Makeup has never been a favorite subject/hobby of mine. I struggled with application beyond foundation and blusher my entire life. My mom wore little to no makeup, so there was no learning at her knee the techniques or product knowledge. When she felt we were old enough to wear makeup, she took my sisters and me to the Clinique counter at the local department store and considered her work done.
And that was enough for me. I didn’t have any real interest and never wanted to be the type of girl who was unrecognizable once I cleaned my face. I put on my Clinique foundation and blush, mascara if it was a workday, lipstick half the time, and called it good. Maybe 25% of the time I’d wash it off at night. I never used a moisturizer.
I know. And I wondered why I battled acne breakouts into my early 40’s.
All of this worked well (or so I thought) until a year ago. My daughter needed makeup and skincare help, and I wasn’t the one to assist her. I asked my best friend what type of makeup her daughter used, and she said they both went to Blue Mercury. They used Laura Mercier and Bobbi Brown products and urged us both to visit for advice and products. My husband had done the tile work for the store, and I created the invoice to bill it, but I didn’t know what the store sold until Jill told me to go there for cosmetics.
I’ve had countless makeovers at the hands of department store employees over the years. I purchased the products they applied, the lotions they promised would remedy my uneven skin tone, tighten the bags under my eyes, and give me plump, seductive lips. I watched them apply the makeup, but I had no real interest in their efforts, so when I was at home in front of my bathroom mirror, my attempts to duplicate the look were amateurish and clumsy. Lacking a real desire to perfect my skills, I didn’t practice and gave up after one or two tries. The unused palettes of eye makeup mocked me each time I opened the drawer of my bathroom vanity. Eventually, I’d realize they were several years old, and I’d purge them, but not the guilt from such frivolous spending.
I went into Blue Mercury armed with determination and my iPad. I asked for products that I could use every day and careful, detailed pointers so that I could duplicate the look at home. I took extensive notes during the entire process, snapping photos of the products. I documented the application process in my Evernote so that I wouldn’t abandon hope after a single effort. Finally, I had a reference guide in my own words.
Surprisingly, my interest and determination took hold, and I liked the results enough to keep up with the daily routine. Other people noticed and asked what I was doing differently to my skin. The bad news? Blue Mercury was a gateway drug for me into the world of skincare and beauty products. The compliments I received after improving my regimen only made me jones for more of the stuff.
Last November, one of my friends announced on Facebook that her daughter, Natalie, had started working as an esthetician at the Cole’s Salon a mile from my house. For two weeks, Natalie offered reduced rates for facials, so I booked an appointment as a birthday present to myself. I approached the procedure the same as I had my makeover, with an intellectual curiosity and a desire to take self-care more seriously as I hurtled towards my fiftieth birthday. My biggest concern was that I waited too long, and it would be too late to undo the negligence of the last several decades.
I paid attention to Natalie’s advice on products and noticed the improvement in my skin tone in the days and weeks following my initial facial. I began scheduling monthly appointments and took a real interest in Eminence products, an organic skin line created in Hungary.
Their gentle, natural fragrance is like aromatherapy, ensuring I don’t miss any steps. I started using serums, something I never even knew existed before that appointment. Heeding the cry of one of my favorite writers, Nora Ephron, who wrote “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” I secured a lotion that has helped with the crepey skin on my neck and decolletage. (I refuse to say “decolletage” out loud. I mispronounce it badly, and on the off chance I do say it correctly, it sounds insufferably pretentious.)
My bathroom counter, previously uncluttered and organized was now crowded with bottles and jars and tubes that I used daily. I even stopped skipping makeup removal at night. My esthetician convinced me to try Dermaplaning, a procedure that uses a scalpel to remove dead skin on the surface of your skin…a supercharged exfoliation. It’s invigorating when coupled with a traditional facial.
As it turns out, it wasn’t too late to start taking care of my epidermis as I initially feared. Six months into the process, my skin looks great. Last week, I left the house one morning with my daughter, and as I looked in the rearview mirror, I announced with surprise that I’d forgotten to apply makeup. Annelise looked at me and replied, “Really? Wow. Your skin looks amazing.”
Improved skincare and makeup application meant more prep time in the morning. As much as I loved the results, I hated how long I spent in front of the mirror every day. A month ago, I helped friends find a new home. As we looked at houses, I asked Wes, a hairdresser, what I could do to cut down the elaborate process of drying and straightening my hair each morning. Every day is arm day when your hair is as thick as mine. I told Wes I’d love to be able to shower and do a light blowdry with my hair, but I looked feral if I didn’t blow it out with a round brush, then follow up with a flat iron. He suggested a Brazilian blowout would help tame my wild tresses. I spent hours researching the process and decided I was ready to pull the trigger.
For two hours, Wes worked on my hair. The fumes were nasty, but I’m a child of the 80’s, and perms were a part of my beauty routine for a lot longer than I’m willing to admit. The odor wasn’t much nastier than I remember from my last perm, and unlike that processing solution, this didn’t cause my bath towels to smell like cat piss afterward. I couldn’t believe my coarse and wild hair was so soft, shiny and manageable. Even Steve was impressed when I cut my morning routine in half and then some.
Where else could I save time? I realized my least favorite part of makeup application was the tedium of applying mascara, and my lash volume is waning in my old age, so I decided to have eyelash extensions applied. This procedure proved to be the most challenging during the initial application. I thought I could relax the same way I do during facials, but that was a major miscalculation on my part. During facials, you’re on a warm table with thick, soft blankets covering you. The lights are dim, and pan flute music plays while the esthetician gently massages your face, neck, shoulders and arms. The feeling of relaxation is sublime.
Not so during eyelash application. I could not sit still during the initial process. For starters, you cannot open your eyes during the entire two-hour procedure. Just knowing I had to keep them closed made me restless. The lights were bright and harsh, and instead of the gentle, soothing touch of the esthetician, there was annoying poking and prodding. The stylist encouraged me to go to sleep, but I couldn’t do it. Instead, I squirmed or blindly reached toward an itch on my nose or near my eye and knocked her equipment asunder. I knew she was frustrated, so for subsequent appointments, I popped in a pair of earbuds and cranked the Vivaldi. Zzzzzz. Success! Effortless eyelashes!
For now, this maintenance plan is enough. I don’t ever see myself as a plastic surgery type of gal, and since I’m averse to taking even Ibuprofen more than a couple times a year, Botox and other injectibles hold no allure for me. There is a story about my teeth that I’ll share in a future post, though. Stay tuned!