Get the Look: Academia

“No-sleep beauty” is a little different for academics.

For the rest of the world, the goal of “no-sleep beauty” is “pretending you weren’t out all night.” For academics, it’s just the opposite–concealing that you got a full night’s sleep. I’ve taken graduate courses at three schools in three countries now, and what they all have in common is the Suffering Olympics, the unending cycle of one-upmanship about who’s working hardest and sleeping least. Thus, there are two uses for makeup when you’re an academic: to look like you’re not dying, or to look like you are.

Ok, and job interviews, but that’s in the center of the Venn diagram.

If you look like you’ve been, gods forbid, taking care of your physical and emotional needs, you will be accused of being that worst of all things: “unserious.” The ultimate mark of academic virtue and prowess is the sublimation of all your own needs into your work.

But what if you could practice self-care AND retain the respect of your cohort? Climb on board Kusano Iori’s All-Night Anxiety Express and learn how to get the haggard, sallow face of a Truly Devoted Academic!

NOTE: None of the links in this post are affiliate links; I get nothing if you buy these products. You can, however, keep fueling the All-Night Anxiety Express by donating via ko-fi!

SKIN: Start with your rested face. This is mine; you can see that I’ve got a natural advantage, since I look a little tired by default.


First, you want to cover up those rosy cheeks. Diorskin Nude Concealer is my ride-or-die. By the way, I don’t believe in makeup brushes (except for eyebrows, which I do with a spoolie and an angled liner brush). Finger-paint it on and just wash your hands between products.


Corpsalicious! Now we’re going to slap on some foundation. I live by Chanel Perfection Lumière Velvet, which is SPF15 and feels absolutely weightless. You’re supposed to shake the bottle before you put it on. Yeah, don’t do that today. The foundation should be a little patchy. You were “tired” when you applied this, remember?


Let’s play up those undereye circles. You can do this in one swipe with one of Dior’s Fix-It Colour sticks in blue (they’re meant to rebalance yellow tones, but are excellent for doubling down on blues and purples). If you have the time to get a little more detailed, start by applying an eyeshadow primer (I use Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer Potion) to your dark circles. Carefully dab on a light dusting of a matte purple eyeshadow. This one is the sadly discontinued Paint It On from the Sephora Collection. The teeniest bit of pressed powder or foundation patted gently on top holds it in place and gives it some plausible deniability.

NOTE: You MUST use a matte purple. If there’s glitter in it the proverbial jig is up.


If this comes out a little more like you’ve got matched black eyes–great! The fight for funding is a fierce and terrible one.

EYES: Your eye makeup should say, “I’m yesterday’s makeup.” You want to imply that you were studying so hard that you completely neglected your responsible skincare regimen.

Dispense with all primers. Just swipe that eyeshadow straight on your skin. I start with a matte cream base to wash out my complexion–take it all the way up to the brow bone, and then swipe a brown over the roundest part of the lid. Ignore the crease entirely. Without a primer on, your brown will migrate upward for that perfectly patchy “yesterday’s eyes” look. Any eyeshadow will do for this move; I’m using Urban Decay “Virgin” and “Buck.”

Avoid anything with a sparkle that could give you the appearance of pep. Pep and vim and vigor are for those slackers who don’t stay up till three reading journal articles for class the next day.


Now we’re starting to get shadowy and scary. This is great. Keep going. Dig down into the bottom of your makeup bag for that eyeliner pencil–the one you never use because it smudges as soon as you put it on. I like Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Crayon in Blacquer for this one. Go a bit heavier than you usually would for that “studious raccoon” vibe.


I may look kind of okay right now, but this eyeliner will have melted halfway down my face in about two hours.

Mascara is absolutely vital for that no-sleep look. It doesn’t matter what kind you use because you’re going to deliberately fuck it up, but this is Clinique Chubby Lash. Hold the wand at the bottom of the lashes and wiggle it on up. Repeat on the top side of the lashes, then the bottom again. On a normal day you’d run a clean spoolie through this mess to coat the lashes more evenly. Instead, you’re going to blink as hard as you can. Really squeeze those peepers shut tight to smudge it onto your undereye. Now give it one more coat of the ‘scare. The clumps are the key to authenticity; you want to have about five distinct lash spikes per eye.


The unevenness makes it believable! Ideally, you should also look like maybe you’ve been crying a little. You can accomplish this by ducking into the bathroom right before class and watching this commercial for Amazon Prime on your phone.

BROWS: Now here’s something you actually need to pay attention to. Arch those suckers! You want to move as few muscles as possible to express your scorn when That Jerk in your program implies that you’re insufficiently dedicated. The Benefit Brow Zings Kit is my go-to product.


CHEEKS: Put the blush away. You aren’t aiming for a fresh, healthy glow here. You were up all night pondering your future in an increasingly threatened, dying industry. You were drinking warm white wine at 3 AM while Googling whether it was too late to become an accountant.

Start with your bronzer. I like Tarte’s Sculptor contour stick or Etude House’s Play 101 stick #20. Suck your cheeks in and swipe the bronzer on.


Your lines should fall in the deepest part of the hollow. It’s less of a diagonal slash and more of a slanted J on each cheek; picture the grasping claws of your advisor asking for your next thesis chapter. Now blend it down until your cheekbones stand out unhealthily. You can’t go wrong with a little bit of highlighter to bring out those cheekbones even further. YSL Touche Eclat is great for this, preferably slightly lighter than your actual skin. I’m too lazy to try to figure out which purse I left mine in, so I’m subbing with a tiny bit of Excel eyeshadow (the lightest shade in this quad, SR04 Smoky Brown). This has a little shimmer to bring out your best, most skeletal and scholarly self.

Extra credit: blend more bronzer along your jawbone to sharpen your face.


That’s the gaunt, haunted face of someone who takes their work seriously!

LIPS: You can go two ways with your lips and neither of them are wrong. The first is “oh god I’m so tired.” You’re dialing it back one step from the healthy nude lip. You know that one color of nude or light pink you bought and never wore again because of how bad it made your complexion look? That’s what you want. For me, that’s Marc Jacobs LoveMarc lip gel in “Severine 112.”


If you don’t have a bad color, steal a trick out of the traditional gyaru playbook: the concealer lip! Yeah, that’s exactly what it sounds like. This one is Revlon Photoready. Don’t forget to blot after you apply; there’s a thin line between “believably exhausted” and “Laura Moon cosplay” that you don’t want to cross.


The second is “I don’t know what you’re talking about! I’m fine. FINE.” You’re playing loud here. You want a strong red lip that looks like you’re following a real no-sleep tutorial. If you haven’t exfoliated your lips and you’re a little flaky, grab a matte color that will dry you out further for that zombified look. I use MAC Red for this.


If you forgot our goals here and scrubbed your lips like someone who loves yourself, you might as well reach for something moisturizing like the Clinique chubby stick in 003 Mightiest Maraschino.

HAIR: Wash it and wear it to class wet (who has time to blow-dry?), or else rub a tiny bit of coconut oil up top to give it that stringy Severus Snape shine.

The trick to looking like you’re not strung out is to leave your hair down; pulling it back draws attention to your face. Well, that’s what we want to do. A high cheerleader pony or a messy updo really sells the “komm, süßer Tod” vibe you want to project.


CLOTHES: Either yesterday’s sweater or something that projects deep existential angst will do. If you can knock those out in one item, score!


FINISH THE LOOK: Give yourself a hit of Febreeze or one spray more of perfume than you would normally wear to sell the idea that you didn’t shower or do laundry. Shove a pen into your messy updo for safekeeping (not a pen you care about, of course, because you’ll probably lose it). And you can’t go wrong with a “discreet” flask to drown your sorrows as soon as the professor turns his back!


And if you’re an image-obsessed control freak like me, remember: this isn’t the mask slipping. This is you building a new, better mask to fool your teachers and cohort into believing you’re one of them. After all, you can’t fix the toxic valorization of overwork and self-neglect that academia runs on, so you might as well pretend you’re playing along. Go get ’em, friendos!

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