We dedicate a whole lot of time to sourcing work outfit inspiration here at Who What Wear. After all, the sartorial choices we make at the office can carry a lot of weight. The booties, blazers, and blouses we wear are all part of the stories each of us gets to tell every day and, similarly, the makeup looks we choose to wear can speak volumes, too.
Ultimately, it's up to you to decide how to express yourself daily and still remain in compliance with your company's guidelines. "If you're working in a place that's really conservative and actually has a dress code in place (yes, some companies do), you might not have many creative opportunities in the makeup department," says Who What Wear VP of People Brandon Chreene. "If that's not great for you, maybe you're not working in the right place, because that might also be reflective of other aspects of the business that are also limiting to your personal style."
I've been lucky enough to spend the bulk of my career working in the fashion and beauty space, where my hair, makeup, and nail choices haven't been stifled, so I value the feedback of those who bring different life experience to the mix. Much like Chreene, who holds down a much more corporate side of our fashion- and beauty-forward atmosphere, my mom spent more than 30 years in a buttoned-up work environment where the dress code called for business attire. I figured if there were any makeup looks all three of us could unanimously agree on, then those looks must really be winners.
Ahead, check out the nine work makeup options my mom, one of my company's VPs, and I all love. Be sure you save your favorites and shop the exact products you'll need to create them yourself.
Mom's take: "This is a fun, natural look that’s perfect for casual Friday office days."
Chreene's take: "This is a good level of smokiness. If you get too smoky, especially with less than ideal office lighting, it might skew less fashionable and more basic."
Smudged eyeliner is my favorite way to incorporate more depth on a work day. Vibrantly colored liners, like purple ones, are perfect, because they're less intense than black liners, but still create a decent level of drama. I'm wearing this one by Maybelline in the photo above.
This silky smooth eyeliner is perfect for any smudging or blurring because you can move it around with your finger or a domed eye makeup brush with ease. One it's dry, it'll stay put for hours.
On application, this pencil looks almost as precise as liquid eyeliner. But an easy buff leaves it perfectly blurred out.
Mom's take: "I like this for the office. The lip color has just the right amount of glossiness, taking it just a step above your everyday neutral look."
Chreen's take: "Is it appropriate for work? Sure. Is it appropriate for, say, a VP of a company? Probably not. It really depends on who you want to be at work and how you want to be perceived."
This gloss feels slick and wet at first, then dries down to a soft, comfy sheen that looks glossy and somehow just feels like a hydrating lip balm. It has a bit of a sparkly effect, which I love, but might be a bit much if you aren't a lipgloss fan to begin with.
This basic lip gloss is the kind of product you'll reach for when you want a low- or no-maintenance lip that looks a step above bare. Its coconut and vitamin E base is moisturizing on the lips so you never have to worry about it scaring up dead lip skin.
Hyaluronic acid is the most buzzy beauty ingredient of the last few years, and this luminous gloss by Dior employs it to plump and hydrate the pout while also adding a layer of shine. In my experience, this one needs to be re-applied often, so I tend to stick with the most neutral tone.
Mom's take: "You get those eyebrows from your dad, and I just love them."
Chreene's take: "I don't often find myself assessing eyebrows, and I don't think people's natural features should be up for assessment."
No matter what look you're trying to achieve with your eyebrows, powder is always a good place to start. This duo is great for filling in sparse areas and defining the arch.
Tiny hair like strokes keep the brows looking naturally full.
Arch Brow is perfect for adding depth to the brows while also encouraging them to stay put.
Opaque Lip Gloss
Mom's take: "This look is just right amount of lip color and gloss. You can easily go from the office to an after-work event for work with a minimal need for touch up."
Chreene's take: "It really depends on where you're working and maybe even the nature of your work. But, overall, why not?"
Vinylic Lip delivers soft, rich, full-coverage lip color. It's slightly shiny, but still sophisticated.
The name of this gloss says it all. It is, indeed, super lustrous, but the color is also rich.
This gloss is super pigmented. It looks almost like a high-sheen lipstick, rather than a lip gloss.
Mom's take: "I love this. It's polished, sophisticated and the eyeliner doesn't go over the top."
Chreene's take: "Just keep in mind that the eyes are such an important asset, that when someone's looking directly at them, it could come off a little abrasive if it's too dramatic."
If for some reason Glossier ever stops making this fantastic liquid eyeliner, I'll be in serious trouble. Whether I'm creating a subtle wing or a dramatic cat eyes, I can get it done with this pen.
Here's yet another intense black liner that will give you perfectly crisp lines.
I love this L'Oréal eyeliner, too. It's cheap and effective.
Rosy Eye Shadow
Mom's take: "I love everything about this look. The eyes are toned down, but the hint of color keeps things interesting."
Chreene's take: "For our company, Who What Wear, this absolutely works. It's relevant and very 'now'. If we're talking about working at a bank, or somewhere a little more traditional, it might be something of a concern. In places like that, you're a lot more client-facing, and the expectation is to be a bit more traditional so you don't scare off clients. This isn't a scary look—it's gorgeous—but it's definitely a little less traditional. For a millennial-dominated business, yes, absolutely."
I only came to know about Rituel de Fille in the last year, but the L.A.-based clean beauty brand has quickly become one of my favorites. Their eye soots are super pigmented, slightly shimmery pressed powders that you can apply with your finger. You can see in the photo above how delicate the color can be when you use a light touch, but it's definitely possible to achieve a much richer, redder color.
I'm a sucker for ColourPops's super spongey eye shadows. They're so easy to apply, and the pigment is out of this world.
This glossy eye balm is another awesome option for a light-catching, rosy eye.
Mom's take: "I love this natural look with the just the right amount of lip color and gloss, and the eye shadow is just the right shade."
Chreene's take: "It's glowy, but at the same time it looks subtle and natural and doesn't require any extra explanation."
This glow stick is perfect for adding natural-looking glow anywhere you might need it. It's not too glossy, and the brush end makes it easy to buff the product into the skin so that it looks super natural.
This liquid highlighter is another great option for buildable glow. I like tapping a tiny bit into my cheeks and blurring it out with a damp sponge to really melt it into my makeup.
This instant glow-booster is one of my all-time favorite makeup products, period. You can apply it as a base underneath foundation, mix with foundation, or tap into the high points of your face for a dewy, glossy glow.
Mom's take: "This is a sophisticated, grown-up, boss-lady look. I love it."
Chreene's take: "This one depends on the overall look. If the lashes are your statement and everything else make total sense for your workplace, then I say go for it."
Individual lashes are the most natural-looking option, because you can add as many or as few flares wherever you want a little more length or volume. They're super easy to apply and even easier to blend into your natural eyelashes.
These natural strip lashes are great for every day wear since they're not too feathery or dramatic.
This multi-pack contains five different styles of strip lashes so you can easily change up your look for any occasion.
Mom's take: "Honestly, I would not have worn such a bold lip to the office when I was your age. It would have been too overstated and considered more of an after-hours look, but it’s a new day, and I think the look would be fine in the office today."
Chreene's take: "Frankly, I think this is a power move and I respect it all day."
If you know me, you know how deep my love is for Ruby Woo. It's just the best red of all time, and that's not really up for debate in my opinion. I can't even think about wearing a red lip without this one crossing my mind.
I love this clean red lipstick from Kosas. It's the only red lipstick I feel like I can apply and not really think about for several hours. It has great staying power, but there's also no struggle when I go to remove it at the end of the day.
If you want a less "done" red lip, this slick, light lipstick by YSL is a great option. You can dab it onto your lips and get an awesome color payoff that looks like an intentional flush rather than a full-blown bold lip.