Earlier this year when I wrote the post about starting to wear makeup in your 30s or 40s I tried to give simple and practical advice: where to start, what to avoid, how to prioritize. But there's more to it than just making a shopping list and practicing assertiveness at Bloomingdale's, I know. I was very touched by the emails and personal stories readers shared, and some of them resonated with me even though my own experience is so different. There's an emotional component to changing something so personal, to starting to treat yourself differently. This is what I want to address today.
It all can be summed with the immortal words of Adele Dazeem: Let It Go.
Even if you didn't wear makeup until now, you have decades of assumptions, perceptions, and even prejudices concerning makeup, makeup application, people who wear makeup. You were probably told things in the past, even as early as your childhood. You heard general observations, perhaps was criticized by a supposedly well-meaning relative or friend. Maybe your mother or grandmother was an avid makeup user who tried to push it on you, or the opposite: a strict puritan or a staunch "makeup is superficial crap and we're above it" person. No matter where you grew up, chances are that you have baggage. You might be playing a tape in your head every time you look at the blush or lipstick you just bought. A friend told me that for years she believed that "only sluts wear red lipstick". It didn't stop her from buying Revlon "Fire and Ice", but she couldn't bring herself to actually wear it. Someone else I know has a similar idea about nail polish, no matter that her own boss wears vampy colors.
But there's more than that. Some of these negative ideas that follow us for years can also be about ourselves and our features. Mean comments (that frenemy has moved on decades ago and never really meant what she said about the shape of your eyes, but you remember it every time you look in the mirror), misguided "helpful" advice telling you that your eyes are too small for eyeliner, a parent telling you to "take off all this junk from your face"... it goes on and on and on.
Let it go.
Some of these ideas have probably shaped the way you approach makeup application. All those "you can't" and "you should" from decades ago are most likely wrong. If the last time you played with makeup was 1983 the only thing you remember is lining your lower lashes and not the top ones. It's not just a dated technique, it's also quite unflattering on anyone over a certain age (it drags the eye downward, adds darkness to an area we're actually trying to brighten, and usually looks unbalanced if the top lid is not lined as well). You will need to look at your face with fresh eyes, see what you want to highlight and play up, what parts require muted and softer colors, and then experiment.
Makeup textures and finishes changed and improved a lot over the years, even when it seems like the same product-- it's not (that includes Revlon Fire & Ice). Liquid liners are easier to apply and stay put all day, cream blushes are no longer a greasy mess, pencils are smooth and creamy, and powders are light as air. Wearing a foundation doesn't mean walking with a heavy pink mask on your face, and the new gel textures are everywhere, from eyeliners to lipsticks, and they're easy to use and wear.
Let it go, give it a try, and most important: have fun.
Photo of model Anne St. Marie by Tom Palumbo via Stirred, Straight Up, With A Twist.