When I started this blog, I worried to a friend that I would struggle to find a serious enough topic each week; she said ‘if all else fails, you will just have to do a makeup post (but then follow it up with a really political and hard-hitting post the following week’. Myself and this friend can genuinely have a half hour conversation about one shade of eyeshadow, or share an hour’s worth of texts about the perfect mascara brush, so this was not a surprising suggestion.
No promises for a hard hitting political post next week, but as I pondered my complete and utter undying love for all things makeup, I realised that it has always been quite a sociable hobby for me. That even though I am under absolutely no illusions that it is just makeup, it has also been something that I have shared with friends, that has brought a shimmer to a dull day; it’s fun, it’s silly, it’s a wall of shiny new packages that promise to add glow to my skin or plump my lips or double the length of my eyelashes. I’m an advertiser’s dream when it comes to makeup, and my housemate laughs at how gullible I am, despite working in marketing myself – make me a ridiculous unfounded promise based upon the opinions of 78% of 6 women and I’ll still be first in the queue to buy it as long as the packaging is pretty.
From those first clumsy forays into the world of cosmetics – choosing a lurid green hair mascara from the Solihull indoor market; begging my mother to buy me Bliss magazine for the free rollerball lipgloss that all the Year 10 girls kept inside their blazer pockets (because who didn’t want their hair constantly stuck to their sticky-beyond-belief lips?!), to shopping for my prom makeup with Mum and choosing the perfect sparkly lipgloss and an eyeshadow quad from a proper grown up brand (Maybelline – so fancy) – I was hooked.
At this time, and for quite a few years after, there was no Instagram, no YouTube tutorials, no celebrity makeup artists – just other girls. The girls I was envious of had stripy, choppy haircuts, intense black eyeliner and little gems or stars stuck at the side of their eyes. My friends and I strived to achieve this look through an obsessive collection of Barry M Dazzle Dust eyeshadows: little pots of sparkly magic that were layered across the eyelids in four stripes of colour, and tiny sequins that were applied to the side of the face using Vaseline. There was no foundation, no blusher – certainly no bronzer or eyebrow pencils – but then they would have been pointless at our sweaty local rock club anyway. And looking back now, I’m quite sure our youthful skin didn’t miss out on any of those extra layers.
It wasn’t until a few years later, when work colleagues bought me my first Benefit makeup – a smoky eye palette and Bad Gal mascara – that I really realised the true ridiculous extent of this hobby; that there is always another step to be added to one’s makeup routine, that if you don’t buy a new mascara at least once a month, you’re wasting your time. My new job in the City also gave me new inspiration: the women in my office all seemed to have shiny painted nails, the House of Fraser two doors down was bursting with makeup counters (complete with intimidating women wearing red lipstick and tight ponytails), and standing crushed on the tube each morning gave me the perfect opportunity to examine other girls’ faces in close proximity (not as creepy as it sounds, promise).
In some small (and yes, I’m aware, completely shallow) way, my love of makeup has helped me forge friendships: ‘oh my god, I love your eyelashes!’ is now a perfectly acceptable conversation opener, and what a treat when meeting a new work colleague to discover that we both had a mutual love for Urban Decay Naked palettes (yes, you absolutely do need all of them – there is no limit to how many nude eyeshadows a girl should own); I knew at that point that we would be good friends forever. What an absolute joy to spend over an hour drunk in Inglot choosing eyeshadows like sweets (if you’ve never been, you must), or advising a friend on how to make her underage daughter look old enough to go and watch the X Factor (she got in!), or using as many products as possible on the friend who usually refuses to wear foundation.
In no way am I purporting to be any kind of makeup expert – I could only dream of that kind of Instagram-perfect, airbrushed beauty – but I think that’s part of the fun. It means there’s always a reason to buy more, to pore over YouTube videos seeking the best value make up sponge, to lament about a rubbish primer with friends or rave about an unexpectedly smooth concealer; to laugh at old photos of spidery-thin eyebrows or orange faces, to share the joy of a great product for a friend’s birthday present.
Makeup is art, expression, creativity – but it’s also just makeup. It’s fun, it’s a treat, sure – it’s superficial, but it’s a little package of sparky, powdery, glossy goodness to cheer you up on a bad day. I’ll forever be on the quest for a matte lipstick that won’t dry my lips out, a foundation that truly airbrushes my pores, a liquid eyeliner that doesn’t take four hours to draw the perfect cat eye – and granted, I’ll probably never find any of them, but I’ll certainly have fun trying.