Categories: Fashion & Beauty
As tiny, pretty mega-talent Cher Lloyd stepped on to the X Factor stage last month in shimmer foundation, squashed-spider eyelashes and over-pruned brows, only for Louis Walsh to trill, “You’re 16? Wow! You look much older!” my heart sank. Poor Cher, she’d truly Turned Her Swag On, but the world of beauty is befuddling. We’re bombarded with wild expert advice every single day, when what we really need is a list of rules average women can live by. Thankfully, I’ve written some:
Wash your face. Clean, mud-and-dried-ketchup-free skin is the cornerstone of being more bonkable. This sounds obvious, but it doesn’t stop lab coat-clad fembots leaping out at you in department stores, haranguing you on “your routine”. Always say: “I cleanse, tone and moisturise twice daily!” Never say: “I fall into bed spangled drunk twice a week, leaving a perfect Turin Shroud of me on the pillow.” For pure amusement, try questioning one of the lab coats intricately on what toner actually does. Like Yakult, Kerry Katona and your appendix, nobody actually knows.
Carefully plucked eyebrows transform a face. It’s also like safe-cracking in its precision. During my “beauty journey”, I’ve had Ming The Merciless peaks of evil, a bald patch like Vanilla Ice and a period drawing the whole lot back on in pencil stripes. The latter gave me a scary claymation Medusa effect, which wasn’t entirely what I’d hoped for. Do: let an expert pluck them and then maintain yourself. Don’t: tattoo your eyebrows in, unless you own a white tiger and are part of a magic troupe working out of Vegas. And remember, you can always stop plucking altogether and let nature run amok, if you don’t mind looking like a monobrowed Cro-Magnon woman lurking in a pit awaiting the invention of Superdrug.
General rule of thumb: ladies, try to be less hirsute if you’re in the market for straight men. Never shave facial hair unless you want to look like Brian Blessed. Under-25s, take advantage now of easily manageable facial hair, because post-35 it will take a venomous turn and begin growing spikily from the lip region downwards, complementing your ever-accentuating neck wattle. Enjoy. X Factor contestants about to expose themselves to high definition TV, learn from my mistakes: start bleaching/waxing now before an avalanche of cheery, helpful emails arrives saying, “OMG – You iz well hairy like Snuffleupagus off Sesame Street, innit.”
A good base foundation should be virtually undetectable, mirroring the precise shade of one’s skin, chosen with time, love and care. Or, in reality, chosen on the hoof, in a lunch hour, with one eye on handbag thieves, under harsh strip lighting, on a patch of wrist skin three shades different from your face. Choosing foundation sucks. Women’s dressing tables are littered with too-light “Nosferatu” foundations (suitable for use only on the two days leading up to a planned sickie) and tubes of far-too-dark gloop viable only after a holiday circumnavigating the sun. Important: YSL Touche Eclat is a concealer to be used sparingly, not a lifestyle choice to counteract a daily bottle of sancerre.
Full, pouting lips are crucial to any look, so it’s important for women to find their perfect lip shade. Do this by wasting money every two weeks on at least one expensive rouge lipstick that, once you have left the shop, turns out to be too berry, too Royal Mail-box red, too silt puddle brown or too zany raspberry for your skin pallor. Eventually, by sheer chance, you will find the lip shade of your dreams; one that complements your skin, makes your eyes “pop”, a mere sweep of which makes you feel sensuous and infallible like red-carpet Angelina Jolie. It will run out, whereupon you’ll visit the department store beauty androids, who’ll tell you it’s now discontinued. Thoroughly beaten, you’ll return to an old unsuitable dark purple lipstick, secretly aware your friends call you “Beetlejuice“.
At least twice a year you will be informed by beauty sections that “neutral make-up” is “a big story”. This will be accompanied by a photo of otherworldly creatures such as Rose Huntington-Whiteley or Giovanna Battaglia wearing lip colours called things like “Nude”, “Now’t There” and “Jack Shit”. You will obediently scamper off to buy a sheer lipstick that makes no impact on your face whatsoever and serves only to remind you that you’re a mere mortal who, sans make-up, terrifies the recycling man.
Women don’t use their wedding-day photo as their Facebook/Twitter avatar out of deep respect for the institution of marriage. No, it’s because it was the only day a professional did their eye make-up and showed them the extent of the woman they could be, if they only had someone with 15 years’ experience, on £200 an hour, following them around each day, titivating their eye sockets with 10 different brushes. Doing your own eye make-up is fiendishly impossible; try one of the “simple smokey-eye” tutorials on YouTube, which will be a woman sat on her bed screaming, “Blend the grey into the black, then take the brown over the socket and blend to the grey!” which you do, making your face look like a child’s painting of a blizzard.
Other general rules of eye make-up include:
Purples, teals and navys worn together will always make you look like Angie Watts off EastEnders circa 1985.
Never wear false eyelashes during the day, unless you want to look like a day-shift lapdancer popping out for a pasty.
Glitter: ask yourself, “Am I one of the Scissor Sisters?” No. Will the people in the Nuneaton branch enjoy my news of the voluntary redundancy package more, just because my eyes say, “Party!”?
Most important: make the choice. Big eye make-up or strong lipstick. Never the two together, unless you’re appearing in La Cage Aux Folles.
If you can’t face daily make-up, at least be bronzed! There’s no shame in it! Many intelligent, independent women today are in utter denial as to their true skin tone, wasting oodles of their life stood in paper knickers in a portable tent being sprayed Walnut. “You might want to put some old sheets down to sit on for the first 24 hours till it’s set!” my woman often says, milking me of cash and leaving me the colour of Lidl chicken tikka.
Warning: fake tanning is highly addictive. In fact my own husband had no real idea of my true ethnicity until several years after we married when he pulled back the duvet one morning, between appointments, to find my real-life bottom shade is akin to Farrow & Ball Borrowed Light. “I thought I saw you peeling once, and we’d not been on holiday,” he muttered sadly. My ancestors didn’t traverse over the Egyptian deserts on camels, they traversed down Botchergate, Carlisle, in a Vauxhall Rascal. I’m not sure what part of Northern Ireland Christine Bleakley‘s family comes from, but it was clearly the Latin Quarter.
By Grace Dent