Sunday Mail - Body and Soul

Eyes THE HAVE IT

From learning to “speak” with our eyes to wearing mask-friendly make-up, the way we think about beauty – and ourselves – has changed over the past 12 months. Now, a year after Australia went into lockdown, we talk to experts about the lasting impact of th

- PHOTOGRAPH­Y MICHAEL COMNINUS STYLING KELLY HUME STORY AMY NELMES BISSETT

Along with talk of “flattening the curve”, alerting colleagues at the morning Zoom meeting that “you’re are on mute” and sledging “COVIDiots” for being “supersprea­ders”, once-unheard-of terminolog­y has also infiltrate­d the world of skin care and cosmetics.

As Australian women have learnt to adjust their daily grooming routine around COVID, buzzwords have suddenly entered the lexicon, with terms such as “maskne” being used to described acne breakouts caused by mask wearing.

Late last year, US-based Australian beauty blogger Chloe Morello showed her 2.67 million subscriber­s how to apply make-up purely to the upper half of her face while keeping the lower half bare. “The main thing is not putting make-up on under your mask, because of the bacteria,” she explained. Meanwhile, beauty brands such as Dr. Barbara Sturm have undertaken a pandemic pivot into maskne cleansing kits.

These are just some of the many changes that our beauty routines – not to mention our everyday interactio­ns – have undergone since the 2020 lockdown. In fact, those who thought the worldwide love of all things beauty may be derailed by a raging pandemic or by having a mask covering half our faces have ultimately been proven very wrong.

The biggest shift has been towards a look that may once have screamed

“out on the town” but now serves a very different purpose. According to make-up artist and OPI Australia brand partner Mikele Simone, bold eyes and power brows are more popular than they’ve been in years. “Think bright hues like blue, green and pink washed all over the lid and mascara-loaded lashes,” he tells Body+Soul. “It’s a clear way to feel made up and to make one feel ‘happy’ while wearing a mask.”

Melbourne-based human behaviour expert Steve van Aperen agrees that these changes are indicative of the fact that for much of the past year, we had to relearn how we “spoke” to others. “The face is the most visible part of our body; there are 43 muscles that exhibit what our expression­s are and help us communicat­e,” he says. “When 70 per cent of it is covered with a mask, the only movement is now from your eyes and eyebrows, so they’re more important now than ever before.”

Body+Soul advice columnist and clinical psychologi­st Jo Lamble refers to this as “eye language”, saying that we’ve “learnt to focus on another person’s eyes in our quest to communicat­e. When we’re only seeing the eyes, we start to notice all the ways we can express ourselves that way. Wide eyes, narrowed eyes, watery eyes, smiling eyes. There are so many messages that are sent with our eyes. And we’ve got better at interpreti­ng ‘eye language’.”

Perhaps more than anything, the flip to statement beauty ultimately indicates something far more primitive. After a year in which many of us were starved of proper human interactio­n, we now know that while feeling good is important, it’s feeling seen and heard that’s paramount.

As Melbourne-based psychologi­st Sabina Read says, “At the end of the day, we’re all hard-wired to belong to a tribe, and we’re often searching for acceptance – or at least to have our feelings and experience­s witnessed by others.”

Confidence coach and body language expert Dr Louise Mahler agrees, and says that after so much time spent social distancing and wearing masks, people are now amping up their interactio­ns. “People were frozen in their communicat­ion; we all went into our own world, communicat­ing via Zoom or through a mask. And staring down a camera, feeling dissociate­d,” she tells Body+Soul. “But now it’s like ‘boom!’ We’re wanting to be out in the world.

“The fear has gone, and we could see that even before the masks came off. We want to communicat­e with others. Not just in words, but we’re seeing bold colours in fashion and make-up. Why? Humans are sociable animals. We like to stand out, express ourselves and be seen.”

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