As a teenager I was intrigued by make-up but rarely, if ever, wore the stuff. I much preferred painting on paper than on my face, yet it was the 80s and some of my favourite music stars showcased truly stunning looks in Smash Hits and on Top of the Pops. However, I still consider it to be a formative time for my own make-up skills for a couple of reasons.
First of all, at the bare-faced age of 13, my mum’s best friend bought me a wonderful make-up set which I hardly used, yet wish I still had. It was a Mary Quant gift set with a lipstick that smelt of violets and stained your lips (probably accidentally, but she was perhaps ahead of the curve on lip stains!), plus a stunning electric blue mascara. I also had a beautiful book, written by Anita Roddick of The Body Shop, which was all about hair and beauty. It explained basic skin/hair biology and product formulation, plus shared tips on colour and care.
In my 20s, pretty much the only make-up I wore was mascara. My hair was blonde and my eyebrows were bare. Hardly any of my friends had cameras, so I was in charge of the (analogue) photography, and I didn’t really see the need for a painted face so I just didn’t bother. A bit of powder to stop the shine, and some mascara to make sure my eyes looked vaguely human – that was it. In my 30s, I discovered brow products (because pale eyebrows next to a dark fringe look kinda odd) and also the youth-giving power of a bit of blusher. I still didn’t really bother with anything else though, and I look back at photos snapped with more glamorous friends and wonder why on earth I didn’t give eyeliner a try. I know I’m lazy in the mornings, but it would have looked so good!
Now, in my 40s, I have finally fallen in love with make-up. It’s partly thanks to Instagram, and bloggers like Talonted Lex who made it all seem fun and… accessible. But it’s also partly thanks to the decision to do my own make-up for my wedding. Pretty much every time I’ve had my make-up done by someone else, I haven’t felt like me, so I decided to visit the (sadly now closed) Illamasqua store at the end of Carnaby Street to see if they could help. I got some excellent foundation advice and then booked myself a one-to-one lesson to get shown, and practice, a full face with smokey eyes. I ended up spending roughly as much as booking a professional for the wedding would have been, but came away with new skills, products and brushes.
It helps when you find brands you love and shop staff who are welcoming and inspiring, rather than intimidating and pushy. My current love has been fuelled by wonderful sales staff (female and male) at Illamasqua, Kat Von D (at Debenhams) and Bobbi Brown (at John Lewis). Each of them approached me in a friendly and helpful way, and was clearly very passionate about the products. None of them judged me for not looking like a typical customer of their brand either. I’ve walked away from other beauty counters and shops (including Urban Decay, Too Faced and Benefit) where I’ve felt judged and/or pressured to make a purchase.
Make-up should be fun, not elitist. I may have splashed out on the eye palette (above, from Bobbi Brown) with birthday money, but the vast majority of my colour comes from budget brands like Boots Seventeen. As that is sadly discontinued, tips on where to find good highly pigmented shadows would be appreciated. I have NYX and MUA on my list. Any others?