January 30, 2013

What is it with make-up?

Until about two and a half years ago, I scoffed at the idea of wearing make-up. To me it was a waste of time and money and I hated the idea of being reliant on anything for my self-confidence. I was happy in my own skin (though not as much as I am now) and wanted to stay that way.

Then I scored a job interview at a pharmacy, which is where I still work now. I ummed and ahhed about wearing make-up, since I'd never noticed anyone there who didn't wear it. In the end I did. I got the job (hooray!), but one thing led to another, and I didn't like the idea of going to work without the professional face I'd won the job with. At this point I owned two eyeshadow palettes, a mascara, a blush and two foundations that didn't match my skin tone. I believed make-up helped me fit in, which I welcomed.

Work was a good chance to learn and remember more things about make-up and show off my knowledge. I chatted with our cosmetics assistant a lot, trying to solve my own (real and imaginary) beauty problems and getting to know the ranges. I stressed about finding the right foundation for my skin, especially my very pale tone, and fretted about learning the techniques that everybody else seemed to know instinctively. Although it was my security blanket in the professional workplace, I still begrudged make-up its role in my life and rarely wore it otherwise.

About six months ago, I read an article in Cosmopolitan, which I normally stay far, far away from. It was hanging out in the tea room at work, and Olivia Wilde was on the cover. She'd written an article titled "Olivia Wilde's Confidence Manifesto", and I still hold it as one of the most honest and least judgemental pieces about beauty and fashion I've ever read. Aside from admitting to feeling "disproportionate and squat" without heels, Olivia makes some really clever points about why women shouldn't feel bad about wearing make-up, getting a bikini wax, or wearing said shoes. She calls them confidence triggers; things that help us "put the sass back in [our] strut". As a brief aside, this is why I'm so thrilled about Illamasqua's new collection, I'mperfection. It helps us realise and celebrate our so-called faults, and turn them from confidence killers to confidence triggers.

So that, my friends, is why I wear make-up. I don't do it everyday, or out of habit necessarily, but when I want to feel that little bit more confident, I know it won't let me down. I don't feel ashamed or manipulated if I slick on some mascara and concealer to go shopping, or if I go out for lunch with friends and my trusty blush. Because my make-up doesn't own my self-confidence, it's the other way around.


  1. I think the trick is to remember that a person wears their makeup, but makeup doesn't wear a person. It's like decoration on a cake or a coat of paint on a house - the exterior is nice to customise and play around with, but it's the thing you're applying it to that really matters.

  2. I totally agree - it's not something to define yourself by, but it's so much fun to play around with, like new shoes, or something to just fool yourself into a bit of self-confidence when you're feeling down :) I used to feel like it wasn't necessary too - I wanted to be judged on my intellect and I felt like concentrating on physical attractiveness to get by was "below me", but then in first year social psychology they illustrated how important first impressions were, and I realised my former stance was simply dumb. If I was so smart, surely I could spend some extra time improving my appearance so if I keeled over in the street, a stranger would be more likely to come to my aid? So, that was my rather nerdy path to beauty obsession :)

    1. That's a great back-story! I love that make-up can remind you that oh hey, your eyes are really pretty, or that you do have cheekbones after all, and once you've drawn attention to it it's hard to forget, whether you're made up or not.

      I think us nerdy make-up types are the best-- we all need a less intellectual hobby, and make-up fills that gap nicely :)