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 • Opinion  • Our Beauty Diaries  • I Broke 5 Key Beauty Rules For a Month and This is What Happened
Journalist Shannan Sterne tries some beauty looks

I Broke 5 Key Beauty Rules For a Month and This is What Happened

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Main image – Courtesy of writer

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimised by your hairdresser.

It’s been a year since you last went, and you’re too scared to face them again. Why? You’re scared of the shaming.

Then there’s your nail technician. Yes, you absent-mindedly picked off your last set of gels during a mammoth Netflix binge. But you’d just like to enjoy a cup of tea and a fresh set of acrylics in peace. Spare us the lectures, please.  

When it comes to beauty, the list of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ is endless. I’ve worked in the industry for over seven years and one thing’s for sure – it’s very fun, but by George there are a lot of must-follow instructions.

But to heck with the rules! I’ve decided to do a little experiment. I’ve chosen five beauty principles, delved into the history of their existence, and point blank ignored them.

Wondering whether you *actually* need to rinse that hair mask off after ten minutes? Or what would happen if you paired your bold lipstick with liner? Consider me your guinea pig. 


Rule one: Blue eyes can’t wear blue eyeshadow 

But Agnetha from Abba had blue eyes and she worked it.

Blue eyeshadow is having a renaissance – Dua Lipa, forever grateful for you. Dua has brown eyes and mine are blue – so, does this mean I should avoid the trend? I asked head makeup artist at SALON64, Freya Arabella, where this rule originates.

“Depending on your eye colour and complexion there are certain colours that are meant to suit your colouring. The theory is that blue eyes should go for warmer tones such as orange or warm browns to enhance the blue.”

It gets interesting. Makeup artist Soph Harty talks about a little something called ‘visual weight theory’. This is “where you can either have a ‘high’ visual weight or ‘low’ visual weight.

A ‘high’ visual weight is when you have one distinct standout facial feature (think Angelina Jolie’s lips or Shay Mitchell’s eyes). ‘Low’ visual weight is where you have no standout features so your face is proportionate and balanced.”

So, I asked, where does blue eyeshadow come into this? “This is where the don’t use the same colour shadow as your eyes comes in – it’s because it wouldn’t make your eyes stand out.”

Harty believes this categorically isn’t true: “Make-up just doesn’t need to have rules.” 


The verdict: 

Honestly? I thought I’d look better than I did. I’m SO here for bright shadow, but my eyes did blend in with the colour.

Oddly, I felt my eyes looked boring (despite liberally patting on electric blue like a child in a finger painting class). That is NOT to say I think this rule should exist! It just didn’t work for me. Maybe I need to try a different blue… 


Journalist Shannan Sterne uses blue eyeshadow on blue eyes

Image – Courtesy of writer


Rule two: Never skip your hydration product (moisturiser or serum or both) 

My mum is a die-hard moisturiser fan. I grew up religiously hydrating day and night.

This rule exists for good reason – healthy skin needs hydration. Moisturisers and serums work to trap water into our skin to stop it from drying out, and they also strengthen and rebuild your skin barrier. But, over the years I have started to ask myself big life questions like “Do I even need a skincare routine?” and I’ve been thrown into an internal whirlpool of self-doubt. 

We simply can’t ignore the fact that trends like ‘skin cycling’ actively encourage you to skip parts of your routine. I couldn’t help but wonder – what would happen to my dry, blemish-prone skin if I skipped moisturiser for say… a week?


The verdict:

Bad things happened. After just one-night sans my usual moisturiser, I woke up to tight, itchy skin. By day four? Carnage. My complexion was red, blotchy, and little bumps started to appear in random locations. Sorry mum, I won’t do it again. 


Rule three: Don’t pair dark eye make-up with dark lipstick 

I’ve always followed this rule to the letter. But why? Harty says it’s ‘visual weight theory’ rearing its well-groomed head again.

“The aim in make-up has always been that we should have one standout feature and avoid wearing ‘too much’”. Does she think this is true? “Not a chance. We live for self-expression and there are some days where you need to eat the world up with dark eyes and dark lips.”

Make-up artist Tania Grier agrees “There are no rules anymore, so have fun and experiment.” Sold. But what look shall I dabble in first?

Harty gave me some ace suggestions – “there is no right answer, but a great introduction to the newbie ‘rule breaker’ is dark vampy eyes and deep purple matching lippies.” Music to my ears…


The verdict: 

I’m into it. I went as ‘full on’ as I could by packing on brown and gold eyeshadow, followed by lashings of liner and multiple layers of mascara.

I dug into my lip drawer and found this – and I have to shout about this product – it’s called the Mac Love Me Lip Colour in shade Gift to the Gods AKA the make-up equivalent of walking into a coffee shop and instantly locking eyes with the future love of your life.

It really is *that* good.  It’s hydrating, it glides on like a dream, it stays on for hours, and it has a rich, chocolate-y colour.


Journalist Shannan Sterne tries dark lipstick with dark eyeshadow

Image – Courtesy of writer


Rule four: Heavy perfumes are only for night-time 

Is this one of life’s harsh facts or merely marketing rhetoric?

According to Perfume Direct “Such differences aren’t accidental. Research has shown that our olfactory senses become sharper in the evening, allowing the profound notes of night perfumes to resonate more deeply, providing a richer sensory indulgence.”

Research also shows that there is a significant connection between scent and memory, so certain notes might remind you of daytime activities. For example, zingy lemon notes may remind you of baking with your grandma, and so it registers in your brain as a daytime scent.

As my favourite scents are rich, syrupy juices, I think this rule is just plain unfair. So, I broke it. 


The Verdict:

All of the yeses. Every morning throughout January, I reached eagerly for my Memo Paris Honey Dragon and enjoyed a generous spritzing. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should. At first spray, you’ll notice juicy mandarin and herby thyme (which are kind of day-y) but then – and this is the good bit – it leaves this snappy black pepper and cinnamon zing lingering on your skin, while vanilla bourbon gives it a tasty vibe.

It’s an ‘evening’ scent but I spent the gloomiest month of the year smelling like a buttery biscuit and I loved every minute.  


Image – Courtesy of writer


Rule five: Remove your hair mask after 10 minutes 

I bought a hair mask from Superdrug (the Extracts 3 in 1 Hair Mask Watermelon & Mint, if we’re being specific) and the packaging says you MUST wash it off after 10 minutes.

According to Well and Good, this is because “leaving a mask in too long may result in residue build-up, over-conditioning, weakened hair, and irritation or sensitivity.” That doesn’t sound good.

But hear me out, an episode of Gilmore Girls is approximately 39–45 minutes, so what if I apply my mask then want to wait until the end to wash it out?  I did exactly this in the name of journalism – and science.  


The verdict:

I’d wash it off after the instructed ten minutes if I were you. Shoutout to the fact that this mask smelled like a tropical smoothie – watermelon and mint is a winning combo – so my Netflix sesh was a sensorial delight.

I must admit when I washed it out my ends felt super soft. However, the next day, I woke up to greasy roots and mousy strands and I had to wash it again with a purifying shampoo. Nothing major, but that inconvenient mid-show pause is probably worth it.


The takeaway

Lectures from the media, your hairdresser, and maybe even your mates, aside, it is true that magazines and beauty brands are trying to encourage self-love.

But remember, as beauty journalist Sheilla Mamona says “brands and magazines are here to sell you products, which means that they are monetising some sort of ‘lack’ in your aesthetics. However, the dialogue is progressing to a more positive, glass half-full, ‘enhancement rather than changing’ language, and I think that’s a good thing.”

Feel empowered to wear the make-up you want to wear and smell how you want to smell. Things are changing, and 2024 is the year to be who you are, wearing whatever ‘look’ feels good for you.  


Meet the Experts 

Sheilla Mamona is a freelance journalist published in Glamour, British Vogue, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph and more. 


Freya Arabella is head make-up artist at SALON64.


Soph Harty is an EMUA at NYX Professional Makeup.


Tania Grier is a celebrity make-up artist


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Freelance Beauty Writer

Shannan is a freelance beauty journalist with over seven years of experience working on beauty desks.  You’ll see her work published in the likes of Harrods' own magazine, Red, Women’s Wear Daily, Canvas8 and more. She regularly guest lectures on various courses at Condé Nast College of Fashion and Design about digital content. Shannan is obsessed with all-things beauty, and particularly loves writing about scent – she was a finalist for the 'Rising Star' category at The Jasmine Awards 2023, one of the most prestigious journalistic awards in the beauty industry.

Expertise: Makeup, skincare
Education: Falmouth University

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