Growing up, I always heard women say that they didn’t wear make-up because “they had good skin.” That was never a reality for me. I had acne. Because of this, I didn’t look people in the eye, when they spoke to me. I knew how bad I looked by the stares I would receive. It was a short cursory glance when I was clear and a long dissecting gaze when I was broken out. It was like I wasn’t a person. I could see them trying to pop my pimples in their head. I suppose it’s no different from what I did every day when I looked in the mirror, staring the redness into oblivion.
I think that the media has hyped the misconception that every girl wants to look like the airbrushed pictures in magazines. I personally didn’t find that to be the case. All I had to do was look around me and see friends, co-workers, and family with smooth unblemished skin without make-up.
I always thought about how things would be different, if I could just change my face. I dreamed of not being afraid to take pictures. I thought of going to the spa and getting a facial without wincing. I dreamed of a boyfriend touching my face without wondering if he saw or felt my pimples. There were days that I looked in the mirror and cried, before deciding not to go to class or work because I couldn’t make my face presentable for public consumption.
I remember the first time I stayed over a girlfriend’s house in high school. I got up in the morning and replicated my usual morning routine, pulling out my tackle box of skin products; cleanser, toner, moisturizer, pimple treatment, green concealer stick, foundation, powder, eye shadow, eye liner, and lip gloss. I had it all spread out on the bathroom counter.
My friend came into the bathroom as I started my face, plugging in her curling iron.
“What’s all that?”
“You don’t need all that, you have good skin.” I heard the volume in her words drop as she spoke, taking a full look at my face in the morning sun. She never saw me without make-up before. She saw my hyperpigmentation from acne scarring that dotted my face like freckles.
“Wow you look different without makeup.” The words floated in the air heavy as fog. She could have said, “You’re ugly without make-up,” and it would have sounded just the same.
If you asked me in my high school and college years if I had low self esteem, I would have told you no. I was good as long as my face was on and my hair was done. I could do anything. Most of the time you’d hear me answer a question with a quick, “I’ll be there after I put on my face.”
If it involved going outside, it involved putting on “my face.” I didn’t do anything without it; going out to get Chinese food, getting the mail, going to the grocery store, or working out. It was like clothing.
My interest in make-up grew because of my need to just blend in. It was never about being pretty, it was about not having someone stare at my ugly. For years, I didn’t pursue becoming a make-up artist because, I fretted any job that relied on my personal appearance. I felt that I could never sell facial products or makeup, because I couldn’t imagine telling a consumer, “LOOK AT MY FACE, it works for me.”
But because of my personal experience with make-up I can speak to the insecurities that one has when they are red, splotchy and broken out. I am cognizant of those feelings in others and I take that sensibility with me to work. I share with them the sheer joy of seeing the skin you know you should have, but can’t outwardly see. People may say that beauty can be found in a character, but liquid courage (makeup), helps other to experience it. Otherwise, I would have been behind the scenes working at night so no one would see me.