Laboratory Beauty! Makeup for Awkward Workplaces…

Greetingsย from the INCREDIBLE NOISE of a cleanroom, fellow rogues!

As well as a rogue, I am also a scientist. Or, at least, I play one in grad school ๐Ÿ˜‰ Over the last few days I’ve been spending a large amount of time in a cleanroom, which brings with it a few unusual challenges when it comes to makeup. As I sit here waiting for a particularly recalcitrant alchemical instrument to do its job, it occurred to me that it would be neat to have a chat about laboratory beauty, and ask you guys if you have any unusual challenges that crop up in your life/workplace that necessitate tailoring your beauty routine! I’ve already had my little moan about the fragile relationship between makeup and grad school, so this is more about getting adventurous, and finding ways to make sure you still get your beauty fix in!

Graduate Student Makeup Look

The many faces (well, eyes) of the academic rogue…some more wishful than others.

Just like dungeons, laboratories come in many shapes, sizes and varieties. There are also unique challenges and dangers inherent to each one, and they pretty much all force you to jiggle your beauty routine around to fit with them. The following are a few little things I’ve noticed. I should mention that this is partly joking, partly serious – I’m keen to hear if you have any similar situations or tips, so make sure you let me know in the comments! ๐Ÿ˜€

The Laser Laboratory

The main thing about laser labs is that they tend to be dark. Sure, there are lights, but you hardly ever turn them on and the places are usually in windowless basements to begin with. Just like a dungeon! ^_^ On the one hand, this is nice because you don’t have to worry if something gets smudged, or if you’re not wearing any makeup at all and it’s 3 am and the oscillator isn’t working and you look like sh*t… wait, I may have gotten sidetracked…anyway, it has its plusses. On the minus side, you’re going to want to avoid anything that could possibly have fallout. I’m talking eyeshadow, powder, mascara that you’re trying to use up even though it kind of flakes a bit… all of that has to go. Optics need to be dust-free, and when you’ve gone through the delicate process of getting everything aligned and set up, the last thing you want is to unblock the beam and smell burning as your no-longer gaussian beam bakes mascara chips onto the sapphire crystal you were trying to generate supercontinuum in. If this does happen, make sure the mascara was waterproof, so you can at least have a little cry about it.

Additionally, if your laser lab is anything like mine, the relative humidity is going to be kept at around 45%. This is, of course, for the benefit of the crystal lasing media, which tend to be hygroscopic, but it is *really* hard on the skin and lips. Make sure to hydrate well with water and use moisturiser, and keep a lip balm handy. On the plus side, it gives you an additional excuse to wear a neverending parade of fabulous hydrating lipsticks! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Pros: It’s pitch black in here. No-one will see if you’re having a bad skin day, and the laser doesn’t judge. Clearer skin and an excuse to wear fabulous lipsticks!

Cons: No glitter ๐Ÿ˜ฆย  It’s also drier than the Gobi desert in here…


Dior Trianon Perle Polish and Lip Glow Review and Swatches

Hydrating Dior Lip Glow with its pretty cap. Also, a freshly-captured wild mango (no eating in the lab! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Despite being surrounded, Sigryn knows she's among friends. Left to right: Sweet Tart, Peach Parfait and Wild Watermelon.

Despite being surrounded, Sigryn knows she’s among hydrating friends. Left to right: Revlon Lip Butters in Sweet Tart, Peach Parfait and Wild Watermelon.

The Organic Chemistry Laboratory

The big one here is that you can’t wear nail polish, and expect it to survive unscathed! Aside from the fact that you wash everything in pure acetone, there are a whole host of other organic solvents that are even more effective at removing polish – although you should be avoiding getting any of these going through your gloves, kids (not like some of themย  give you a choice). Aside from that, you might also have to be a bit careful about the jaw/neck transition of your foundation. Labcoats tend to be white (so you can see when there’s something spilled on them), and the collars can be high, so makeup stains may occur! A non-transferring foundation orย  keeping a bit of distance between the two should help ๐Ÿ˜‰ On the same foundation note, remember that you’ll be wearing safety goggles all the time which may mess with the makeup on the bridge of your nose and cheeks, and touching your eyes will be difficult (high fives to anyone who’s ever done the classic but awkward ‘use-my-shoulder-to-rub-my-eye’ maneouvre). The plus on this is that you won’t accidentally smear your eyeliner, and you can use the time to give your nails a bit of a rest from polish if they’re getting yellow – the gloves will cover it up!

If you’re sensitive to humidity with your makeup, take note in summer if your lab has a lot of waterbaths (for rotary evaporators and the like) – they can make things pretty sticky and gross, especially when you’re stuck in a labcoat and gloves, quietly baking like a potato while the ether squeeze bottle is squirting violently of its own accord. On second thought,maybe we should all just go home… ๐Ÿ˜€

Pros: Chance for nails to recover, pristine eye makeup

Cons: Carcinogens, sweaty summers, tricky labcoat collars.


Frozen Glitter Gradient Mani China Glaze Lorelei's Tiara and OPI Happy Anniversary

This manicure sparkles and glitters something fierce in the sunlight – to be enjoyed away from the lab!


The foundation of the look

Some nice base products – light coverage, great staying power, no transfer or obnoxious sticky feeling under those safety goggles!

The Cleanroom

This place is what started it all off, because I’d been posting lip looks recently on Instagram (where you should totally follow me for daily rogueish goodness #shamelessplug) and using the handy-dandy radial blur tool to only have my lips in focus because I wasn’t wearing any base (HELLO PORES!). The reason for me not wearing any makeup was because I was about to spend several hours fully suited up from head to toe to go and do cleanroom things. Like the laser lab, the cleanroom is a no-go for glitter or powder or fallouty stuff. I mean, you can’t even take paper in thereย  in case tiny particles get loose. Like the other labs, you’ll also be wearing safety goggles all the time, as well as a full hood or hair covering, so you have to do battle with lines in your foundation. On the plus side, you don’t have to worry about styling your hair, and can totally get away with it being, perhaps, a day overdue for a wash (depending on your personal regime). Like the laser lab, the humidity is low, so you have to moisturise. Unlike the laser lab (generally) the noise of the extraction vents can get really grim, which means nice fluoro orange earplugs. These are never sexy, but you could opt to exploit the lipstick angle. Perhaps a nice vibrant colour to match the earplugs? It’ll keep your lips hydrated too. ๐Ÿ˜€ Sometimes (depending on the class of your cleanroom/what you’re doing in there)you will have to wear a full face covering. In this instance, you might choose to play up your eyes with a nice waterproof, non-flaking mascara and some matte, reliably waterproof eyeliner. In this instance, you don’t even have to worry if your skin is playing up, because you’re basically a pair of eyes and nothing else at this point ^_^.

Pros: Ultra-clean air great for allergy/asthma sufferers, don’t have to style hair, fabulous lipstick.

Cons: Earplugs are never sexy, desert-like humidity. Amusing but unattractive bunny-suit and hair net/facemask. No glitter.

The Dior Pencil, complete with the other major tools of the forthcoming lip look. Also the tissue where I wiped off the brush, because I thought it looked vaguely arty.

Glitter’s out – it’s time to get funky with lipstick instead!

Clinique High Impact Waterproof Mascara Review Swatch

Syl’s Stages of Lash Preparation: curl, then mascara. As you can see, the difference (for me) between curled lashes and curled +mascara’d lashes is small, but the mascara has gone on very cleanly, and has done noticeable things to the length.

So! What did we learn from all this? What are my Rogue’s Tips for Laboratory Beauty?

  • Focus on the one feature that’s still visible – probably eyes or lips or brows – a good non-flaking mascara, a hydrating lipstick, some defined brows and an eyelash curler will help fill your lab beauty kitbag!
  • Avoid glitter, dust, powder or anything that might fall out or smudge off (or be high maintenance).
  • Waterproof and long-wearing are your friends – hello stains for blushes and lips, thin layers of long-wearing, non-transferring foundation and matte eyeliner!
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Then hydrate some more. NO! Not *in* the lab, jeez. Take your cup of tea outside and drink it ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • If makeup is a total no-go, take comfort in and enjoy the fact that you’re probably so covered up that you don’t even need to care about what your skin is doing or what your hair looks like! Bask in the liberty! ๐Ÿ˜€ Or just wear whatever you want underneath all the suiting and enjoy it in private ^_^.

I hope that’s been an amusing little roguish diversion for you ๐Ÿ˜‰ What are your experiences? Do you have any tips for Biology/Medical research lab makeup (eh, Jaa? Eh, Aditi?) What about YOUR workplace or hobby – does it affect how you wear your makeup at all? Let me know! ๐Ÿ˜€



Until next time, fellow adventurers, don’t forget to check for traps!


I am an adventuring rogue, not a mercenary for hire, and as such, all opinions expressed here are my own, based on a genuine fondness for/interest in this product. If you have any queries or suggestions, please do not hesitate to pin your parchment to the board (contact me) at thepaintedrogue [at] gmail [dot] com., or use the contact form provided! All images and text on this blog are the property of The Painted Rogue unless otherwise stated. For example, the cover/featured image of two of my fellow, spiffy scientists is the property of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and can be found here. If you nick off with any of it, watch out for the pixies that come in the night and snap your eyelids against your eyeballs while droning nursery rhymes at you.


39 thoughts on “Laboratory Beauty! Makeup for Awkward Workplaces…

  1. syl, the sparkly manicure is bomb and so festive. i need to replicate it asap!

    if it’s hydrating lipsticks you seek, you must add an Estรฉe Lauder Pure Envy lipstick into your hoard asap! as long as it’s not kissed off, it hydrates your lips over time and is actually more effective for dry lips than lip butters/balms! a lipstick queen or two in your stash wouldn’t go wrong either!


    • The sparkly manicure has a whole post of its own if you want more details! ๐Ÿ˜€ I dug out the picture because I thought it leaned suitably ‘festive’. Give it a go!

      I badly, badly want an EL PCE lipstick. Or five. Ever since I swatched them! The annoying thing at the moment is that I want one of the new shades particularly, but they haven’t made it to our shores for me to even swatch yet. Lipstick queen is definitely on the list too!


    • Even though I almost never wear a *full* face of makeup, it’s be nice to feel like I could, LOL! There are situations where I could wear more than I do, but there’s this perfectionist part of me that absolutely hates to have to touch up my base if lab glasses/solvent vapour/whatever has ruined it. Lipstick I will touch up as many times as it takes, but the base… *twitch* ;-D


  2. Hahahaha this post is HILARIOUS! I’ve never worked in a lab (aside from the sessions I had in junior high/high school, but it’s really not that advanced), but I’ve been to Dr. D’s lab (organic chemistry). I was so exhilarated that he put a pair of goggles and a lab coat on me that I really didn’t think that much about what makeup I’d actually wear if I had to work there every day. Anyways. I know that every time I go to his work parties, people could very easily pick out the odd one because female scientists don’t seem to do any makeup (not that I wear a lot when I go somewhere with him because I know that). Kudos for trying to find a balance between being a scientist and a beauty lover, Syl! โค


    • Hehe, isn’t it exciting wearing a labcoat and glasses for the first time? You feel so official, LOL! I remember being SUPER excited about getting my first labcoat (which is still my current one, actually) for enrolling in undergrad chem courses. My first lab was on a Friday, 9:30 -12:30. Almost ten years ago *sniff* #gonnadieastudent. We don’t tend to wear a lot, partly because of the reasons in this post, partly because of the discrimination *rage-tic* but I think it’s important to shoehorn some in there somehow, if you love it! ๐Ÿ˜€


  3. “Cons: Carcinogens…” Haha, it’s true! Because of the lab goggles I never even bothered to put on makeup for any chem lab ever. If had a bad spot I’d use concealer but otherwise it’s just not worth it to me! This is a good guide for those who have a need to look nice in the lab or afterwards ๐Ÿ™‚


    • The goggles are a real pain like that. Always massing up the makeup on the bridge of your nose, your forehead and cheeks! T_T Concealer is definitely a winner in these stuations. Spot correcting FTW! ๐Ÿ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  4. LOL. I always wore whatever I wanted, everything else be damned, but I do have marks of makeup all over the rim of my ill-fitting goggles, which isn’t ideal. But our wet lab was, er, a lab for physical chemists playing at organic chemistry (LOL), so it wasn’t as scary as yours.


    • LOL, the wet chem lab that I’m technically in charge of is almost always full of not even physical chemists, but, wait for it, engineers. You can imagine that I have some interesting times keeping the safety standards up, ROFL! ๐Ÿ˜€ Technically I’m a physical chemist now too, but all my years of training are in synthetic organic chem so I have certain habits. So long as no-one’s being outright dangerous, though, I don’t get too hardcore. We did have one incident where an undergraduate student was excited because he thought he had discovered a universal solvent. We were all kinda puzzled, and then he said ‘it’s red!’…

      …So it turns out he was using the liquid from the waste solvent bottle T_T (non-halogenated, at least, so it was mostly acetone and methanol, maybe a bit of acetonitrile). There was a bit of laughter, and a bit of facepalming, and quite a lot of relief that he hadn’t got into something worse. It’s not like the bottle had a giant label on it or anything…


  5. I no longer work in a lab, but when I did I rarely wore makeup, even though this was at the height of my ridiculous, high-end makeup purchasing days! Like Larie, I kind of just wore whatever I wanted. I did cell and molecular biology, and the standards definitely aren’t as stringent as yours!


    • I would probably be better about wearing whatever I wanted (when I could) if I didn’t get so twitchy about stuff marring my base. I will reapply lipstick till the cows come home, and eyeliner if necessary, but for some reason my foundation/bb cream/powder whatever getting smeared or dented just drives me *nuts*. Lab glasses are terrible for this >_<


  6. I think your work looks are nice. It’s unfortunate that you can’t be a bit more free to express yourself. At the same time, it must feel ultra liberating to play around on your own time!


  7. Awesome post as always. Truely a gateway in a world I not dare to enter. Too much horrible chemicals that give you a second head on touch. On a serious note: I alos find it very interesting to read what one has to keep in mind when working in such a delicate environment. Especially given one mistake can destroy a month worth of work or very expensive equipment.


    • Yeah, the instruments can really ruin your day, makeup wise. Having said that, the instruments themselves are my favourite part of the research *hugs laser* (when they work *glares at laser*) so I don’t want to mess with them (even without considering the table flipping that would occur if I managed to mess up some results that had take me ages to acquire).


  8. LOL, lasers + makeup = disaster. Good thing they’re inherently cool. GOOD TIPS.

    In workplace #1 (in front of the computer) I wear what I like, but generally don’t waste the time with anything more than moisturiser if I’m not leaving the house.

    In workplace #2 (library) I also wear largely what I want, but I restrict it to daytime looks – so I might wear my hot pink mascara, but never dark evening eyeliner or heavy/smoky stuff. It just looks weird in the library environment and with my casual clothes. (Side note: wipe-eye-with-shoulder moves are very much in use in lieu of dirty book-fingers, so I usually keep corner-eye foundation/powder to a minimum.) Nails are always done, because…

    In workplace #3 (on the ice @ the rink) there’s a sort of unwritten rule that (female) coaches will have hair, makeup & nails done nicely. No-one says it, but we all do it! To arrive un-made-up would be kind of like turning up in your pyjamas… When I’m training, though, the most I bother with is moisturiser, because (a) who’s looking? and (b) sweat. Nails, however, are always impeccable, because (a) everyone’s looking, even my coach and (b) they’re my thing. ๐Ÿ™‚


    • I feel like I need hot pink mascara in my life. It lets you be kind of ‘stealth awesome’, which I think is both handy, and rogue-appropriate.

      I see the hair/makeup thing a lot with dancers that have been dancing since they were small. They tend to come to class with beautifully done makeup in addition to the typical tidy bun. As opposed to the rest of us, who turn up in fluoro striped harem pants and no makeup. *cough* I have to confess, though, I will use a good ballet session as a wear-test for foundation/powder/blush. Nothing like two hours of sweaty jetes to put a base product through its paces…


  9. I love this post! The last time I was in a lab was fall 2005, when I was taking an introductory biology course, so all this information is very new and fascinating to me. (Also, my first year of college was NINE YEARS AGO. Jeez, I’m old.) I’m lucky that analyzing literature doesn’t require any specific makeup adjustments, except perhaps waterproof mascara for when Milton and Donne make me tear up at their brilliance…


    • It’s OK, my first year was like 10 years ago, so not a hair was tuned when you mentioned that. OK, one sympathetic one, perhaps. A turned hair of fellow feeling, if you will.

      Heh, that’s a good point! Tips for Literary Beauty: waterproof eye makeup, people! Uh, yeah. That Milton, he’s a doozy. Like, Ozymandias, dude…

      …Wait, that was Shelley…


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  12. Fascinating! I’ve never thought about makeup conditions in labs before, having been completely spoiled in well air-conditioned/heated offices that were ideal settings for displaying a face full of makeup. It’s just… stuff like purple lipsticks would not have been tolerated. And there was that one time I got a streak of light face powder all over my boss’s dark suit jacket by accident which was horrifying although he was super nice about it. Makeup can be a dangerous substance too, lol.


    • How did you manage to get powder on your boss? O_o A freak compactsplosion? Turning a corner and crashing into him? ๐Ÿ˜€

      Isn’t it silly how people are so funny about colours like purple, but red is probably accepted (despite technically having a raunchier undertone)….ah, the mysteries of makeup colour sensitivities!


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  15. That sounds depressing bahah and I thought I was restricted by the norms of stuffy office makeup!! You have lovely lashes tho Syl so go forth and explore /do research in confidence with your waterproof mascara lol. Never thought about the potential perils of makeup in a research environment – thanks for sharing!!


    • Aww, that’s kind of you! ๐Ÿ™‚ I kow even offices can be really stuffy (as you say) about the makeup you can wear. It’s kind of silly that they’ll probably claim that a woman doesn’t look ‘tidy’ or ‘put together’ without makeup for the office, but then criticise her if there’s (abitrarily) ‘too much’. *sigh* I hope your office isn’t like that, but I can imagine many of them are from what I hear from friends!


      • Yeah many people dont wear any makeup to work and thats fine but I dont think overly bright lipstick or out there makeup would be considered appropriate in mine!


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  17. This post is just so interesting to read, Syl! I can totally relate with everything you mentioned! Although I don’t work in a dark room (or dungeon lol) for hours in a day, I do go in and out multiple times a day developing blots. But it’s just a room with an x-ray film processor so I can pretty much wear anything I want. LOL. It’s incredibly hard to work in a completely dark room, though! You kinda have to wait a few minutes for your eyes to adjust first.

    The smeary collar lab gown thingie – HAHAHA can’t help it! I can always wash the gown right? I think I have 3 gowns right now in my current lab. I need one for each room. I used to have one at an old workplace with my name and title on it. Super nice and professional but they didn’t let me keep it when I quit. LOL!

    I also wear gloves all the time, hence the reason I don’t bother with nail polish. No one is ever gonna see my nails, not even myself! >.<

    Contrary to your low humidity condition, I go in and out of the insectary (humidity set at 70%, temp 37C) often and I hate that room. Way too warm and humid and my hair gets all frizzy every time! Good thing I don't have to deal with mosquito rearing. Well, at least not for now. ;D I feel sorry for my colleague who spends many hours a day in that room, though! Mosquito rearing is no easy job!


    • *scream* The insectary sounds like my worst nightmare, LOL! I would only go in if they gave me a full HAZMAT suit – if I get a mosquito bite, it always swells up to the size of a cherry… I don’t actually mind mosquitoes per se, but the ferocious itching and inflammation pain drives me nuts. They always bite me on the side of the face or the elbow or somewhere super inconvenient, too…

      I remember doing a blot, once. Was it a blot? Now I’m not sure. No! It was gel electrophoresis. All I remember was them trying to scare us about the ethidium bromide, and thinking that filling the wells in the gel was both not as fiddly as I thought it would be, but more fiddly than it needed to be ^_^


  18. Aw! I can’t imagine having a job where you’re not allowed to wear make up. It’s not even that I wear it on a daily base (hardly) but the fact that it is not allowed… makes me sad ๐Ÿ˜› there goes your own personal creativity.. meh. I mean, don’t go around looking like a clown or wearing too bright colors.. but if it’s appealing and pretty.. why not, eh? Those nails are marvelous.. and should be suited anywhere ๐Ÿ˜›


    • Well, there’s technically no *rule* against wearing it, but the attitudes and comments and assumptions of far too many people make it just too toxic a proposition to really brave on a daily basis. It’s pretty sad that I have to mentally prepare myself for wearing visible makeup to work, but it’s worth it when I do for the nice people who do comment positively ^_^

      I’m glad you like the nails! ^_^ I have a post (linked elsewhere in these comments, actually) that has more photos and details on how I did them if you’re interested โค

      Liked by 1 person

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