As Seen on TV: Downton Abbey Makeup

crazy three
Real ladies don’t paint their faces

I loved the first season of Downton Abbey. It was the perfect combination of intellect and camp, history and soap opera goodness. At the center of the show are the three beautiful, complex, often arguing sisters. And because this show commits to historial accuracy-ish, they don’t wear makeup. Or so you might think.

I love the makeup in old period pieces. It’s the ultimate no-makeup makeup look. The skin must be absolutely perfect. It must have a convincing texture but an extra layer of gleam. In Downton Abbey no one has under eye circles or pimples. They have subtly flushed cheeks and just barely glossy lips. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it looks.

In the season three finale I’m revealed to be the bastard fourth daughter

It’s a cosmetic paradox that the “no makeup” look is one of the hardest. But here’s a secret: don’t aim for perfection. You want to leave a few “flaws” to be all the more convincing. You don’t want the airbrushed doll look. So I didn’t cover up my freckles, and I didn’t completely cover up my redness. You want that English Rose look after all. Let me break it down:

Step 0: Wash your face and moisturize intensely. You want a soft, gleaming base to work with. Paint your nails clear while you’re waiting for everything to soak in.

Step 1: Prime and apply a very thin coat of your favorite foundation. Foundation is just like painting your walls – for the best results, use multiple thin, even coats. I used Bare Minerals Original SPF 15 Foundation in Fairly Light. I have feelings about Bare Minerals that I’ll go into later. The shade is a perfect match for me, but I don’t love the finish – it can look too powdery and cakey. And so begins Lord of the Rings 4: Journey for the Perfect Foundation, in theaters soon.


Step 2: Apply a sheer, nude-toned eyeshadow below the crease. I went with Cover GIrl Eye Enhancers in Mink. The not-great payoff of drugstore eyeshadows actually works to your benefit here. Sephora-level stuff may not allow the appropriate amount of sheerness.

Step 3: Apply soft pink liquid stain on the apples of your cheeks and your lips. I went with Posietint by Benefit. Much subtler than the original Benetint. You want to look shocked by something embarrassing the Dowager Countess says, not flushed from sex. Sex was not discovered until the 1960s.

Step 4: Apply a light coat of pink lipgloss – I used Buxom Lip Polish in April.

Step 5: Put clear mascara on your eyebrows and eyelashes. I use Maybelline Great Lash in clear, but any will do. This will give you that little extra glossiness.

Step 6: This is the most important step, so listen close: highlighter. I used Benefit’s High Beam, which is great if you’re pale or have cool toned skin. If you have yellow toned or darker skin, you may want to try Moon Beam. Make a C shape with highlighter from you cheekbones to just above your eyebrows. Highlighter is very hard to photograph, because it’s most apparent when you move. But trust me that this is what gives the Crawleys that signature glow. That and servants to plait your hair.

What’s a week-end?

One thought on “As Seen on TV: Downton Abbey Makeup

  1. Pingback: Mother of Dragons: Game of Thrones Makeup Tutorial | Nath Attack

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