If you’re anything like me, you’re doing your makeup the exact same way you’ve done it for years.
Why change a good thing? It’s familiar. It’s quick. You don’t have to think about it.
And no one ever complains, do they? You never hear someone comment, “You drew on your eyebrows a bit crooked today,” or, “That lipstick shade really doesn’t suit you.”
But that doesn’t mean they’re not thinking it.
I asked my grandmother once why all her lipsticks were mauve. She told me that a Mary Kay consultant had told her that the color suited her, so she’d worn it ever since.
Mauve was so not her color. But who was I to say any different? My name isn’t Bobbi Brown.
But I am a woman.
And as a woman, I notice other women’s makeup.
I notice when a woman’s lipstick brightens her face. I can tell if she’s wearing mascara or not. Instinctively, my assessment of a woman changes if she’s wearing full war paint versus going au naturel.
If our appearance is sending a message, it’s up to us to take control of what it’s saying.
So Many Choices
A woman’s appearance is full of clues about what she likes, what’s important to her, and how she sees herself.
To show up at work that morning, she had to choose an outfit, select accessories, and do her hair and makeup. Every single aspect of her appearance was a choice. Maybe that choice was made in haste, but it was still a choice.
Think about that the next time you’re walking through a crowded store.
Every single woman you see got up that morning and chose to put these clothes on, these shoes on, this coat on.
No matter what you think of her choice, she feels that this is the look that best conveys who she is at this very moment.
When you think of it that way, you’ve got to respect the women you meet. That takes work.
Even throwing on a t-shirt and jeans isn’t effortless. Because she had to go out and buy the t-shirt at some point. She had to decide it looked good enough on her that she’d swap her hard-earned cash for it. She had to wash it, and keep it in her drawer, and pull it out this morning.
All those choices, just to show up right here, right now.
But my appreciation of the way other women look went to a whole new level after a friend shared what she’d learned as a makeup artist in Hollywood.
What the Hollywood Pros Know
The last time anyone critiqued my makeup was back in high school.
When you’re a teenager, you spend a lot of time playing with makeup. You help each other out. You work on new looks.
But then you graduate, you get out into the workforce, and you bond with your girlfriends over a glass of wine instead of a mirror and stack of eyeshadows. You don’t critique each other’s choices. You’re both grown-ups. You know what you’re doing.
That doesn’t mean you can’t learn something new.
My friend used to work on movie sets. She explained how it once took an actress four hours to select the right pair of underpants for a scene. Those little choices matter, because the camera sees everything.
In movies, the camera lens is king. It’s not about picking out what you like. It’s about picking out what the camera likes.
She demonstrated this concept to me by asking me to try on various outfits and stand in front of a plain background while she snapped a picture. Then she showed the pictures to me.
My jaw dropped.
I could see the visual impact of each outfit in a way I’d never imagined before.
When I was wearing certain clothes—even ones I didn’t like all that much—the colors just popped. Other outfits, ones I liked, just looked wrong or blah. My personal preferences bore no resemblance to what the camera thought of my clothes.
Then she tackled my makeup routine.
Suffice to say, I’ll never look at eyebrows the same way again.
She spent 15 minutes crafting the perfect eyebrows, using a combination of a spoolie brush and a wet angled brush dipped in brown shadow. When she finished, I looked like I’d had a face lift. “That’s taken years off you!” she exclaimed.
But she wasn’t done yet.
All my life, I’ve put on lipstick in the same way: select a color, put it on, blot and go. I had no idea I was behind the times.
My friend showed me how to create 3-dimensional lip color by defining the outer edges with a pencil, then applying lipstick just on the pout. She then dabbed a bit of gloss in the center of my lower lip to bring out the shine.
“Isn’t this way too much work?” I asked her plaintively. “I like the way I do my makeup. It’s easier.”
“I’m going to take a picture,” she told me. “The camera doesn’t lie, remember? I want you to see the difference.”
She was right.
By the end of her demonstration, I felt shell-shocked. I’d learned so much so fast that my head was exploding. I had no idea how much work went into crafting every little detail you see on screen.
This is what I took away from our session:
When in doubt, snap a picture. Try on all your choices and let the camera decide.
Maybe I won’t ever get to the point where I’ll take my phone into a dressing room to pick clothes for me, but I’m learning that what I’m used to isn’t always what suits me best. Time to wake up and smell the choices.