My earliest experience with makeup was probably when I was about three or four. I recall sitting on the edge of the bathtub, watching my mother get ready to go out to dinner. My mother didn’t wear makeup often, only on special occasions. I was mesmerised as I watched her paint her face with the contents of the forbidden cosmetics drawer.
A few years later, I started experimenting with makeup myself. Mum gave me an old beauty case, which she had filled with a bunch of leftover makeup. Scraps of eyeshadow, lipstick ends and one too-orange tube of foundation were my first cosmetics. I would spend hours playing with the contents of that case, painting my face a wild array of colours.
As I got older, makeup became something clandestine, forbidden. Something to be sampled only in secret. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup out, so I had to make do with wearing it around the house. I would regularly try to sneak out with a touch of mascara, only to be marched back inside to scrub my face. When my parents would leave me alone in the house, I would take advantage of the free time to ransack my mother’s makeup collection.
In high school, makeup went from being something fun to a necessity. I had horrible acne, and makeup was a mask to hide behind. I would plaster my face with layer upon layer of pale foundation and concealer, desperately trying to even out my skin tone, to cover up the clusters of blemishes that marred my face. I rarely left the house without my layer of slap. I would use whatever makeup I could afford, which was usually only cheap crummy formulas from the chemist and junk shop. Each year on my birthday I would receive one bottle of quality Estee Lauder foundation, which I would ration like mad.
As my skin cleared up and I became more confident, I cut down on the amount of makeup that I would wear. In the year between college and high school, I worked for Avon, so I was always trying to keep abreast of the latest makeup trends so that I could market them to my customers. I would scour magazines, trying to replicate the looks that were trotting down the catwalks and gracing the movie screens.
In college, my makeup attitude came full circle. I started seeing makeup as something fun again, something to play with and experiment with. I started researching makeup looks from vintage eras. I learned how to apply makeup to accentuate my favourite features. My makeup style varied wildly: some days I would wear practically none, some days I would wear something vintage and another I’d be in high-fashion trend makeup. I started enjoying makeup again, and saw it as a form of self-expression rather than as a mask to hide behind.
Nowadays, my approach to makeup is fairly similar to my college days. I am happy to have makeup free days, but I prefer to wear some makeup, simply because I find joy in applying it. I have so much fun choosing gorgeous colours and playing around with shading and placement. I’ve become slightly obsessed with costume makeup and I love the way that I can easily change my look depending on my mood on any given day.
What is your attitude to makeup? Has it changed as you’ve gotten older?