Before we pull ourselves together and get our party hats on, let's take a moment of calm. Let's take things down a notch before ramping up the sparkle and shine. Let's take the cosmetic equivalent of a nice deep breath, before taking the plunge into party season. Put aside all thoughts of shimmer, gloss and glimmer, and think nude, near naked and fresh faced.
Forget about make-up that will get you from the office through an all-nighter and think instead about comments like, "You look so well rested," or, "Did you just have a facial?" And, weirdly, you might find that those comments make you feel much better about yourself than questions like, "Did you put on those eyelashes yourself?"
At this time of year, when the clocks have gone back, and winter has taken a hold, you must ensure that attempts at nude or faux-no-make-up don't just make you look washed out. BB creams, CC creams or tinted moisturisers can bestow a dewiness that glows through the gloom, while a good mascara keeps you looking awake and alive, along with a nice nude lip that's not too dirty-muddy in colour. Get it right and you just might decide to enjoy an understated season this year.
Olay Total Effects Pore Minimizer CC Cream SPF15, €20.29, available nationwide
CC creams, in case you dozed off after the BB-cream phenomenon, are supposed to correct colour issues like ruddiness, sallowness or dullness. Oh, and they moisturise, offer sun protection, and, in this case, minimise the appearance of pores. Well, that's the sell, anyway. In real terms, however, what this one does is make your skin look really bright and dewy without oily shine or shimmer. "Two people, on two different days, said that my skin was glowing," said a panellist. "That's enough for me to recommend it."
Bobbi Brown Creamy Matt Lip Colour in Soft Nude, €26, Brown Thomas; Arnotts, D1; House of Fraser, Dundrum Town Centre, D16
Bobbi Brown launched a line of nude colours this winter in this matt finish, which is not dullsville, as you might imagine, but in fact lends a rich, velvetiness. We like this shade as a one-size-fits-almost-all. It also has a medium-heavy lip feel that's a little bit balmy and protective. "Love the colour, which is not pink but not brown, either," one panellist said. "A lipstick to fit almost all eventualities."
Tom Ford Eye Colour Quad in Nude Dip, €70, Brown Thomas Dublin and Cork
Expensive, we'll admit, but if you're looking for something to get you through this month and next, you have met your dream eye-shadow palette. The four colours have a combined warmth, understatedness, smoke and oomph to carry you from looking low-key polished to full-on party mode, according to how many shades you apply and how. "This is true love," said one panellist. "Gorgeous velvety texture and very easy to blend. A different creature to my normal eye shadow."
Clarins 3-Dot Eye Liner in Brown, €25, Clarins counters nationwide
At first glance, this liquid eye liner can seem a bit gimmicky, but stick with us.
It can get really close to lashes. The product itself is a good-quality liquid, but while most liquid-eye-liner applicators have a single nib, this has three nibs in a row. The instructions tell you to dot the liner into your lash line and then join the dots, allowing for a thin or thick line, according to taste, and for greater control, if you're clumsy. "I find it hard to do a barely there liner, but this was eye-opening, literally," one panellist said. "I looked sharper, but the line was barely perceptible."
Max Factor Masterpiece Transform Mascara in Black, €12.99, available nationwide
Let us tell you straight off that this is a one-coat mascara, as in, it looks best if you limit application to one coat, but given we're talking understated, that shouldn't be a problem. Multiple coats, since you ask, can be a bit clumpy with this one. However, its fabulously deep blackness and ability to separate and lengthen lashes in a single coat make it a wake-me-up winner. "Nothing works like mascara in terms of making eyes look whiter and more wide-open," a panellist said. "Love the rubber wand, which caught lots of lashes."