As a child in the 80’s I grew up believing cosmetics were as amazing on men as women. Bowie and Toyah blew my mind tiny five-year-old mind, with their astounding looks and brightly dyed hair. Luckily growing up, my oldest sister was a ‘beauty counter girl’ at the department store. Testers and samples were abundant, and my early exposure to cosmetics was deliciously high-end!
My first make-up was simply “handed down” once I was deemed old enough. At fourteen my first products were a hot-pink lipstick and a warm brown kohl pencil from Lancome. Nothing exciting, but to me they made my eyes seem magically bluer. I supplemented these with waterproof mascara (in brown, barely perceptible but school appropriate, from Boots). Who knew these simple items would inspire a lifelong love affair?!
At fifteen I dyed my mid-brown hair black for the first time. My make-up more sophisticated than my age allowed, thanks to my beauty rep sister. I progressed on to ‘Ivory’ pressed power, ‘Black Honey’ Almost Lipstick, and a metallic grey ‘Almost Black’ eyeliner from Clinique! And my best eye-shadow, a matte duo from Helena Rubinstein in earth and stone, a brown and nude-taupe, and mid-90’S essential.
By seventeen I’d discovered Avon and coloured eyeliner pencils. (I wore black as lip-liner with red lips and brown with nude lipsticks!) I had an everything purple phase, featuring mauve shadows and plummy lips. Whereas liquid eyeliner and brown semi-matte lipsticks were my staple.
At art college I discovered the joys of pound shop glitter dust, hair mascara, and bindis with body glitter. I even glued stars on my face with hair gel. With my bright ginger pixie hair cut the late 90’s obsession with 70’s fashions allowed me to channel my inner glam-rock Bowie with impunity.
In my twenties and thirties I rocked a vintage/ pin-up vibe before returning to my 90’s roots. Always oscillating between the natural look and the outrageous. I learned to tweak my foundation shade to flatter my hair colour, (which has been everything from black, brown, true red, ginger, to blonde, pink and white). And I’ve obsessed over strange eye-shadow shades, (yellow, metallic green, red) and favourite lipsticks formulas and adopted favourite brands along the way.
I love make-up. It’s been with me all of my adult life and it allows me to change my face to suit myself. I grew up feeling plain and over-looked, the “friend with the personality”. But make-up allowed me to be myself and to exaggerate. To paint beauty where I felt none. Like fairy glamour, cosmetics enabled me to enhance what I already had, or to invent something else entirely.
With make-up you get to wipe your face clean and start again every day. You can be who ever you want to be. Few things can make you feel as instantly better than putting on your face can. Call it therapy, or call it war-paint, but for me make-up is Magic. And while I may still have a long way to go, it is the first step to beginning a life-long love affair with my self.