Cosmetic Confidence

Used to be big into basketball. Not so much anymore #aintgottimeforthat So while everyone is fixated on the Heat and Spurs game, I’m going to take this opportunity to break from generally serious topics and priorities to talk about… Makeup. Yes, there are super-important issues boiling my blood at the moment (Tonto! Whiteclay! Juvenile justice reform! Native studies! ICWA! Affirmative action!), and while I plan to give them equal blog space, tonight’s post is about my newfound enjoyment and application of… Makeup. Yes, I’m going there.

I never was a makeup person. Too much of a jock to fool with crappy face-cake products that never seemed to stay up when sweat* was pouring down (which was pretty much always – I was a very active youth). For years – decades – I was a slave to habit. Seriously, up until a few months ago I wore my makeup the same way since high school. Thankfully I never got into super-thin or painted eyebrows or too-80s blush, but still, when I think about how long it took me to figure out a look that better fit my face, I cringe a little.

My foray into the world of makeup began in 7th grade. My friends and I were cleaning up after a volleyball game when a girl told me I should try some of her makeup. The offer may have been a shadowed insult, but I took it as charity, and asked her to show me how to apply the liquid foundation and eyeliner. I don’t know if anyone else has had this experience, but I was instantly addicted to the “mature” look the eyeliner gave me. She lined my bottom lid with a thick badge of honor and I went from sweaty jock to goth rockstar in seconds. The foundation was another story. Maybe it was my virgin pores or a reaction to the brand or the fact we were sharing makeup without properly cleaning the application tools (#yuck), but I broke out into these small little pimples all over my face within an hour of putting the foundation on. I was mortified and vowed never to wear the stuff again.

I kept the eyeliner, though. At first the black line went all the way around my eye. Looking back at some photos (and memories) reveal how I may have used the stuff as a type of war paint to hide my many insecurities. I looked tough, and being super tall the stuff made me look years older (the goal, I think, for most teenage girls, probably – and stupidly). The way my eyes are shaped, however, caused the liner to smudge and stick to places I didn’t want it to. After a few hours, I’d look like I slept on my face or rubbed my eyes with a fist. Two words: Hot Mess. So when I saw a Seventeen article recommending using less makeup for more impact (the tip: line lids halfway from the outside edges = minimalism), I grasped on to that like a lifeline and have been using that strategy ever since (although I dropped lining the upper lid altogether – I could never get it to stop smudging and eye shadow techniques eluded me). When Cover Girl began making liquid powder, I used that to cover blemishes only – I was traumatized from my pimple experience. But that left me with two-toned skin (blending was not a word I was familiar with). Must not have been that bad, though, because those two products (black eyeliner and Cover Girl liquid powder) kept me going through college and into my professional life.

That’s no exaggeration: I’ve been using the same makeup application process (cover blemishes, line half the bottom lid) since high school. You wouldn’t know that from my makeup bag, though. I always loved the idea of makeup – red lips, flashy eyes, defined cheekbones… I even went to the Clinique beauty counter once a few years ago and asked for a makeover. The lady was like, “What’s your base color?” And I was like, “What’s a base color?” And she started from zero. I wasn’t impressed, though. I came home and was mortified that I had been going around the mall after the makeover looking like someone Photoshopped a face three shades darker than the rest of my body. No way that was my base color. Figuring out makeup was like trying to read my favorite book in a different language. I knew the plot points, but my translations were way off. Many people would praise me for being “natural,” but I’d always feel a bit frustrated, because I WAS wearing makeup, goddammit!

Then, this past March, a friend on Facebook – we’ll call her Hermoine – shared a status about some magical company named Sephora and how she was super-excited it was opening a store in the local mall. She was so jazzed that I commented: “What’s a Sephora?” Thankfully, a mutual friend posted the same thing – she had no idea either, but I think she’s one of those purposefully no-makeup people (and rightly so! She’s a natural beauty!). Anyway, Hermoine praised Sephora and through an epic comment thread among many friends, we set up a makeup tutorial party. I was pumped.

At the party, another friend – aka the Yoda of makeup masters – took individuals and showed them step-by-step how to use makeup to bring out the best features of their face. I can’t tell you how much of a talent this is. With each new application of eye toner, highlighter, lip buffer, blush, and – yes – even fake lashes, I was transformed. I had never heard of half the products she used, but she explained each one’s purpose. Yes, she said, there are products that help your eyeliner and shadow stay put. The right powder will not make you break out and will actually help keep your makeup in one place. Concealer is your friend. Within minutes, she had me completely redone. I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to see myself as sexy. Sure, everyone around the room made generous comments, but it was MY reaction to the mirrored reflection that counted for the most: I loved the way I looked. And, better yet, the way I felt about how I looked.

Makeup Party Fierceness
Makeup Party Fierceness
I’m not smiling purposefully. This was how I looked after Yoda used the Force on me. I wanted a photo showing how different my face looked standing still. My expression is kinda mean, but I love the definition and shape my face has, even if I’m not smiling (and when at rest – even if I am at my most peaceful and amiable – I suffer from what people call “bitch face” – I just kinda have a fierce-looking gaze, I guess. But I’m a pretty nice person, I’ve been told!).

Outwardly, I’m a pretty confident individual. I know I have lots of great strengths to offer people. I really do have better and more important things to concern myself with than makeup. But some of my inward conversations are self-depreciating. I keep those to a minimum (UGH! Another popped button on a different pair of jeans?!), but it’s definitely a struggle to fight societal standards of beauty. Especially when you’re raising a daughter in the era of mega media. So to say I knew I looked good is one thing, but to feel good about how I looked is a boost unto itself. I’m not going to pretend these newfound feelings of self-confidence aren’t in some respects hypocritical (I’d be glad if my daughter never touched makeup, personally), but if correctly applied makeup can help me feel better about myself – and help others feel the same – then I’m all for it.

Self-portrait. Minimal editing, aside from more exposure and some tinting on the edges. I LOVE my face, and especially my eyes!
Self-portrait. Minimal editing, aside from more exposure and some tinting on the edges.
I mean checkout that definition!
I LOVE my face, and especially my eyes! 

A couple weeks later, Hermoine took me shopping at Sephora, a wonderland of high-priced makeup and skin products. It was a little overwhelming, but she guided me through goods that were worth the investment, and tipped me off to the stuff I could get at Target for a dollar. After an hour of wandering, I had an amassed an arsenal of WMDs – Wonderful Makeup Doodads. I went straight to Target and collected the cheap stuff Hermoine suggested. Then I went home and got to work.

Makeup Bag Essentials From left: foundation applicator brush, concealer, highlighter, foundation, blush, blush/powder brush, powder, and lip gloss.
Makeup Bag Essentials
From left: foundation applicator brush, concealer, highlighter, foundation, blush, blush/powder brush, powder, and lip gloss.
Makeup Bag Essentials No. 2 From left, first row: mascara, eye shadow Second row: eyelid primer, eyebrow filler, liquid liner (for special occasions), and eyebrow brush Third/fourth row: Brow filler, eyeliner (for daily wear)
Makeup Bag Essentials No. 2
From left, first row: mascara, eye shadow
Second row: eyelid primer, eyebrow filler, liquid liner (for special occasions), and eyebrow brush
Third/fourth row: Brow filler, eyeliner (for daily wear)

It’s been about two months now, and while I don’t use all the products on a daily basis, the general feeling of confidence remains. For a map of the eye a la makeup, check out this site.

1. I apply eyelid primer to the whole upper lid, from lash to brow.

2. Under-eye concealer comes next – a little goes a long way, I have observed. Yoda taught me to apply as a “V” with the point hitting at the top of the cheekbone. Blend the concealer (brush or fingertip) to fill in the V.

3. Then I use an actual makeup brush (like a fat paintbrush, but for makeup) to apply foundation. Using the back of my hand as a painter’s palette (Yoda said this lets the foundation set better to your face, because it will be the same temperature as your skin), I mix two tones to create a color that suites me. I have noticed that I don’t need nearly as much foundation as I was using before now that I’m using the brush and temperature tips.

4. A bit of tangerine orange blush (I KNOW, right?! But it looks fab on my sweet cheeks) goes below my cheekbones. One swipe is sufficient.

5. After that comes translucent face powder (which has NOT made me breakout) to seal in my work.

6. Then I apply liner to the top lid only. I’ve played around with extending the lid for a dramatic look (awesome, btw), and a simple swoop for everyday wear. I don’t do mascara unless it’s a special occasion (my eyes are old and I can literally see the mascara – very distracting and heavy stuff).

7. If it’s a dress up day, I’ll use a bit of dark shadow (silver is fun) along the socket bone above my eye, what some people refer to as a crease, except I don’t have an actual crease. I dab some silver along that crease beginning on the outer edge and curving slightly to the middle of the crease. Very dramatic (the effect is seen in my first picture a la The Force).

8. Then, the pièce de résistance: Eyebrow filler. All I can say about this stuff is… Wow. I’ve always been proud of my generally thick and well-shaped brows, so I was surprised when Yoda showed me the power of the eyebrow filler pen. It’s like a thin marker, a lighter shade of brown than I would have chosen on my own, that fills space within your brows for a fuller look. I also use this sort of putty-type-shadow stuff that helps me keep my brows from looking too much like Ernie’s.

9. A dab of lip gloss and then I’m done!

The whole process takes me less than 5 minutes now. And I actually enjoy it!

Here are some cool links (Highlighter tips & Natural-looking makeup) my friends have shown me to help transition from makeup newbie to expert. If makeup isn’t your thing, that’s totally cool, but as a former hater I can tell you it’s not only fun, but a nice boost to the ego. Enjoy!

*I still sweat, but not because I’m anywhere near as active as I was way back when. Mostly because I’m old and overweight, and because I inherited sweat glands the size and humidity of Georgia. I haven’t had major problems with using makeup and my sweaty tendencies, however, which is a good thing. The eyeliner smudges (and not in a sexy way) when the pores open, so I just forego the fancy eye stuff when I plan to be out and about in the sun. Cool thing is the lid primer, concealer, and eyeliner take less than 2 minutes to fully apply if I want to from sweaty to fab in a jiffy.

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5 thoughts on “Cosmetic Confidence

  1. I spent $70 the other day replacing all my makeup and not nearly as much as you. I’ve done the Mary Kay thing once, but got allergic, and I’m really picky about what I put on my body. Animal testing and possible chemical nastiness keep me firmly out of the world of makeup appreciation.

    That said, I’m sick of looking like a slumpadinka as Oprah would say. I do respect myself as much as someone who wears makeup and would like others to know that too.

    Once I’m not breastfeeding, maybe I’ll check out this Sephora, myself. Until then I’ll use my stuff and wish it wasn’t smearing and sigh. 🙂

    1. I feel ya. I’m still ambivalent about makeup in a take-it-or-leave-it way. It used to be something I hated and only used to even out a face that often channeled a teenage boy’s hormones 😐

      The whole experience with my friends really just opened my eyes to techniques that worked for me, were inexpensive, and – most importantly – turned into something I now enjoy. I like how I am able to play up certain features.. for my own benefit!

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