War paint

Despite growing up as a comprehensively “girly girl”, I don’t identify in that type to the point where my makeup kit involves a trowel.  My attitude towards cosmetics is actually more trepidation than anything else: I think many girls form lifelong habits in their teens, and in my world, it was the “pretty” girls who wore makeup daily, whereas I was in the “bookish” (I hate words like geeky and nerdy) category.  I didn’t feel able to compete with them, or that it was necessary, so for the most part I stayed away from beauty products.

Another thing I dislike is the world’s tendency to blame the Internet for everything, but in this case, it is one of the causes.  When I was at university, I realised that I stood out the morning after in night before group shots on Facebook, because I still had a shiny red face in the middle of sweaty clubs and bars, whereas my friends looked serene to the point of being Photoshopped.  And that’s when I realised one of the transformative powers of a full face of makeup.

I began to experiment with foundation, blusher and later bronzer as a way of enhancing my natural complexion for nights out.  Another reason I’d managed to resist previously where friends hadn’t is that I was blessed with pretty impeccable skin (I had to get something good in the genetic lottery!), so I’d never felt the need to spend hours covering blemishes and imperfections, though I did quickly figure out how to look less like a glowing tomato.

Towards the end of the fixed term of my first events job, I had to stand next to the pretty (read: heavily made up) girls again.  We worked with some serious promo girls for a few events, and I started to feel like the bookish one again, so I decided it was time to learn about game face.  The first time I wore a full face of makeup for a day at work, I was disgusted at how much it lengthened my morning routine by, but I found myself with my shoulders a little further back and my head higher.  I still didn’t look like the other girls – I didn’t want to – but I felt more confident, protected and assured.

I can’t see myself being the girl who sits at the dressing table applying primer, concealer, base, highlighter, shadows and bronzer on a daily basis – because at heart I am, after all, a horse girl and horses, mercifully, really do not care what you’ve got on your face – although given my changes of heart in the past, I’d never say never.  But I have recognised and harnessed the transformative effect cosmetics have.  If I’m going to an interview, or have an important day (date?) planned, I’ll make the extra effort.  Sometimes – more when I worked in events, because I get that feeling these days, but won’t bother for the horses – I’ll wake up feeling less than stellar, and before I even get out of bed and look in the mirror, I know I’ll be reaching for my trusty CC cream as a pick me up.

On the days when I use it for an extra boost, that really is what my makeup gives me – once I’ve got my face on, I feel a jolt which is often far more powerful than the strongest caffeine I’ve ingested (and this from the girl who was a barista for several years and used gelatinous confectionery to get through her degree).  The effect doesn’t normally last all day – in fact, I’m still the girl who forgets after a while and itches or rubs her face, ruining the overall look somewhat… – but it’s enough to get me started.

Broadly speaking, I have three faces:

The real deal
This is how the horses, people in the newsagent/butcher/post office and anyone who finds me at home on a day when I don’t have to be sociable will see me – bare-faced.  On the days when I don’t feel the need to enhance myself, I’ll sometimes look after what’s there – face mask, eye cream, whatever I feel needs doing (there’s something really satisfying about peeling off a pore strip and checking out the results… or is that just me?).  There’s just no need.  Nobody cares.  I even forgo my beloved perfume…

The little extras
For my average day, I’ll start with my brow kit, then reach for mascara, under eye concealer, bronzer and maybe some primer (just on the worst spots of my face, rather than going for a full layer of foundation).  Finished off with one of my favourite fragrances, I’m soon ready to go.

The full monty
Important occasions or down days mean the entire arsenal comes out and I spend more like ten whole minutes on putting my face together.  The routine evolves occasionally (my favourite top tip is to do your eyes first, rather than your base: eye makeup nearly always involves dust/residue falling on other parts of your face, which you must tidy up and, if you’ve already done your foundation, that then needs a re-touch.  So reverse the steps and you solve the problem).  So it’s brows, concealer, primer, mascara, eye shadow (and maybe highlighter), CC cream, bronzer and lip gloss.  These kind of days probably warrant one of the more special perfumes too.

Some people are okay with giving themselves a pep talk, others among us get our confidence from a bottle.  I say: whatever works, and if you catch me in the full monty, you now know that it means you’re either worth the effort or I needed picking up.


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