Makeup for the tropics

This really applies to anywhere terribly hot and terribly humid. As y’all know, I just got back from spending some time in Cairns and Darwin, two places that are terribly hot in summer even by Brisbane standards.

The combination of hot and humid presents unique challenges to makeup, simply because makeup tends to be designed to be used in more moderate temperatures. Because hot climates also tend to have aircon set to bloody cold, your skin is going to be exposed to a lot of external stimulus and very varied conditions.  Let’s have a look at some steps I found helpful in deciding what to bring. (Please note that the photos are all from different trips).

Step one: give up on the instagram look.
With temperatures that are 35 or above and humidity well over 60%, you need to be realistic. If you use too much product, your face is going to sweat even more and your sebum production is going to reach record levels. Adjust your expectations to a more natural look and you’re likely to have a better result in the long run. Keep in mind that your makeup can literally melt on your face. The look I’m wearing in that photo is obviously extremely basic, but it looked good throughout the entire day.

Step two: consider conditions.
In addition to everything being freaking hot, Australians also face another factor that needs to be taken into consideration. You’ll be dealing with a lot of UV rays and the warnings are likely to be indicating extreme levels of UV rays in the middle of the day. In other words, for the love of everything holy, use SPF. Never go below 30 even when it comes to makeup. In fact, if you can find something with SPF 50, use it. Use regular sunscreen too. Use a hat. Protect your skin against cancer, sunburn, and premature ageing. Another thing to take into consideration is that your face will most likely be more red than usual due to the temperature and potential sunburn, think about this when selecting the undertones of your primary face product.

Step three: product selection.
Based on the first two steps, you need something light with spf. This translates into a BB or CC creme with high spf. Since I tan very easily, I had to give up on using my regular Korean cushions since they just were too pale for my face. Instead, I managed to find a really good product when it was on sale. Smashbox’s Camera Ready BB Creme with sf 35 is an amazing product. The price on Smashbox’s website is 36 dollars, presumably USD. The price at Mecca? 58 AUD. Thankfully I managed to get it for about 30.
Here’s what Mecca’s website says about the product:
“An innovative and multipurpose product that performs the functions of five products in one. The creamy, lightweight formula hydrates, primes and perfects the skin by visibly evening out skin tone and reducing the appearance of skin imperfections. Optical pearl pigments and emollients create a brighter, more ethereal looking complexion, whilst a broad spectrum SPF35 protects against UVA/ UVB rays. The formula also helps to control oil throughout the day for non-shiny complexion without the chalky, matte finish.”

It really does all those things. The coverage is medium and adapts to your skin tone quite well. The shade I have is fair/light, which is what you see me wearing in that photo. Their range of colours is decent and goes from very light to quite dark. Whatever you do, stay away from heavy foundation.
If you’re prone to an oily t-zone (or have oily skin in general), I’d recommend looking for a powder. The best powder I’ve tried is the Innisfree No Sebum Blur Pact, which is a lightweight powder in a generic beige shade. They also have a translucent version which works almost just as well and should be a good option if the beige one doesn’t work with your skin tone. This product is great for oil control and it’s a good idea to carry it around with you.

Instead of heavy foundation, combine the bb creme with a concealer you can use on any spots if you really need to. The result will look better and your skin is less likely to break out even more.


Step four: Other makeup
Keep it light here too. I’d recommend skipping eyeliner altogether and instead use eyeshadow if you wish to do something with your eyes. A dark brown or black eyeshadow along the upper lashes can have a similar effect to eyeliner but doesn’t melt. If you’re using mascara, keep it waterproof and light. Forget fake eyelashes, if you’re unlucky the glue can melt due to the high temperatures. Forget any sort of blush, chances are your cheeks will be naturally rosy from the heat. In general, stay away from gel products as they tend to melt even more than liquids. Go for neutral shades when it comes to eyeshadows, a discrete brown smokey eye isn’t as sensitive to changes as cut crease looks or bold colours.

For the lips, go either with a really good lipstick or a tinted lip balm/lip tint. Don’t forget SPF here either. If you use a lipgloss, there’s a chance it will be runnier than usual due to the temperatures. I’ve found that lip balms and tints tend to be the lip products best suited for high humidity. Liquid lip balms/tints have the added benefit that they don’t risk melting in the tube. Again, I mainly stuck with a lip tint from Innisfree. Something worth considering is that Korean products are often designed to be used in high humidity, at least when compared to a lot of western brands. Why? Because Korea tends to be humid. Sometimes, it’s just that simple.

Step five: other tips.
See those green things in the photo? Those are gel patches, you place them in the fridge and then apply them over your eyes to decrease puffiness after travel. They’re also amazing to place on sunburn that needs to cool down. If your face does get burned, this is a good non-sticky option.
Heat and humidity can do some horrible things to your lips, a good way to minimise those issues is to moisturise them during the night.
Bring a moisturiser or after sun product, if your skin does get burnt, they help minimise the damage done. Again, try to not get burned in the first place.
Other than that, wear a nice hat to protect your ears, scalp, face, and the back of your neck. If you have long hair, keep it in a pony tail or braid. Why? It helps keep your neck cool, which really affects how you perceive temperature. It’s the same principle as wearing a scarf in winter. Beware of scalp burn. Hats are lovely, combing your hair in different patterns to ensure that the same part of the scalp isn’t constantly exposed to direct sunlight can help too.


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