Anti-Holiday Beauty

‘Tis the Season to Turn the Concept of “Holiday Makeup” On Its Head

I’ll paint my lips a moody, violent purple; I’ll transform my lids into a masterpiece with whatever shade suits my mood. Nothing about my look will be jolly—or even cohesive.

Saying I’m enraptured with the holiday season is like saying Harry Styles knows how to rock a floral suit: It’s a villainous understatement. I revel in every garish display of twinkly lights, the snap and crackle of a winter afternoon and repeat viewings of the tragically underrated The Family Stone. There’s an energy to the season that, to me, is one of bounty and goodwill. Much of this is dumb luck: I have a family that doesn’t inspire rage—in fact, I actually like them! They are fair, flawed, wonderful humans, and we’ve stripped our melting pot holiday of any religious overtones to celebrate it the way we do all occasions that bring us together: with catastrophic amounts of wine and lots of naps.

I acknowledge that this isn’t universal. As much as the holidays can bring out our best, they can also give rise to the worst: infighting and insufferable in-laws, over­sharing and overspending. The season has become relentlessly commercialized, and after the year we’ve just had, you could be forgiven for wanting to spend these weeks in a hot toddy haze, counting the days until you’re allowed to slip the knot of 2017 and move into a new year—one ripe with potential. And home isn’t always a refuge; it may be where you’re made to conceal your tattoos, spiritual leanings or sexual preferences. It might be a place that flattens, rather than feeds, you.

Big Cosmetics seems intent on contributing to this angst by belabouring the idea that every woman’s deepest desire is to spend the season as an interchangeable visual embodiment of an inflatable lawn ornament. Each year, the industry churns out palette after palette of identical shades with names like “Sensual Snowflake” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (With Smudgeproof Lipstick).” We float on a sea of eggnog, awash in shimmering gold eyeshadow paired with candy-cane-red lips. It is as predictable as the florals of spring and the corals that appear in summer. Perennial beauty trends have become a seasonal affliction, like allergies.

Seasonal makeup trends are entirely at odds with what beauty, in its most potent application, is meant to be: the process by which we choose how we make ourselves seen. Makeup allows us to reveal what feels right and safe and special. By employing it to erase our individuality—all of us dutifully shellacking our lids with a shade of gold each December—we’re capitulating to beauty’s worst tendencies and denying the people who should know us best the chance to see us clearly and as we are. It’s not unlike what has gone wrong with the holiday season itself. We’ve extracted the whimsy and quirk from what is, ultimately, a deeply personal thing: the traditions we choose to celebrate together and the soft slide of one year into the next.

2017 was a year that bullied our differences and individuality into a weapon to be used against us, a tactic that has had the most dire impact on the most vulnerable populations. No matter your religious affiliation, the holidays are meant to be a moment of singular generosity and connection. They offer the truly pure an opportunity for renewal. If you haven’t been seen this year or if you have been silenced or strong-armed into conformity, this is the moment to celebrate—and loudly. Unhinge yourself from the Ghost of Holiday 2004’s beauty trends. Pour all of your strange twists of spirit into, say, electric blue eyeliner.

When I dress for dinner this holiday season, I’ll paint my lips a moody, violent purple; I’ll transform my lids into a masterpiece with whatever shade suits my mood; I’ll work hard at being myself; and I’ll take that privilege out into the world at large. Nothing about my look will be jolly—or even cohesive. It’ll be a little loopy, full of energy and, most of all, mine.

Need some inspo? Browse the gallery below for some “non-holiday” holiday makeup looks. Want to go behind the scenes at our photo shoot? Watch the video below for some creative holiday makeup tips.