At around the age of 12, I became obsessed with teen magazines. Bliss and Sugar were my life. Boys! Fashion! Periods! Boobs! Beauty! It was the latter that I was really interested in. Boy obsession would come soon enough, and fashion was fine, I suppose. Boobs never really bothered me and periods were just a thing that sucked about being a girl. But Beauty? Beauty was where it was at. I would study the photographs of expertly made up girls and pore over the makeovers and read every recommendation for the products used. Saturdays were spent with friends huddled around the tiny make up displays in the one place that sold make up in our town, Boots. The smell of Rimmel powders and fruity Collection 2000 lipglosses made me giddy. This is probably around the time we would douse ourselves in CK One and feel cool. as. fuck.
My next make up obsessions came when I stumbled upon Kevyn Aucioin's Making Faces book in the library. It became my bible. The beautiful drawings of expertly applied make up were pure Hollywood. This wasn't just chucking on some lip balm or clear brow gel (what? this was the 90's!). This was ART. I loved drawing and painting and filled my sketch books with faces. But now my face became a thing to paint. An ever ready, portable canvas. I wasn't that bothered about wearing make up out of the house that much and my obsession didn't extend to fashion so to look at me you'd probably never know it. It was never something I did for anyone else. As someone who was a bit of a loner, this was what I loved to do. Read and draw and paint my face and liberally apply Sun In bleach spray to my hair.
During this time my Mum worked very long, hard hours as a receptionist in a Spa. For me, this meant that she would sometimes come home with testers of all kinds of potions. I remember the golden yellow boxes and luxurious scents of creams and oils. These high end products were something we had never seen in our house, they were precious gleaming jewels and were to be treated as such. I pored over the tiny leaflets folded in the even tinier boxes and would use small amounts of each product with glee. It wasn't about making myself more beautiful, or even making my skin clearer/better/whatever; it was pure, indulgent experimentation.
Those early seeds of beauty addiction that were sown in my pre-teen years have grown and blossomed during my adult life. Disposable income opened up my world. Now the disposable income is no longer I can look back and think I really should have enjoyed that short lived period more. I moved on from Bliss and read Vogue instead. The Collection 2000 lip balms became an intense collection of Lancome Juicy Tubes. I collected them the way kids collected beanie babies. The tiny testers were replaced with a few high end, full size products of my very own. When I worked in TV I always made a beeline for the make up artists room. Watching and learning and asking questions, loving the camaraderie and chat and life that happened when people were in the make up chair. Now, with an evening alone I will happily spend it watching youtube tutorials or stalking beauty writers on Instagram, or pinning make-up looks. Man does my inner 14 year old self love it.
Now in everyday life I rarely wear make up. I am not one of the glamorous Mums on the school run, most days I feel like a boss if I've only managed to brush my hair. But I love looking at the woman who do are. Women who are affirming who they want to be or how they feel that day with a slick of lipstick and a sweep of eyeshadow. When I do wear make up I don't do it to attract men, I get far more pleasure when wearing make up to see girlfriends; they will actually appreciate my expertly applied (sisters, not twins! same rule for brows!) Adele winged eyeliner. I love starting and finishing the day with a hot cloth cleanse because it is 5 minutes when I can shut the noise of the world out, do something that feels good and pleases no-one else. These rituals are anchoring for me. I heard Sali Hughes say that having children is the biggest identity crisis of your life and holy shit did that resonate with me. These small parts of my former self, former life, have held me in place and provided a link to the woman with the career and ambition whilst now being at home with a baby. They are me. I don't buy the latest skincare to try and erase the life I'm living, which is showing up on my face more everyday. When a (Claudia) Wrinkle(man) appeared under my left eye shortly after my 30th birthday it was a shock, yet I named that deep line and am slowly beginning to get used to her. and her friends.
As a women there is an underlying (read wrong) assumption about you if you like this stuff, and I've definitely felt defensive about it in the past. Assumptions that you are shallow or vain, most likely both. That it is frivolous or vacuous or fake. Yet it goes so much deeper than skin deep. It's creative and fun and I do it for myself. I refuse to feel bad about that. For me, taking this time is my self care. It makes me feel good, I'm valuing myself and my wellbeing, on the inside and out.
(this is part one as I couldn't write about beauty without enabling everyone to buy my favourite stuff - so a favourite prouducts round up in part 2)