A personal history of a makeup addiction
Cosmetics and makeup have a history almost as long the human race. We know Ancient Egyptians and Greeks loved at least a light beat; and makeup for use as body art predates the more cosmetic uses that later societies developed. In fact nearly every culture on earth has early connections with makeup.
Over time it has been outlawed, used as a status symbol, glorified, vilified, celebrated and pushed to the outer edges of society. But it has always been there. Makeup has evolved alongside the human race and despite our changing views and relationship with it, has maintained its significance.
Now that you have this history, let’s jump ahead a bit. To 1986 to be precise, when my personal history with makeup and cosmetics began. I was born on a foggy (I’m assuming) San Francisco morning to a mother with black eyeliner on who made sure that her hair had been freshly dyed, because she wanted to look nice. So it is safe to say that the road towards makeup obsession was paved with kohl.
Of course I had all the usual accoutrements of childhood; Tinker Bell Cosmetics, a face painting kit, and what ever my Mom didn’t want from her Clinique gift-with-purchase. I still remember coming home from school one day to have my Mom tell me my little brother had got into my makeup and smashed it all over the desk in our shared room!
My heart sank, I was horrified, I would never forgive him!
I was eight.
The fact that this was an evil April Fool’s trick played by my Mom, and all my makeup was in fact fine, does not lessen the sense of doom I felt, and the obvious lasting trauma it caused. I mean do you remember the April Fool’s day joke your mom played on you when you were 8!
But despite this strong start, in reality my personal makeup story has been quite slow. I always thought of myself as an outsider, a rock and roller, a rebel. I associated makeup, especially foundation and “normal makeup” with the popular girls, the girls who listened to N*Sync and Britney, and read The Face On the Milk Carton. I was not popular (and didn’t want to be), I listened to the Sex Pistols and Bon Jovi, and read Anne Rice. So my early experience with makeup revolved around wanting to look like a vampire.
I stayed as pale as I could (the plus side of this was a very very early commitment to sun protection that has always stayed with me). I wore black eye liner, both tight-lining (though I didn’t know what it was called at the time) and lining above and below my lash lines. I also had a deep purple grossly sticky lipgloss from either Wet n’ Wild or Jane, that was my go to. It faded to a magenta pink within about 10 minutes of wear, so my best friend Katie was on permanent lip gloss duty to tell me when I needed to reapply. Because I was NOT a girl who wore pink lip gloss.
I’m not sure why exactly but I never worried about too much about makeup. Outside of my early adventures with pseudo-gothdom, which was hardly a full time commitment, I can’t remember what kind of makeup I wore. I always associated it with the type of girls I didn’t want to be, I hated getting up early, and I didn’t really know how to do it. Let’s just put it this way, I was on the north side of 25 before I learned that concealer should go on after foundation.
Despite all this I have always had a massive makeup collection. I don’t remember ever wearing foundation or doing a full face during my teen years, even though I am sure I had the supplies. I even texted my Mom to ask if she remembers me ever putting makeup on before school, but she doesn’t think I did. It was always something I played with and experimented with, but wasn’t a daily thing.
I must have been wearing some though because I remember a few details. Like a teen mag suggesting that you mix your favourite eyeshadow with Vaseline to create a custom frosted lip gloss (it was the late 90’s: everything was frosted). In high school the fad was to use a lighter to heat up the tip of your eyeliner to get a really dense black smudgy line. This could have grown out of needing an excuse for teachers/parents/whoever about why you had a lighter as a 15 year old. But we all still actually did it.
Eyeliner is the most prominent make up memory I have, and most of my looks must have revolved around it. But memory is a funny thing and I can’t actually tell you much about the makeup looks of most of my 20’s. Here are a few facts I am sure of.
- The original Bare Minerals powder foundation was a thing for years
- I wanted to look as matte as possible. Why I spent my dewiest, crease free years caking myself in powder is a mystery.
- Eyeliner and/or a smokey eye was a going out staple.
- I put concealer on under foundation? I literally have no idea where I got this from, but as previously mentioned, it was a delusion I held for far too long.
I think of my current go to look – bold lips, minimal face – as a fairly recent development, but while I was asking my Mom about what she remembered of my formative makeup years she mentioned that she has a photo from a family trip ten years ago, where I am rocking a red lip. I know for a fact that once I started with this look I never really went back, so this tells me that I’ve been doing it for a while, and that I am very old.
I don’t even remember what type of makeup I first brought with me when I moved to London, but it must have included red lipstick, and eyeliner.
Makeup is such a personal thing, I have friends who have worn the same makeup look for as long as I have known them, but I have always changed it up. Growing up I was always trying out different looks and going through different phases, and I have never really stopped experimenting. To me makeup is still a thing to play with, and yes I have now figured out how to put it on properly, without cutting into to my beauty sleep, but I still have fun with it. I finally grew out of the idea that makeup is for “those girls”, what ever that means. I’m glad I that I have found a look I like and feel good about everyday, but I still like changing it up. And probably will always have an element of “playing dress up” when I do my makeup, because it keeps it fun!
And mostly I’m glad I don’t melt the tips of my eyeliner with a lighter anymore, because seriously that cannot have been good for us.