Two weeks ago, one of the best makeup artists in the world got to work on my 48-year-old naked face. The summary of him? To lift and sculpt my features using only makeup, in order to illustrate that injectables like Botox are not the only way to refresh a tired complexion. I was satisfied with the results and wrote a piece about the experience, techniques and products used. What I didn’t expect was the slew of comments from readers, many of them men, who got mad at how much makeup I was wearing.
“It looked better before!” more than one male reader commented. “Why do women feel they have to put on so much plaster?” someone else said. “Makeup used as camouflage – it’s sad,” retorted another.
I am not surprised. When WhatsApp came flooding, male friends also volunteered saying I was much better in the “photo before”. It seems that overtly glamorous makeup is as provocative for men as showing off their cleavage or wearing high heels. Apparently it is the problem of practicality. A psychologist once told me that the real reason men don’t like obvious lipstick on women is because it makes them unassailable – imagine the mess.
On the other hand, a face full of makeup can mean fearlessness. Take New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had to defend the bright red lipstick and gold hoop earrings she wore during her swearing-in ceremony in 2019.
“Lip + hoop was inspired by Sonia Sotomayor, who was advised to wear neutral colored nail polish at her confirmation auditions to avoid checking. She kept her red her. The next time someone tells the Bronx girls to take off their hoops, they can just say they’re dressing like a congressman, ”she tweeted at the time.
It wasn’t just men who seemed outraged by the amount of makeup I was wearing. Women also weighed. “I don’t have time for all this before school run,” complained one mother, perhaps wondering why another woman was adding another job to her daily to-do list. Fair enough.
Many of you have also felt betrayed by the title “How to look 10 years younger with just your makeup”. The dominant sentiment? “Stop putting pressure on women to look younger.” This perspective certainly has merits and is the one I have contemplated ever since. However, the purpose of the article was simply to make a comparison between makeup and cosmetic procedures that are becoming more and more common: both can lift and sculpt facial features, but only one washes off at the end of the day.
Learning to skillfully apply my eyeshadow in a way that lifts my eyes has become an instant way to feel better in those days when sleep has eluded me. A slick of bright lipstick is known to boost confidence, which is why Winston Churchill decided not to ration it during World War II.
Of course, it is very un-British to appear as if you are trying too hard with your appearance. As a typical self-deprecating Englishman, I understand all too well that the art of subtlety is considered the highest form of personal style. Yet there are days when a carefully applied concealer can save me from a crisis of confidence or when a touch of shimmering eyeshadow elevates an otherwise normal outfit.
Do I like my face without makeup? Yes, absolutely. Would I wear a full face every day? Probably not. But I defend the right to do so, even if it is to mask the sun damage that comes with age. After all, the beauty of makeup is its power to transform not only your appearance but also your mood, without overstaying or spending. And now, more than ever, these micro boosts are welcome.
Read last week’s article: How I finally got rid of my dark circles at 48