Cyrus Veyssi’s Makeup Is An Act Of Forgiveness

“I’m a child of Persian immigrants, and I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood in Massachusetts. I had no idea what I wanted to do because I was still getting assimilated to what I could do. It wasn’t until I went to Tufts that I thought I might want to be in media. I majored in sociology and minored in media and communications. I wanted to be Grace Coddington. That was my dream.

After college, I got my first job at Paper magazine as an editorial assistant and stayed there for about a year. Then I got hired as a junior creative at brand marketing agency M Booth, where I worked on beauty businesses and a few other sectors like tech and spirits. I was there for seven beautiful years.

My career in beauty started after I made a response video to a hater on Tiktok—during the pandemic, I started making videos there to show my personality. One day I posted a video of me doing a beauty routine and someone commented, ‘Oh my God. You’re Iranian, you’re non-binary, and you’re queer. Your parents must be so disappointed in you.’ But in reality, I came out to my parents when I was eight. I thought, ‘Here’s the perfect opportunity for me to dig in.’ I stitched the comment while doing my routine with my dad over some music. It was so beautiful and it went viral—before TikTok took it down. But I realized how many people were inspired by me. I kept posting to see where it would go as I told stories about my family and my culture and being Iranian. The way that I think about it is that I talk about beauty, skincare, and fashion through the lens of storytelling, through the lens of intersectionality, through the lens of inclusivity, but also through the lens of comedy.

I would say about a year and a half ago was when things started to get serious. I hit 300,000 followers on TikTok and started to get my first big campaigns as a creator. I left my full-time job six months ago to do this full time. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

When I was maybe 13 years old, I was plucking my eyebrows in the bathroom before my mom came in to stop me. At the time, a lot of the girls at school had really thin, ‘90s brows. I thought my mom was uncomfortable with me wanting to look more feminine, but she said it had nothing to do with that, and that my brows were part of our family and our culture. So many Iranian women have thick brows but are conditioned to pluck them away, and I didn’t realize that I was doing it myself to fit into a Western beauty standard.

My mom and I laugh about that moment now, but I haven’t changed them since. I pluck stray hairs, sure, but I don’t change the shape that reflects a lot of Persian beauty motifs. That’s carried over in other areas of my life, especially when it comes to hair. If I’m on a red carpet for example, I might be wearing a gorgeous gown or a blouse with my chest hair out. Being Persian and Iranian has inspired me to understand that beauty is so subjective—and a lot to do with Westernization. And going back to me being affirmed as a non-binary person, it doesn’t make me feel any less non-binary or gender-fluid when I have facial hair or when I have chest hair out and makeup on. Those things are not mutually exclusive.

A lot of people say that beauty is an act of expression, and I agree, but for me, it’s also a form of forgiveness. Growing up looking in the mirror, I was really hard on myself. I never felt confident in the sense that I had a lot of gender dysphoria. I wanted to look more feminine. I wanted to be more feminine. So one day in college I walked into CVS and picked up my first Maybelline mascara, a few blushes, a Revlon foundation, and I did my makeup in private because it was just for me. Every look that I did felt like an apology. It was like, ‘I’m sorry for the way that I used to speak to myself in the mirror.’

That said, I had to identify with my beauty outside of makeup, too. When I came out as non-binary, there were a lot of expectations for me to look more feminine. But being non-binary means that I don’t need to fall into that category—I shouldn’t have to be in full glam for you to believe me when I tell you that I’m non-binary. It was a turning point when I came to that moment.

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I was on Accutane about 10 years ago, and while it definitely helped with acne, it left me with sensitive skin. When I wake up, because I know I’m going to go to a workout class, all I typically do is wash my face with cold water. I actually usually use distilled water, so the night before, I boil water and let it cool for the next day. Then I use the Shiseido Hydrating Day Cream with SPF 20, or the La Roche Posay SPF 50 Ultra Light Sunscreen. After that I put a tiny bit of Aquaphor under my eyes, which is a hack that I learned from Charlotte Palermino, to seal in moisture. I take my Shiseido Clear Sunscreen Stick SPF 50+ with me and reapply it every two hours.

If I’ve been wearing makeup during the day, I’ll double cleanse at night. I’ll either go in with the Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm or the Farmacy Green Clean Cleansing Balm. I try not to use makeup wipes, but if I do, I love MAC’s Gently Off Wipes. Clé de Peau’s Makeup Cleansing Towelettes are also amazing because they have some hydrating properties. For my second cleanse, I’m really into Caudalié’s Vinoclean Gentle Foaming Cleanser because it’s really delicate and doesn’t strip my skin. If I’m looking to have a lavish spa night, I love Dior’s La Mousse Off/On Foaming Face Cleanser so much. It’s very lightweight.

I do a face mask after cleansing. Shiseido’s LiftDefine Radiance Face Masks are my go-to, but if I want something else—let’s say I have an event the next day or my skin is extremely dehydrated—Lancer Skincare’s Lift & Plump Sheet Masks are amazing. They really make my skin feel more buoyant and plump. If I don’t have time for a full mask, I’ll just use Peter Thomas’s Roth Water Drench Hydra-Gel Eye Patches, Shiseido’s Benefiance Express Smoothing Eye Masks, or Topicals’ Faded Under Eye Masks.

I have dark spots because I used to pick at my acne—it happened, but we’re moving on—and I’ve learned that Ole Henriksen’s Glow2OH Dark Spot Toner really works for me. And now that I switched over from retinol to resveratrol, I use resveratrol every night. Caudalié’s Resveratrol-Lift Instant Firming Serum is my current favorite.

My moisturizers rotate. When I’m super dry, I try to use one with hyaluronic acid. If I have a lot of redness from shaving, Shiseido’s Vital Perfection Firming Cream is great. I love La Mer’s Moisturizing Soft Cream more than the Crème de la Mer because I love a soft, dewy type of sensation on my skin. I’m also obsessed with La Mer’s Renewal Oil—I like to combine it with a moisturizer like Drunk Elephant’s Protini Polypeptide Cream for a thicker consistency—but I’ve also been using the Youth to the People Superberry Face Dream Oil. I just ran out of it actually.

For my eyes, I love the Skinfix’s Barrier+ Triple Lipid + Collagen Brightening Eye Treatment, Shiseido’s Benefiance Anti-Aging Eye Cream, and Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado. Honestly, anything that has caffeine and vitamin C is great for me. That said, I’m not about shaming my dark circles—just about taming them. [Laughs] I mean, there’s things that you can do to mitigate them, but it is what it is. Then I go in with my Aquaphor hack, and it’s really helped; my eyes feel smoother in the morning, but they also look more hydrated.

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My skin prep for makeup is oriented around products that prevent pilling and creasing. I start off with the Beekman 1802 Milk Shake Facial Mist. If there’s one product that everyone should have, this is it. It preps your skin, you can set your makeup with it, it doesn’t smudge or crease, it refreshes your look throughout the day. I’ll go in with the Olay Super Serum after. Then I take my Skinfix Barrier+ Triple Lipid-Peptide Face Cream and mix it with the Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Bronzing Drops to create a little bit of a glowy effect—or other days, I’ll use the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream. I let that all sit for a while, but if I’m in a rush, I have two little fans by my desk to help. [Laughs]

Sometimes I feel dysphoric with facial hair, so I’ll use Live Tinted’s Huestick Color Corrector in Rise. Then I usually go in with a concealer. Typically, it’s the Hourglass Vanish Airbrush Concealer in Flax, but I also keep YSL’s Touche Éclat High Cover Concealer in Honey or Milk Makeup Future Fluid Concealer in 9N around.

I’m not a full-coverage foundation girlie—I’m just trying to reduce hyperpigmentation—but if I do need more coverage, I use Haus Lab’s Triclone Foundation in 310, MAC’s Studio Radiance Foundation in NC40, or NARS’s Light Reflecting Foundation in Aruba. I also like the Shiseido Synchro Skin Foundation in Maple, but the YSL Nu Bare Look Tint in 12 is my everyday foundation. It gives you coverage, but it looks like your skin. It’s glowy but also sort of matte. The formula is a masterpiece.

For blush, I love the combination of Glossier’s Cloud Paint in Puff and Rise. Westman Atelier’s Baby Cheeks Blush Stick in Petal also has a stunning, creamy formula that’s so buildable. Purple blushes actually look really beautiful on my skin tone, and Patrick Ta has a Blush Duo in a beautiful shade called She’s Wanted. I like to apply a dot of blush on my forehead in addition to my cheeks because I like to recreate the look of this one time I was sunburned.

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I sort of put bronzing and contouring in the same category, and I’ve moved away from using powders because they just cake up my skin. I love Westman Atelier’s Face Trace Contour Stick in Biscuit, but it’s really strong. If you want a more affordable option, the LYS Beauty No Limits Cream Bronzer Stick—I use Harmony—is similar. Meredith Duxbury was the one who put me—and the whole world—on to it. Charlotte Tilbury’s Hollywood Contour Wand—I use Light to Medium—is also in the mix. I don’t really veer too far away from those.

Right now, I’m loving Tom Ford’s Eye Quad in Golden Mink—the pigments are amazing and don’t fall. Pat McGrath’s Divine Bronze Luxe Quad in Venusian Sunrise is also stunning, and Too Faced’s Born This Way Sunset Stripped palette and NARS’s Orgasm Rising palette are so easy-peasy. That said, I’ve gotten the most compliments on a shadow when I wear Glossier’s Party Pot in Click. If you’re going to buy a single pot of eyeshadow, and you want a gorgeous, glimmery look, that’s the one.

Every mascara in my makeup kit has a purpose. Glossier’s Lash Slick is great if I just want very natural-looking mascara in the morning. If I want to look like I have falsies on, then I go for YSL’s Lash Clash. It clumps, but it gives you that effect. Laura Mercier’s Caviar Volume Panoramic Mascara is lengthening, and Benefit’s They’re Real is very slept-on. Honestly, it’s better than Better Than Sex. Anytime I need a waterproof mascara, I wear MAC’s M·A·CStack because it doesn’t flake.

I use a lot of lip liner shades that mimic the natural color of my lips. MAC’s Lip Liner in Cork is so beautiful. I’m obsessed with Half Magic Sculptitude 2-in-1 Lip Liner in I Have Needs and I’ll Pray For You—the formula is like butter. Everything Half Magic makes is such good quality. Then I top off my liner with lipstick or gloss. Maybelline’s Lifter Gloss is $11. I love Ice and Opal especially. I love a Dior Lip Glow Oil of course. Rosewood is my go-to shade; it has a purple-y finish.

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I have very thick hair, but it’s thinning in some areas. I only wash it once a week with shampoo because it’s dry, but I do try to condition or use a leave-in mask every day. I love using the Kérastase Genesis Strengthening Shampoo, and their Lait Vital Conditioner is really great for maintenance. Sometimes I use Garnier’s Sleek and Shine Conditioner as a leave-in, but Prose’s custom conditioner is the best leave-in for me. It’s really great for styling, so if I’m doing a slick bun, I use that.

If I’m using a hair mask, I grab Shaz & Kiks’s Scalp Hair Prewash. I put it on for two hours or so when I’m doing chores or sending emails. Balmain actually has an amazing hair mask, too. It’s really hydrating. And I recently discovered hair serums. Sebastian’s Penetraitt Overnight Repair Serum has hyaluronic acid. I use four pumps of it every night after I do my skincare routine. It feels sticky on your hands at first, but like a serum, it dissolves into your hair without making it oily.

I love working with Glamsquad for very simple hairstyles, like a Bella Hadid slicked-back bun for events or red carpets, but I’ve had the same wonderful stylist—Mariam at Alexander Salon—for seven years. I travel to Boston just to see her. She’s Moroccan and really understands Middle Eastern hair, so she’s the only person that I trust. Luckily, my parents are in Boston, so I see her when I visit them, but even if they moved, I would hop on the Acela for her.

If I’m feeling sexy, I go for Kilian’s Good Girl Gone Bad. I wouldn’t categorize it as sweet; it’s more on the floral side, but it’s still a little musky. There’s some gravitas to it. Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Baccarat Rouge 540 is another go-to, but listen: That perfume costs a very pretty penny, so if you’re looking for a more affordable, everyday body spray, the Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Crush Cheirsoa 68 Beija Flor Mist is a great option.

Yves Saint Laurent’s Libre is one of my favorites. My boyfriend uses YSL’s Myself and I sometimes steal it from him. I think all fragrances are and should be gender-neutral, but Myself definitely hits the nail on the head there. I’ve smelled it on men and women and non-binary people, and it smells amazing on all. I would categorize Dior’s J’Adore Parfum d’Eau as more of a body mist because you can reapply it a lot; the scent doesn’t last very long because it is water-based. I even apply it before I go to bed. I’m going to sleep smelling gorgeous.

I love to spritz Nina Ricci’s Eau De Toilette in the bathroom—yes, I basically use it as a bathroom spray. [Laughs] It’s really light, floral, and beautiful. Glossier You is also really light and soft. I’ve used it forever, and it really does smell amazing on everyone. When I’m traveling, I take the Glossier You Solid with me. And recently, I’ve added Carolina Herrera’s Good Girl to the mix. It’s more of an evening scent for me. During the day, I gravitate more towards the Tom Ford Neroli Portofino. It was my go-to scent when I interned for them, so it’s also very nostalgic for me.”

—As told to Daise Bedolla

Photographed by Alexandra Genova in New York on November 29, 2023

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