In Defense of the Front Seat Makeup Artist

Last week, my husband Matt mentioned that his office had a new employee. “Everyone thinks she’s kind of weird,” he said. “She gets to work 45 minutes early every day and sits in the parking lot, putting on her makeup.”

My back bolted straight up like a tipped-off ferret. The weirdo attracting office gossip was my other-side-of-town beauty routine doppelganger. “I didn’t say anything,” he promised.

“What if people at my office think I’m a weirdo,” I wondered aloud. We don’t waste time answering obvious questions, though.

Okay, yeah. I’ll admit that from the outside, car makeup artistry is bizarre. I’m the first to admit to being creeped out when I see someone sitting in their parked, silent car, staring out into space, the GPS recalculating to the best place to dump the body that is definitely still lukewarm in the trunk. But car makeup is such a foundational part of my day, such an unshakable ritual, it’s tough for me to put on my shadow and eyeliner in any other place. How are you even supposed to SEE in a bathroom!? It is with reverence for this alternative day prep lifestyle that I share my reasoning with you, to bring insight to the skeptics, and comfort to those cowering in front seat shame.

  1. It makes traffic a non-issue
    Every morning I leave my house at least an hour before I’m supposed to be at my office. Why? Because it can either take 20 minutes or an hour to get my front door to the office parking lot. If it’s raining out, people forget how to drive in it. If the sun comes out, people forget what brightness was like. Oregon is overflowing with spectacularly terrible drivers slamming into each other, and sadly, knowing how to merge is not a requirement for state residency. If I had a more laissez-faire personality I’d just leave at let the commute chips fall where they may, but I have a neurotic aversion to being late for ANYTHING, including self-imposed deadlines (“it would be nice to be to the farmer’s market around 9”). I’d rather get my ass out the door way before I need to and have extra time to get coffee than risk tardiness.
  2. It lets my eyes adjust to the day
    I have naturally watery eyes (thanks, genetics!) and the mornings are always the worst. Coupled with the deluge of spring, summer, and early fall allergies that plague this beautiful corner of the country, and for the first hour or so after my phone alarm cruelly tearing me from the confines of REM sleep, I’m a teary mess. During the years I spent throwing powder and mascara on my face before I left the house, I only exacerbated the problem: my eyes would run into my makeup, my makeup would seep into my eyes, and I’d spend my car ride digging for sandpapery Chipotle napkins from my glovebox and sopping the mess off my cheeks. By waiting until at least an hour after initially getting up before a brush comes near my face, I’ve given my body a chance to wring itself out and adjust to the pollen count of the day. And all of the work of putting on a face doesn’t end up crumpled on 100% recycled paper in the trash.

    car makeup
    Practical goals.
  3. Sun visor mirror >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> any other reflective glass
    There is nothing as magnificent for getting up close with your eyes, cheekbones and lips as a sun visor mirror. It gives you the precision and closeness of a compact while being held eternally in the perfect spot. If I have to do my makeup at home on weekends or whatever, I’ll pack up my eyeliner gel and go sit in my car to finish the wings. It’s the only possible way I can do it right.
  4. Natural light, yo!
    It may be a stupid parking lot, but it’s flooded with abundant natural sunshine (or in our case, copious cloud cover). It’s a much better environment for applying and blending colors than my sadly skylightless bathroom. I get out looking fabulous for the 30 seconds it takes me to walk into the fluorescent palace that makes me look like the NFL cheerleaders that must suffer the indignities of HD closeups before commercial breaks.
  5. It settles me.
    I don’t have to throw on my parking brake and run upstairs as soon as I get there. I can turn on my favorite podcast, spend some time with my brushes, ponder which palettes I’m going to commit to on this particular random Wednesday or whatever, and spend a little extra time remembering that there is a lot more to my life and dreams and talents than this job allows me to be. A day can’t have enough of those reminders, believe me.


  1. I love this post. It’s of a completely foreign world to me – no one has cars in NYC and I don’t even have a drivers license- but you’ve 100% sold me! Now I’m longing to do my make up in a parking lot 😉


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