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The Internship Beauty Rules You Need to Know

Figuring out hair and makeup that’s suitable for your internship can be a daunting task. Some offices are super reserved and some are more easygoing, but no matter what kind of office environment you’ll be interning in, there’s a fine line between overdoing your beauty look and not doing enough. You want how you look to reflect how put-together, polished and reliable you are. With the help of two career experts and a beauty expert, HC pulled together a few dos and don’ts for making your beauty look appropriate for the office.

DO make sure your nails look clean

Nails may seem like a minor thing, but they can have a big impact on your overall look. Meryl Weinsaft Cooper and Jessica Kleiman, co-authors of Be Your Own Best Publicist: How To Use PR Techniques To Get Noticed, Get Hired & Get Rewarded At Work, say in a joint statement, “At a minimum, be sure your nails are filed and cleaned. We’d typically recommend keeping your nails at a medium to short length for most positions; longer nails can be a hindrance when typing, texting or working with your hands.”

As for polish, regardless of where you work, chipped nail polish is a big no-no because it can really detract from an otherwise put-together look. When picking a polish color, you can play it safe by sticking to a neutral color. Bisi Essien, founder of Crystal-Eyez Makeup and Beauty Lounge, recommends earth-tone colors or soft pinks.

“I will definitely advise against bedazzled nails or any designs that will cause distractions,” Essien adds. You want your nails to add to your overall look, not distract from it!

Another way to figure out what polish works for your office is to use the workplace itself as a guideline. “If you’re at a more conservative location—like finance, for example—it’s best to stick with a classic neutral one, like Essie’s Adore-a-Ball ($8.50),” Cooper and Kleiman say. “In creative industries, you may see an openness to fun color palettes or even nail art. In fact, if you are in a trend-focused company—like a fashion magazine or PR—do some research on what colors are current, and opt for those.”

DON’T douse yourself in perfume

It’s tough to find a happy medium with perfume, because while you want to smell good, you also don’t want to be the intern who leaves a trail of perfume wherever she goes. Cooper and Kleiman say to follow a simple rule of thumb: “You don’t want the scent to arrive before you or linger long after you’ve departed. A classic tip to avoid over-application is to spray the scent in front of you and to walk through it versus applying it directly to your skin.”

If you’re unsure if your favorite scent is too overpowering or if it will sit the wrong way with some people, ask your friends to weigh in! Try a couple different options and see which they prefer. “Of course, if you find the perfect scent, it can be one of your ‘signature’ elements,” Cooper and Kleiman say.

DO keep your hair well-groomed

Your hair should be clean, brushed and out of your face. “It’s okay to wear your hair down, as long as it’s not covering a significant portion of your face and especially not over your eyes,” Essien says. “You want to be able to maintain good eye contact.”

Many interns have the nervous habit of playing with their hair, so Cooper and Kleiman suggest styling your hair “in a way that will prevent you from playing with or touching it—either consciously or unconsciously—as that can be distracting for coworkers and often read as insecurity.”

Overall, Cooper and Kleiman recommend a polished look—and really, there’s no need to spend a ton of time on it. Even something as simply as a ponytail can look totally office-appropriate!

DON’T wear heavy makeup

At your internship, less makeup is more. “Definitely even out your skin tone with tinted moisturizer or some sort of foundation,” Essien says. A great product to try is Laura Mercier’s tinted moisturizer ($44) because it gives you the ultimate “no-makeup look” while evening out your skin tone.

For eye shadow, Essien recommends using natural and earth-tone colors, or “you can even pass up on eye shadow altogether.” Too Faced Natural Eye Shadow Collection ($36) has a variety of earthy and neutral colors that would work at your internship. Also, it’s a perfectly portable size, so it would easily fit in your purse to bring to work for touch-ups.

For the rest of your look, Essien says to “keep your eyeliner thin and as close to the lash line as possible. A little bit of mascara will go a long way.”

When it comes to your lips, “use a neutral-tone lipstick, or something with a bit of color,” Essien says. “It’s safer to stay away from bright or dramatic lip colors.” A good simple lip color to try is NARS Satin Lipstick in Honolulu Honey ($27).

The simpler your makeup, the more put-together you’ll look, and that’s what bosses like to see in their interns! As a final note, Cooper and Kleiman suggest checking “your makeup under the fluorescent lights when you are applying (or when you first arrive at the office), as that will help you gauge whether or not you need to tone it down.”

DO be prepared for anything

Make sure that whatever makeup you do choose to wear is waterproof. You might sweat while sprinting to work in the summer heat, or you could be sent out on errands when it’s raining, and you don’t want to return to the office with streaks of mascara running down your face.  Switching to waterproof makeup on workdays will eliminate the stress of wondering if your makeup is smudged and ensure a more polished office look. Make Up For Ever’s Aqua Line has all sorts of waterproof products, such as mascara, eye shadow, eyeliner and more.

Also, Kleiman and Cooper say to “stash some beauty necessities in your desk or your bag—so you have them at the ready, if needed. Some of the key things to have on hand include a toothbrush and toothpaste, Band-Aids, a tinted lip gloss, a hair band and anti-frizz serum, nail polish remover pads and face powder.” With this bag on hand, you’re ready to face any beauty challenge that might come your way during the workday!

The final step to having a professional beauty look? Don’t forget to smile! A smile makes you seem warm, approachable and enthusiastic about what you’re doing. It also makes you look comfortable and confident, and that’s part of what makes a standout intern!

Bailey is a Contributing Writer for Her Campus and a member of Boston University's class of 2017 with an intended major of Magazine Journalism. At Boston University, she is the events coordinator at BU's chapter of Ed2010 and the events coordinator for Lord & Taylor's Trendsetter program. In her free time, Bailey can be found eating frozen yogurt with her friends or getting sucked into yet another Netflix series. Be sure to follow Bailey on Instagram and Twitter at @bclem412.