For some reason I cracked and bought a Cleo recently. It came with a free dress – bizarre, but true. The magazine itself remains astoundingly unsatisfying, and quite disturbing, emotional junkfood of the lowest order, but the bit that dropped my jaw right to the ground was this line: “Every day I spend time putting on primer, concealer, foundation, powder, mascara, eyeshadow, eye pencil, blush, bronzer and lipgloss. And that’s just when I’m doing ‘the natural look’.”
“The natural look.” 10 products. I dread to think how many products it would take to look made up. I can understand the attraction of eye shadow, mascara, lipgloss and even blush. It’s fun to play with colours and achieve interesting effects. But there are products in that list that I have never even heard of. Ok, maybe that’s not a big surprise, since I stopped wearing makeup years ago, and even before that never wore more than lipstick, eyeshadow and mascara. Maybe a little eyeliner if I was really keen.
Nonetheless, I can’t help suspecting that most of these products were developed by marketing departments. They’re not about people looking good, they’re about making money. That’s not necessarily so terrible, but the message behind them, when you look at it closely, is truly appalling. The message is that we are unfit to be seen until we have enough makeup on our faces to sink a small ship. Our skin is, on the face of it (sorry), fundamentally unacceptable. Our eyes need to be enhanced, if not surgically, then with 5 different types of goop, at the very least.
Our cheekbones need to be higher, our noses reduced, our spots concealed and our lips puffed. Our cheeks thinner, our foreheads lower, and our chins de-emphasized. We need to add new contours, hide old ones, and generally try very hard not to look the way we really look. In other pages of the magazine I found “face illuminating lotion”, and advice on keeping your cleavage smooth forever – including a product called a Decollette pad, which you use to “cushion the fold between the breasts and replenish your skin while you sleep”. It’s true. I couldn’t make up anything this weird. (I may be turning to bad puns to ward off the horror, for which I apologise.)
So this is the overwhelming message of these magazines, and of the legions of products all but forced upon anyone who wants to look “fashionable”: You look bad. You look really, really terrible. Only with the application of hundreds of dollars worth of creams, powders and assorted goo can you be rendered acceptable to the modern world. You must cover yourself in order to look good.
It’s like a big, gooey, expensive burkha, only not to ward off the gaze of men.
You know what? I don’t buy it. Beauty is friends making time for you. Beauty is in the smile of someone who is pleased to see you. Beauty is in my 3 year old’s chuckle, and in my 7 year old’s declaration that “You’re the best mum in the world, Mum!”
I am 38. And I look it – and even that might be charitable. But I like my face, and I like my smile, and I don’t need a chemical burkha to conceal my face, in order to make cosmetics companies rich. Do you want to look good? I can sell you the secret to a Natural Look that will last all day. It’s called your face.