I know what you’re thinking – we’ve got the title the wrong way around. Don’t you mean – what you learnt from wearing no make-up, not a full face of make-up?

No – I’m afraid that there are no mistakes here.

For someone who is so into clothes, that passion never really extended to fashion for the face (make-up, I think normal people call it). I dabbled in cat eyes for nights out and dared my teachers at school to notice thick layers of mascara and brightly painted nails in my mid teens. As I got older, I might have applied a light eye shadow for special occasions, but probably not. At university, there were days I wouldn’t bother with any at all, and my daily make-up routine involved two things; concealer, and mascara. That was it.

It extended to skin care too – I was a baby wipe kind of girl (rather fittingly using Simple wipes). If I couldn’t remove it with one smooth swipe, then it wasn’t going on my face. I’ve often wondered why I was so neglectful of my make-up, deigning only to purchase a new mascara and concealer when I’d absolutely scraped the tube clean. It was, of course, partly because I didn’t want to spend money on it; you can return a dress, but if a lipstick colour makes you look like a drag queen, you can’t simply send it back. Skin care felt daunting, expensive and unnecessary. I’d never had bad skin, so the desire to clear my skin up never existed in the first place. I wouldn’t even moisturise, fearful that I’d start breaking out if I did. I’d imagined my skin and I had the same relationship as two begrudgeful roommates; don’t bother me, and I won’t bother you. I didn’t want to upset that balance.

Make-up looked so wonderful on others, but I became stubborn that I would live with my face as it was – only using mascara to aid my blonde lashes. I didn’t want anyone to be surprised when I took off all my layers, I didn’t want people to expect me to look pristine; I painted an image of myself as a laid back, low-key and low maintenance beauty girl. Nothing fussy here.

Whatever interest in make-up that had been lying dormant for the first twenty-one years of my life was first piqued by the possibility of eye shadow; peachy pink shades from a throwaway pin on Pinterest. I wore bright green eye shadow the next day, fished from the bottom of my make-up bag and obviously never before touched. About two hours later, I hated it and took it off hastily in the bathroom of a café.

What had felt like a spur of the moment impulse was actually the start of something rather beautiful.

A couple months later I happened to pass by the Glossier showroom in New York, and ventured up into the skies to the penthouse store to see what all the fuss was about. I came away with their serums, and cleanser. For someone who was rather overwhelmed by the whole process of getting into skincare, I liked their packaging and the fact it all came in sets. It simplified the whole thing for a puritan like me, and it was cruelty free – something I take to heart. I still love their products, but they’re soldiers in what has quickly become an army.

That night, I sat down in my hotel bathroom and got to work. I cleansed, I applied some serums and I moisturised using my mothers very expensive pot of cream. I couldn’t tell whether I’d break out the next day, or whether I’d be as soft as a baby’s butt, but I did feel incredibly calm. There is something soothing about looking after yourself in a (slightly) indulgent way. After three months of actually paying attention to my skin, it does feel softer and I actually break out less – but for me, that’s a mere bonus of the feeling of relaxation I get after a good exfoliate. The routines that we take on to care for ourselves are innately personal, one person’s skin care routine is another person’s yoga.

Having graduated from baby wipes, I slowly stepped out into the world of make-up, toe by toe. A little bit of eyebrow gel, some blush, a little highlighter and lip gloss. I even wore pink lipstick a couple weeks ago – although I’m still not sure about that. I do wear peachy eye shadow almost daily now though, an ode to the image that first stoked a small fire in me.

I have to admit, a couple months into my new routine of getting a little dolled up on the daily, that part of my reluctance stemmed from a lack of knowledge; I’d never gotten into applying make-up, and I always felt alien when I was wearing it. I spent my teen years wearing whatever little make-up I did less because I wanted to, and more because I thought it was the done thing. I’m almost certain that I started wearing mascara because a friend did. It’s taken over twenty years for me to realise that the only person I should be putting some slap on for is myself – I’m certainly not trying to impress anyone, in fact when I wore pink eye shadow my boyfriend asked me if I had an eye infection. It’s only with this appreciation of who I should be wearing make-up for that I actually feel at home wearing it. Understanding that it isn’t necessarily something I need to look my best, makes it an opportunity – the chance to experiment, explore and find the same enjoyment in a beauty routine as I had in my getting dressed routine.

Learning to love what I saw in the mirror has always been a process, and one that might never be fully completed. I suspect my reasons for not wearing make-up are almost exactly the same as those girls who have always been more enthusiastic about it; I wanted to feel good in my own skin. Much like how knowing what I could look like without make up has instilled a sense of trust in my own appearance, it may well work the opposite to know what you can look like with a bit of make-up. It is, of course, always an individual process and preference, with neither being better than the other. The goal is ultimately the same; self-acceptance, and confidence. Whether high or low coverage is the thing that sets your heart on fire, we’re all just trying to be happy with the face that stares back at us. The low maintenance persona I’d built around myself offered a kind of protection I imagine other girls found in make-up, and eventually comfort in the one led to comfort in the other.

Most days I wear a fairly full face of make up, often so subtle you might not be able to tell at first glance (aside from the eye shadow of course). Much like I’ve spent years trying to understand my own style, I am going through the same process with my make-up bag. And those days when I just can’t be bothered, I still feel exactly like myself – but whether I’d gotten there by wearing or not wearing make-up for most of my life really doesn’t matter.

I never skip the skin care though.

Follow Camilla on Instagram: @camillaackley

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