The dos and don’ts of applying make-up on public transport

Been pushing the boundaries a little recently? Read on...

tube SW landscape.jpg

Been pushing the boundaries a little recently? Read on...

Hands up who did their make up on the train to work this morning? If we’re honest a lot of us (this writer included). For sleep-deprived workers, a morning commute can be the perfect opportunity to put our face on, and a real time-saver that can buy us an extra twenty minutes in the comfort of our beds. So then why is there so much hoo-ha around the subject? For some reason, applying make up on public transport is a surefire way to repel fellow passengers. The simple act of pulling out your lipstick can prompt tuts and raised eyebrows… judging by their reaction you would think we'd just pulled a severed head out of our bag. Debrett’s has described ‘keeping personal grooming private’ as a golden rule of train travel. Well no offence to Debrett’s but for those of us with nine-to-five jobs, a family and a full calendar – an on-board beauty routine is not exactly a choice. It’s a necessity. Just in case you're wondering whether you're pushing things a little too far, we've compiled our very own list of dos and don’ts: a guide to public transport make up etiquette for all the women who just want to freshen up without the disapproving glances.

DO apply as much lipstick, mascara and eyeliner as you want. On a 2015 survey carried out in London those three cosmetic products were found the least 'offensive' to fellow commuters. What's more, contour away to your heart's content - men have expressed more of a fascination with what it is rather than outrage at seeing it.

DON’T use anything with fumes. That includes painting your nails, squirting perfume and spraying deodorant. Overwhelming chemical smells in a confined tube carriage is not a good way of going unnoticed. It’s like when someone sits next to you on a crowded tube and eats a McDonalds, but instead of making everyone crave chips, it gives them a headache.

BUY: Make up wipes and anti-bacterial hand gel. These are a necessity. If you are going to smear foundation on your face with your fingers, you will need something to clean your product-stained palms. Keep the cleaning products for hands only though – removing brown sludge from your face in front of your fellow commuters is never a pretty sight.

DO pick your seat wisely (if you can get a seat). Opt for a two seater rather than four for more privacy, and pay attention to the sun's movements - sit in the wrong place and the lighting for make up application will be an absolute nightmare.

DON’T groom inappropriately. We’re all for the 21st Century but some general hygiene upkeep should be reserved for the bathroom. Sticking cotton buds in your ears and flossing your teeth definitely falls into that category.

BUY: A compact mirror. Yes your iPhone set in ‘selfie’ mode does technically function but the lighting is unreliable and waving your phone around on the camera setting can be off-putting to the commuters around you. A compact mirror is a failsafe option.

DO opt for more efficient and compact make up products. Buy a balm blusher and apply with your fingertips – you won’t need a brush and can pamper subtly without drawing attention to yourself. DON’T shed anything. That includes plucking your eyebrows and clipping and filing your nails. There’s a time and a place for nail care and it is not on your morning commute – if you’re really insistent, invest in a glass nail file.

BUY: An eyebrow pencil. Powdering in your eyebrows attracts much more attention, not to mention the brown dust goes everywhere. Invest in a travel-sized brow crayon and spare yourself those disapproving stares and dark powdery faces before work.

DO keep your make up tools clean. On-board make-up application is much more acceptable if your brushes look new-ish and your make up bag isn’t filled with dirty tissues. DON’T use any tools that look too scary. Eyelash curlers may work wonders but they look like a Victorian torture method and the same goes for inserting contact lenses - don’t put fellow commuters through watching it. You won't make any friends. BUY: A BB cream. Rather than bringing foundation, moisturiser and concealer on the train, opt for a tube of multifunctioning BB cream, saving you valuable handbag space and blending easily with your fingertips in a rush.

Jenny Proudfoot
Features Editor

Jenny Proudfoot is an award-winning journalist, specialising in lifestyle, culture, entertainment, international development and politics. She has worked at Marie Claire UK for seven years, rising from intern to Features Editor and is now the most published Marie Claire writer of all time. She was made a 30 under 30 award-winner last year and named a rising star in journalism by the Professional Publishers Association.