Not-All-That-Unlikely Beauty Muse: David Bowie

He may be a man, but he's had some of the most imaginative hair and makeup of the last half-century. Here are two looks he's inspired me to try.
Publish date:
May 17, 2013
hair, makeup, muses, David Bowie, androgyny

A few weeks ago, Courtney wrote about how Macklemore inspired her beauty game, and it made me think about my own dude beauty icons.

The first man who came to mind was the glorious and amazing David Bowie. He’s been inspiring my look and showing me what beauty is all about since I was a kid.

I grew up in tiny mining towns in the middle of the Australian outback. I had practically no exposure to popular culture at all until I was 11; we had two TV channels and almost never picked up FM radio, so the only music I listened to was from my parent’s record collection.

I got my extravagant musical taste from my dad, a Bowie/Blondie/B52s man. David Bowie was especially mesmerising--a shot of glamour in a world of red dirt and work boots.

I spent hours staring at his album covers, thinking about how beautiful he was. His eyes didn’t match, his teeth weren’t perfect, everything about him was pointy. He wasn’t conventional or cute. And yet he was the most gorgeous human being I’d ever seen.

This was a HUGE deal for a weird-looking kid like me, self-aware enough to know that she looked nothing like the “pretty” girls in her class. David Bowie’s weirdness made him beautiful. Maybe mine would too, someday.

There was also the pageantry. The hair! The clothes! The makeup! The glamour! That was what I wanted to be when I grew up, I decided: a marine biologist who dressed like Ziggy Stardust.

I didn’t become a marine biologist, obviously, but I also never really got over wanting to be David Bowie. Let us now look to my favourite Bowie incarnation for beauty inspiration.

We’re going back to 1971 and the fabulous foppery of Hunky Dory. This is an album that I feel doesn’t get enough attention, sandwiched as it is between Space Oddity and Ziggy Stardust. Today, it gets the love that it so sorely deserves.

Get ready to get swishy in your satin and tat, your frock coat and bipperty-bopperty hat.


The cover of Hunky Dory was inspired by Marlene Dietrich, which is the best reference ever. Be sure to smolder extra hard when you work this look out.

At the time the album cover was shot, Bowie had long, wavy hair. This style is easy: Spray your hair lightly with water and braid it, either in one tail down your back or in two pigtails, depending on how thick your mane is. Spritz some hairspray on the plaits for extra staying power. Sleep on it. When you take it out, gloriously messy '70s waves will be yours!

As with all eras of Bowie, the makeup is the thing. Though the original cover was tinted, outtakes from the shoot show us a little extra about the cosmetic look he was working.

The keys here are dark, oil-slick eyes, sharp cheekbones and an apricot lip. All of which we can do.

First, put on your foundation, concealer and powder. Bowie often didn’t match the foundation on his face to his real skin tone, which is cool for photoshoots, but not such a great look in real life.

Next use a gunmetal-grey shadow over the entire lid and underneath your bottom lashes. I’m using bareMinerals Brown Eyecolor in Moss, which is not as green as it sounds.

Make the outer corners darker and more defined with some black shadow. Don’t make it too perfect! We’re going for a mussed, slept-in kind of sexy here.

Cheekbone contouring sounds scary, but is really easy. There are loads of products designed specifically for this, but I’ve found that the best thing to use is a matte light brown eyeshadow and a medium brush.

Suck in your cheeks and dust the eyeshadow under your cheekbones. Blend it in well; if you feel kind of streaky, you can use your powder to lighten it and feather it out. The idea is to create a hollowed out, shadowy look--not a dark stripe.

When you’re done, put a little bit of blush above your newly-enhanced cheekbones. Bowie wasn’t scared to go bright with this; you shouldn’t be either.

The orangey lips are the easiest. I put some concealer on my lips first to tone down the deep red they’re serving naturally (my life is hard) and make the pinky-orange really true to life. Then I used a light coat of coral lipstick, and finished everything up with an apricot gloss.

And you’re done! Put on your fanciest fake fur shirt and hit the town.


"Life on Mars?" is the first song I really LOVED. The look from the video, which I didn’t see until I was 13 or 14, is a freaking marvel. Pop stars of today, take note.

The pale blue suit, red hair and dramatic makeup are my everything. And his EYES. WHY IS HE SO GREAT?

The hair for this was tricky, because obvs I’m not committed enough to cut mine into a bright red fashion mullet. But I feel like the actual style is less important than the glamourous androgyny it represents, so I went a little more Thin White Duke than proto-Ziggy Stardust. May history forgive me.

Straighten your hair, paying special attention to the ends. Pull it back like you’re going to put it up in a ponytail, then twist it up and over the top of your head so that the ends are falling in your eyes. Hold it in place with a bunch of bobby pins.

Now you have a tonne of hair in your eyes. Take some hardcore hairspray--I like Bed Head’s Hard Head A LOT--and start lifting and spraying your hair up and out of your face. Make it spiky! Tease some small sections if you hair is very thick and you need extra help holding it up.

If you take only one thing away from this article, let it be this: Try something really different with your hair. It might make you look like you have an entirely new head, and you might look hot in a new way. I’m serving up La Roux androgynous realness here, which is not usually a look in my arsenal.

David Bowie is painted white in this video, which is not really a workable daily look. We’ll just stick to our normal coloured foundation, concealer and powder. Use a primer first so that your skin looks like smooth, perfect porcelain. You know how we do.

Contour your cheeks again with the brown eyeshadow, then put some pink blush overtop. You can really go for broke here if you want, or you can keep it subtle. It’s up to you how Bowie you want to be.

As for the eyes, obviously we cannot all have one blown pupil and one normal. It sucks, but we will just have to live with this.

The key to Bowie eye makeup is bright shadow with a defined crease. I’m using blue because it’s what he used in the video, but any colour works. Green! Silver! Purple! Brown! Whatever! You’ll need a light and a dark shade, and a white/very light shadow for highlighting.

Everyone loves eyeshadow primer, but I think the best thing in the world to boost the colour & staying power of your shadow is ChapStick. Yep. Rub a little on your finger, then pat it on your eyelid where the colour is going to go. Thank me later.

Take the light colour and put it all over your lid, except on the very inner corner, and up past your crease (so you can see it when your eyes are open). I like my shadow pointed at the outside rather than round like in the video, but you can choose what looks best to you. Use the white on the very inner corner and blend it in.

Using the dark colour and a thin brush, draw along your browbone all the way to your inner corner to create a long, defined crease. Darken the outer corner to give some definition. Line your lower lashline with it, about three-quarters of the way across, then use the white shadow again to join it up to the inner corner.

Curl your lashes and apply loads of mascara, top and bottom. Use black liquid liner on your bottom waterline. Bonus if it’s waterproof; that’ll help it stay.

David Bowie didn’t have eyebrows for a really long time in the seventies, but I like my brows, so I defined them with an angled brush and light brown eyeshadow.

Use a dark pink lipliner to exaggerate the shape of your lips a little--especially your cupid’s bow--then fill it in with bright pink gloss.

Now throw on your best baby blue jacket and take on the world.

Like I said, you don’t HAVE to use atomic blue eyeshadow to work this out; I really just wanted to recreate the look from the video. I’ve since tried this with gold and brown shadows, as well as two shades of green, and they both turned out awesome. Don’t be afraid to experiment, is what I’m saying. David Bowie would be proud.

And now I turn it over to you guys: What’s your favourite Bowie album/song/era? Anyone else agree with me that Hunky Dory is the greatest? What dudes have inspired your look?