Makeup, to me, was always just messy and undervalued.
While many people feel uncomfortable without makeup on, I always felt uncomfortable with it on, as if it exposed me in some unprecedented way, as though I was hiding something, hiding how I really looked, the real me.
I remember watching my younger girl cousins paint their skin with lip gloss and blush and feeling so alone in my disinterest. Despite my indifference, I felt a pressure to conform. As a tween I wished desperately that I had learnt how to apply mascara or lipstick, how to wing eyeliner (still have no idea), how to blend foundation. I wished, too, that one day I would actually want to wear make-up, that one day I would feel good with it on.
I watched and worshipped beauty gurus like Zoella and hoped I would reach a time in my life when I had a “daily makeup routine”, and drawers full of bronzers, eyeshadow, blush, lipstick, foundation. I wanted to fit in, and to enjoy make-up, to enjoy this thing which I feared so deeply, but which seemed so essentially, intrinsically, importantly feminine.
When I hit fourteen there was a shift; I came to resent the beauty standards I couldn’t conform to, and dismissed beauty as a shallow, empty idea, not something a smart girl like me should be worried about! I repressed all my complex feelings about makeup, and turned to white-hot anger. I longed to ask questions of make-up – why don’t I love you? Is it me that’s wrong? Why don’t I want you? – to speak to it and understand it in some way, but I hated makeup too, the way it made me feel. As though without it I was incomplete, unsuccessful, not a “real” woman.
It’s only very recently that I’ve let go of some of that anger and hurt. I’m now navigating a new relationship with makeup, one in which I can be playful, indulgent, have fun. One in which I am not afraid of beauty, of femininity, of blush and bronzer. One in which I can feel confident and comfortable with, or without make-up.
I still don’t wear it much, but I adore mascara and a red lip! And all I would say to make-up now is: I am learning. I am learning how to live with you. I am learning how to love you.Return to issues