True story. A few years ago, a friend and I were invited to a costume party. We knew that most of the guests would be video game industry folk and graphic designers, and they would be Making An Effort with their fancy dress.
She and I, the lazy types, made a pact to keep things low-key. So I bought a tiny witch’s hat on an Alice band and put on my second-best black frock. When I arrived at the party, I discovered that my friend’s and my definition of low-key differed: she had covered herself in green paint and was wearing a full Wicked Witch of the West costume.
Later that evening, my little hat vanished. I looked round and realised that in a sea of Dr Manhattans/Hellboys/whoever the nerderati fancy-dress icons were in 2008, I was simply a drunk woman in a black dress.
But the following day, vengeance was mine. When we met for brunch, I looked hungover but human. My friend was still green, and apparently had ruined several towels, her bedding, and a wall in an effort to get less green.
Which all goes to say: 1) if you’re going to Zombie it up this year, make some effort, for crying out loud. And 2) learn how to remove your makeup properly. It’ll save your soft furnishings, and your skin.
How to take your face off, without taking your face off.
1. LUSH Ultra Bland ($29.95, LUSH)
The best way to remove oodles of makeup is with a balm cleanser, because creams and lotions are too thin and won’t cut through the grime. This one, from LUSH, is thicker and greasier than a cream, but not too solid to massage in.
Before you get started, tear up an old towel to make little washcloths: they’re going to get destroyed so there’s no point using your posh bath linen. Apply the balm all over your face (and anywhere else you’ve put makeup), soak a washcloth in warm water, lay it over your skin for a few seconds, then wipe away.
You might need to do this several times to really make a dent in the makeup, but clean skin should be revealed fairly quickly. The balm is made from beeswax, essential oils and honey, so it’s kind to skin too. I use it every day, even when I’m not in fancy dress.
2. Bioderma Sensibio H2O ($26.95, drugstores and pharmacies)
Micellar solutions are cleansers that trap oil, dirt and makeup without harming skin. You don’t need to rinse them off – all you do is soak a cotton pad in the watery liquid and get wiping. Sensibio is one of the original and best. It’s ideal for normal, oily, combination, dry or sensitive, won’t irritate and doesn’t leave skin feeling tight.
If you’ve gone full Elphaba for Halloween, you might need to use this as a follow-up to a balm cleanser, but it’s still a worthwhile addition to your everyday cleansing regime. The brand has just released cleansing wipe versions, which I can’t wait to try.
3. Philosophy Purity Made Simple ($44, Sephora)
Once you’ve removed your slap, you still need to wash your face. This classic foaming cleanser removes any last traces of makeup or dirt, without stripping skin of moisture, and is gentle enough for the eye area.
4. Clarisonic Mia 2 Cleansing System ($150, Sephora)
I’m not suggesting you spaff away $150 on a Halloween treat, but if you could do with a skincare upgrade anyway, this cleansing device is the bee’s knees. It oscillates at sonic frequency to jiggle dirt and bacteria out of your pores, so skin is left really clean and exfoliated. I genuinely saw a difference in my complexion after just a couple of uses – my pores looked tighter and serums sank in faster.
5. Biore Daily Makeup Removing Towelettes ($7, drugstores and pharmacies)
My makeup artist friends never recommend face wipes, apart from these ones. They’re gentle, hypoallergenic, alcohol-free and do a pretty good job at taking off makeup. Of course it’s better to cleanse properly, but stash these on your nightstand/in your purse in case you stagger in incapable of skincare, or don’t make it home at all.