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War Paint – My changing attitudes towards makeup

Posted in Beauty, and Style & Travel

makeup paletteI 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.

There are only 3 surviving busts of Cleopatra's likeness, none of them hinting at her use of makeup but I doubt it was ever this extreme
There are only 3 surviving busts of Cleopatra’s likeness, none of them hinting at her use of makeup but I doubt it was ever this extreme

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

 

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12 Comments

  1. Yes, spider eyes. And what about the cat eye trend? I like it in principle – Audrey Hepburn’s style – but it’s morphing into k.o. black eyes! How can that be flattering?

    July 11, 2014
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  2. In my past I recall electric blue mascara and neon pink lipstick that collected and held onto crumbs of food throughout the day…What a man trap I was 🙂
    Now I’m very repetitive in my make up routine and mascara will always be applied. Do eyelashes age? Fall out with age? Then I’m doomed.
    I cannot stand the current obsession with long false eyelashes that look like a nasty insect is holding a person’s eyes hostage!

    July 11, 2014
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  3. I’ve never been much of a one for make up, since my twin would roll around the floor laughing at my early efforts…..now that I’m older my hair is greying and my face seems grey underneath it….I hate glimpses in passing mirrors when I’m serious or frowning…but with a summer tan, I find that if I summon up an energetic smile when meeting friends, they often say I’m looking really well, despite the myriad creases of a outdoor, country-living smoker!
    I do believe that for women of a certain generation, the “innate vanity” is a product of internalised programming; that the men did the ‘choosing’, often by visual reactions, and so women were put ‘in competition’ with others to be ‘chosen’. Of course men can be vain too, they would just splutteringly deny it if challenged!
    Feel free to do whatever YOU like! I’m passively waiting for my hair to go silver/white, as I think that can look great with a tan!

    July 10, 2014
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    • My problem is that I have very very pale skin and I don’t tan – my skin just goes red, then white again. White/silver hair and white skin makes me looked washed out. So hair colour from a bottle and a touch of make-up and I look half-way presentable!

      July 10, 2014
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      • Sofagirl can relate to your cycle or redness-freckles-no tan! I can’t but, even though I have very few gray hair, they all sit on the top of my head and bug the s*** out of me, so I color them, chicken that I am.

        July 11, 2014
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    • I recently saw Emmylou Harris on tv and she has the most enviable silver mane ever (in addition to a lot of work done on her face). It does look wonderful. Kudos to you for going that way. I just don’t have the guts (nor enough gray yet – who knows, maybe 10 years from now. Will check out your pictures first).

      July 11, 2014
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  4. Its interesting how many women get used to doing their make-up in a certain way that they like/are comfortable with, and they stick with it as the years go by. We don’t do that with clothing, styles change and we adapt to them, but make-up seems the last thing to change. Some years ago a friend pointed this out to me, and I had a long hard think – and look at myself – and decided that at my age I needed a ‘new’ style of make up (not that I was ever one to plaster it on). Anyway, I got some professional advice, and took at least five years off my face!

    July 10, 2014
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    • I was headed the same way, stuck in the same makeup routine. I finally started with changing products, softening tones and taking off rather than adding. The younger look came compliments of shorter hair.

      July 11, 2014
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  5. Boy, ain’t that the truth! As I’ve aged, I’ve discovered I have a real “don’t really care” attitude. I wonder if that’s for lack of attention by others or that I’m really that comfortable with who I am these days. I’m much happier flicking the hair off my shoulder and (at least) acting like I could care less. 🙂 #comfortableinmyskinnow

    July 10, 2014
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    • I would like to think it comes from a sense of comfort in who we are. I still enjoy dressing up or making an effort. I just don’t care what anyone else thinks. And doesn’t that feel good??

      July 10, 2014
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  6. It’s funny, but with me it was the same. I remember times when I would never have walked out without at least applying my mascara and eyebrow pencil. And now – the older I grow the less I feel inclined to use makeup. I’ve thought about that – maybe it’s that I know that it won’t have the effect that it used to have when I was younger. I really could look pretty then. Now, most men don’t look at me anyway, whether I’m with or without makeup.

    July 9, 2014
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    • You are not the first to mention the invisibility that sets in when we turn the corner of middle age. In a way, I find it rather liberating. When I want to look good, I do it for me now.

      July 10, 2014
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