Dilemma of the Week: Should I Tell Someone If Her Makeup Is Messed Up?

What's the best way to inform someone that she has messed-up makeup: her lipstick is smeared, her mascara is running or she has a blob of unblended foundation on her face?

Tread carefully when commenting on messed-up makeup. We all have organic markings, whether they are freckles, port-wine stains, burns or scars. Not long ago, I was sitting at the bar of a trendy French restaurant in Cobble Hill (shout-out to Brooklyn!) waiting to be seated for dinner. The bartender who served me had (what appeared to be) a bright pink lipstick "kiss mark" on her lower left cheek. I brought it to her attention only to learn that it wasn't lipstick at all; it was a childhood scar. I felt terrible. I wished I hadn't said a thing, but it was too late. It's not too late for you, however. I consulted with etiquette expert Letitia Baldrige on the finer points of informing someone about their smeared makeup. Here is some useful etiquette advice:

  • "If it's not a close associate, don't say a thing," Baldrige says.
  • If it's a close associate or family member, "then find a way to whisper to her, where no one will overhear, that there's 'something you might wish to take care of in the ladies' room — a bit of escaped makeup on your face!'" says Baldrige.
  • If you've already slipped up and embarrassed her, "say nothing at the moment, but call her as soon as you and she are back in your respective offices or homes to apologize. If you get an answering machine, it's easier for you. Just say, 'I was an idiot to have made that blunder at lunch today. The whole incident taught me an important lesson, so please forgive me.' You might even like to send her some flowers to her home, with just your card attached," suggests Baldrige.

In closing, makeup is decoration — an attempt to prettify ourselves, and someone (even a close friend) finding fault with our makeup can be distressing. So if it's a close associate and she's committing a makeup faux pas, go ahead and inform, but do so with the utmost discretion.

Here are some great products for quick touch-ups that'll also help you keep an eye out for "escaped makeup."

Recommended Products

Irving Rice Be Girly Mirror
Perfect to whip out when you're on the go, this sturdy, totally adorable and high-quality travel magnifying mirror even comes in its own protective pink pouch.
Price: From $35
Available: Select retailers

Hard Candy Take Out Makeup Kit
This is a little kit that has it all — an excellent mirror, shadow, blush, gloss, mascara, liner and concealer — you'll be prepared for anything!
Price: From $25
Available: Select retailers

Smashbox Cream Eye Liner Palette
We love this palm-sized palette from the wizards at Smashbox. It features an oversized mirror and the most wonderful array of cream eyeliners, along with a great liner brush.
Price: From $32
Available: Select retailers

Sephora Stars Palette
This lovely palette from Sephora is all about neutral, subtle sheen: the sweetest rose blush, pearly gloss for the lips and the softest pink sparkle for the eyes — all with a sturdy mirror and applicators.
Price: From $36
Available: Select retailers


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