Distressed Makeup and Nails Are Cooler Than Pre-Shredded Denim

You may not want to sleep in your makeup but that doesn't mean you can't look like you did!

I am a self-professed imperfectionist. Perfection, while reaping of much gratification, mostly serves to give me anxiety of the umpteenth "what-if" degree. As someone who can't wear white to an Italian restaurant, I can only hope to achieve pristine perfection in small fleeting quantities. And as such I've convinced myself, "Who needs perfection? It's BORING and UNIMAGINATIVE and what do you even do with it?" I'd much rather Wabi-sabi my way through life, as my ever-growing collection of hand-hewn mugs can attest.

How does this apply to beauty? Yes-ly and muchly! If it can be messed-up, it can be "distressed." (Which is a way more glamorous way to address your creased eye makeup, no?)

I've been on a lazy smoky eye kick recently, but being small of eyes, even a smudge of pencil/kohl liner looks like a bold graphic line. In my efforts to pare that down, I discovered a good way to give the illusion of slept-in smoky liner. Not the smoky eye — the Sleepy Eye™!

The application is so easy you could do it without a mirror. But since we're working in the sight-zone, maybe use a mirror. Just glide a pencil liner all over your lash lines (keeping close) and waterlines. Get it in there.

Now take it off! Swiping with a cotton swab dampened with micellar water in side-to-side motions is best, unless you really want to smoke it the hell up into the crease and above. I won't stop you. Just saying — I'm trying for minimal here.

I'd advise NOT to use an oil-based eye-makeup remover because a) it'll get blurry in your eye and b) it makes the whole thing move around way too much post-half-assed removal. You can use the clean end of the cotton swab to neaten it up however you like.

What good is a Sleepy Eye sans slightly gunky mascara? No need to comb out clumps here — just let 'em be, defying every promise for clump-free lashes that a drugstore mascara can boast. If we're being honest here, I suspect that all volume from mascara is just well-behaved clumps anyway.

I've read similar ways of achieving this half-distressed liner look, including applying your liner and then showering. I've tried that, and it never works out how I want it to. This way just lends more control to the end result. I love that it defines my lashes sans the treacherous application and neat finish of tight-lining, PLUS the neat faux-blended effect of a smoky eye. Ahem, pardon me — a Sleepy Eye™.

Oh, but that's not all! Think your eye makeup is the only thing you can distress? You're not thinking messily enough. Your possibly-already-chipping manicure is being neglected when it could be getting the distressed treatment. This is something I also discovered looked cooler than normal upon attempting to fix it.

This works best with a shimmer, glitter or iridescent nail polish formula, since you're degrading the layers to reveal what's underneath. Essie's Starry Starry Night is a perfect pick, since the glitter is all up in an opaque polish, so when you start to remove it with a cotton pad in nail polish remover, the silver glitter really starts to emerge.


It all depends on your swiping technique. I tried concentrating on certain areas of the nail to wear down the color there and reveal the glitter. With two coats of polish to begin with, there's a lot of glitter in this bottle, so a lot of silver specks shone through — way more than when you apply the polish normally.

After I was pleased with the amount of distress, I picked any bits of cotton off my nails and then swiped two coats of topcoat to seal it in.

It looks jarringly undone and possibly outdoes chipped polish in all departments of shitty-looking manicures, but whatever; I quite enjoy the raw, worn, dimensional quality it leaves, like an ombre in a gradient of oops. Bonus perk: it makes the eventual full removal of glitter polish a lot easier.

  • How do you guys feel about distressed/imperfect beauty looks?
  • Would it work with hair, too, you think?