24 April, 2013

An Experiment: The Day I had to Wear My Real Face


This morning it was panic stations when I get on the bus at 6.40am, at that point hating myself for being a gym hungry early bird (and also for being someone who had become fat in 7 days of holiday and therefore had no choice other than to run on the treadmill for hours and hours and hours...), and checked the contents of my meticulously packed gym bag only to discover I had forgotten something very important.

My trainers? No, they were on my feet. With a glorious hole where my right big toe has slowly protruded through, like it is objecting to all the running. My work clothes? No, they were there, looking better off than they do on. Sigh. My pants? My gym card? My will to exercise?

No, no and no. Any of the above would have been preferable losses compared to what I had actually forgotten. MY MAKE UP BAG! My war paint! My mask! My eyes! My cheeks! My lips! My golden and flawless complexion!  MY FAKE FACE! All of this had been left on my dressing table at home, leaving me with nothing but invisible eyelashes, a reddish complexion and all the sparkle of a lump of coal on a rainy day. And for a split second, I was distraught.

It;s okay, I thought, I can got to Boots post-gym and buy all their products to save the day and avoid future incidents where I might have to go round doing life with a bare face. BARE! But then I decided to turn this mishap on it's head. Things had just got interesting. Why not use this as an opportunity to challenge myself and my confidence, to see how I coped going about my day make-up free, a personal experiment - character building they call it, don't they? I mean, if I am happy to sweat it out in the gym (and I mean sweat) with near-on strangers and nothing but said sweat to hide behind, why would my fresh face be so bad all day long? And so that is what I did.

I was hoping to report tonight that the day had been life changing. The world had noticed. Some had accused me of looking ill, disgusting, deranged even, helped me across the road, asked after my health and tried to bronze me when they thought I was too busy eating to notice. Others had leaped to my defence, claiming au naturel is the way forward, it took years off me and so what if you could no longer see that my eyelashes do in fact touch Mars? I knew they were there, which was what was important, right? Unfortunately for me, this blog post and any readers, none of the above happened. The earth did not move. Nobody batted an eyelid. Not even me and my shadowless ones.

The Diary of my Naked Face 

6.40am: I resolve to spend the day make-up free

8.40am: I cave. My feet walk me to work via Boots and my hands use a tester foundation to at least cover the blemishes. Enough! I tell myself and force me to shut my eyes as I scamper out the door, past the counters of mascara, lipstick, blushers and perfume - all calling my name. I am determined to achieve what was left of my mission. No eye-shadow, no mascara, no eyeliner, no lippy, not even a measly bit of Cherry Carmex.

9:05am: When no-one has noticed my make-up less face (despite my eye-balling them and practically holding giant arrows up to my cheeks) I point it out. I was met with sheer indifference. No-one had an opinion on my make-up levels? WHAT.

11:15am: I catch sight of myself in the mirror in the Ladies and am startled by my make-up-less face. Who is that 12 year old ghost of a girl? OH GOODNESS. I had forgotten. Bah! Back to my desk with my eyes down so that no-one gets spooked or tries to match-make me with Caspa.

13:15pm: I go round town with a make-up less face. Check me out. What no mascara or notable eyelash? Yeah, that's me. Pale as the day is long? Yep, me again. Just paying for my M&S purchases without any kind of war-paint to speak of? Guilty. As. Charged. Yeah, no-one cared. The shop assistant still smiles at me, no-one leaps onto the intercom and demands the scary pale girl go immediately to the customer services desk.

14:30pm: I couldn't take it any more, my grease addiction got to me and I borrowed some Carmex from one of the girls. Menthol. Nice. It was sweet relief and I didn't feel too guilty, The functionality of lip balm however addresses health not vanity, so I am off the hook I think?

Home time: slightly concerned my boyfriend would kick me out when he answered the door to such an unrepresentable woman. I mean, he's seen me like that every morning and every night, but in the day?! At peak time? Goodness me I was brave. But he didn't even notice, ever the gent'. And he even still seemed to love me. Good lord.

My Findings

I have gone through periods of wearing no make-up before, when it has just felt right to be all natural and stuff. In my gap yah when I was all bushy-beach hair and Billabong boardies, make-up was literally just for special nights out and writing on people. In my first year of uni this continued, but to the point my own Mum pointed out at the end of one semester that I want to make a bit of an effort. Oh dear. What?! I was relaxed, had a boyfriend elsewhere and no call to attract any more attention, but I took it so far I actually think I repelled people. A low point was rocking up to lectures in green combat trousers, trainers, a beige hoody with my uni name branded on it and hair that had not been brushed let alone straightened. Fast forward to 2nd year and everything changed. I got dumped. I needed to feel good and wanted to impress, on went the layers of whatever I could lay my hands on. Hello make-up overkill.

Now things have balanced out and generally I wear basic make-up and a brightly coloured smile for work, smokey eyes and eyeliner for a night out and on a Sunday if I am not going anywhere I give my real face a turn, put the make-up away and let my skin breath. Ahhh. However, for any social occasion such as work or meeting a friend, a full face of make-up is a habit. While I am confident to exercise and relax without it, elsewhere, where I like to feel on form, I think make-up gives you that edge.

I thought today's experiment would reduce my confidence, that I would touch my face a lot, be scared to look others in the eye and maybe even speak to people through the gaps in my fingers, but I just didn't feel any different. Apart from on some level, somehow, I just felt freer, and sort of proud.

Ironically, on the same day Jan Moir has come under fire for criticising the beautiful Katherine Jenkins for daring to wear make up and make the best of herself whilst running the London marathon on Sunday, where she knew hundreds of cameras and thousands of eyes would be on her.  I strongly support women feeling able to sport the nautral look, and hope I have the strength of character to always feel able to go bare faced anywhere if it should so suit me (or if I forget my make up again), but at the same time if a woman wants to enhance herself with make-up, especially when she knows so many people will be watching her? so damn what. That should always be her choice, without risk of being condemned.

In Conclusion

While I object to totally transforming your appearance underneath layers and layers of something that isn't you (and no-one is fooled into thinking is really you either) I do believe in making the best of yourself. When you have albino eyelashes like mine, you need mascara for people to see their length. When you have a spot or 2 it's nice to cover them up and feel less self-conscious. When you feel like dazzling, a splash of lippy never did anyone any harm - a bright smile benefits all who receive it. Women like Moir need to focus less on how other women want to conduct themselves and more on their own self-esteem. Who was Katherine Jenkins hurting in wanting to look good on camera? We all know shes drop dead gorgeous with or without the face paint, so it isn't like she was tricking anyone. My regular readers will know how strongly I feel about female loyalty and how I encourage women to feel able to compliment and encourage each other, rather than bring each other down. Needless to say I was angered by Moir's attitude, but I guess she's just not learnt that lesson yet.

Today I felt proud as I learnt that not only could I go about my day with my actual face on show, but that it didn't actually matter to anyone much. I forgot about it for the most part and it didn't effect my decisions, my behaviour, my ability to chat. If anything I just felt empowered and free - yeah I choose to wear make-up most days, but I'm not bound by it, and I was happy to learn that about myself. I recommend any woman who wants to challenge or build their confidence has 1 make-up free day a week, let your soul breathe.

What's your stance on make-up?


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