others... let us keep this thread alive!

  10. Hi,

    This is my first comment on ISLM :D

    I have been for a little over an year now. I work in a semi conservative corporate environment. While people really doll up in pretty dresses and sheer tops, make up is pretty much off the table. When I started out, I would just stick to the kajal-lip balm routine. But now armed with some preliminary knowledge of make up, I have been a tad adventurous- eyeliner on most days (unless I am inordinately late), a few swipes of Creme Cup, good coat of mascara et al. I have very recently started applying a taupe eye-shadow as well and it has been well received by the female colleagues!

    For me, putting on a little make up really makes a difference to my confidence level. I feel every working woman should do the basics to just feel good- nothing's more important than the feel-good factor that you get. I totally agree with the observation made by Ankita above- a little bit of grooming goes a long way indeed. And the 'out-of-the bed' look was cool when we were in college. Unfortunately, it just doesn't help any more.

    And Suma, I totally echo your feelings about matching make up to the mood at work- if I have a review meeting scheduled, I totally skip anything that is attention grabbing :D

    This is a great topic for discussion indeed- looking forward to read more observations/comments.


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