The Mystery Of Make Up

When I was a little girl my mum sold Nutrimetics. It was well before the day of online purchasing where the buying and selling of this illustrious product was at home parties. And whenever it was a party for a relative or friend mum would let me come along.

There I sat with all the other ladies and marveled at its all-natural products, amazing colours and ‘today only specials’.

At every opportunity I’d jump in the chair and ask mum to make up my face to demonstrate these dazzling cosmetics. Of course she wouldn’t. It wasn’t til I was well in to my teens mum allowed me to wear make-up, and it started with mascara and lip-gloss. Nail polish on the other hand (pardon the pun) was something she allowed me to wear ever since I can remember.


As soon as I could wear make-up I never left the house without it. Even in my grunge days, where I did my upmost to look like I did not care, I still wacked the minimalist amount on. I’ve never quite understood why I always needed to wear make-up. My family has been blessed with beautiful skin. In fact my grandmother has never worn a slap of make-up (not even to all eight of her children’s weddings) and her skin feels as soft as the day she was born.

When my son was younger he asked me one day what I was doing with all these brushes and colours in front of the mirror. Instantly I said, “I’m putting my face on.”

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Wow. That even took me by surprise. 

Putting my face on? Which face was that I wondered as I applied a delicate shade of bronze to my cheek.

The face that said I was so organised this morning between making breakfasts and cutting lunches I even managed to find 10 minutes to lather my face in colour. Or the face that said, really I don’t look that bad without all this but I’m still going to take a moment to preen my eyelashes. Or was it the face that said, I can go without all this but if I did you may think I look a little pale.

But really instead of looking for reasons, I should have been asking more questions.

Like why I, a confident and outspoken woman must put a ‘face on’ to leave the house? Over the years I have slowly stripped the layers away and now I can do the school run, grocery shopping and family outings without any make up.

Yet when it comes to work I still apply at least the basics to go in to the office (even if I see no one all day) or just for meetings.  A part of me would like to just waltz in to a boardroom with a naked face, but I know deep down I would not be as confident if I did.

Is it a mask? Perhaps.

Is it conditioning? Possibly.

Is it conforming? Definitely. 

Make-up has a long history that goes back 6000 years BC. It was used as a status symbol and for decoration. Over time it moved from something both sexes adorned to mostly women. And while our use of it never waned it has moved from decoration to feeling like a trap.

Oh the time I would save if I just had to whack on a bit of moisturizer – if that! Some women embrace make-up, enjoying the ritual, working hard to make it look perfect. Others don’t touch it all. And then there are those in between.

While I don’t necessarily feel trapped anymore by it, I do wish my choice not to use it would just go unnoticed. Now I know that’s what happens when I am on the school run but sadly not when I’m sitting in a boardroom.

The fact I can’t have work meetings without make-up just brings home to me how perhaps it is not us who are trapped by make-up but it is about those who trap us in.

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