PLEASE don’t tell me that I look better without make-up, or I look ‘fine’ with that high-pitched, pseudo-reassuring tone. I know I don't. And don’t you tell me that make-up is merely a cover-up, a mask, a lie, woman-witchcraft and an affront to our natural God-given features. Don’t tell me all this because it's redundant and a little patronising. I just like wearing make-up. Many of us do. For many different reasons. Reasons not only to hide but to enhance, and not for a lack of esteem but a celebration of my femininity.
Am I really a slave to my beauty routine?
There. But I’m guessing you don’t believe me. Make-up lovers often have to defend their heavy foundation usage to the natural beauty enthusiasts.
Look, I’m in complete agreement that natural beauty, even the less beautiful parts, should be as equally celebrated in all its barefaced splendour as the made-up, highly contoured faces that make magazine covers and TV commercials. I’m also a very vocal advocate for self love – I harp on about growing old gracefully and loving your authentic self. Still, it must be known that on a daily basis I’m a ‘foundation-face, Instagram-filtered, too-much-mascara-wearing’ hypocrite. And I’m more than okay with that.
But why do we only romanticise natural beauty as a sign of a free-spirited, un-materialistic, ‘honest’ woman and fail to accept that some equally carefree women have a great affinity to contouring, highlighting and filled-in eyebrows?
There’s the misogyny and patriarchy argument, of course. But should we really stick it to the man and give up our lippie for the sake of empowerment? I’d say my empowered self looks good with lipstick on.
Am I really a slave to my beauty routine? I don’t think so. I don’t plaster it on and I’m a fan of the ‘no make-up, make-up’ look day-to-day, while at weekends I can be a bit of a slapper – you know, because I like to slap it on?
But I do wonder if all my self confidence can be found at the bottom of a tube of mascara. Could I really go five days without make-up?
I’ve already conveniently forgotten. I waltzed into work wearing layers of mascara, eyeliner and filled in eyebrows before I was handed a make-up wipe and ordered to take it all off in the toilets. Damn you, Confidential. The rest of the day would be spent hiding behind my hair and big earrings. To make matters worse I have Monday face – when the weekend’s hedonist activities ravage your insides and leave you with delightful dark circles. But this is my face - the faded acne scars, uneven skin tone and post-pubescent pimples are all on show today. Get to know it well.
I can rub my eyes. I can touch my white shirt without fear. There’s no lipstick stains on my cup. My skin can breathe. There seems to be some benefit to being a Plain Jane today - less mishaps, less brown finger prints left on my white walls. It’s certainly a freedom. My colleagues don’t seem bothered, nor have even noticed. I had wondered if my no-make-up face looks somewhat unprofessional. Without the aid of under-eye concealer, I look haggard and, as a result, disorganised and scruffy – do they think I’ve been out on the lash the night before? Still, no one is remotely bothered that my lack of eyeliner makes me look like a potato, that’s just me. The day rolls on. Like most days, thoughts on what I look like become second and third priority to deadlines, meetings, phone calls, gymming etc. Luckily I don’t work facing a mirror.
There’s a real anonymous feeling that I need to shake off. With no make-up I feel like I’m blending into the background. I’ve started to overcompensate and wear too much jewellery. What is it about wearing make-up that makes me feel like a somebody? I wear red lipstick to make me feel confident, self-assured, sexy – especially when I feel less like those things. My winged eyeliner, which I’ve been wearing most days since I was eighteen years old, helps me express my creativity and personal style. All the rest is just good accessorising. Without my make-up arsenal I just feel… bored. I've also been comparing myself to other well-groomed women. I came close to stealing a woman's eyeliner when changing in the gym. I'm not proud of it.
As much of this no make-up challenge is about taking care of my skin and I do believe that, no matter how much make-up you wear, you have to take care of your base. So I decide to get a facial at Malmaison's Petit Spa. I try ESPA’s Cellular Renewal Enzyme facial which promised ‘instantly smooth, softly glowing skin’. I feel instantly better, with a radiance only a facial and a good healthy diet can bring. I get a few compliments. This challenge is getting easier. A bit.
I messed up. I just couldn’t do it. I’ve failed miserably. Today the editor of British Vogue comes to town for an event and I’m invited. I’m attending with my friend who’s a model. We’d be taking selfies. I can’t find anything to wear to make myself less boring. So I dive into my make-up bag. A little foundation becomes a lot. A little eyeshadow becomes a smokey eye. A little blusher, bronzer and highlighter and next thing you know I’ve contoured myself into Beyoncé. I’m not even that guilty about it. Events are just a no-no for no make-up. This is where I draw lines. I’m a beauty writer for goodness' sake.
I’m a little less defiant today. Call it guilt. I wash my face – cleanse, tone, moisturise, the whole shebang and I smooth over my eyebrows and shake out my afro. I don’t look bad. This is me. Totally imperfect. Nothing wrong with that. I meet a friend in a bar after work. I don’t introduce myself with “I don’t normally look like this” disclaimers today. I just am.
I’m surprised. Wearing no make-up for five days did unveil a pretty problematic aspect of my personality. I wear make-up when I want to be seen, and wear no-make up when I feel like shying away from the world. A classic extroverted/ introverted move. It also pains me to admit that while I don’t hate my bare face, I do feel a lot less attractive without make-up on. It’s a shame, as in many ways without make-up I’m more myself than ever as I’m not hiding behind layers. My personality still does its job, though, and I’m glad my no-make-up face doesn’t stop me from mingling and talking to people - just as long as we’re not out on the town. I was reminded that make-up is expensive too: I worked out that my 'natural', day-to day face make-up costs in the region of £150 (and the rest). Do I need such an expansive collection? Probably not. No, make-up is not a 'need' but it is a joy. The lesson here, like with many things, is finding balance. Enjoy make-up, experiment with it, but don't be a slave to it.
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What challenge should she take on next? Let us know below.