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      Can You Wear Makeup in a Passport Photo?

      Holly Riddle
      Can You Wear Makeup for a Passport Photo?

      Not getting your passport photo right can seriously derail your travel plans. If you submit your passport application to the U.S. Department of State, and your photos are not up to standards, your application can be denied or delayed, interfering with upcoming travel.

      To ensure that the Department of State can process your passport with no issues, be sure to follow all of the Department’s guidelines regarding taking a passport photo, whether you take your passport photo at home or have it professionally taken. 

      This includes wearing the proper attire and following rules regarding head coverings and accessories. You don’t want to wear anything that could cast a shadow on or obstruct your face or head — but what about makeup? Yes, there are things you should and shouldn’t do when applying makeup before taking a passport photo. 

      How to Wear Makeup in a Passport Photo

      Some travelers wouldn’t dream of showing up at an airport without a full face of makeup. In contrast, other travelers don’t mind rolling up to the airport in pajamas and a freshly washed face. If you’re in the former camp, though, you likely probably want to wear makeup in your passport photo, too. Luckily, you can do so, but with some caveats.

      How to pick the right makeup for your passport photo

      Whenever you’re picking anything for a passport photo — clothes, accessories, a hairstyle, and makeup — the one thing you want to aim for is a lack of distraction. Officials need to be able to look at your photo quickly and easily ascertain your appearance.


      With that in mind, do the following when wearing makeup for a passport photo…

      – Stick to your natural skin tone
      – Use a light hand when it comes to lipstick, eyeshadow, and blush, and choose natural tones
      – Choose matte finishes


      Likewise, when applying makeup for a passport photo, don’t…

      – Wear sparkly, shiny, or glossy products
      – Wear bold, bright, or overly dark colors that heavily contrast against your skin
      – Overdo it on the contouring (stick to your face’s natural shape)
      – Overdo it on the eyeliner or winged eyeliner
      – Wear false eyelashes
      – Wear SPF products, which can cause a glare and make you look washed-out

      More Tips

      The best look for your passport photo will be a simple, understated look that doesn’t draw attention to any particular part of your face and doesn’t distract from your overall appearance. You should look like … well, you! 

      You can still use makeup to cover up undesirable features like acne or redness but don’t change the appearance of your face overall (which can happen when you really lean into contouring and other techniques).

      Additionally, remember that your passport photo will be taken in bright lighting and against a white background. As such, if you’re already quite pale, and if you wear makeup that trends lighter/paler, you’re going to be even more so — which will make dark eyeliner or eyeshadow stand out even more so, too (take it from someone whose passport photo just looks like two eyes in a sea of bright white; I’m consistently amazed that Department of State did not reject the photo when renewing my passport).If the way you look in your passport photo matters to you, you can wear makeup. That said, follow the tips above to keep your passport application moving along and to avoid lengthy waits amid already pretty long passport processing times.

      Further Reading: What to Wear for a Passport Photo

      Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post. 

      Holly Riddle Headshot

      By Holly Riddle

      Holly Riddle is a freelance travel, food, and lifestyle journalist who also dabbles in ghostwriting and fiction. Her work appears in publications ranging from Global Traveler to Golf Magazine, Mashed to Forbes, and Bloomberg. When she’s not writing, you can find her exploring the mountains near her home in the Adirondacks. Her favorite travel destinations include Chicago and New Orleans.