It’s finally spring on the East Coast, and Jesus Christ, have we earned it. After a horrifying winter in which everyone’s toenails fell off and all our facial skin was wind-battered into ruin, it’s finally time to be outdoors. I hope to spend every free second either at the beach with a book about medical oddities or in the mountains, hiking and camping and sleeping in a damp mummy bag. I am overjoyed, I am imbued with an extremely temporary zest for life, and I am transporting my spooky, goth-inflected makeup routine into the outdoors. In honor of World Goth Day, here’s how I do it.
To be clear: I never agreed to be referred to as “goth” or, as my mid-30s approach, an “aging goth.” But at some point, you spend like 20 years wearing a lot of black, you put on a severe winged black eyeliner every day, you talk too much about Nick Cave, and people do the labeling for you. It’s fine. I’ve decided to spend less time saying “I’m not goth!” to people who won’t listen to me and more time finding black crop tops.
But much to the skeptical surprise of everyone in my life, as much as I love sitting inside listening to Disintegration and running my claws across Kat Von D products, I also love being outdoors. I love the silence and the smell of the air and the deep, pulsating green of the trees and the way nobody fucking bothers me. When you consider it, spending time in nature is extremely goth: the scenery is dramatic, the risk of death is often close, and best of all, there are usually very few people around. Camping is, in essence, a preparation to go full hermit, the ultimate aspiration of every spooky adult.
But I am also, personally, not altogether comfortable going anywhere with a bare face. I just don’t leave the house and/or tent without makeup. You probably do! You probably hike 700 miles of the Appalachian Trail wearing only your bare, glowing skin and a beatific smile. You probably also want to send me an email about my tiresome vanity. Please don’t. I have made the entirely voluntary and non-compulsory choice to wear makeup while cocooned in Mother Nature’s terrifying womb, and here’s how.
(Quick note: this isn’t a sponsored post and we’re not being paid to do it. Any products mentioned are things I actually use, and I could not physically care less if my parent company makes money from any of this.)
I put on some form of face makeup every day, and to do that, my skin needs to be primed, with as few zits and flaky spots as possible. Before a camping or lengthy hiking excursion, I use a gently exfoliating cleanser and sometimes do a face mask to smooth out the texture of my skin. I like Vasanti’s Brighten Up cleanser, and this peeling, smoothing face mask I buy at the Face Shop in Koreatown that I can neither locate online nor remember the name of. Use whatever works for you. This isn’t a product guide. But do make sure your face mask doesn’t have superglue in it, because they hurt like hell to remove and are also, unsurprisingly, bad for your skin.
Perhaps the only thing I have ever done right in my entire life is wearing sunscreen every day. Goths come in all shades and ethnicities—goth culture is heavily inflected with often-unrecognized African and Caribbean influences —but sunburns and skin cancer really ruin any makeup look. You can also use a primer, which helps makeup stay on and can sometimes have added skin benefits.
I use Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen because it’s perfectly clear and goes on super smoothly, as well as Cover FX’s Mattifying Primer, because I’m nearly 32 and still getting pimples, a continued and always-insulting kick in the dick to my psyche and ego. You can layer moisturizer under that—a gel- or water-based one, if you’re me and you make OPEC-levels of oil on your face. Invest in some tiny plastic bottles from the drugstore and decant some shit.
Camping isn’t really a time to be wearing a full-on foundation, especially one that needs a lot of buffing, blending, re-application or other fussing with. You want to find something that evens out your skin tone, looks pretty good, and most importantly, doesn’t look totally frightening when it begins to wear off. A super matte foundation like Fenty Pro Filt’r, for instance, is not the move, because it needs a lot of highlighting and contouring to look normal, and, I have found, wears off a little strangely. You don’t want islands of foundation surrounded by oceans of sweat.
Instead, I like to use a color-correcting BB or CC cream, like Benefit’s Big Easy. I’ve heard good things about Physician’s Formula and Effaclar, but I haven’t tried those, so I cannot directly vouch. I also recently bought Hourglass Immaculate foundation, which is a liquid-to-powder formula that gives me a nice, soft matte finish and stands up very well to sweat and oil. I bet it’ll be good for camping, but it’s also insanely expensive, so I probably will not take it outdoors. But you could, if you’re made of dollar bills and sleep in a tent made of diamonds. Please say hi to your husband, the Monopoly guy.
A few months ago, I slept in a van in a remote, brutally windy rest stop in southern California, made some very bad, very cold instant coffee out of bottled water, climbed into the passenger’s seat, and did my makeup. It took like 10 minutes, and that’s because I was able to start with a clean face. The night before, I’d taken the day off with a makeup wipe — I like the Simple ones, but again, do you—and in the morning, lacking running water, I doused a cotton pad in micellar water and scrubbed with it. Your face needs to be clean to do anything to it, and micellar water is a great option when you’re in a really remote area. Remember to test it at home first to make sure it agrees with your skin.
Your hands have to be clean to touch your face. You’d be surprised how often I forget about making this happen until I wake up with my paws covered in sap.
Don’t try to do a full face with a hand mirror. It’s really hard. I have a portable mirror with a little hook that I hang off a tree or from a strap in the tent or whatever.
I have very curly hair, which I torment with heat each day into a state of submission. I can’t do that while camping, but I also don’t want it hanging in my face greasing everywhere and looking infinitely less cool than Dream’s effortless ‘do. Instead of messing with trying to have good hair outside, why not sweep it into a gigantic bun or rat’s nest and secure it with a bandana, rockabilly style? Alternately, I do Wednesday Addams pigtails or a very bad fishtail braid, which I’m trying desperately to make better with the help of every YouTube tutorial in existence. It’s not going well.
I don’t always do a full winged eyeliner when I’m outdoors—sometimes I just put on a brown or goldish eye shadow and mascara and leave it. But when I feel the urge to show the bears and squirrels my eye makeup skills, I really, really, really need q-tips to fix my mistakes. A baggie full of q-tips pre-dipped in eye makeup remover is especially helpful, but you can also use spit. This is not a fancy endeavor.
Alternately, you could do a tightline, which is frankly a lot of work but a little more subtle and a bit easier to take off at the end of the day than a big wing.
I have written before about my frighteningly stubby eyebrows, and while a lot has changed since I wrote that post, they still suck. I draw them on, and I like to do it with something that won’t slide off midway through the day. I like the Benefit Brow Zings Shape and Tame kit, because it has wax and powder. You draw an outline with the wax and fill in the color with the powder, more or less. The wax keeps the powder in place, and together the two make me look like I almost have the forehead of a normal person.
I do not personally wear a florid crimson lip while camping, because I’ll wipe it all over my face when my nose starts running. But that might be your jam. Do your Ruby Woo or a little Vampira, the goth pinnacle of lipstick, in my opinion. Do a Chapstick with some SPF in it. Do nothing at all. All of this is optional, and death is both inevitable and nearer than you think. Just get out there.