The Great Train Debate: Is It Ok To Apply Your Makeup On Your Commute?

I’ve lived and breathed London for many years now, having lived in practically every corner of the city and commuted half way across it pretty much every morning. Although I’d like to think I was pretty organised, when it comes to getting ready in the early hours I always end up running late – there’s never enough time to do my hair *and* apply mascara. More times than I care to admit to, I’ve sat on the tube (and now the train) with my makeup bag in hand attempting to put the finishing touches to my look. Although it sometimes causes strange looks from men, mainly fascinated by my ability to keep my mascara looking fresh when the tube carriage is jerking from left to right, it goes pretty much unnoticed by most. The key is to be quick, focus only on essentials (applying foundation is just unnecessary) and keep it clean! Although I’m hypnotised by other women doing the same, it’s become quite the talking point online: is applying your makeup on the train really that much of a crime?

I personally don’t see the problem with applying a layer of mascara, a touch of eyeshadow and lashing of lipgloss while others are deeply engrossed in a book; although I could get up a little earlier and be a touch more organised, I’d rather have an extra few minutes in bed and see what’s going on in the world while I sip my morning coffee. The time spent on a train is ours to do with it what we wish, be it perfect our eyeliner or read the financial section of The Times, as long as it doesn’t affect others. Painting your nails, plucking your brows or picking a spot may be taking it too far, but applying lipstick no longer has the social stigma that was attached during the nineteenth century. So why does it cause so much hoohah and debate?

According to Debenhams, up to two thirds of us now apply our makeup on public transport – no surprise seeing that the average commute is 45 minutes. An article in The Times stated that if men wore makeup, they too would be applying it during their morning journey to ensure a time efficient approach that allowed more snoozing. However, etiquette experts are very vocal in saying that applying makeup in public “is as bad as eating in the street. Some things should be kept behind closed doors. Make up should always be used to enhance your features – creating some magic in the transformation.  It would seem senseless to reveal your beauty secrets to all and sundry!” Personally I find this an incredibly old-fashioned and outdated approach, especially when women are increasingly happy to embrace the ‘natural’ look and celebrate their imperfections.

Although I’ve seen many a heinous makeup crime during my travels (dirty old brushes, makeup that’s been around as long as Take That and mismatched colour palettes,) I love looking at how other women apply their products and having a secret snoop inside their makeup bags. Applying slap on the go is a skill and something you learn to perfect over time; I don’t see the harm at all. For women that are continually juggling life’s dramas and demands, being efficient with our time should be celebrated and not condemned. It wouldn’t surprise me if ‘tube makeup classes’ started to be offered on beauty counters and edits featuring ‘tube appropriate makeup’ started to be featured in magazines… If I can get away with an extra coffee and five more minutes in bed, I’m gonna embrace it.

What do you think about those that apply makeup on public transport? 



  1. Stephanie
    July 15, 2014 / 2:37 pm

    I love watching women apply their makeup on the train! I find it fascinating to see what products they've got and actually how they apply them! I often wish it was socially acceptable to paint my nails on the train, although I can see it getting a bit messy!Stephanie xxxx

  2. - Karen
    July 15, 2014 / 2:44 pm

    Great post! I always apply finishing touches on public transport and don't mind about others doing it, infact I look at which products they're using too :)Style Sunrise:)x

  3. Anonymous
    July 15, 2014 / 3:07 pm

    I don't see any problem with it and it's always fun to watch what others are using and maybe pick up a trick or two for applying makeup on the go. When I visited London I was really proud of myself for putting on eyeliner and mascara on my first ever trip on the Tube after getting off a 9 hr flight! I didn't even stab myself in the eye!

  4. Manouk Maat
    July 15, 2014 / 3:10 pm

    I totally agree with you. I go to college by train and sometimes I do my mascara and lipstick on the train because I'm running late in the morning. As long as you don't bother anyone with weird smells or whatever then it's fine. I once sat next to a woman who was doing her nailpolish! I was already feeling a bit ill and I almost puked (tmi) I got up and walked faaaaaar far far away from her. I wonder if she got the message.WOMANOUK (beauty and portrait drawings)

  5. babyteeth
    July 15, 2014 / 3:24 pm

    I would always choose extra time in bed. I eat on the street anyway, who ever said they are both bad is clearly a) male b) extremely sexist c) a twat. :)India / Touchscreens & Beautyqueens

  6. Pixie's Picks
    July 15, 2014 / 3:46 pm

    Do you have products that you would recommend being 'tube friendly' ie, time/space saving?Charley

  7. alice
    July 15, 2014 / 3:57 pm

    I much prefer doing my makeup in the comfort of my own home, but being that I really like my sleep.. I've learnt to perfect my in-travel makeup routine over the years! I really don't think it should be seen as something that's bad – who really cares what anyone else does on the tube? I actually really enjoy seeing other women do their makeup. The only time its not acceptable is, like you said, when its effecting other people, eg. painting your nails! I once saw a woman on a train pull a pair of nail clippers out of her bag and start cutting her toenails, no word of a lie!Definitely a bit too far haha.Good post & an interesting topic. x

  8. Lauren Michaelides
    July 15, 2014 / 4:30 pm

    I agree. I do it all the time and personally see nothing wrong with it at all.

  9. Madeleine S-B
    July 15, 2014 / 5:21 pm

    I completely agree with you – I think it's fine for people to to apply makeup in public and think the idea of readying yourself in secret is so out dated, like the tips you'd read in old womens' magazines about not letting your husband see you without your makeup etc. I only don't do mine on public transport because I find it impossible to keep my hand steady for liquid liner haha

  10. SuperSummer
    July 15, 2014 / 5:43 pm

    I do my make up on the Train everyday! I've learnt trains are more application friendly than the tube is too and I really don't care what other people think!

  11. Victoria Pike
    July 15, 2014 / 6:43 pm

    I don't think there is any problem doing your makeup on the train, as long as you are not getting it over everybody! I love watching people do their makeup, it gives me

  12. urbanbeauty lush
    July 15, 2014 / 7:03 pm

    I think it is totally fine and normal however, personally I feel more prepared and ready to start of my day if I stick to a routine and not drag things on like doing make-up on the train… not because it is public (because who cares? I dont!) but just because of the preparation side of things

  13. Emily Knott
    July 15, 2014 / 7:39 pm

    Funnily enough I have often seen women applying makeup on the tube! How funny! Never really thought much of it to be honest! But I do like to see what they are using!

  14. carly c
    July 15, 2014 / 9:25 pm

    I love your blog 🙂 please check out mine sometime. Let me know what you think? :-)

  15. Anonymous
    July 15, 2014 / 9:55 pm

    I don't mind the application of make up but the other week a girl in my carriage sprayed a whopper of a squirt of perfume! Not cool!

  16. Minty
    July 15, 2014 / 9:56 pm

    I can't see why women shouldn't apply make up on the train. I like to take my time over my make up, but if I'm running late will finish it off on the park and ride!

  17. Ray Turner
    July 15, 2014 / 10:06 pm

    Sounds risky to me, given the bumpy nature of our public transport and the way that commuters play sardines every morning, accidentally jogging your arm perhaps as you apply lipstick (or whatever). You could arrive at work looking an absolute fright…!

  18. Anonymous
    July 16, 2014 / 1:42 pm

    im always applying makeup in public! when I worked id do the basics at home and then finish on the bus, and now if im in a café etc ( I wouldn't do it in a posh place) ill get a mirror out and apply lipstick! I saw 2 elderly women do that the other day and felt like clapping, theres no harm in it personally.Catherine x

  19. Lucy Dorling
    July 16, 2014 / 3:28 pm

    I don't mind a bit of mascara or lippie but personally I don't like people doing a full face makeup I personally don't like it, but then i also don't like people shouting into their mobiles about who slept with who the previous evening! I am a miserable sod in the morning and when I was working liked my commute with a bit of peace and quiet! Xx

  20. Hannah Hearsey
    July 16, 2014 / 3:33 pm

    I have no problem with putting makeup on on the train, I commute and seriously love my bed. I only think it's an issue when you're affecting other passengers, like painting your nails or spraying perfume. I once sat next to a woman who was applying bronzer and got more of it on me than she managed on her actual face… I wasnt happy…

  21. Aerie Berrie
    July 16, 2014 / 9:41 pm

    Im not too fussed! aslong as they do it quietly and dont put theyre makeup everywhere! xxBerrieBlogs {beauty and lifestyle blog}

  22. Xazzee
    July 17, 2014 / 2:18 pm

    I don't, but I don't have anything against anyone else doing it. I rather enjoy watching how one manages to apply mascara on the tube.

  23. defairmans
    July 20, 2014 / 6:45 pm

    It is annoying when ladies spend half an hour in public toilets putting make up on when you've gone to the loo and just want to wash your hands without falling head first into someone else's blusher but the most annoying thing is when women spray perfume in enclosed spaces. I think there should be on the spot fines for that!

  24. London Kat
    July 21, 2014 / 4:11 pm

    I completely agree – I don't think there's any problem, and like you, I nosily enjoy having a snoop and seeing what women are using and how they apply it. I'm never sure about putting on concealer though; may be a bit under the eyes, but attempting to dab it onto spots just ensures that everyone looks at that spot! Kat

  25. Kitty Williams
    July 22, 2014 / 4:09 pm

    I really think it's each to their own, and whilst it's not something that I've ever done yet (Still a full time student so haven't had a full time job that's lasted longer than the summer holidays) I can easily see myself doing this in the future. I just always wonder what happens if the women in question don't manage to find a seat on the tube/train… when do they get the chance to finish their makeup before hitting the office?! Eeek!Kitty |

  26. Freya Jeffries
    July 24, 2014 / 5:18 pm

    Love this post! Us makeup wearers and lovers can do what we want. I used to apply makeup on the bus all the time when I commuted. I might make a blog post on this too, referencing and linking to you of course 🙂

  27. Kat Clark
    July 25, 2014 / 4:09 pm

    I'm not a fan of a complete face of makeup being applied on the train. A bit of a touch up, yes, but i've seen people starting at foundation and working their way up to lippie over an entire journey. For me, makeup is something i like to do before I leave the house, but I will add a bit of lipstick or a quick touch up on the train, especially if I'm going out after work.

  28. Anonymous
    July 25, 2014 / 4:15 pm

    It's not that I have a problem with it, I just don't get it. If I was happy for all and sundry to see me bare-faced then I just wouldn't bother with it at all on commuting days. If, like me you have poor skin and need to cover it up then why would you leave the house without doing so. The point is to create an illusion of natural beauty, not turn from the ugly duckling to a beautiful swan in front of everyone

  29. Sandra Nimako - Boatey
    July 27, 2014 / 9:38 am

    I love looking at woman applying make-up on the trains haha because I always look at what they are using! I would never do it myself though – I'd end up poking myself in the eye!

  30. Laura-May Atkins
    July 27, 2014 / 7:30 pm

    I always do my makeup on the train!! I don't think it's a crime at all. Men don't have this worry in the morning and therefore are free to read the morning newspaper on the commute. However us ladies on the other hand have far more tasks to complete before we even think of picking up the newspaper…

  31. Anonymous
    October 24, 2014 / 10:07 pm

    It's fine until perfume or nail varnish is applied. Please consider that you are in a small space and some people find the smells too much in the enclosed space of a railway carriage.

  32. Anonymous
    April 7, 2015 / 12:00 pm

    I know this is an old thread but….. the issue still persists.I was disgusted by the smell of a nail-painting episode on the Tube this morning.Last week a youngster was vigorously plucking her eyebows, completely oblivious to the thought that this could be an issue.Most of the commenters on here have made it clear they support makeup application and don't care about other people's opinions of what they do on public transport. That sums it up… a lot of selfish types congratulating themselves.There's no thought of where this leads – would blokes shaving and trimming their nasal hair be OK?

    • London Beauty Queen
      April 7, 2015 / 12:42 pm

      I don't think the comments are 'a lot of selfish types congratulating themselves' at all – there's a huge difference between applying nail varnish (which I agree is unnecessary) and applying mascara or a bit of lipstick. It's completely different to 'blokes shaving and trimming their nasal hair' and people that judge, like you, everyone with the same patronising and rude approach should think twice about doing so. It's only an issue if we make it such; eating or drinking on the tube may have been seen as unacceptable 20 years ago, but it's no different to topping up your makeup today – why should women be frowned upon and judged for taking care of themselves.

  33. Anonymous
    April 8, 2015 / 12:28 pm

    Thanks for the feedback LBQ. I think you have jumped the gun there somewhat though and would have to disagree with you. It is hardly "patronising and rude" to expect people to leave their private activities off public transport."It's only an issue if we make it so". Hmm – sorry, that is nonsense.And, err, I don't recall saying anything that implied "women should be frowned upon and judged for taking care of themselves". I happen to think something more like the opposite, for all people actually. We are all judgemental at some point – it's simply a question of when. No-one enjoys being "judged", as you have just done by making a load of assumptions. Anyway: I think it's the same with all "private" activity – it can be OK (perhaps even necessary, dare I say it!) – on public transport – and tolerable, so long as it's kept brief.And that applies to phone calls, snogging, loud conversations, applying makeup, eating… whatever.So – topups? Yes, OK, of course, if one must.But full makeup sessions, or painting nails? I think not. It's just rude to force that onto other people.Oh, as a final thing, I'm sure you won't mind if that mate of mine trims his nasal hair for a minute or two. Just taking care of himself! 😉

    • London Beauty Queen
      April 8, 2015 / 1:32 pm

      Trimming your nasal hair is NOT the same as applying makeup on the tube. Your initial comment was patronising, focusing on judging other people rather than making a cohesive argument – which has completely invalidated any opinion that people may have agreed with on some level. I think the issue is more how you see applying makeup as being so horrifying that you need to compare it to intimate hair maintenance; it appears your ideals are still stuck in the dark ages.

  34. Anonymous
    April 8, 2015 / 4:01 pm

    Well said LBQ.The previous anonymous comment is all about stopping women from doing anything they want to do. So isclearly a) male b) extremely sexist c) a twat. 🙂

  35. Anonymous
    April 9, 2015 / 6:53 am

    I think that as long as you can apply the make up without jabbing your elbow into your fellow commuters or getting eyeshadow or powder all over their clothes, and without causing any obstruction to others using the train or tube, go for it. However, painting nails with the noxious fumes or spraying perfume is just not on. And as for the woman on my train recently who thought it was ok to apply her underarm deodorant and then foot lotion, no, that's just too much. That kind of grooming should be done at home.

  36. Aging Ophelia
    June 6, 2016 / 10:54 am

    When I bussed daily, I always saved that time for putting on my lipstick. When I was sharing a car ride every morning, well, I put together a little black bag that carried everything I needed inside to do a full face in the car, from base to highlighter, on the 25 minute drive to work. If people were watching, they were getting a helluva lesson in dexterity & colour!

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