Beauty News

Beyond the pale!…Spending a week with no makeup

Fashion bible Vogue has declared that ‘we are in the grip of a momentous “dressing down” period’. Make-up, it seems, is so last season. But how would an ordinary woman survive when we challenged her to spend a week without her cosmetics?

Monday

My name is Hannah and I am a cosmeticsoholic. I have worn make-up every day of my life since I was a not-so-fresh-faced 11. My morning roll-call embraces: foundation, concealer, powder, eye shadow, eye liner, mascara, blusher and lip balm.

Should I be out on the town, matters become still more outlandish.

I am robustly low-maintenance in other respects: unfit, gnawed nails, schoolgirl hair. However, women tend to have a thing, and make-up is my thing. It brings playfulness into my otherwise drab existence.

And if it is a choice between the unremarkable material Nature gave me, and an improved version of this bread-and-butter self, then, bring on the improvement. We are accused of vanity. Yet surely it is greater vanity to inflict one’s unedited features upon the world?

But here I am. Day one of my challenge. I examine myself closely in the mirror. I am nearly 40 (oy skin could be worse, I have darkish eyebrows and lips, but sans slap my eyes vanish bar a pair of sooty crescents. I am ghoulishly pale, and my features become doughy, bland, blah.

I associate my naked complexion with illness or depression, the latter of which appears to be on the cards as I contemplate a week without my make-up crutch.

Attempting to go to work is traumatic. Everything is thrown out by my virginal face: my clothes – too ostentatious; my scent – too provocative; the rest of me – too bedraggled.

I look nondescript, characterless. I am also cadaverously ashen, reminiscent of those painful years before I discovered rouge, when boys would follow me about humming The Addams Family theme.

My newsagent mouths ‘Poor you’, assuming lurgy. Face down, I scuttle through the streets, resisting the temptation to put a bag over my head. My shiftiness escalates as I enter the office lobby, reaching a fever pitch at an afternoon team meeting when I cringe at the back staring at my shoes.

It is impossible to tell whether I am ignoring my colleagues or they are cold-shouldering me, but I have never felt more invisible. Plus I’m twisting my hair, a tick I haven’t resorted to since childhood.

Evening, and I have a face-off with a hot date, who purports to see no difference. This is clearly gallantry. I cannot attract anyone’s attention: the waiter’s, my date’s, even my own.

I bump into a fashionista who tells me that I look cooler, edgier than usual. However, this same fashionista once inquired whether I had been to a ‘really amazing boot camp’ when I resurfaced after having pneumonia.

Tuesday

Today, I discover a fate worse than the proverbial worst nightmare, of turning up to a date naked having forgotten to put one’s clothes on: an unpowdered power breakfast.

My lips are so arid that one of them is bleeding, my nose supernaturally shiny, and I have my first spot since teenage years. Then it dawns on me: my face is detoxing, having not been exposed to the atmosphere for decades.

After breakfast, back in the office, a work experience assistant endeavours to pull rank – I clearly, sans cosmetics, no longer command authority.

Later, back at home, a courier arrives with a package and asks: ‘Is your mother home?’ oy mother hasn’t been home for 21 years.

The consensus is that I look young, but not good young. ‘Kind of Dickensian, laudanum-addict young,’ as a friend puts it, ‘a malnourished guttersnipe’. Come nightfall, I head out and get hammered on the basis that beer goggles may be applied to oneself. At the bar, I am asked my age.

Wednesday

My combination of carousing, insomnia, and POT does not sit happily with this project. My brother refers to me as ‘Twilight MILF’, a phrase that I do not care to translate beyond that I look like the undead mother of Robert Pattinson’s vampire character in the Twilight film series.

Concealer and blusher have become fixations. Without them, I take to pinching my cheeks and biting my lips in the manner of some Victorian vamp.

on the upside, the absence of any make-up has forced the realisation that I need to be more clean living. I consume skin-friendly salmon and blueberries, down iron sachets, and even don a pre-work face mask.

As a consequence, I spend more rather than less time primping.

Without this prop, I am having to raise my game. Later, I go for a facial rather than heading out drinking: an unprecedented development.

Thursday

In some workplaces, one might get away with such a metamorphosis, but journalists aren’t backwards about coming forward.

My featureless features have made me chief target of satire. ‘Did someone die?’ asks Camp Design Boy I. ‘Yeah, and was it you?’ quips CDB II.

I have opera tickets. oh, welcome dark! I bump into an ex-lover, who looks straight through me, despite having claimed, back when we were together, that I look better bare.

Friday

I have taken to wearing a good deal of red in an effort to occupy the land of the living.

Passing through a cosmetics hall, I am pounced on by every counter dolly in the building. one can almost hear the collective cry of: ‘Makeover!’

The pain of walking past the Bobbi Brown section without inviting its artistes to take charge is unbearable. ‘I love make-up,’ I almost weep. ‘I’ve met Bobbi. She sent a sample especially for me.’

They look at me pityingly: I am clearly delusional. I endeavour to explain what I am up to. ‘But why would anybody do that?’ asks one radiantly groomed assistant.

A couple of game men wolf-whistle me in the street. Normally, I would stalk by stony faced; today I view them with incredulity. I cancel the night’s activities and sulk in the bath.

Saturday

Couch potato that I am, I attend an exercise class purely because I will not look so abnormal amid all the clammy faces. Nevertheless, by the afternoon, I have cracked.

These are not work hours, after all. I feel I have discovered as much as I am going to discover about barefaced audacity. Not merely my complexion, but my entire life has been put into neutral.

The joy of at long last sprucing up my features – unearthing some cheekbones via blusher, and rediscovering where my eyes have been lurking – reduces me to teary gratitude. My mood is buoyant for the first time all week: my personality returning daub by daub.

The evening brings a party. Back to my natural, non-natural self – head once again held high – I make my entrance. Friends immediately scurry over. ‘Thank God,’ sighs one, ‘you’re back.’

Related stories


Get The Australian Woman’s Weekly NZ home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.