Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
It’s no exaggeration to say that every single thing that has ever been written about grilling has, in a very real way, been written for a female readership. Despite any words or phrases in a given piece that may attempt to indicate otherwise, there’s not one single fact, task, tip, or hack pertaining to the cooking of food over flame, in all of human knowledge, that isn’t immediately and fully applicable to a woman actor.
If you’re looking for grilling recipes, charcoal banking techniques, or easy weeknight dinner ideas, this isn’t the article for you; for any of those things, avail yourself of the wealth of information available online, on newsstands, and in bookstores, ignoring any persistent visual and verbal indications that the material you are reading presumes you are a man. The writer may be wrong about who you are, but they’re right about the importance of a chimney starter.
It’s also no exaggeration to say that there are certain facets of femininity that are — by men and, by extension, by society at large — frequently confused with frivolity. Among them is the maintenance and enhancement of beauty, something I’m inclined to credit to willful ignorance on the part of women-loving men, a la la la I can’t hear you at the behind-the-scenes work of bracing for the impact of the male gaze.
Standing with your face over a kettle full of flames will melt all but the most bomb-proof cosmetic applications.
Women look better without makeup, they like to say, grilling masculinely. Why would you spend $20 on a lipstick? they ask, striking a match on their stubble to ignite the hardwood charcoal. I hate women who wear green eyeshadow, they say, slamming a foil-wrapped brick onto a spatchcocked chicken so hard it splays into the shape of Jack Kerouac’s profile. It doesn’t look good. Why do they even bother wearing it? They’re grilling so hard their chest hair is roaring out of their bodies into wiry trees, shredding their polo shirts, blood pouring onto the patio.
And so it ends up that the intersection of grilling and feminine toilette has gone woefully underaddressed. This might appear to be a low-stakes omission from either canon, unless you’ve ever attempted to marry the two: Standing with your face over a kettle full of flames will melt all but the most bomb-proof cosmetic applications. So why don’t you just, you know, not wear makeup while grilling? the men might ask you from behind the massive, sound-dampening pillars of their sequoia-like members. To which I suggest you reply by turning around, walking away, and firing up the grill while wearing as much makeup as you damn well please.
You can wear whatever beauty look you want whenever you want, of course, but if you want to optimize your routine for grilling — a face that will stay put and look great until the coals quietly sigh into darkness — some paths end up being better than others. Grilling means heat, and heat means sweat. Every person is a beautiful unique flower who exudes face-sweat in their own beautiful unique way, so you’ll want to find the products that work best for you, but the look to aim for for is dewy, glowy — liquids and creams, not powders. You want the hair-and-makeup equivalent of hosting a dinner party in a caftan and bare feet*: apparently effortless, undeniably elegant, and makes you feel great enough about yourself that you can focus on acing the job at hand. Here’s the system (and the products) that work for me.
This is not the time for small guns. A tinted moisturizer will slide right off your cheeks onto your kebabs; a conventional foundation will smudge and smear. Start with primer, to help things stay put, and build from there. A heavy-duty waterproof formula like Estée Lauder’s ridiculously durable Double Wear Stay-In-Place foundation isn’t going to go anywhere, though maybe your breezy weekend cookout isn’t the right place for Broadway-caliber spackle? Kat Kinsman, the editor-in-chief of Tasting Table and one of the most hard-core grillers I’ve ever met, swears by L’Oreal BB Cream, "because it doesn't clump or run even when it's gross out." If you’re into something a little bit lighter, I’ve fallen wholly in love with the Face & Body Liquid Makeup from Make Up For Ever, which goes on whisper-sheer (one layer looks and feels an awful lot like Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer), builds beautifully if you need more coverage, and will, as far as I can tell, hold the course even on the literal surface of the sun.
Nothing raises a flush quite like extended proximity to smoldering charcoal. But if you’re committed to picking your particular shade of pink, Urban Decay’s Afterglow 8-Hour Powder Blush actually rides it out, especially the more intense colors.
As if the heat and sweat weren’t enough, grilling involves a lot of smoke. That’s a great thing as far as flavor is concerned, but it also (as the song goes) gets in your eyes, and the result of that is something that looks an awful lot like you’re filled with sorrow and quietly weeping over the coals. To avoid going full Lauren Conrad, you need a mascara that does not care about water at all — but also one that gives no frigs about oil, either, since all that face-sweat picks up oil from your skin. I have a drawer full of more mascaras than I can count, and the only ones that have withstood not just an hour of grilling but also the entire evening of socializing to follow are the ones that form those little worm-like tubes around your lashes, which are only dislodged by water plus vigorous friction (don’t rub your eyes while sweaty). I like L’Oreal Double Extend Beauty Tubes for drugstore brand (skip the white primer stuff and just use the mascara), but the truth is the high-end Blinc (in original formula, not volumizing) is even better.
You’re courting danger if you go for a full eye makeup look while grilling, but it’s doable if you skip pencils and powders in favor of the Sharpie pens of the liner world: Stila’s Stay All Day Liquid Liner does what it promises (at least, for a few hours); for a few dollars more, Marc Jacobs’ Magic Marc’er will deliver you the next best thing to a cat-eye tattoo. Eyeshadow is a more tenuous proposition (powders tend to drift, creams tend to smudge), but if you’ve got to go for it you’ll want to make sure you’re fully committing to something major like Aqua Cream, which Make Up For Ever developed (I am not kidding) for the French synchronized swimming team.
The fastest way to find a durable lip color is to ask a food writer: Any lip color that can live through eating a hamburger can live through grilling it first. Kinsman and I are both devoted members of the Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick fan club, while writer and cookbook author Jordana Rothman promises that a swipe of Lime Crime Velvetine "would retain its matte and marvelous pigment in the face of consecutive nuclear holocausts, let alone a measly hour of fire and brimstone."
Tie it up, hold it back, whatever you need to do to keep it out of your face. Most hair products — particularly hairspray and dry shampoo — are flammable. As food writer and serious griller Jamie Feldmar points out, it can’t hurt to think strategically: "Hair retains scents for a long time, which is something to think about depending on what you're making and how often you like to wash your hair. So I always pull it back, which probably doesn't do anything, but makes me feel like it's somehow keeping it away from the smells."
*Don’t actually grill in a caftan and bare feet. This is a terrible idea. Flowy clothing likes to catch fire, and foot burns are awful. Wear clothing you don’t mind infusing with smoke, and closed-toe shoes always, no exceptions.