Being brave with make up is an odd one. When I originally started thinking about this post, I was intending to say that it’s perverse how, the more at ease I am in my own skin, the more tame my make up. But it’s not perverse; it’s complicated.
In my teens my skin was greasy, but even then, I escaped lightly compared to many of my schoolmates. My mum bought me a few Rimmel bits when I was ten and the fashion for Body Shop parties meant that make up quickly became part of my daily routine. Foundation, mascara, lipstick – we were allowed to wear it at school in those days, too.
I never felt I mastered make up, and I never experimented with it that much, but I liked playing with it, and I was interested in it, in a way I never was with clothes. Glitter gels, iridescent powder shadow (thanks, Miss Selfridge!), stick on hearts. It was tacky, and joyful, as fuck.
In recent years, the frequency with which I’ve worn make up has dropped dramatically. I rarely wear any at work, and the contents of my day-to-day make up bag (listed below), is pricey, but play-it-safe in the extreme.
It worries me that I’ve stopped wearing make up. Not necessarily because I think I ‘need’ it, although it does make me feel more confident, but because every day I get up too late to put any on, every day I go to work with wet hair and bare skin, I’m reminded of the following statement on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale:
‘I have lost interest in my appearance.’
The scale requires you to rank how much each statement applies to you between 0-3, and I’m never quite sure what to do with that one, because although I do wear less make up and spend less time getting ready, I still buy new clothes, I still read a couple of beauty bloggers, I still spend money on new products. And that’s both a good thing and a bad thing.
It’s bad because increasingly, I buy make up in the same way some people buy bags and shoes – because I’ve put on a stone and a half in four years, I’m uncomfortable in my body, I feel fat, and buying clothes is miserable. Make up always fits, but it’s also an excuse to not take a long, hard look at myself and the way I really feel about my body. It’s an excuse not to change.
But there’s a flip side, too. I already feel conspicuous, because of the disability, because of the weight – and so, for the first time in my life, I’m not afraid to choose cosmetics that will make me stand out. In the past couple of years, I’ve bought three *bright* red lip products – MAC Red, MAC Sweet Sakura and, this week, Lipstick Queen’s Seven Sins gloss in Anger.
The name is not a coincidence. I am angry, mostly with myself. But on my lips, that anger is transformed into something vital, something kickass. One of the saddest conversations I had with a friend of mine – who is beautiful – was about lipstick.
‘I’d never wear red,’ she said. ‘I just want to blend in. I don’t want to be noticed.’
It’s her choice, obviously, but it’s not what I want for myself. I’m not convinced red lipstick suits me, or is flattering, but I also don’t care. I’ve been reading Ella Risbridger’s wonderful lipstick columns for The Pool, and she talks often about liking shades of lipstick that might not suit her. And I think she’s right – it’s psychological, as much as anything else. It’s colour, in a world of beige.
Red is anger. It’s also love, passion, fire, heat. It’s brave and it’s unapologetic.
And right now, it’s what I need.