Should you wear make-up to work? Should you wear make-up at all? Everyone has an opinion on this but for me, it’s a big fat yes. I love make-up and here’s why I’ll never stop wearing it…
I feel like this was a big topic a few years ago. Alicia Keyes announced she’d stopped wearing make-up, Kim Kardashian was still insisting that her incredibly long lashes were as natural as the rest of her and Zadie Smith had also told the world that she thought applying make-up every day was a “waste of time.” At that time I was also feeling, in myself, that I probably wore too much make-up. I remember I didn’t get a promotion at work that I really, desperately wanted, and one of the first things I put it down to was the fact that I wore make-up. I didn’t believe I was being taken seriously at work and, true or not, one of the reasons I thought that was the case was because I wore too much make-up. Yeah. I love make-up, I do. But the question is: do I love it a little bit too much? Let’s go right back to the start…
It sounds ridiculous, but make-up is one of the biggest love affairs of my life. I still remember discovering the transformative effect of make-up for the first time when I was about 12 or 13. Having recently realised that I had “small eyes” I was delighted that I could make them look bigger, and one day I went the whole hog with blue mascara, eyeshadow and eyeliner. It was so very 90s, but I thought I looked amazing. I honestly felt like I had created a masterpiece; a work of art. I remember my friend’s mum doing a double take when we went round to hang out but I didn’t care, I was already hooked.
“I still remember discovering the transformative power of make-up for the first time when I was around 12 or 13. I felt like I had created a masterpiece; a work of art.”
Throughout the years I would use it to pay homage to whoever I happened to admire at a particular time; a smoky eye influenced by 90s pixie-haired Winona Ryder, eyeliner flicks inspired by the late Amy Winehouse, a brown lip taken straight from the Spice Girls, specifically Victoria. But it also look on a more serious need at other times. When I was 15 I went through a period of having the most terrible acne. It was all over my forehead and nothing I did seemed to make it want to clear it up. Make-up was the only thing that stood in the way of me and a shattered self-esteem, both at the time and to cover the scars afterwards. Likewise, when I went through a bad break-up aged 22, making myself look better with make-up was the only way I could make myself feel better, even if it was only temporary.
And despite what I thought about my love of make-up holding me back, it’s been proven that it actually helps women in their careers. According to one report, women who wear make-up to work earn significantly more money than those who don’t. Before anyone starts talking about the patriarchy – oh wait, it’s usually me doing that – I’m not saying that’s right. I’m just saying that’s the reality we’re dealing with at this current moment. In regards to my own career, I came to realise that I didn’t get the job I mentioned at the start, not because of my make-up, but because they just didn’t want me. I’ve since moved onto pastures new and it’s never been an issue. It’s never even been mentioned.
“I’ve never felt like the prettiest, or the funniest, or the most confident person in the room. But make-up levels the playing field in some way. Where’s the harm in that?”
Ultimately, make-up makes me feel good about myself. I’ve never felt like the prettiest, or the funniest, or the most confident person in the room. Who does? But make-up levels the playing field in some way. I might not be one of those people who wakes up looking effortlessly gorgeous, like Cara, Sienna, Kate, or whatever, but I can get myself to a reasonable state of being with just a few layers of make-up. Where’s the harm in that? It seems to me that the people who criticise people who wear make-up are often themselves exceptionally beautiful, and don’t necessarily need the helping hand that make-up enables. Sorry folks, but I do. Following on from my point above, both Zadie Smith and Alice Keyes were also already fully established in their careers when they made these statements. It’s probably a bit more difficult when you’re climbing the greasy pole than it is when you’re at the top of it.
I think you should be able to bring your whole self to work, and if that means rocking winged eyeliner then why the hell not? That’s why I’ll continue wearing make-up, at work and everywhere else. Sitting here writing this, in the middle of lockdown, this is the first day I’ve worn make-up since the weekend. I feel great for it. So I’m not just going to wear make-up, I’m going to revel in it. I’m going to be one of those little old ladies who still rocks a smoky eye when she’s 75 – and is proud to do so.