I have a friend – she’d better remain nameless – whose husband has never seen her without make-up. I kid you not. To preserve the ‘illusion’, she goes to bed in her make-up (heaven knows why she has such an undeservedly beautiful complexion), sneaks out of bed before him in the morning, cleanses – and judiciously reapplies her ‘face’.
To me, this is somewhat akin to lying about your age, then going to great lengths never to let your spouse see your passport. Surely the whole point of unconditional love – family, friends, life partners – is that they do just love you, warts and all. (Or in the case of my somewhat fragile English rose skin, red veins and all.)
Luckily, my friend’s husband is a late sleeper and she’s a lark, which enables her to maintain the ‘illusion’. But what happens if she’s one day taken ill, and he’s confronted with her make-up-free face staring wanly at him from a hospital bed…? He might a) be horrified at the lengths she’s gone to. Or b) not give a damn. I’m convinced my friend’s husband would be just as adoring if he saw her in the naked facial flesh, but she’s not so confident – and no amount of encouragement from me has ever persuaded her otherwise.
Of course I love make-up as much as the next woman. (Probably more so: it’s my job.) But while I adore the fact that it can transform my paltry blonde lashes into sensual dark flutters, conceal the aforementioned redness with the merest whisper of one of the new-formula foundations, or give me eyebrows where virtually none exist, I don’t believe that it should be regarded as a security blanket. Applying make-up, as far as I’m concerned, is a healthy sign of self-respect and self-care. But being loath to let even the postie catch you un-mascara-ed, by contrast, is a sign there’s something amiss.
One of the key reasons, for me, to take care of myself in all sorts of ways – exercise, eating a veggie-rich diet with plenty of good fats, supplements (especially those skin-boosting essentials, Power of Krill and HA, in my case) – is to look (not to mention feel) the best I can, 24/7 (which includes 6 a.m., in case you hadn’t noticed). When you feel good, it shows – glows – and there’s less of an urge to slap on layers of, um, slap.
I’ve been hugely cheered by the recent #nomakeupselfie campaign, started by Breast Cancer Research, and which has apparently raised over £8 million, so far. A host of celebrities have embraced the ‘no make-up selfie’, including Cara Delevigne, Cheryl Cole, Rihanna and Beyoncé – and it’s really quite heartening for any of us to see these women without their make-up, frankly.
Several times a year, I take part in confidence-boosting Make A Difference Makeover Workshops, working with the homeless charity Centrepoint as part of their programme to help young women turn their lives around. So often, they express a lack of confidence because they feel they can’t live up to the images they see in the media. I always try to explain that the stars/celebrities they revere don’t really look like that – until they’ve spent a couple of hours in hair and make-up (and probably been retouched, subsequently). So it’s got to be a positive step for women to be able to see how true that is, via the #nomakeupselfie.
So: we might have missed National No Make-Up Day (it was in March), but I’d like to suggest, if you cling to your make-up like a life-raft, to give yourself a make-up holiday. Go to work, or a zumba class, or to visit your future in-laws, wearing not a scrap of ‘slap’. A real holiday, of course (or a spa break), is also the perfect way to dip your toe in the make-up-free waters: you can ‘reinvent’ yourself easily, in a setting where nobody knows what you look like when you’re immaculately maquillée.
Because being able to face the world completely bared-faced is surely the ultimate sign of being comfortable in your skin. Even – or maybe especially – if that skin would indeed look a bit perkier, with a canny touch of concealer…