Zen: The Makeup Experiment

One month to go. Life does feel different now: when you’re sixteen or even six months out you might obsess over wedding things just for the fun of it, but when it’s only a month to your wedding you do actually have to think about it all the time, because all kinds of sh*t needs to be dealt with. Somebody has to decide on the ceremony readings and hymns, tell the caterer to avoid broad beans and kiwi fruit, sort out accommodation for late-RSVPing family members. (RSVPing via Facebook status is apparently a thing now. Can we get rid of this? I do not think it is a good thing.)

Because I knew at some point I’d end up worrying about something relatively important—how to divide ten double beds between twelve relatives and close friends, for example, or whether quorn is a decent thing to feed to my vegetarian celiac guest—I’ve been striving to avoid worry about unimportant things. Like makeup.

Now, I am not a makeup person and its absence in my life has never caused me any problems before, but I knew this halcyon state was bound to end with the wedding coming up. My mother has been after me to use the stuff ever since I turned old enough to vote. I have decided to figure out makeup basically as an act of self-defence. I figure if I spend about half an hour on the day of the wedding stabbing myself industriously in the eye, my mom can’t say I didn’t try my best, and I will be in control of how much I have on.

My approach has been rigorously simple, and much assisted by the comments on the No Makeup Makeup Look post. The first thing to do was to obtain makeup, and the comments helped give me an idea of what to get.

Having made a list of products, I googled each one and found a number of product comparisons in articles and blog posts. I looked through these, made a note of the cheapest models available in my jurisdiction, and bought these on my lunch break. Then I sat down one evening and put them on my face.

This is what I used:

  1. BB cream. This is a kind of amped up tinted moisturiser, and tinted moisturisers (for those as deep in brutish ignorance as I was before I began this project) are moisturisers coloured brown so they colour your face the same colour it was before. The purpose of this is to make your face all one colour. You may have thought your face was all one colour before, but now you know it isn’t—bits of it are slightly red and bits of it are slightly darker than other bits. When you put stuff on your face to cover the redder and darker bits then you look slightly as if you are made of plastic. (At this juncture you may enjoy briefly pretending that you are a cyborg. I did!)
  2. Mascara. I bought a mascara in black brown because this is what the No-Makeup Makeup Look post suggested. You will point out that black brown is not really a colour, but the world of makeup speaks in its own tongue, as much as does the world of fly-fishing or corporate law. (It means dark brown.) Mascara is frightening for makeup n00bs; an instinct for aiming pointy things at one’s own eye region is probably not a trait favoured by natural selection. Despite paying close attention to several YouTube guides to applying mascara—the advice boils down to “stick it on your eyelashes and wiggle a bit”—my method was to poke myself in the eyes several times and give up when my eyelashes looked different. (They end up looking eyelashier. I can’t think of a better word than that. If you’re the eyelash-batting kind, mascara-laden eyelashes are better for batting with.)
  3. Coloured lip balm. The only type available in the nearest Boots was the romantically named “Blistex”. It makes my lips look huge. I always think my lips look huge, though. Their being shiny makes them look weird to me, as if it’s not my mouth anymore, but an alien mouth that’s just visiting my face. The nice thing about lip colours is that you can always lick them off if they make your lips feel too gunky.
  4. Blush. I would’ve skipped this step, but my mother gave me some blush years ago so it seems just as well to use it. I rub it on the bits of my cheeks that stick out when I smile, but I’m often pink anyway so it’s hard to tell whether the blush has made my cheeks pinker or whether that’s just how my face is.
  5. Eyeliner. I put this last because it is the most daring bit. I am planning a cat’s eye—I like how the wings make your eyes look as if they are going to take off at any moment. It’s surprisingly easy to produce—I use a gel eyeliner, which comes in a pot like poster colours, with a brush so you can paint it on. I haven’t painted since I was a kid, and it’s fun—I have wondered before whether makeup is such a big thing because it’s a way for people who are not otherwise artists to experiment with colour and shape and form. (Makeup-wearing Editor’s note: Exactly.)

The result? I look pretty much the same, but a bit more orange because of the BB cream. Also my eyelashes stick out more.

I remain unconvinced about makeup in general: I can see how it could both be fun and become a distraction from things that matter more. I never usually spend so much time staring at my face in close-up, and when you do that you notice all kinds of minor irregularities you didn’t before—this project has brought home to me the true number of spots I have. I’m not sure that’s the sort of thing I want to waste mental space on.

So is my experiment worth the effort? Well, if I spend sufficient time on my face on the day, that’ll prevent anyone else from getting their oar in. As tactics go, it’s probably more effective than outright defiance. Wedding planning has made me wily.

Photo by: Lauren McGlynn

Featured Sponsored Content

  • Kelsey

    ‘Wedding planning has made me wily.’ Well said!

    • Erin

      wily like a duck

  • Abby

    Good luck with the makeup and wedding! Learning about new things, even if it is something like makeup, is fun. I don’t see makeup as something that makes me more aware of my irregularities; I wear a little bit daily to enhance certain features (it turns out I have really long eyelashes; mascara makes them really pop). It’s a nice confidence booster sometimes.

  • A.

    Honestly, doing my makeup is the thing I am *most* excited about in Wedding Planning Land. It’s not for everyone, but for those of us who are addicted to powders and potions, it’s the ultimate chance to buy new products and try out new stuff (with practice sessions beforehand, of course!).

  • Love this post! Glad our ‘No Makeup Makeup Look’ post helped you here. Sounds like you have a routine that will work great for you. I encourage you to double check that the BB Cream you have is the correct color, ‘orange’ had me concerned? Also make sure it is photo friendly, some can make you look white once a flash gets involved, this is because of the spf particles. The only recommendation I would make is a lash curler, it will open your eyes and it will look like that mascara is really doing something. Also make sure you do your cat eye with plenty of time the day of, your nerves on your wedding day may be different than when you do your practice runs, just take a deep breath.

    Have fun! Happy wedding day!
    Fox & Doll Hair & Makeup

    • Zen

      Thank you for the advice! This is probably evidence of why I should be kept away from makeup, but I kind of like the orange look. (Some The Only Way is Essex joke would probably be appropriate here, but I can’t think of one.)

    • Peg

      Shana, is it better to use a moisturizer with no spf then? I would hate to look white… and the idea of doing several different practice runs just to take test pictures kind of makes me want to cry.

      • Peg- For your wedding day I would say skip the SPF and just try to stay out of the direct sun for this day.

        Have a wonderful time!

        • Peg

          Thank you!!

  • If you look orange, then you are using the wrong BB cream.

    Take some time and stop by a makeup counter. They will be able to better assist you in how to choose the right colors for your skin, as well as how to apply your makeup properly.

    I felt like this blog post was very snarky. I didn’t appreciate the tone. Makeup doesn’t need to make you look plastic. In fact, if it does, you’re probably not doing it right.

    I’m sure you meant to be funny, but it came off as smugly superior. And it made me feel bad about myself for wearing makeup, which for me, is not “fun” or “a distraction from things that matter more.”

    • katieprue

      Oh, thank you for speaking up. I felt the same way about the tone. “People who are not otherwise artists?” Ouch. Can one not be an artist and still enjoy working with color and form on the face? I love makeup because I feel that I do it well (not ‘right’ necessarily, but well). But this also made me feel very, very judged because I don’t occupy myself with better things. I know it’s just one woman’s perspective, but I can’t shake the tone either.

      • Zen

        I’m sorry, I should have made it clearer that the line about makeup being a potential distraction was about my own personal relationship with it, and not about anyone else’s.

        The artist line isn’t quite right, of course, and I did think about it at the time because one of my favourite YouTube makeup artists also does painting. But there seem to me to be a lot more people who use makeup than there are artists in the world, and I do wonder if part of its popularity lies in the fact that it’s a very accessible outlet for creative expression for people who don’t otherwise do art. (I think the same thing about fashion, which is something, unlike makeup, I have spent a fair amount of time on.)

      • KC

        I took that as “people who don’t feel that they have permission for artistic expression in other ways”.

        There are lots of grownups who feel sheepish about even attempting most forms of Real Art, like they have to already be really good at it (or be a professional) to be allowed to do it and enjoy it – like they’re not allowed the learning process or the fun of doing oil painting/pastels/sculpture/etc. unless they have Genius and a Vision. If you don’t have convenient kids nearby (with whom you can do amateur art with crayons and sidewalk chalk and playdoh and stuff without anyone looking at you funny, usually), then makeup is one of the few pigment art/skill outlets that is usually culturally permitted/encouraged, within certain boundaries. And painting can be a lot of fun!

        I think the same thing applies to bread dough vs. clay. It’s okay (in some circles, at least) to weave and shape fancy bread loaves, or to make fancy cakes as an amateur; but in the same circles, you’re not supposed to like to play with clay unless you’re being a “real artist”. (which seems silly)

        I think the more art forms (and more methods of play and relaxation and expression!) we allow everyone to have access to, the better, in general. :-) Makeup included!

        ** suddenly realized that the “permitted forms” of amateur artistic expression are usually more ephemeral or disposable in nature (food; flower arranging; makeup), which would make some sense as a downplaying of the value of the expression, although playing with play-doh is about as ephemeral as it gets and that still isn’t “allowed” for grownups. Maybe a combination of practical and ephemeral?

        • “There are lots of grownups who feel sheepish about even attempting most forms of Real Art, like they have to already be really good at it (or be a professional) to be allowed to do it and enjoy it…”

          Exactly! I teach music to both kids and adults and let me tell you, the adults are way more self-conscious about their (perceived) failings. Kids tend to just go for things; adults apologize a lot for not being pro-level even if they’ve only had one or two lessons and I think they’re doing an awesome job. Excellent comment, KC.

        • Zen

          “suddenly realized that the “permitted forms” of amateur artistic expression are usually more ephemeral or disposable in nature (food; flower arranging; makeup), which would make some sense as a downplaying of the value of the expression, although playing with play-doh is about as ephemeral as it gets and that still isn’t “allowed” for grownups. Maybe a combination of practical and ephemeral?”

          Thinking about it from another angle, I wonder whether it isn’t more because food, flower arrangement, makeup and indeed fashion are all forms of expression associated with women’s traditional roles in society. Historically women often didn’t have the tools or time or space to be great artists; that whole side of life was barred to them, whereas a lot of them had to do a whole lot of cooking and housekeeping. And beauty, of course, is a traditionally feminine form of power — if your best chance at power is in influencing heterosexual men, then of course you’re going to spend a bit of time on your looks.

          So it’s accessible because it is/was required, perhaps? If you’ve got to do it anyway you might as well do it with flair.

    • Sara

      I guess this is just one more illustration of a difference in perception. I thought this post was hilarious, no question one of the funniest I’ve read in some time! The idea of snark never even occurred to me . . .

      • Class of 1980

        Me too. Thought it was hilarious and came here to say so. It’s a funny personal point-of-view of someone who isn’t interested in makeup.

        I’ve been wearing makeup since I was 13 and it never crossed my mind the author was judging me … anymore than someone saying “Mangos are the devil’s fruit” when it’s one of my favorites.

        I’d just laugh.

        • yes. this was absolutely hilarious (I pretend to be a cyborg too!) and I don’t think there’s anything snarky at all.

    • Shiri

      I liked the “artist” line, but feel overall that the makeup discussion can get/has been getting so heated because each side feels like the other wants them to feel bad for their decisions and is therefore defensive. While I understand makeup isn’t important to a wedding the way say, having your partner there is, it is important to some of us and that shouldn’t be a value judgement. I think Zen saying wearing makeup was “an act of self-defense” was very honest and is probably key to the tone here.

      I’d rather feel sad that any woman is made to feel bad about her choices about the way she looks than feel offended by any of this.

      • meg

        The bottom line is, like with everything else we talk about on APW, we are very serious about the fact that while women make a variety of choices, there shouldn’t be sides. We’ve obviously just finished running a series of posts on how to DIY your makeup, which focused on those of us who do wear makeup. To balance that out, we want to run some posts about not wearing makeup. Both points of view are important, but neither is the ‘right’ answer. Hopefully by presenting multiple sides of an issue, everyone feels supported in their decisions, instead of everyone feeling judged.

        It’s tricky business, because women are typically encouraged to take sides against other women with different perspectives, but hopefully we can all appreciate each others perspectives and sense of humor, without taking sides.

        • Meg, I too am always perplexed by the way that conversations among women on the internet seems to degenerate into side- and offense-taking. Writers and editorial pieces always “Take a side” because that’s what a thesis is…. it’s exploring an issue and then explaining why you personally come down on it the way you do. And like you, I am interested in hearing about the different thought process that lead to different decisions.

          I just wonder why having an opinion about what is right for you is so often rounded up (by readers) to having the opinion that what is right for you is Right (with a capital R), and True for everybody. There are lots of things in my life that I feel are right for me, but not for anyone else, and my choosing of it does not imply any sense of superiority of that option, but rather a good fit with this particular moment in time and set of circumstances–and that could change tomorrow.

          It’s so interesting to me as an Anthropology buff to try to understand the phenomenon of tearing each other (and ourselves) apart. American culture is relatively very individualistic and particularistic–meaning we tend to foster and value extreme individuation/self-expression and do not tend to believe that experiences are particularly universal. Yet, this focus on the individual seems to leave many of us feeling deeply insecure or worried that we are failing to do life “right.” The realization that worrying about getting it “Right” is a losing game (rife with guilt, fear, insecurity and righteous indignation–none of which really gets me the peace I want in this life) has been very liberating for me.

          Thanks for your commitment to having a civil conversation that honors individual experiences without assuming they should be universal.

    • meg

      This is a classic example of my editorial commitment to humor, which isn’t always taken particularly well online. Frankly tone reads differently to different people, and the same things don’t make all of us laugh. That said, humor is important to me (the APW staff is mostly just a group of hilarious women), so we keep at it.

      I love makeup, it doesn’t make me look plastic, I love playing with makeup and pretending I’m painting (Zen, by the way, it not a artist, she’s a lawyer). And I thought this post was hilarious. First, because Zen’s funny as hell, and second, because it’ represented who Zen *is*, and that’s not who I am but I appreciate that.

    • Cleo

      I didn’t get that tone from the piece at all. While it was snarky, it seemed more self-reflective than anything else.

      I am someone who doesn’t wear makeup (a combination of skin sensitivity and laziness), and even before I discovered that wearing it regularly gave me lovely skin problems, I thought I looked unlike myself when I put it on. So, I had the same disorienting thoughts as Zen (especially looking a bit plastic after putting on foundation/BB cream) when I first really experimented with makeup.

      And this isn’t to judge people who do wear makeup — I wish I had that desire coupled with tougher skin for various reasons — this is only to say that I understand where her thoughts are coming from. And I don’t think it’s from a place of judgement for other people, just a place of observation about her first experiences with it.

      To make things easier, I’m going to compare this to baseball. I don’t know enough to understand the appeal of the sport, but I dated someone who was obsessed. He educated me and I went to some games and watched some games with him, but ultimately, I decided it still wasn’t a sport I liked. However, from this education, I formed a detached understanding of why he liked it — that is, I don’t share the same feelings as baseball fanatics, but I know things that they like about the game.

      This is where I saw the artist comment coming from — a place of “This isn’t for me, but here’s the appeal for others.”
      But please don’t let me put words in Zen’s mouth if this isn’t true…

    • Zen

      I’m sorry my post made you feel bad about yourself! I didn’t at all mean to judge anyone who does wear makeup on a regular basis, and if I was mocking anyone I was mocking myself. (You are right in that I probably am not doing it right.) Certainly makeup doesn’t have to be fun or a distraction; I was just talking about my own relationship with it.

      I do actually think people wearing foundation look like they’re made of plastic, but in a nice way.

  • jenn

    Just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I do think there is gluten in quorn. It is my favorite meat substitute and I think I got my friend with celiac disease sick once from using it!

    I am about at your level with the makeup – I do a bit because I have bad skin (even as an adult) but I do hate wearing it and the best moment of every day is when I can wash it off – it gets itchy. Ick. Good for you for the pre-emptive strike. Our moms would have much to talk about!

    One thing I have found is that the tinted moisturizer and general drug store brands have more orange-y pigment. Face color is very tricky. Even a less expensive brand (I use Clinique) at the dept. store has better pigment and has more colors to match more closely – and is lighter feeling if you get the right kind. The sales lady can help you, although I do dread that usually because they are very high pressure sales tactics and make you feel like some kind of monster because you don’t want some ridiculous product, so beware. Also, you can return to those kind of places if you don’t like the product. Just my two cents, for what it’s worth! Best of luck and hope you are able to stay whole through the process!

    • Zen

      I’m scared of makeup sales people. THERE, I SAID IT. Going to a counter and getting somebody to match me is excellent advice which doubtless multiple people will give me, but I’m not going to do it anyhow! (It’s not the pressure to buy that frightens me either; the friendlier and nicer sales people are the more embarrassed I am.)

      Thanks for the tip about quorn! We’ve gone for gluten-free pasta anyway, but that’s useful to keep in mind for the future.

      • KC

        If you can, drag a helpful friend along if you go to a makeup counter and tell the salespeople in advance that you’re not planning to buy anything today! If you have someone who will back you up, it is way easier to say no even to nice ones; a friend who will say “now, we agreed that you’d wait 24 hours to make sure your skin doesn’t break out before you buy anything – get the nice salesperson’s name and come back tomorrow if it works” or something similar, when you’re about to buy 7 products, none of which you actually like on your face, can be incredibly helpful. You can take copious notes (colors, etc., so you don’t have to figure it out again), walk away, discuss, and then come back to buy things if anything really worked out well.

        That said, I have an unusual skin tone and makeup sales people have never been able to get their products to “work” on me, so there’s that as well. The closer you are to someone’s experience, the more likely they are to be able to help you well, on average.

      • Sarah

        If you’re scared of the sales people, it might be worth it to do some in-depth interneting on makeup review sites or makeup stores–Sephora, for example, has very in depth reviews from many commenters (although it can take a while to wade through to the good ones, so the q&a is often more useful). I am also somewhat scared of the sales people, and rely on online reviews to do my narrowing down. But foundation is the one thing that, in my experience, you do actually have to try on/have someone put on you to figure out if it works for you.

      • Ambi

        Zen, I don’t mean this in any sort of “taking sides” sort of way, just as practical advice (and of course, as always, take it with a grain of salt because this is just one person’s opinion). But if you really feel that way about makeup counters and salespeople, and if your description of your BB cream/overall makeup look was truly accurate, not somewhat editorialized for humor (i.e., orange skin, too-pink cheeks, poking yourself in the eye with mascara), then I’d really encourage you to reconsider wearing makeup at all. If you don’t feel comfortable getting a bit of help from the pros, and if your DIY attempt didn’t turn out the way you wanted, I would probably just go back to your own personal style of not wearing makeup and leave it at that. Or maybe just skip the steps that didn’t turn out (like BB cream and blush) and only add mascara and gloss (or whatever combo works for you). But I would hate it if you end up looking back at your wedding photos and hating your makeup. I’d say go with something you love and feel comfortable and that makes you look the way you want to look – whether that is no makeup at all, some combination of the makeup you already tried, or maybe a few department-store products. By the way, it is absolutely acceptable to go to a department store and try out their makeup samples until you find something that matches your skin perfectly, all the while telling salespeople “no thank, I’m just browsing” when they repeatedly ask if they can help you find something. They are used to it and they’ll let you play with the products until your heart’s content. In my personal experience, makeup is tricky, and finding shades that match your skin is almost harder than finding jeans that fit and make your butt look great – you have to try a lot on! So it does worry me a bit that you purchased one shade of BB cream, described it as “orange,” and are planning to stick with it. If it doesn’t look great, I’d say either skip it or try another shade (and you can always offer the old tube to friends – it will likely match one of them).

  • Eileen

    Thanks Zen for giving a voice to those of us whose “no makeup” look involves (gasp!) no makeup.

    The idea of adding an eyelash curler to the repertoire made me laugh out loud — I know that they are just everyday tools for Shana, but those things remind me of nothing so much as flashing benders from the roofing aisle. Not something that should be going near my eyes under any circumstances!

    • meg

      You guys, there is no need for gasping or taking sides. For some, a no-makeup wedding look is going to involve makeup. That’s great! For some, a no-makeup wedding look is going to involve… well… no makeup. Then there are others who are going to go all the way: glitter and eyeliner and the works. All of these approaches are totally valid, and none should be judged. We aim to operate a site where we can give voice to all these perspectives thoughtfully, while being kind to each other.

      Some of us are fine with eyelash curlers, other of us are not fine with eyelash curlers, and in the end, it really does not matter. What matters is being able to civilly discuss an issue from all sides, while respecting everyone’s distinct point of view.

      • Eileen

        Oops, I did not mean to be overly dramatic or sounding un-civil there! My amusement is more from the actual name “no makeup look” than from anything else. It’s like calling a loaf “gluten-free bread” when it’s made of wheat – my brain gets tangled when the words and the reality don’t match up how I expected.

        Again, I apologize if I came across as snotty – I really do appreciate reading Zen’s entertaining thoughts about makeup for non-makeup-ers.

        • Moz

          Eileen, you said nothing wrong. Don’t feel bad.

      • KC

        I’m thinking that maybe some of this is like techy people giving “easy” computer instructions to non-tech people?

        “Oh, it’s one easy step, just open up the command line, type this in” or “use your FTP client to transfer this file over” or “glarbldksljdfhg the hyxgarafinas” – at some point, the non-techy person is going to either verbally or mentally say “you know what? your one easy step? NOT EASY”. But the techy person does this all day long, and has often been surrounded by other people to whom this is a native language – so, really easy! So simple! Why aren’t you already doing this? And to the non-techy person, it sounds ludicrously like something from another planet.

        Candy thermometers are probably an example from another sphere; if you’re used to using them, it’s no big deal – you stick it in, you read the number, you stop cooking it when the number on the thermometer matches the number in the recipe, easy-peasy, *from my point of view*. But they can hold great terror for the uninitiated, along with responses to the tune of “Bwahaha! You think I’m going to use a *candy thermometer*???!!! What are you smoking?”. I swear it’s easier for beginners than most other methods of determining when caramel is the right degree of done-ness (“the color of recently harvested wheat” is lovely and poetical in a recipe, but Not Helpful to me when I’m staring in a saucepan), but people who haven’t ever used candy thermometers tend to swear right back at me…

    • Zen

      One thing I have learnt is that I fail to wear primer, it should all hopefully rub off in a few hours! :Db

  • Another Meg

    It’s interesting to me that of all of the issues thoughtfully and sensitively discussed on this site, makeup posts seem to bring out the most vitriolic comments. Maybe because makeup feels bundled up with all of that pressure for women to look perfect, but **heaven forbid** you get caught making an effort at it.

    I look at makeup this way- (and if you don’t that’s cool) it’s a part of my outfit sometimes. Like jewelry. Sometimes I wear earrings and sometimes I don’t. I’m not shallow for liking earrings, and there’s nothing wrong with not liking earrings either. My outward presentation is a reflection of my inner self. Most of the time I wear no makeup, but when I feel like it, I’ll do the whole thing- green eyeliner included.
    Some posts on this site talk about not wanting table runners or a white gown, but it never seems to bother those who want those things. And it shouldn’t! Especially as there’s probably another post talking about how great those things are or how to make them.

    No one’s feelings are invalid, but I think everyone who feels differently than Zen should still respect her point of view. If you aren’t used to makeup, it all feels weird.

    • meg

      It’s interesting, and something the staff is discussing right this second! We’re much calmer talking about say, death, calling of your wedding, and body image issues, than makeup. I’m not totally sure why that is. I’m always glad to discuss something on APW that strikes a nerve (that usually means there is issues we should be digging into and exploring there), but I do want us all to try to stay kind to each other.

      • KC

        Maybe we know that we should have an extra filter on when discussing certain topics, but don’t have that for makeup so much? (the notes at the end of some submissions are very helpful, I suspect) I think that culturally we don’t have many proper discussions about whether or when to wear makeup (or what it means, aside from magazine articles with “flirty looks”, “professional looks”, etc. and office sniping about so-and-so), so we’re out of the habit generally. :-)

        It sounds like a lot of people on both “sides” have gotten flak for where they are, and sounds like some of them are therefore fairly defensive. And maybe each “side” is less aware of the histories of the other “side”? (whereas, I think we mostly all know by now that both lighter and heavier weight women have a Long History of Unhelpful Comments and Assumptions in Their Lives and seek to both take things less defensively and also to make comments which are more crafted and less likely to offend?)

        I’d be really interested to hear the outcome of the Staff Discussion! :-)

      • Mrs May

        Oh the makeup dramas. For laughs and common sense I recommend reading Natalie Dee’s blog- really, she is hilarious and honest. It’s called Stuff I Put On Myself. It will make you feelbetter basically no matter what. As long as cursing doesn’t offend you. She inspires me.


    • Zen

      There’s a huge amount of pressure either way, isn’t there? If you don’t wear makeup for your wedding you will look AWFUL in the photos and those photos will just sit there staring at you forever, mocking you with their awfulness! If you do wear makeup you are frivolous and anti-feminist; you’re meant to just be beautiful NATURALLY. No, wait, you’re not meant to want to be beautiful! True feminists don’t care about such things!

      • Another Meg

        Pretty much. That song on the radio, “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful” seems to sum it up. Be pretty, just don’t know it!

        • MEI

          That song makes me SO RAGEY for that very reason. I don’t care that it’s a silly boy band. RAGE.

      • meg


      • I think make up in itself is that hot a topic though, just in how many underlying tones it has with feminism and how we present ourselves as women. There’s pressure to do it both ways, and both sides have some rather powerful thoughts behind them. There’s a little bit of societal pressure and shame to both choices, though the amount and balance of it differs in different circles.

  • Another Meg

    Vitriolic was a strong word choice. Maybe divided is better. **

  • Class of 1980

    Zen, one piece of practical advice. It’s easier to put on eyeliner before mascara.

    Also, you can find a less shiny lip balm.

    • Zen

      But the less shiny lip balm might not be called Blistex! More seriously, I’ve actually worn the kind of lip balm that is just made to prevent your lips from cracking and doesn’t have any pigment or added gloss in it, and still felt it made my mouth look like an alien mouth. I think it’s more about me than the lip balm.

      • Class of 1980

        Do you have Burts Bees products where you live? They are sold in grocery and drug stores here and they have tinted balms.

        Neutrogena has tinted balms too.

      • Jashshea

        If you have larger lips and don’t want to highlight them, just use blistex/chapstick if you need the protection. Even vaseline can be too shiny if you’re not used to it.

        I don’t have large lips, but I always feel like a weirdo in colorful lips. I’m pale gloss at most – and only when I’m super dressed up.

        • Lori

          I have large lips, so I’m always sensitive to glossing them up (which makes me look like I just ate a huge greasy chicken). What I ended up doing for my wedding is putting on chapstick (or blistex or carmex or burt’s bees) first and rubbing it in really well. Leave it for a half an hour or so, and it’ll be absorbed and not so shiny looking, but still moisturizes your lips. Then I added a coat of matte lipstick. My sister (the one who regularly uses makeup, whereas I do not) taught me a cool trick: pull down your lower lip and look at the inside color–that’s the color you want if you’re going for a natural color.

        • Ambi

          Very similar to what Lori is saying, if you want a bit of color (tint) without all the shine, just use regular old lip balm intended to prevent chapping, and then take a tube of lipstick (borrow one from your mom) and swipe a bit on your finger, then tap that finger across your lips to deposit a small amount of color that still looks very natural. Rub your lips together to blend it in, and you are done. You can add more if you want, and if you add too much just blot with tissue and then add more balm. All “tinted lip balm” is is regular lip balm mixed with a small amount of lipstick, so if you don’t find one you like you can easily create the look yourself. The key is to apply the lipstick with your finger rather than swiping on from the tube, which would look much heavier and more lipstick-y. Good luck!

  • Ali

    I did a similar thing for my wedding. I went to the clinique makeup counter at the mall and walked away with the 3 step skin cleaning set, foundation, blush, mascara, and lipstick. (All for the first time at 29 years old!) While my mom used that makeup to do mine for the wedding, I have used it myself a couple of times since the wedding. I feel great finally feeling like I kind of know how to use a little makeup for special occasions and the face wash, clarifying lotion, and moisturizer has been awesome for my skin which had occasional spots (but happening more frequently) before I started this “regimen.”

  • Emily

    I thought this post was hilarious and I’ve loved the P&G beauty tutorials. Just thought I’d throw out there another perspective — getting wedding make up done professionally. Sounds expensive and like I’m getting caught up in the hoopla of the wedding industry, but I’m lucky that I’m getting hitched in a small town where the price is right. After figuring out what I’d spend on new products, it came out in the wash. Plus, they include a practice run and I think w/ some photos and good communication I can and will still look like a real human when it’s all over. Teaching myself how to do makeup is one thing I took off my to-do list and that was a relief.. (eyeliner, you tricky beast). Anyway – if you’re considering it, price it out! Might be worth the peace of mind if make up is proving stressful.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I certainly didn’t take these DIY tutorials as suggesting there was anything wrong with hiring a professional. Again, just like I didn’t take the tutorials on forming an aisle, or a centerpiece, or a bouquet, or a veil. All those things, as well as my make-up, I’m hiring professionals to do. (Actually, the aisle at the church was built by volunteers before I was born, but, you get the idea.)

      APW is really good about not judging budget choices in wedding planning.

    • Darcy

      This! I went to the MAC counter, got someone to kit me up with samples, bought foundation and mascara and then hired a lovely lady to come and spackle me up. I wasn’t orange and I still looked like me.

    • KC

      Hooray for practice runs and good communication! I think that’s one thing the makeup series has demonstrated: professional makeup artists can know how to apply the desired “look” (whether glam or understated or whatever), which means that those who do not want to learn all about it maybe don’t have to!

      Just like with DJs or whatever, though, make sure that your professional is very good at doing the *kind* of thing you want them to do; if you want understated background music, don’t hire a “get everybody on the dance floor now, baby” DJ and vice versa. Makeup artists are sometimes more specialized (or just better at) certain “looks” or certain ranges of skin types, and a practice run can confirm that you’re matching up well.

      It sounds like you’ve got an awesome base of photos, communication, and someone who is lovely, plus a practice run, which sounds like a winning combination. :-) Congratulations!

      • Emily

        Thanks for the support! (This was my first comment and I’ve been in love with APW since I found it a few months ago!)

        • KC

          Congratulations on your first comment! And welcome!

          (and also, not having to figure out eyeliner if you don’t want to: priceless.)

          (also-also: if you don’t normally wear makeup and if you, like me, were kind of baffled on the “wait, everlasting mascara, doesn’t cry off… long-lasting lipstick, doesn’t kiss or rub off… how do I get it off, then?”: to get makeup off after the wedding, there are these wonderful makeup-remover things that are basically like baby wipes that can get it ALL off with remarkably little effort. You can get a travel or sample pack for not much money, they fit in a purse, and you don’t have to worry about staining washcloths or dealing with bottles of makeup removers. Mine are two-sided (a slightly textured side and a smoother side), came in a resealable ziploc-y packet, and lasted me through multiple bridesmaid-ing efforts and I love them dearly.)

    • Erin

      I was curious about this too. How many real people (who aren’t sponsored by anyone, selling anything, or actually movie characters) get it professionally done vs. do it themselves? Genuinely asking, because I haven’t been to a ton of weddings, definitely seen more on TV/in movies than in real life, and that made me wonder how much our expectations come from other real people, and how much they come from media sources that don’t reflect the average situation.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        We could do an informal estimate by reviewing bunches of “getting ready” photos from “real weddings.” That would be a skewed sample, and we might have to guess whether we’re looking at a friend or relative or a hired professional in a private space, but it’d be a start.

        My guess is professional make-up is the minority choice, even for expensive weddings. But my guess is also most brides who get photos posted online get their hair done professionally. Part of this is looking at the pictures, part of this is a sense that women don’t want their make-up very different from how they do it themselves for other special occasions, but they do want their hair very different. Also, not I or any woman in my family knows how to pin a veil (until I went to YouTube).

        • Erin

          Now that’s exactly why I asked, because I was totally under the impression that professional hair and makeup were one of the Things that we were Supposed To Do. Thanks for the sanity check!

  • ElisabethJoanne

    “Because I knew at some point I’d end up worrying about something relatively important—how to divide ten double beds between twelve relatives and close friends, for example, or whether quorn is a decent thing to feed to my vegetarian celiac guest—I’ve been striving to avoid worry about unimportant things. Like makeup.

    “I have decided to figure out makeup basically as an act of self-defence. I figure if I spend about half an hour on the day of the wedding stabbing myself industriously in the eye, my mom can’t say I didn’t try my best, and I will be in control of how much I have on.”

    In other words, Worry about the artichokes.

  • Anon

    Last night I watched a documentary called “Venus Boyz” about drag kings, women who “perform”, either in their life or on stage, as men. It was fascinating and had lots of great discussion about how we “perform” our gender. Have you ever thought of your life as a performance, your clothes as your costume? I encourage APWers to check it out, to see a different side of gender.

    I see this discussion about makeup in somewhat the same vein. When we “put on our face,” we are putting on an image of how we want the world to see us. Many of us are overwhelmed by the whole idea of putting stuff on our face because we still want to look like ourselves. Speaking for myself, I never learned how to use makeup. My sister and mother use a ton of it and so my reaction was to go the opposite way. I’ve since learned that wasn’t the best coping mechanism! I could stand to learn a few things from them.

    When we are “the bride” there is a certain cultural expectation of what women and brides look like. There is much room for ridicule from others and self-questioning. It is an area full of potential landmines. I don’t really think there are “sides” to be had. Some of us are comfortable with makeup, others aren’t. One isn’t better than the other. Truly, I admire my sister for knowing what to do with all the bottles of stuff I didn’t even know existed until she showed me. We each have our own perspective. And it’s all okay.

  • MEI

    “[T]he world of makeup speaks in its own tongue, as much as does the world of fly-fishing or corporate law. ”

    Gasping for air, this was amazing. As someone who loves to flyfish and practices corporate law, but finds makeup to be sort of mysterious, thank you. Now that I think of it, a Sephora is actually remarkably like a flyfishing shop…lots of pretty expensive things in little containers that may be sort of frivolous in the big scheme of things, but can also be remarkably fun and empowering.

    • Zen

      I love that Sephora is like a flyfishing shop! I’ve never been in either but I can imagine it all so well.

  • Jen

    IKEA also has black-brown furniture! It’s my favorite “color”!

    I enjoyed your post, very funny!

  • Laura

    Even though I wear makeup almost every weekday, and have since the age of, oh, twelve, I can identify with the feeling of not seeing yourself in the mirror anymore after putting it on:

    I have a very vivid autobiographical memory of the first time my mom applied real-adult-woman-makeup on me. It was for a halloween costume and I was going as a gypsy, which obviously requires a sultry look. I must have been nine or ten years old, and, in my every day life, I didn’t feel like a particularly pretty girl (ahem, young lady), so I didn’t have high expectations of the makeup effect. My mom, another lifetime makeup wearer, expertly applied blue eyeshadow, mascara, and bright pink blush to my face, then spun me around to look in the mirror. I couldn’t believe who I saw staring back at me – I distinctly remember thinking, “I look like a mannequin!” I thought the color was so heavy and unnatural looking. But beautiful. I thought I looked prettier – in a completely synthetic way – than I could have thought imaginable. So, of course, I thought it was perfect. *For halloween.*

    Hilariously, a couple of years ago, I found a picture taken of me on that night in full costume, makeup and all. And I was completely surprised to see that, retrospectively, the makeup didn’t look heavy or unnatural at all – it looked just about how I look now on a date night, but on just a slightly rounder, shorter version of myself. Ahhh, perspective.

    Anyway – hooray for people who wear makeup or don’t wear it or sometimes wear it or want to start wearing it or could never be caught dead in it! Hooray for blowdrying your hair or not blowdrying, and wearing perfume or not wearing perfume, and rocking high-heels or toppling over in them! Hooray for expressing your own self-perception however you perceive it!

  • Emma

    Don’t apologise for yourself Zen! I get a little cringey feeling inside when I hear intelligent women doing great things well (like yourself) apologise for how other people I interpreted what they said/did/wrote. Your opinion (and writing) is just as valid as anyone else’s. Stand in it. It is inspiring when we see it done. You are funny and we can clearly see who you are through your posts. Make up counters scare me too and I am much older than you.

  • Can I just say that this discussion is making me feel much better about my own complex and mixed emotions about make up? I wear very little (read: mascara and blush) make up on a regular basis, so I’m not strictly no make up, but I’ve never been comfortable around a make up counter, and it sorta makes me feel like I’m not a very good “woman” (the engineering degrees don’t help this either.) I had planned on doing something from the make up tutorials here, but my fiance suggested that I would be less stressed having some one else do it. And really the pressure of doing it myself versus the awkwardness of having some one else do it, neither feels like a great solution. I think I’ll end up with the pro, but begging for something that doesn’t look all that different from my everyday look.

  • Moz

    Zen, I am mostly confused as to how you have trouble with mascara but can apply eyeliner. I have been wearing makeup at least a few days a week for years but can’t master the eyeliner.

    Just tried again. Nope, can’t do it.

    As for makeup counters, they are not all created equal. I do find certain brands and their ambassadors more approachable than others, and I would recommend trying to find someone who works at one who looks the way you would like to look, makeup wise. I never go into Napoleon Perdis’ joints because the women in them always look like they’re wearing every product on the shelves, but the girls at Lancome and Illamasqua always look pretty great without being overdone. If you wander around a department store on an average day (not too busy, not too quiet) you might get some good service without the crazy sales pitch. And the advice to take a mate is a good tip.