I think I can pinpoint the first time I dabbled with makeup. I was 14 and attending my first dance and, in an effort to cover some acne that had been plaguing me since the year before, I covered my face with some cheap foundation. That and my first high heels made me feel very grown up (and wobbly).
While sitting in front of a mirror at a makeup salon on my birthday, I reflected on how much my relationship to makeup had changed over the years. Did I really ever think I could pull off orange lipstick? (apparently I did, in my early 20s, when Saturday nights were spent clubbing). Or that foundation could cover pesky spots? Or that it was acceptable to apply foundation only down to my chin, leaving my neck as white as milk?
The older I get the less makeup I use, partly because too much make up ages us even more. These days, whatever I apply is meant to soften or enhance, not conceal or transform but it was a twisty road getting here, one that probably most women travel on. Depending on our personality, makeup can be anything from a mask behind which we cover our insecurities to a tool to make ourselves feel better, or more desirable or whatever version of ourselves we think might be more attractive. It has everything to do with how we perceive ourselves, and I believe our relationship to how much or how little “war paint” we use changes along with our self-esteem or sense of belonging.
It’s interesting that women have always felt a need to enhance or beautify themselves, since history started recordings such facts and mirrors became available. Ancient Egyptian women of a certain status were adept at applying makeup and Romans knew a trick or two about coloring their cheeks, lips and eyes. Can vanity be an innately female trait?
There was a time – let’s say around my early 30s – when I wouldn’t have dreamt of leaving the house without at least a little bit of eyeliner and mascara. Now, I need a good reason to bother and, whatever I choose to do, it is aimed at reaching as natural a look as possible. But recently it dawned on me that I never had a professional work on my face, not even on my wedding day (when sofa girl deemed it unacceptable I didn’t have a bouquet and drove 50 miles to get me one – it was that kind of wedding) so, following the tradition of doing something I have never done before on my birthday – a tradition started on my 50th birthday – I booked an appointment at Blushington. Last year it was a strenuous hike with ropes, this year it was a tamer “let’s see how we can improve my look”.
Most women my age know their faces inside out and will feel more comfortable with their chosen, tried and true look, and I am no exception. I wasn’t going for anything too dramatic but I was curious to see if I could improve on my regular routine. I figured it was worth $40.
Many cities, and L.A. is no exception, have seen in recent years the proliferation of quick in and out service establishments aimed at making a woman’s life easier: Dry Bar for an impromptu hair blow out; drop in Botox injections (no joke) and a full face makeup in 30 minutes for $40.
The premise, in the case of Blushington, is that you choose one of their 6 looks, which range from natural to beach-y to glamour etc. In reality, the makeup artist who worked with me was very accommodating and listened attentively to what I wanted and, all the way through, encouraged my input.
I asked for a healthy glow and smoky, but not too smoky, eyes. And no foundation but only a tinted moisturizer. Really, the poor girl was indeed patient. What I took away from the experience, besides a look I was pleased with, that didn’t change me but that I wouldn’t replicate on a regular basis, was the idea of starting to work with light and shadows. It’s no secret that, with the loss of collagen as we age, our features become less defined, with an overall more washed out effect. The simple act of applying concealer to the T-zone (above the eyebrows, along the side of the nose and upper lip) and blending it in created an immediate lightening up of my face and made my cheekbones stand out more. Something I always knew in principle but never bothered to try on my face.
In the end, I just looked more polished that I normally do and with giant bug eyes. Come to think of it, when I took a couple of selfies, I felt I was staring at a close up of the female version of Jeff Goldblum’s The Fly.
The next day I went back to no makeup. At 6 am I couldn’t possibly go through tinted moisturizer, concealer, blush, bronzer, three eyeshadows, eyeliner, mascara, lip pencil and lipstick. It sounds exhausting just thinking of it. But, for special occasions, I learned a couple of tricks that might come in handy.
In all honesty, I think it all boils down to how much sleep I get. Not enough, and I look like an extra from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video; eight straight hours and I shave off five years. Let’s just say that, the day after my birthday and the nauseous effect of two (2!) Martinis no amount of makeup could have saved the day so I didn’t even try. Maybe it’s true that everything we need to know is written on our faces, including two mango and passion fruit martinis. So, rather than replenishing my makeup kit, it’s back to salad and fruit for a couple of days – if it’s a healthy glow I am looking for, nothing beats rest and a decent diet.
Elizabeth Taylor’s image found in the public domain; eyeshadow palette courtesy of ameliebeute.com; the rest copyright of C&S