Peaches and cream. Milky white. The fairest of them all.
Spin it any way you like and the facts remain the same. I’m pale and covered in freckles.
I’ve had 29 years to get used to this fact, so I’m much more at peace with it these days. But growing up on the tanned, sexy Gold Coast, I was less than okay with it.
I’d get people asking me on a weekly basis, “So are you from England?” (sure, because ALL England are pale), or, “What?! You’re from the Gold Coast? Where’s your tan?” …it got old.
These days I laugh about it, because I’m (relatively) comfortable in my skin. But from age 11-19, I was as sensitive and insecure as they come, and these questions traumatised me.
I mean, it wasn’t just that I was pale, it was that my skin was basically translucent. I could wake up from a restful 9 hour sleep feeling amazing, and yet still be sporting purple rings under my eyes as if I hadn’t slept in a week. Whyyy???
Enter: The magical powers of concealer
I was getting into dancing quite seriously at age 12 and as such, had a little makeup kit for my dance competitions and concerts. While I had no interest in having a made-up face in my day-to-day life – my skills were not the greatest at this time… though were a step up from mum’s early efforts (see below) – I wondered if with just a touch of this magical stuff that made everyone look so healthy and awake, I could put an end to the questions that bothered me so much.
So I started out by trying some concealer under my eyes. Whaddya know, I immediately transformed from underslept zombie to well slept human. Okay, so it didn’t magically erase my freckles or give me that glowing tan that most of my friends had, but maybe people would at least stop asking me if I was okay!
My love-hate relationship with makeup
It wasn’t all smooth sailing from that day on. Yes, I’d found a way of avoiding some of the (unintentional) bullying, but it didn’t solve everything. I still remember my first day of high school when one of the “popular” girls came up to me and said, “Um… are you wearing makeup??” Ouch. Off to a great start! Note to self: less is more.
Oh, and let’s talk about the humid Gold Coast summers that meant not even the most industrial-strength makeup would last 5 minutes before sliding off my face. What’s worse than no makeup? A splotchy face where you still see the bits you were trying to hide AS WELL as weird streaks of foundation making them more obvious. Clearly, makeup was not the answer to all of life’s problems.
One of my most vivid memories of my teen years was when I was rehearsing for a summer school musical production. We’d finished a dress rehearsal on a stinking hot day and needed to remove what was left of our drippy makeup before heading to dinner. I felt sick about it, but went ahead and cleaned my face and joined my friends. Not long after we sat down, one of my closest friends (a less than tactful male) yells out, “Oh my God, I can barely recognise you without your makeup, Katherine!”
It was official. I could only be pretty if I was wearing makeup. I was a total fake.
Fast forward 10 years.
It’s taken a long time to find my happy place without makeup. I spent so much time worrying that if a guy met and fell in love with the “make-upped” version of myself, he’d be horrified if he saw the “real me”. Because yeah, I still believed that there was no connection between the two. There was “pretty me” and “real me”. Sad, right?
By the way, this isn’t the easiest thing to write – it’s something I kept to myself for most of my life because I was too ashamed to tell anyone. But I’m writing this now because I have a feeling I’m not the only one who’s struggled with this problem. And I’m hoping my story might be enough for some of you to feel better and realise you’re not alone!
But here I am at 29 and I’ve realised a few things.
1. Makeup isn’t what’s making you pretty. Aside from some of those crazy YouTube videos that completely transform their subjects, our day to day makeup is nothing but a highlighter for our features. It’s not some magical substance that turns you into a different person.
2. When we go makeup-less, the world isn’t seeing what we’re so paranoid about. If you’re wearing a smile, chances are they’re too distracted by that to notice the freckles, pimples, dark rings (or whatever) you’re so paranoid about. Oh, and a note on freckles: People without them tend to love them and can’t understand why we don’t!
3. If you really think you’re looking haggard without makeup, maybe you need to look at your lifestyle and beauty routine. Are you sleeping enough? Are you dehydrated? Do you use good quality skin products? Have you checked for food intolerances? Start looking after yourself and you’ll probably notice a huge difference!
4. My partner adores me the same whether I’m made up or not. In fact, my makeup often drives him crazy because it creates a force field around my face that means he can’t be as affectionate as he’d like. Oh, and it ruins his shirts. (Which I wash, so to that I say: #sorrynotsorry) Sometimes I question his sanity, but maybe – MAYBE – it was me that was crazy all along.
Wear makeup but get your facts straight.
Makeup rocks. It’s fun. It’s forgiving after a bad night’s sleep. It can add a layer of confidence when you need it most. But it’s not the be all and end all. I want you to develop a healthier relationship with your face and the makeup you wear, so if you’re going to take anything away from this article, please let it be these 7 simple thoughts…
1. Stop wearing makeup because you think you need it.
2. Wear it because you enjoy it and because the occasion calls for it.
3. If you think you wear too much, get a lesson in making it more natural.
4. Don’t be ashamed or feel the need to apologise for wearing it.
5. Give your partner the privilege of seeing you without it.
6. Look after your face so you’re proud of it all the time.
7. Stop being mean to your poor face and start complimenting it when you look in the mirror. Acknowledge just ONE thing you love about it every day and you’ll probably start to see yourself differently.