Make-up without sight – how one blind woman does it

Have you ever wondered what your make-up would look like if you did it without being able to check in the mirror?

I can see the sun streaming in through the window, or whether the light is on or off, but as I have been almost totally blind since birth, that’s all I can see. No shapes, no colours. So when I do my make-up, I can’t check in the mirror to make sure it looks ok.

When I was a teenager, I never considered make-up as something that wasn’t accessible to me. It was just like everything else – I’d probably have to find a different way to do it, but as long as I could get the results I wanted, I didn’t care about the process and whether my friends did it the same way. That doesn’t mean that the learning process was easy. I was being taught by people who had always put on their make-up using their sight, and if you can’t do that, sometimes you need to be creative.

The first thing you need is honesty. The only time my grandmother said “You can’t go out like that” was when there had been a particularly bad loose blusher disaster of which I was blissfully unaware (I never use loose powder blusher now because it’s too unpredictable!), and when I ask my partner whether my make-up looks ok, I’m not looking for a “you look wonderful” (unless I do of course!). I want to know if I’ve got the look I was going for or if I missed a bit of foundation near my hairline or had a mascara fail. I can usually tell if I did the latter, but it gives me peace of mind to check. That doesn’t mean I won’t go out the door without asking someone first, but if I’m on my own, I’m probably a bit less adventurous.

The hardest thing for me is having no concept of colour. I don’t know what my favourite colour is because I’ve never seen them. That makes it harder to decide what look I want to go for. I can make informed choices about the types of product I want to use, but when it comes down to the colours, I have to trust people. Rather than naively trusting anyone though, I do think about all the feedback together, to look for patterns. Some shop assistants are fantastic, whereas others just want to sell you stuff. Even well-meaning friends can get it wrong when they are influenced by what they would usually buy, instead of really thinking about what would suit someone else. You can ask 10 people and get 10 different answers, so I tend to choose people whose choices and suggestions have got me the most compliments and people who can explain their choices.

I wouldn’t say there is one way for blind people to do their make-up. I know blind women who like short mascara brushes, use powder eye shadow and get their lashes tinted. I don’t do any of these things, but I think you just need to find out what works for you. I tend to be a more hands-on kind of girl, blending products in with my fingers so I know exactly where they are. I avoid powders where I can, apart from my foundation setting powder, because cream products have less chance of fall-out, and when you can’t see the end result, it’s good to eliminate the chance of product landing where you don’t want it to. Until a few months ago, I wasn’t aware of many of the products that are on offer now. I have discovered new things that make life much easier and solve some of the problems I had as a teenager. I’m now eager to see what else is available, both by trying things out in beauty subscription boxes, and working with brands to make their products and services more accessible to blind people.

My products fall into two categories – ones that I’m happy to change up all the time, and ones that I stick to because I’ve found something that I like.

I like foundation in a pump dispenser because then I know how much product I have each time and that one pump of it will cover my face. When you can’t see the coverage, you have to be thorough and aware of the areas that you sometimes miss. For example I pay extra attention to my hairline and above my left eye, because these are the areas where I sometimes forget to blend, and the skin under my nose so that I don’t forget it altogether! I then cover it with some fixed powder using the sponge that comes with it.

When I was younger, I used powder eye shadows, but to be honest, the results were a bit hit and miss. I could usually manage to cover the eye, but sometimes there was fall-out on my cheeks and I wasn’t always sure that I had got rid of it. It was only recently that I discovered two types of product that make the process much easier for someone who can’t see: cream shadow crayons and cream shadow pots. Both of them are cream-based. I either use the crayons or sticks to colour in my eyelid, or I apply the cream shadow to my finger tip and apply it to my lids. Ok, it’s non-conventional, but it is a way to make sure I apply the make-up evenly and exactly where I want it to go. Eye primer can make this process more difficult, because the eye already feels creamy before you add the products, but again it’s about being thorough – going over an area twice is better than missing half your eye!

Some blind women don’t like applying mascara, but I’ve always found it ok as long as I’m not rushing. The critical point is making contact with the brush. I usually bring the brush up to my eye and blink gently so that my lashes touch the brush. This means that I don’t poke myself in the eye with it or paint part of my face. Once I can feel the lashes with my brush, I can follow round and coat all of them. I always go for bigger brushes that look the same all the way round. Combs annoy me. I’ve found one that I like now and the only reason I would change would be if someone recommended a fatter brush.

You already know about the blusher disaster that made me hurl my loose blusher to the back of the cupboard. When I was a teenager, I swapped it out for a fixed powder, but as I couldn’t feel it on my face very well, I was never sure about the coverage. Now I have cream highlighter, which I just draw on my face and blend in, cream blusher and cream contour. I love these products, because applying them is a really tactile experience. I can feel where they are. I can feel the shape of my face and where the product needs to be. I can feel if something isn’t blended in properly because of the texture on my skin.

I know there are blind women who use a lot more brushes than me for jobs where I use my fingers. It’s a matter of choice. The idea that a brush may not be clean or it may have a different colour on it than the one I want to use is a major turn-off for me, and I feel I have more precision with my fingers. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t try them, but I don’t feel I need to use them just because most other people do.

Applying lipstick is not difficult, but I find the traditional lipsticks easier to apply than the liquids, because you have more control over exactly where they are going and they are more forgiving than the extra-long lasting liquid ones if you make a mistake. I have a selection from different brands because they are easy to identify by touch. If I have a number of lipsticks or cream shadows from the same brand, I mark the packaging in some way so I can tell them apart.

I’m no expert and I know I go for simpler looks than many of my sighted friends. That’s ok for me – partly because I want the make-up to be more subtle anyway and to enhance what’s already there, and partly because I would rather do a simple thing well than a complicated thing badly! I’m still learning, but I wanted to share these ideas to show that this is something that blind people can do if they want to.

I can’t see the results, but the people around me can, and if I do it well, I feel good about it in the same way that I feel good wearing nice clothes or a piece of jewellery.

Some of my favourite products

These products won’t suit everyone, but I’ve listed some of the ones that I like and find easy to use. Also, as I can’t easily get pictures of all the products that I use, linking them means that you can have a look at the images on other sites or get further information.

Face

Lips

Eyes

Over to you!

Has reading this article made you want to ask any questions? If it has, post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer! Also, if you’re visually impaired and you want to add anything about how you apply make-up, or any tips for making it easier, I’d love to hear them!

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High Street make-up haul

Find out which make-up products I got on a recent trip to the High Street!

If you can’t see how you look, there is a certain degree of trust needed when you go shopping. Some shop assistants are great. Others just want to sell you stuff. Even well-meaning friends can get it wrong when they pick out things that would look really good on them, or don’t pick out things because they wouldn’t dare to wear them.

Clothes shopping is slightly easier because I know what I definitely wouldn’t wear – if I don’t like the material, the length or the cut, it goes back on the rack, even if it would have looked “amaaazing”!

Make-up is different. I have to find people to trust when it comes to what looks good on me. I make choices about the type of products I want, but I can’t say what colours I like because I have never seen them and therefore have no framework of reference. I understand the concept of light and dark because I can see whether the light is on, but I have no concept of colours, and therefore it’s sometimes hard to decide which ones I want to wear.

Good friends are important – if you can’t look in the mirror, you do sometimes need someone who will tell you that you don’t look your best or that something doesn’t suit you. That goes for make-up too – you need people that you can trust.

So, that’s why I decided to go shopping with Amy!

First of all I showed her my make-up collection so that she could see what I already had and we could make a list of what we wanted to get.

We went to Superdrug and Boots a couple of weeks ago and this is what we got!

Face

First we went on the hunt for a new foundation. I made the quest harder by saying I wanted a foundation with a pump, but eventually we came up with the Max Factor Face Finity All Day Flawless. It has the same consistency as my L’Oréal one and applies well. The pump makes sure you get the same amount each time and I can usually cover my face with one squirt, so there is no wastage.

Amy persuaded me that I really did need to bother with powder on top of my foundation, so I got the Max Factor X Creme Puff Pressed Powder. This is something that I haven’t bothered with in the past, but if it keeps the foundation in place, I guess it’s worth it!

Cheeks

I don’t like powder blushers, so I was after something creamy. We found the MUA LUXE Whipped Velvet Blush This is much easier for me to apply and to get it where I want it!

I have a liquid highlighter, but I wanted to see whether there was a cream version of that as well – because creams are cool and there is no fall-out or spillage! We found the Maybelline New York Master Strobing Stick Illuminating Highlighter which is good because you can just draw the line on where you want it and blend it in afterwards.

Lips

A girl can never have too many lipsticks, can she? So I got a couple more! Firstly the Maybelline Colour Sensational Lipstick – 740 Coffee Craze, it wasn’t just because of the name that this coffee-lover had to have it, and also my first Make-up Revolution lipstick, “you’re a star”, which seems to be out of stock everywhere, so I can’t share the link with you.

Eyes

My mascara was running out, so I got another one. I’m a bit fussy with mascara, so if I find one that I like, I tend to repurchase rather than look for something else to try. So I picked up the L’Oréal volume million lashes mascara again.

Also, as I was so impressed with the Max Factor XS Shimmer cream shadow that I had already bought, I got another one in crystal.

If you want to find out more about these eye products, I talked about them more in my post about how I do my eye make-up as someone who can’t see.

So, that’s what we got! Virtually a whole face of make-up, so it was definitely a successful trip. Have you tried any of these products? Let me know what you think in the comments!

If you want to see all of the make-up that has been featured on Unseen Beauty, visit the Make-up product page.

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

This post contains some affiliate links, but I only promote things that I’ve tried and tested.