Like Dina Asher-Smith, We Find Our Makeup Routines Therapeutic

Sure we could do our makeup faster, but the joy of getting ready is part of the process.

Athlete Dina Asher-Smith is set to be one of the big names in this year’s Tokyo Olympics – and her makeup routine is a crucial part of her race preparation.

The 25-year-old sprinter may be the fastest British woman in history, just don’t rush her in front of the mirror.

During an interview with British Vogue, she lifted the lid on her “getting ready” process and how it takes a good hour before any race. She spoke about the need to stay calm and how she uses her makeup routine as a distraction.

“When I’m out on the track, I’m not thinking about what I look like. I’m just trying to win,” she said. “But beforehand, I need to be calm. Doesn’t matter how nervous you might feel, if you need to do your eyeliner, you cannot be shaking.”

I’m not an athlete by any means, but the idea that doing your makeup as an act of keeping calm is something I can relate to.

Dina Asher-Smith after winning the Women's 100m Final at the British Athletics Championships in June.
Dina Asher-Smith after winning the Women's 100m Final at the British Athletics Championships in June.

I’m a big girly girl and I’ve been into makeup since my early teens. When I was younger, wearing makeup was about experimenting with what looked good and what didn’t. Now that I’m older and know what products I like and what colours suit me, my routine is less about how I want to look, and more about how I feel.

It takes me about an hour-and-a-half to do my makeup (two hours in total if we’re including a nice relaxing shower). Realistically, I could get done it in less – but I don’t want to rush the process.

I see my makeup routine as part of my self-care. For that precious 90 minutes, I’m focused on me, myself, and I. Instead of dwelling on the worries of the day, I’m concentrating on making sure my concealer doesn’t crease. Makeup is an art and my face is the canvas. When I’m applying my Nars foundation to my face, I feel like a true artist.

My makeup time is also the time I use to catch up on my podcasts and albums.

Atmosphere matters when you’re getting ready, agrees 26-year-old model Jay Anderson, from New York, who watches old Victoria’s Secret shows while she’s in front of the mirror. “My room has to be cool, fan on low, I’m always checking my lighting and sometimes I have a glass of champagne too,” she adds.

For 24-year-old Katouche* from London, who works in PR, it’s all about the power that makeup gives her. “I love being creative and trying out different looks. I love manipulating how I present depending on the context. I love the creative process from start to finish,” she says.

Katouche has an Instagram, @itsKatouche, where she records herself doing her makeup on Instagram Stories. “I take everyone along with me on the journey and I often get told by my friends and people following me that they love watching me do my makeup as it relaxes them,” she says.

“I really take pleasure in the routine of it all and watching the look come together. I also love showing myself as a disabled Black woman doing mundane day-to-day activities. It challenges some of the very limited views people have when they see myself or people like me self-determining, even something as unsuspecting as makeup.”

Attiya*, 35, from Jackson, Mississippi, sees her makeup prep as a form of escapism. “As a mum of two small, active boys, doing makeup feels like my escape from the everyday demands of motherhood and marriage,” she says. “It’s my moment, however small, to pamper myself. It’s a necessary reminder that I’m beautiful and have an identity prior to the demands of life.”

Like Dina Asher-Smith, Karouche finds doing her makeup relaxes her when she’s quite anxious. “I use it as a way to regulate my emotions. Normally I pop on some R&B and set up my ring light and get going,” she says.

This was even truer during the pandemic. “I’d often lose track of time and feel stuck, being in the same space without change for days on end. So doing my makeup was a way for me to take back control of my day and give me some structure and routine.”

Jay says it takes her 40 minutes to an hour to get ready – not just because she wants her makeup to be faultless. “This face has to be baked properly as I don’t do contouring or wear foundation,” she says. “I enjoy having ‘me’ time. I’m very selfish with my time. To enjoy it while being glammed up is even better!”

“Doing my makeup was a way for me to take back control of my day.”

- Karouche

This is something Attiya can relate to. She has got her weekday beauty routine down to six minutes, but at the weekend she allows herself more time to enjoy the process. “I perform my makeup routine every weekend and that routine is an hour,” she says. “Once a week I just take a day to practise new trends and products and I will take upward 90 minutes because that’s my ‘me time.’”

Katouche has always felt quite strongly that good makeup requires time above anything else. “I have been wearing a full face of makeup this way since I was about 15-years-old. Back then it’d take me around two hours,” she says. “But now I’m much faster if I need to be. So I can finish my face in 30 minutes, but I’m seldom happy with how it looks in those instances.”

Appearances aren’t the main aim for us when it comes to our makeup, then, but let’s face it, the transformation from looking like a zombie to a beauty influencer is always welcome. My confidence is always at 10/10 after I finish my face. I feel relaxed and ready to conquer the day (or night). Let’s hope that Dina Asher-Smith’s makeup routine helps transforms her into an Olympic winner, too.

*Some interviewees chose not to share their surnames.