In Defence Of Doing Your Make-Up On Your Commute

Two out of three of us so it. So why do people still have such an issue with it?


by Morwenna Ferrier |
Published on

So there I am, on the Jubilee line in rush-hour on one of those balmy, windless evenings last week when someone – a suit – coerces me off the tube for applying eyeliner. I wasn’t forceably removed. But the act of being elbowed in the tit (by mistake or otherwise) spoke volumes. So, team, I got off at Canada Water. I actually got off one stop early, and applied the rest of my lipstick on the platform before catching the next tube and arriving unacceptably late.

Odd move, pal, I thought, as I swiped my Oyster card. I mean, I find watching someone fashion a cat’s eye with a single stroke pretty compelling. Yet here we are, in 2014, still buried with the idea that applying make-up on public transport is a bone of contention. And one that is almost exclusively gender-focused.


That’s no surprise. We all do it – well two out of three of us apply make-up on public transport according to the most recent survey – but until men wear mascara, it’s a moot point. It’s almost entirely gender-geared and it’s acceptability depends entirely on your fellow passengers.

The first thing to remember is that the person applying make-up in transit probably isn’t doing it out of choice. Of course there are women – and I’ve seen one – who will tape their mirror to the window of the train. There are people who will take up two seats, the second becoming a buffet of pots and lotions. Fair play, I admire their innovative spirit, but I am not one of those women. I rarely do it because I want to.

I was only applying my lipstick on the tube because the toilet in Pret (where I usually do it if not at home, CC cream balanced delicately on the sanitary bin) was out of order. So the relative luxury of doing it while seated, with two hands, on the Jubilee line rather than crouched in the crow pose on someone’s doorstep, seemed like the lesser of two evils, not to mention fair – the tube is as public and the doorstep isn’t. Maybe I’m wrong. Believe you me, I wanted to say, I’d rather be doing this in my bathroom. Or in Pret. But because I’m British and we were in a public space, I couldn’t and I didn't.


Etiquette experts argue that putting make-up on during your commute does count as anti-social behaviour. 'There are others who are going to be moved to remind you that you are engaged in private activities they'd rather not be witness to,' writes Dear Prudence, on US website Slate. But I’m not sure that it’s a ‘private’ activity – the idea that make-up is a secret feels a little archaic.

Of course there is a difference between applying lipstick and, say, painting your nails. Beauty writer Sali Hughes is well aware of that distinction. Her new book,* Pretty Honest*, has a whole chapter on it and she herself has a self-imposed ban on ‘shedding’. As she puts it: 'Anything which involves something – a smell or substance – falling on someone else should be avoided. So no tweezing, filing, powdering, spraying and hair brushing. No nail colour painting or removing.' Everything else comes under basic etiquette. 'Just keep your elbows to yourself,’ she advises.


And – forgetting what anyone else thinks of you for a moment – there is the issue of hygiene, important for your own face's sake. The other day I zshushed up a tired face by popping a bit of primer on my skin on the Overland. I now have three small spots over my eyebrows and I’d hazard the two events are linked. Generally, though, I avoid anything which involves fingers to skin contact because lord knows who’s been touching the door button on the London Overland.

The funny thing is I used to feel ashamed about putting on lipstick underground, of exposing my Secret Self, or for the suggestion that I was too disorganised to do it at home. Of course the irony that I don’t even wear much make-up. But the truth is, last week I was off to a party and that guy who knocked into me was carrying his Dine In For £10. So, there’s only one real winner.

Have I convinced you? If so, here's a few on-the-commute-beauty-tips to try.

To avoid dusting co-travellers with powder, use a finishing powder which you dab instead of brush. Bare Minerals do this amazing mineral veil powder(£22) which is as good as a brushed mattefying powder

Of all the eyeliners, Rimmel's professional-liquid-liner (£5.29) is the easiest to apply. It's not too stiff so you can create a flick quite easily – plus it takes a few seconds to dry so if you go wrong you can cotton bud it off easily.

Lipstick is a disaster because it's impossible to wipe off. Clinique's Chubby Stick(£17) is the closest thing to a lipstick but because it has this gel formula, you can correct mistakes really easily. And you don't need a lipliner either.

The final beauty tip is Mac's Prep & Prime (£24) is a BOGOF product – primer and a little foundation in one. And the best thing is it's a compact so you have a mirror and you don't need to put dirty fingers all over your face.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

Questions You've Always Wanted To Ask Your Bikini Waxer, Answered

Deskside Beauty Hacks To Get Your Face Looking Fresh When You've Spent The Day In The Office

Your Commute-Friendly Makeup Bag

Follow Morwenna on Twitter @morwennastar

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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