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VR Headsets Are a Nightmare for the Makeup-Wearing Lady


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Out, Damned Spot has long provided general tips to keep your fashions looking amazing, but now, twice a month, I'll also be answering questions about the very specific problems your new (or old!) purchases may present. Do you have questions for me? Ask away!

What's proper etiquette for using someone's VR headset if I'm wearing makeup? Is it rude to smudge up someone's Oculus with your foundation and bronzer? Is there some setting spray I should use to minimize damage? Or is the burden on me at all? Should it be on the headset owner to provide proper cleaning supplies in the event of a makeup-wearing guest?

I recently went makeup-free to use a friend’s Vive for fear of gunking it up. This comes after turning my brother’s white Google Cardboard a lovely shade of beige above the forehead area at Christmas. But why should my blemishes and eye circles have to be front and center just because I'm using a product designed by men? (Don't even get me started on how the headstrap will destroy your styled hair.)

Please help me find some answers. — Lauren Rabaino

I'm going to help you find some answers! This is actually an entirely new question for me, which is so exciting — after more than five years of doling out cleaning advice, it's incredibly thrilling to be faced with conundrums that I've not tackled before. Plus, there's a clear etiquette element going on here, which always makes for a meaty answer. Let's start with the straight cleaning part of things and then talk about the etiquette, which is a bit more nuanced and open to personal interpretation.

Photo: Sam Yeh/Getty

The first piece of advice I have for you is such a drag, but in the case of VR headsets it's important enough that I'm starting with it, even though it's seriously such a drag: Consult the user manual for cleaning instructions.

I know, I know! "Check the user manual" is basically the "eat your broccoli" of the cleaning advice world. Here's the thing though: The instructions for cleaning VR headsets vary quite markedly from one brand to another; for example, the Oculus Rift demands — in bold type, no less — that you "not use alcohol or any abrasive cleaning solution," while the HTC Vive allows for the use of rubbing alcohol, even on the lenses.

The problem with diverging from the manufacturer's stated care instructions is that, if you try to return a damaged set that you've put under warranty and you've used, say, rubbing alcohol when you shouldn't have, you'll be SOL, my friend, because that warranty won't be honored. So! Check the manual.

With that said, rubbing alcohol is traditionally a very good thing to use for taking makeup stains off of fabrics, including the foam liners of VR headsets. So if you have a model, like the Vive, that allows for its use, rubbing alcohol is the way to go. Get yourself a box of premoistened alcohol wipes, which come individually wrapped just like the little packets of wipes you get at BBQ restaurants and can go right into a purse, laptop case, pocket, etc. Also, you can buy a box of 200 for, like, five dollars and use them to clean your smart phones, tablets, laptop screens and so on.

Photo: Gabrielle Lurie/Getty

Another great option for quickly wiping off foam headsets is to use those makeup removing wipes. I mean, if they work to take makeup off your face, it certainly stands to reason that they'll work to remove makeup from other places. The nice thing about both the makeup removing cloths and the little alcohol wipes is that they're highly portable — you can even buy individually wrapped makeup removing cloths that are easier to stash in a bag or pocket — so you can bring your own and not have to worry about being a bad VR headset guest. Plus, if the headset's owner insists that you may not wear makeup while using his or her toy, you can use the removing wipes to take off your face.

If you really want to up your game when it comes to being a considerate user of someone else's VR headset, and that's a thing you do often enough to justify tossing 20 bucks at the problem, you can buy your own removable, washable VR headset cover. Even if you're not a person who wears makeup, you may want to consider getting your own cover because shared headsets are passing a ton of bacteria between users, which can lead to benign but irritating things like acne as well as more serious plagues like pinkeye.

So now that we've covered makeup removal strategies, let's talk etiquette. I'm going to go ahead and issue a bold proclamation: I don't think it's realistic to insist that VR headsets be worn on an entirely clean face. Here in the world of actual reality, women and men both routinely apply stuff (that's a technical term) to our faces like moisturizer, topical creams for treating acne or other afflictions, sunscreen and, yes, makeup. Of course, what I think and what the makers of these devices think are two different things. The care instructions for the Rift specifically state to "avoid applying facial skincare products (makeup, lotion, topical cream, etc.) before using Rift." Humph.

Photo: VCG/Getty

Lauren asked about using setting sprays to keep makeup from transferring off her face and onto headsets, which may help! The NYX and e.l.f. setting sprays both get high marks for keeping makeup in its proper place on your face and, at under $10, won't bust your budget if you feel like experimenting. You may also want to adjust the makeup you apply on days when you know you'll be wearing a VR headset so that you can avoid the use of creamy products, like liquid foundation or BB creams, and mineral-based makeup or bronzers, which can leave glittery deposits. Dabbing your face with a blotting paper before donning a VR headset can also help by cutting back on the amount of oil that will transfer from face to 'set.

As for the question of who should be responsible for the cleaning of a VR headset worn by someone sporting a faceful of makeup, I think it falls on both the owner and the guest user. As an owner, the polite and sanitary thing is to offer your guest a clean headset to try out. Plus, it's yours, which means that its care and keeping is your responsibility. However, as a guest, it is equally as polite for you to speak with the headset's owner before you don the thing to explain that you're wearing makeup, offer to remove it, and/or clean up after yourself. Fortunately, tucking an alcohol wipe or makeup removing cloth into your bag is such an easy thing to do that when you return to reality-reality, you won't have to worry about leaving a gross orange coating behind for someone else to have to clean up.

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