Recently, I had a make-up epiphany. After years of slapping on slap in the same way I’d always done – ie quickly and with not much thought – I suddenly realised that maybe this wasn’t working for me any more. Instead of getting better at putting on make-up, it dawned on me that, over the years, I’d actually got more crap.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, when I was younger, I felt I could get away with the absolute bare minimum, so get away with it I did. Mornings, I would stay in bed until the last-possible minute and then a sweep of mascara, some black liquid eyeliner and a touch of red lipstick later (which was invariably gone by the time I got to work) and I would be out of the house and on my way. I looked OK, the years flew by and there was no incentive to change.
Which neatly brings me round to my second reason: those pesky years. Annoyingly, they all add up. Suddenly, I am in my forties and hurtling towards The Big Birthday That Shall Not Be Named. How the hell did that happen? It’s so unfair for many reasons, not least because, along with three-day hangovers, irritating things start happening to your face.
And they are so slow you don’t notice them. I first realised something was up when my brown eyeshadow and I fell out. I had developed hooded eyelids (when your upper eyelids cover the bottom ones) – a horrid name but a perfectly normal sign of skin losing elasticity as you get older. These can make eyeshadow retreat into the creases and I was starting to think it was also making my eyes look smaller – on bad days, more like “piggy eyes”. So, my solution? Slather on more shadow and then some – just to make everything more pronounced. I’d use a darker shade and – in for a penny – I’d cake on more eyeliner, thicker than I was used to. I’d then finish it all off with three layers of mascara. And then maybe one more coat – just for the road.
Recently, I had a make-up epiphany. After years of slapping on slap in the same way I’d always done – ie quickly and with not much thought – I suddenly realised that maybe this wasn’t working for me any more
Ten minutes later, I would look like a cross between a raccoon and Adam Ant, although not in a good way. And whereas Adam had a white stripe, I had black smudge (I am incapable of keeping heavy eye make-up immaculate for more than 10 minutes.)
All that before I even get on to the subject of my wrinkles or the fine lines around my lips. Truly, hand on heart, I’m not bothered about either. In my view, trying to look young for my age is an impossible game, although I wouldn’t pass up on looking good for my age. I also don’t like foundation gathering in the tiny lines around my eyes. I worry I look like an albino zebra.
I needed to do something. My outdated “skills” (a word I apply loosely) clearly weren’t doing me any favours. They had been gleaned from some make-up counter long ago and, although I don’t remember the exact occasion, there is a lingering memory of being persuaded to part cash over some garish nudey-orange lipstick that did not suit me. This time, though, I didn’t want some 20-year-old make-up-counter girl advising me. While I am quite sure they are all perfectly lovely, it’s rare to find one my age, who understands. Also, they do not know about my fear of albino zebras and I’d rather it stays that way.
So, I headed for YouTube. And the first thing I clicked on was... Hot and Flashy.
Don’t laugh. The blog, written by an American woman called Angie, describes itself as a place for “women who want to maintain a little hotness in their hot flash years". Well, Ange, I’m game if you are. Locking the bedroom door so I could experiment in peace, I settled in to watch her 20-minute Easy Everyday Tutorial and learnt the following seven tips, which I can confirm really do work:
“Brush eye-make-up primer right up to your brows. Make sure you find a primer that isn’t sticky and dries matt, so that your top and bottom eyelid don't stick together.”
- “Don’t put concealer on the outer edges of your eyes, as it will stick in your lines" – and definitely give you albino-zebra face. "Confine it to the inner corners of your eye, nose creases and use it to smooth out any broken capillaries. Swirl the brush in a tight circular motion, so it covers your pores properly.”
- “A little foundation goes a long way.” (Speaking as a lifelong trowel-onner of make-up, this tip is eye-opening.)
- “Use highlighter on your top and bottom lids, and make sure the highlighter goes way above your eyelid crease.“ (As someone who did not know what those light shades on my eye palette were for, this is also eye-opening). “Dab a slightly darker shade above this, just on your eye socket. Blend using a soft circular motion.”
- “Do not ‘rainbow’ your shadow from left to right – it will only drag the skin (and, as we all know, older, more crepey skin does not bounce back). Sweep in up-and-down strokes and blend shadow in a circular motion, using a soft brush.”
- “Grey eyeliner actually looks quite good and less harsh and ageing than black.” (This is a lightbulb moment for a black-eyeliner addict.)
- “Putting foundation on with a brush really does make everything look even.” (I have been reading and ignoring this advice for years. Finally, the penny has dropped.)
And the result? Well, I was actually so chuffed I took this selfie. Angie’s video suggested lots of new products, but I improvised with a few of my own and skipped some of the prepping/foundation bits. If you don’t fancy Hot And Flashy, there are plenty of videos out there for older women. I’ll be perusing, too. I may not be an expert yet and it will be a long time (if ever) until I get to the Kardashian level of contouring, but, for the first time in years – perhaps for the first time ever – I’m learning. And, when I look in the mirror, for the first time in a long time I also like what I see.
Lucy's Epiphany make-up kit