Do you remember when you were a teenager and couldn’t wait to wear makeup? I was about 13 years old when I started trying out things to put on my face. I didn’t have much, but maybe some eye shadow, and some lipstick in colours that absolutely did not suit my colouring at all.
How grown up I felt!
I remember I had a metallic green eyeshadow once. It came free on the front cover of a magazine for teenage girls – all about pop starts and actors. I loved this eyeshadow to bits, even though it was quite oily and difficult to remove. The magazine had come all the way from England and so I was thrilled to wear this eyeshadow as often as I could.
At 13 and 14 years of age I went to a private girls’ school, and makeup was strictly forbidden, so I could only ‘experiment’ with my goodies on the weekends.
Then along came mascara and black eyeliner (I was an 80s teenager). Oh, how wonderful it was to feel so mature! And then there was face powder in a compact with a mirror!
And then I discovered liquid foundation! What a wonderful world I lived in that I could get all of these things to improve my looks. Which, at the tender age of 14, I believed needed improving.
Like most women, my teens were my experimental makeup years. I don’t mean that I did unusual things with it, I just mean that I was learning how to use it and how it looked best on me.
Then in my 20s I started working in a bank, and so my Monday to Friday makeup regime was quite regular and ‘normal’. Probably could be described as subtle.
Weekends during my 20s were often about going ‘out’, discos, pubs, live music, parties with friends. And of course, makeup, and lots of it, was absolutely necessary for these kinds of activities.
Lots of liquid foundation to hide my ‘flaws’. I had (and still have) quite freckly skin, and I hated my freckled face, and so tried to use this liquid foundation to hide these brown spots. One of my aunts used to call them ‘sun kisses’, and while, as a young child, this worked and allowed me to look at them with some tenderness, as a young adult it didn’t fool me. They were freckles and I hated them.
So, in my 20s I went through a lot of liquid foundation, followed by face powder, eyeshadow, mascara, eyeliner, lipstick – the lot. I probably looked like a clown most of the time.
Less is more
As I entered my 30s I changed my life a bit and went out clubbing with friends less, and so I started to wear a lot less makeup. I’m not sure if I felt more confident in my 4th decade, or if I was just tired of carting around a huge bag of cosmetics, but I definitely became less concerned about what I looked like when I went out.
Lip gloss was one of my favourite things, usually in a pale or neutral colour, and I still wore eyeliner (black), but mascara was rare and eyeshadow even rarer in my 30s. I was a lot more natural and not so busy trying to ‘compete’ with other women in that stage of my life.
A new life
I left Australia to start teaching English in Moscow, Russia when I was 39. I arrived in Moscow for the first time one month before I turned 40. Apart from all the other culture shocks I experienced, I once again found myself facing a little bit of ‘peer pressure’, just like in high school.
Russian women wear a lot of makeup! Yes, it’s a generalisation and there are a lot of women in Russia who don’t wear any makeup at all. But for me, who had become comfortable without wearing anything except eyeliner most days, I was faced with the full-faced makeup job everywhere I looked!
Let me just add here, only a little off topic, that coming from a very casually dressed Australia, I felt very much like everyone was looking at me in the street and metro in Moscow, due to my Australian clothes and lightly made up face. I felt poor, foreign and very, very different.
So out came the mascara again! I tried, I really did, to look Russian so I would fit in and not feel so different in my new home. I started wearing mascara and lipstick every day. Until one day I was out walking in a beautiful park in Moscow and it was snowing. And my mascara wasn’t waterproof.
Black streaks under my eyes.
Not very attractive.
Despite the snow I continued to wear mascara for some time. But somehow I just felt a bit unnatural wearing it, so after a few months I stopped.
Finding my own style
And so it was just eyeliner and coloured lip gloss for some years. I was feeling pretty good about myself and about my freckles. In my 40s I managed to find self-acceptance (after I stopped comparing myself to 20-30 year old Russian Goddesses). And this self-acceptance meant that I could throw away the lip gloss! And the face powder!
By the time I hit 50 I was down to black eyeliner and non-coloured lip balm. The lip balm wasn’t for looks, but for dry lips.
The one thing I can’t seem to give up is the black eyeliner. I know why, and it’s purely psychological (and a bit dysfunctional).
I believe that if I don’t wear eyeliner nobody will see me. That without it I’m invisible. This black eyeliner defines me.
Well, the good news is that eyeliner is very small, it’s just a pencil. And for someone who is in the process of minimalising their life and getting rid of their excess ‘things’, keeping an eyeliner or two isn’t going to make a huge impact on my life.
And the lip balm is for health, so we can forgive that too.
So there you have it! I’m down to an eyeliner and a lip balm.
I decided to take my makeup bag and check out what I had in it. I still had some eye shadow and some lip gloss, both of which I hadn’t used for years, and some other makeup items. In the bag I also found a lot of trinkets and stuff, like coins, a watch and some jewellery, and some hair clips. And some black eyeliner pencils.
I can now get rid of the makeup bag and most of the contents – the lip balm and eyeliner can fit in my pocket.
While I was thinking about the history of cosmetics in my life, I was wondering about how other women feel about using makeup as they get older.
Are you using more makeup than when you were younger? Do you use it to hide your (perceived) ‘imperfections’? Or are you ready to bare all and show your natural self? Let me know because I’m really curious about it!