By Maureen A. Duffy, M.S., CVRT

woman applying lipstick
Applying lipstick using
a magnifying mirror

Using makeup can be a complicated subject if you are blind or have low vision. Perhaps a well-meaning friend or family member has discouraged you from using cosmetics by telling you that makeup application is inappropriate or unnecessary for a person who can’t see — but that isn’t so. Makeup, when properly applied, can enhance your appearance and boost your self-esteem.

In this section, we’ll give you a variety of adaptive tips and techniques for makeup application that have been developed and used successfully by women of all ages who are blind or have low vision.

Consider Minimal or “Natural” Makeup Initially

  • Most makeup looks best when applied sparingly and with a light touch. You can always add more color to your face, but it’s much more difficult to remove excess foundation, blusher, or eye shadow.
  • For special occasions, however, stronger makeup application may be appropriate. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance or confirmation from a family member or friend.
  • Remember that fashions in makeup change over time, just as fashions in clothing change. Check periodically with a family member, friend, or cosmetician to ensure that your look is still in style.

Helpful Makeup Adaptations

Before you begin, it’s helpful to discuss some general makeup application tips and adaptations that can help if you are blind or have low vision:

  • Use a headband when applying makeup to pull your hair away from your face. This is especially helpful when applying foundation and eye makeup
  • Using your fingertips allows you to explore the contours of your face, the shape of your lips, and your unique bone structure.
  • Keep a wet washcloth, wet wipes, or paper towels nearby to remove makeup from your fingertips. Clean your hands and fingertips after each step in the application process to prevent makeup residue from rubbing off on your face, clothing, and upholstery.
  • Protect your clothing by placing a towel in your lap. You can also wear a makeup cape, an oversized shirt, or a button-front smock (not a pullover style) for additional protection.
  • Keep a small bowl or container nearby to hold applicators, tops, and lids. This also prevents them from rolling off the work surface.
  • Keep a wastebasket nearby to hold your used paper towels, wet wipes, and applicators.
  • Specialty product catalogs have an extensive selection of lighted and magnifying makeup mirrors.
  • A lighted makeup mirror with a flexible gooseneck can be helpful if you have low vision.
  • You can also use a magnifying mirror, either with or without lights.

General Makeup Application Techniques

  • Make sure your skin is thoroughly cleansed and dry before applying any makeup.
  • Storing your makeup in the refrigerator can provide a temperature difference that makes application easier.
  • It can be helpful to steady your hand against your face or with your other hand when applying mascara, eyeliner, or lipstick, which require precision and control.

Use a Systematic Pattern

When applying cleansing cream, moisturizer, or foundation, try to follow a systematic pattern to ensure that you cover your entire face and neck:

  • Upward and outward from chin to ears
  • Across and up from nose to temples
  • Upward from tip of nose to forehead
  • Circular motions on forehead to temples
  • Gently under eyes from outer corner to inner corner
  • Small circular motions around sides of nose
  • Circular motions on chin
  • Upward on throat

Follow an Application Sequence

Try to follow the same application sequence each time to keep track of what you’ve already applied. A suggested sequence is as follows:

Count Brush Strokes or Drops for Consistency

Counting the number of brush strokes (as in eye shadow or blush) or drops of foundation or moisturizer is a good way to be consistent in your application routine.

For example, a dime-sized amount of either moisturizer or liquid foundation in the palm of your hand is usually enough to cover your entire face.