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Why I Love Makeup

B

ack in my student days, I spent a few years working weekends in a call centre, in order to help pay my way through the entire contents of the Benefit counter. Sorry – through university, I mean. I was working in a call centre to pay my way through university. I may have mentioned this before.

Now, there were lots of things that sucked about working in a call centre (like, LOTS of things…) but one of the good things about working the weekend shift is that it was mostly staffed by people my age, who were also unable to work during the week, for whatever reason. So there were a lot of other students there, and because we had so much in common, we all became friends, and would hang out together after work, as well as during the week, whenever we got a chance. Mostly we’d go out clubbing on Friday and Saturday nights, then roll into work the next morning feeling none the worse for it (ah, youth!), and it was after one of these nights out that I woke up one morning and realised I was going to be late for work.

I had two choices before me: I could either go through my usual hair and make-up routine, and be horribly late for work, or I could just throw on some clothes, get out the door as fast as possible, and only be SLIGHTLY late. Now, I now I can come across as a bit of an airhead sometimes, but it might surprise you to know that I’m actually a very conscientious airhead, so I went for the first option, grabbed my makeup bag, and made it to work with just minutes to spare.

I was on my way to my desk, and hoping that I’d have time to at least put on some lipstick before I had to clock on for my shift, when I spotted one of my work friends coming towards me. This was one of the people I hung out with on a regular basis, so I was pretty surprised when he didn’t stop to say hello, but just strode on by, without giving me a second glance. I had just opened my mouth to call his name when he suddenly wheeled around and stared at me in shock. “OMG!” he said, “I didn’t even recognise you! You look TERRIBLE! What on earth are you doing here, you’re obviously not well?”

makeup-collection

In vain I tried to explain that nope, I felt absolutely fine, I just hadn’t had time to do my make-up, but my friend insisted in calling over our boss – who was ALSO one of my closest work friends, and who ALSO tried to send me home, telling me how very, very “ill” I looked. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to explain to someone that no, you’re not actually on your last legs, that’s just what you look like without make-up, but it’s pretty humiliating, especially when they just won’t let it drop, and keep going on and on about how different you look, and OMG, you’re SO PALE! Finally, however, I managed to convince them that I’d probably survive the day (I mean, thinking about it now, I don’t know why I didn’t just take the opportunity to go home and have me a duvet day, but like I said, I was conscientious, and if I wasn’t there to answer those phonecalls, well… actually, it wouldn’t have made much difference, really, but hey, I liked to think my presence was important…) and slunk off to join the rest of my team, who were about to start the morning meeting.

“Would anyone like to go and get a coffee before we start?” asked my team leader, looking pointedly at me. “Anyone at all? Amber, maybe?”

Spotting a window of opportunity, I offered to go and get the coffees, and, bypassing the coffee machine, ran straight to the bathroom, where I quickly applied as much makeup as I could, given the timescale. Then I went out to get that coffee, which I figured I deserved by that point. My humiliation wasn’t complete quite yet, though, because as I waited for the machine to finish dispensing the brown liquid that passed for “coffee”, I turned around to find yet another colleague standing in line behind me. This one WASN’T a friend of mine – in fact, I’d never even spoken to him before – so I was quite taken aback when he looked at me and said, “Wow, you look SO DIFFERENT with makeup on! You should wear it all the time!”

Then he turned and walked away, leaving me standing there holding my coffee and wanting to cry.

And that, people, is why I love makeup. It’s not because I think it makes me look “pretty”, or because I enjoy experimenting with different looks – it’s just because it makes me look normal, and stops people asking me, over and over again, if I’m feeling OK, before pointing out that I don’t look OK : in fact I look “terrible”!

I should say here that, with the exception of the last guy, who was honestly a bit of an asshole about it, none of the people in this story were trying to be hurtful, or to make me feel self-conscious: they were my friends, and they were as embarrassed as I was when they realised they’d essentially just told me that, without make-up, I look like a walking corpse. They genuinely thought I was ill, though, because the fact is, without make-up I DO look ill. I have very pale skin (which means that shadows under the eyes look much more prominent ), colourless lips, translucent eyelashes… I look very different without any make-up, and although this particular day has stuck in my mind for some reason, it was far from the only time people reacted in horror to the sight of my un-made-up face: in fact, I’ve gone through my whole life having to reassure people that I’m not about to expire, just because I’m not wearing lipstick or something.

Wearing makeup stops people making those comments.  Makeup hides the dark shadows under my eyes; it allows me to fake a ‘healthy’ flush to the cheeks, and it puts some colour into my non-existent lips. It makes me feel better, basically, and that’s why I love it.

I feel like saying this – admitting I love makeup, and that I love it primarily for its ability to change my appearance and make me feel “normal” – isn’t quite the done thing these days, especially not on the uber-PC internet communities where “body positivity” is the buzzword du jour, and people are quick to assure you that EVERYONE is beautiful, and that we just have to BELIEVE we’re beautiful and we’ll be happy with ourselves. Those aren’t bad messages, by the way – I mean, I’m all for people accepting themselves, and not feeling like they’re constantly being judged and coming up short. I just have a hard time accepting that all I have to do is BELIEVE and the world will magically be different, is all.

What if we’re NOT “beautiful” just the way we are? Or what if we are, but other people make us feel bad by pointing out our flaws, whether they mean to or not? What if a quick dab of blusher or a slick of lipstick is enough to stop those comments, and give you the confidence to go about your day without giving another thought to your physical appearance? You can argue all you want that it shouldn’t be like that, and that we should’t have to conform to someone else’s standard of ‘beauty’, but honestly, I’m not going to walk around with dark shadows under my eyes, just to prove that particular point.

Instead, I’m going to wear the makeup. Maybe not ALL the time – these days I’m much less self-conscious, thankfully, and I no longer feel like I have to put on a full-face of makeup just to answer the door – but still. I like wearing it.  I enjoy applying it. I get a bit of a thrill when I find something new that works perfectly, and I have fun trying it on and seeing what I can do with it. But mostly because it gives me confidence, and makes me feel like myself- which is why I love it.

How about you?

 

What do you think?

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25 Comments
  • Marie
    August 11, 2015

    Very interesting. My feelings on wearing make up have really changed recently. I’ve always worn it, not tons of the stuff but I was definitely self conscious without it. Then last year out of nowhere I developed a horrible skin condition (which thankfully has now cleared up) and I COULDN’T wear make up for a good three months. At first it was really hard. I’d look in the mirror and feel like that wasn’t me. But I got used to it, to seeing my face without make up. Now that my skin is better I’m so grateful to have the choice to wear it back, but I definitely wear less makeup, and am much more confident without make up nowadays. It really made me analyse my relationship with make up.

  • Stella Kashmoney
    August 11, 2015

    I love wearing makeup. I feel more confident when I do. I just love it.

  • CiCi Marie
    August 11, 2015

    I feel largely the same – without make-up I look a bit unwell too, although unlike you I’ve never dared go to work without a full face of it (even if I was late, I’ve always had a sizable sitting-down commute so I’d find a way), so I don’t know if other people would agree! I definitely love what it can do to my increasingly-dark shadows… but generally, I feel like my face is more mine if I’ve been able to make it look the way I think it should. That’s my personal choice, but anything that makes anyone feel more confident in their own skin has to be good, right?!

  • Maria
    August 11, 2015

    I’m all for people doing whatever they want, be it to go barefaced and loving it or applying full make-up every morning: I’m in a phase where I wear less make-up than I used, but I’m conscious that I look MUCH better with make-up on, so why not take advantage of it, since it’s fun?

  • Karlie
    August 11, 2015

    I had one if those days where everyone told me how unwell I looked and I was wearing a full face of makeup. In fact when I left the house that morning I thought I looked really good. I finally decided that something had gone terribly wrong with the application and took everyone’s advice and went home.

  • Rockhyrax
    August 11, 2015

    I’ve had rosacea all my life which, when combined with my pale skin, makes my nose look particularly red. So I’ve worn corrector/foundation ever since I saved up enough pocket money to buy it. The last time I let anyone see my unmade-up face was in hospital after major surgery; if I’m not wearing make-up I don’t answer the door, or if I absolutely have to I make an excuse to put my hand in front of my face – which isn’t difficult given that I’m also sensitive to bright light.

    I hope you can at least face Terry first thing in the morning without being in full warpaint…

    • Amber
      August 11, 2015

      I face loads of people without warpaint – the stuff I was talking about in this post was a long time ago: as I said in the last paragraph, I’m not that bad now!

  • Deserae
    August 11, 2015

    I get this reaction when I wear a blue based purple shirt, not matter how much makeup I wear. “Deserae, are you feeling okay? You look ill.” No more violet-blue for me, thanks.
    I love wearing makeup as well. I have thin brows, though I’ve never plucked and nearly blond fine lashes that are basically invisible. I was a makeup minimalist for most of my life, and I sometimes go without if I am staying home, but a little bit of makeup brings out features nobody would notice, otherwise.

  • calmwave
    August 11, 2015

    I could have written your post word for word. Like Rockhyrax, I’ve had rosacea most of my adult life (and acne as a teenager) and have used makeup to mitigate the redness and bring out features that would go unnoticed otherwise. Like you, I like applying makeup, it’s me time and it makes me feel confident. While I have no qualms about getting the door with crazy bed hair and no makeup, if I’m heading out, I prefer to wear make up. People seem to treat you better, too (sad but true).

    • Irene
      August 11, 2015

      Same here! As a very pale person with rosacea and seb dermatitis, I’ve always felt very self conscious without make up and started wearing it at a fairly young age in my teens (pretty disastrously, I must say). I don’t mind opening the door to the mailman without it and my family and closest friends have all seen me without any make up on, but wearing it makes me feel beautiful and confident.

  • Charlie McNicol
    August 11, 2015

    This is precisely why I never go to work without makeup on; at best I’m ill, worst I’m the bringer of plague. Plus because I’m very short sighted my specs make my eyes look teeny tiny, so loads of mascara is a must too

  • Jelena
    August 11, 2015

    I love makeup, however, I often don’t wear it. When I was younger, I would eagerly start applying makeup on a daily basis, only to give it up after a week or so, feeling bored and uninspired. I notice I look and feel better even with a stroke of blusher and some lipstick.

  • Mana
    August 11, 2015

    I had cystic acne for years and would do my best to cover it up with makeup. And I wouldn’t go anywhere with out it or I’d feel like everyone was staring at it and it was awful.
    My skin has cleared up now, and there are plenty of days where I feel fine to be without makeup. However I’m super pale so I do get the “omg you look so sick” comments.
    I used makeup mostly to look normal, but I do enjoy playing in my makeup sometimes, like today where I just put on a full face of makeup including neon purple lipstick, and I’m still in my pajamas with no plans to go anywhere.

    Mana

  • Emily H
    August 11, 2015

    Make-up is great and I enjoy wearing it, but I frequently don’t wear it during the day as I usually forget to put it on before work. When I do wear it I too feel more confident. That said, the only make-up I wear is mascara and lipstick.

    When I was a young thing I was a punk and had long blue and/or purple hair, so I went to town on the eye shadow, false eyelashes etc. I’ve never worn foundation as the thought has always made me feel a bit claustrophobic for some strange reason. One day, however, my friends came round to take some photos for an art project and one of them got to work and announced that I may never have worn foundation in my life, but I was wearing it today. The photos came out great!

  • Eilidh
    August 11, 2015

    I too get the “oh my god you look exhausted/deathly ill” routine if I go out without any makeup on (also super pale) so I pretty much always use at least the basics before going out. I feel like that way people respond to the *actual* me rather than their perception of me, which surely is the whole point, no?

    Ps – first time commenter, love your blog! (Trying to recognise the backgrounds to your pictures is also a fun game!)

  • Diane
    August 11, 2015

    I wish it would become taboo to “pale-shame.” I love makeup and enjoy several aspects of it, but each birthday I care less and less what others think. I wear makeup based on my own desires and no longer base whether I wear it, or how much or how little I wear, on what others dictate. It’s rude to tell a dark-skinned person they are too dark (and rightly so), but most people think nothing of telling a light-skinned person that they “need” to put on cosmetics to darken their skin. I’m sorry, when did it become my responsibility to spend time and money to look acceptable to you? Or to court skin cancer so that you will think I am your version of healthy? Why is the orange Oompa-Loompa tanning bed look preferable to my God-given skin tone?

    • Amber
      August 11, 2015

      I know, it drives me crazy… I feel like I’m always seeing comments about pale celebrities saying, “she needs to get a tan” and I honestly don’t understand why people aren’t more shocked by that – they’re actually saying that people should feel obliged to change the colour of their SKIN in order to be more socially acceptable to that person: how ON EARTH is that OK?

  • Jessica Edmunds
    August 11, 2015

    Yes! I feel like it is so controversial but I look like shit without make up and would never leave the house without it anymore! I am late over not wearing it anyday, I don’t even answer the door without it! xx

  • GaiaT
    August 11, 2015

    Your point of view is very interesting. I absolutely love makeup, but I mostly enjoy the artistic part of it: playing with colours, shapes, textures. I used to think it was wrong to use it only as a mask to cover your flaws, I felt it would have been like a prison. But reading your words I realized that I was wrong. Putting on makeup doesn’t take much effort, and if you enjoy it and it makes you feel better because it doesn’t make you feel “less normal” nobody should be telling you that you are wrong. It’s true we have to learn to love ourselves, but why shouldn’t we love ourselves with makeup too?

  • Tanith
    August 12, 2015

    You are awesome for writing this. I almost never wear makeup, and have permanent dark circles under my eyes (and always have, according to my mother). People still comment on it. “You look tired.” I really want to reply “That’s just my face. That’s just how I look. Thanks for pointing it out.” But of course I don’t, I just mumble agreement. But I look like that every day. It seems weird that they sometimes notice it.

  • Nicky
    August 12, 2015

    Amber you never fail to make me Lol! (with you, of course, not at you). This post struck a chord for 2 reasons, 1 is that many years ago I did to a re-haired, pale skinned friend of mine exactly what your friends did to you! And secondly I’ve never been much if a make up wearer but now that I suffer from Rosacea I do use a base to try to stop myself looking like an olive skinned Aunt Sally! (ask an older relative who Aunt Sally is, or google Worzle Gummage ;-))

    • Amber
      August 12, 2015

      Oh, I know who Aunt Sally is – I frequently used to achieve that look myself with blusher!

  • Bonita
    August 12, 2015

    I so agree with this. I am far more able to accept my face without makeup now than I was in the past, which I feel is a healthy thing for me. But that said ~ I like makeup. I like how it makes me feel put together. I know I look better with it on {from a fellow pale eyes, eyebrows, lips and dark circles under the eyes lady}, and I enjoy that look.

    Thank you for writing this, I think it’s an important topic to address, and I enjoyed reading your point of view. 🙂 ❤

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

  • Lily
    August 12, 2015

    I’m most definitely not beautiful without makeup. I’m only passable with makeup. But I can’t wear makeup, it destroys my skin (by which I mean it makes it dry up, turn red, swell up and split like a peach. Even my eyelids.) So I don’t wear it, and just have to walk around looking terrible all the time.

    In theory though, I love makeup. It has endless possibilities, it’s almost a work of art in itself. 🙂

  • Miss Kitty
    August 15, 2015

    I absolutely love makeup, and playing around with different colours and styles. But I don’t wear makeup every single day (I like to give my skin some ‘breathing’ time), and when I don’t I get similar comments to you. I have very pale skin but I do have quite dark eyebrows and eyelashes, so I don’t always feel the need to add anything to them. I think it’s a teeny bit sad that people have become so used to seeing women with full faces of makeup, that when they see women without makeup, they think they look sick! As I said, I love makeup, but I’m also quite happy with my normal face most of the time, so I don’t like having to dress up just for others’ expectations.

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