I can’t remember the first time I felt self-conscious about my appearance or understood the concept of body image or buying products or clothes to hide imperfections. This might have come earlier if I’d had an older sister or a social group that wasn’t made up predominantly of boys, but as it was my teens were spent riding my bike to the beach to meet people from the next town or watching films and having parties and get-togethers at friends’ houses. At no stage did it involve makeovers, sharing clothes with ‘gal pals’, or excited trips to Superdrug to buy the latest Rimmel lipstick. There were two colleges that people from nearby schools went to – one that focussed on sports and offered hair and beauty courses, and one that had a big arts and music department and tended to appeal to the more ‘creative types’ (I obviously went to the latter). I ended up knocking around in hoodies and skate shoes, watching the boys in bands practising and going to gigs in Portsmouth. At this stage in my life I wasn’t really interested in clothes (well, not high street clothes, only gigantic flares and band hoodies) and I didn’t wear make-up. It never occurred to me to be self-conscious about this.
Going away to Uni was the first time I really realised how lacking my wardrobe was in ‘going out clothes’ or anything particularly feminine. I took a part time job in H&M and started gaining an interest in fashion and broadening my horizons in terms of personal style. However, I didn’t buy my first pair of high heels or start wearing make-up until I was in my mid-20s. I never felt any pressure to and though my now make-up-wearing, self-conscious-about almost-everything-self finds it almost impossible to believe, I still managed to get boyfriends, jobs and be a normal member of society without people recoiling in horror at my cosmetic-free face.
|// having recently discovered eyeliner but still largely make-up free; about 22 here
I can’t think of any other example of something I quite happily lived without, and then, once I started using it, became a crucial part of my daily life. All I know is that one minute I was tentatively picking up an eyeliner pencil in Boots and the next minute I was one of those people that covers their make-up-less face when answering the door to the Postman. When I went running I pencilled in my eyebrows first. I hated going swimming, to a spa or anywhere where you’d be in public sans-slap. It frustrated me that in order to go to the corner shop I had to put on a full face of make-up. It frustrated me for several reasons, firstly because I am a bit of a control-freak myself, ergo, I don’t like to be controlled by other things. I want to be an independent, free spirit that can go and buy a loaf of bread in my natural state (not naked, I mean, with a face free of cosmetics) and not be saddled with the burden of being ashamed of my own face. Also, I don’t know if this is a bit too forward-thinking or if this makes me some kind of militant feminist but I hold a general view that women should be able to do things that men do. This includes the biggies like run companies and get paid the same but also the little stuff, like not be expected to wear uncomfortable footwear or require an hour’s preparation and half a beauty counter before they’re deemed aesthetically acceptable to be allowed out of their house. To top all of this off, by some kind of cruel irony, my skin was really nice and pretty imperfection free before I started wearing make-up, and whether it’s through age or being coated with a foundation that can also be used to cover up tattoos every day, it’s now not so great. I have uneven skin tone, under-eye circles and little bumps I definitely didn’t have before. It was time to give my face a breather.
Last week I promised myself I would start wearing minimal make-up to work. I allowed myself a bit of bronzer, eyeshadow, mascara and eyebrow pencil. I hope one day I’ll be able to go make-up free, but for the moment this is my compromise. Believe me, it felt weird the first time I went into work looking like this. Surprisingly they didn’t call the local zoos thinking some kind of hideous beast was on the loose. In fact, no-one said anything at all.
Because I’m being brave I’m now going to post a photo of me with that naked face I mentioned earlier. This makes me grimace and I’m not entirely comfortable with it but I’ve come to realise that being ashamed of the face you were born with is frankly ridiculous.
Do you wear make-up every day? Would you consider not wearing make-up to work? Please let me know your own experiences of going make-up free!