Making Up For Lost Time
I’ve been planning this post in my head for a week or so now, and just before I finally started to wrangle my thoughts into words I read this piece by Hadley Freeman. It chimes perfectly with what I want to talk about here – how recently, at the age of almost-thirty-eight, I decided to start wearing makeup.
Over the years I’ve worn it for special occasions – weddings, parties, etc – but because it was so rare it always felt, well, a bit weird. Foundation was the wrong shade, mascara would aggravate my sensitive eyes. I’d feel like I was wearing a mask, and invariably by the end of the evening I’d have mascara smudges halfway down my face. Classy. Also, like Hadley Freeman, I’m lazy – my morning routine has always been super speedy to ensure I get as much snoozing time as possible. Spending precious minutes blearily jabbing at my face with assorted applicators did not seem like a good use of my time.
What triggered this decision to start colouring in bits of my face every day? Perhaps this never ending winter, with its leaden skies and freezing temperatures, drove me to seek solace in a bit of extra colour. Or the fact that six months of dealing with a minor health issue has left me feeling and looking washed out, like I’ve faded around the edges. Why didn’t I wear it before? After all, I’ve worn nail polish pretty much constantly for the last decade so I’m not opposed to cosmetics. Growing up, I occasionally flirted with makeup – at middle school a friend’s mum was an Avon lady, and I remember being entranced by the little samples of lipstick she used to bring in – but in my teens, while other girls were experimenting with foundation and eyeliner, I never really bothered much with it. I know I had a Rimmel frosted lipstick (Heather Shimmer, natch) around the same time that I was dousing myself with Body Shop White Musk, but I can’t dredge up any other memories of trying makeup at school.
Despite this lack of engagement with the process of buying and applying cosmetics, I’ve long been fascinated with beauty products and avidly read about them in magazines and online. Beguiled by their pretty colours and lovely packaging, I’d browse makeup counters but ultimately leave empty-handed, thinking “that won’t suit me” and “I’ll never wear it”. But something changed, and I started thinking “why not?” And so it was that one morning, about six weeks ago, I found my hand hovering over a mini Clinique mascara that came free as part of a Bonus Time offer. I went to work that day wearing mascara and lipstick. At lunchtime I bought myself an eyeliner pencil and an eyeshadow crayon, and the next day I wore those too. Nobody laughed at me (although, as a rational human person, I don’t know why I thought anyone would). In fact, I received some lovely compliments from colleagues. And it only took me five minutes.
Over the last few weeks I have discovered a few things, both about the practicalities of putting my face on and *introspection klaxon* about myself.
- I am frightened of foundation. There seems to be so much choice, and so much to get wrong – what shade and formulation do I need, do I put it on with fingers/a brush/a sponge/a trowel? TOO HARD. So I use tinted moisturiser instead (this one) and so far it looks just fine.
- I am also scared of attempting smoky eyes (worried I’ll look like I’ve been in a fight), flicky eyeliner (worried I’ll look like I’ve drawn on my eyelids with a Sharpie), and red lipstick (worried I’ll look like this).
- Just because I am afeared of things is no reason not to try them – after all, only a few weeks ago I was trepidatious about putting on eyeliner. Now I do it every day, and it’s getting easier. So I’m putting some red lipstick on my birthday list – Chanel Pirate. After all, why not start with something special? (Also, I’ve checked it out and it’s not too scary a red – looks dark, but is actually quite sheer).
- Eyeshadow disappears from my eyelids after about an hour, which is annoying. But I read about some magic stuff called primer (this one, by Urban Decay), and it works! Now it stays put all day long.
- I have a wishlist of products and most of them are at the spendy end of the market (I have expensive tastes, what can I say?), from the aforementioned Chanel lipstick, to NARS blusher (Orgasm! Saucy) and Bobbi Brown eyeshadow sticks. I’m going to save such things for payday treats and birthdays.
- Budget ranges are fab though – I’m currently using Maybelline Colour Tattoo cream eyeshadows, Rimmel eyeliner, Bourgeois cream blush and, my favourite, Boots Natural Collection lipstick in Raspberry – cheaper than chips, really moisturising but long-lasting too (frustratingly it’s not listed on the Boots website, but there’s a good review of it here).
- My left eyelashes are shorter than my right eyelashes. WHHYYYY???
- I enjoy the time I spend putting on makeup in the morning. The routine is soothing – it’s still only about 5 minutes (base and eyes at home, lipstick on the train), but stroking on eyeshadow and swirling on powder sort of eases me into the day. I feel a less tired, perhaps because I look a bit brighter, perhaps because I’m giving myself just a little longer to feel ready for the day ahead.
- Taking makeup off at the end of the day is a chore, yes, but one I can endure.
- I like my face. Sounds funny, but before this makeup wearing began I didn’t really pay much attention to it – I’d wash it, and rub moisturiser into it, but all without actually SEEING. I hadn’t even noticed the wonky eyelashes thing! I’ve realised, sadly, that I just didn’t consider it worth all the ‘effort’ of makeup. I don’t worry so much now about the things I didn’t like before (waaah my face is too round my eyes are too small my mouth is too frowny my skin is too red and too dry). Now, I can see that my eyes are a nice colour, my skin’s in relatively good nick. I have a nice face.
- I’m not wearing makeup because I feel I should. I don’t work somewhere where it’s expected, my friends have said nice things but were still my friends when I didn’t bother, and my husband loves me whether I’m wearing it or not. I’m undoubtedly seduced by all the pretty packaging but couldn’t give a fig about who the media tells me I should be trying to look like. I look like me. Makeup is just the icing on the cake.