Confessions of a makeup artist (part 1)

Unpacking our beauty habits…

I have a confession to make. Despite being a professional woman in her late thirties, I do not enjoy wearing makeup.

I’m okay with the odd flourish of mascara, of course. And on days where the night has got the better me, and the blue hue deepens below my eyes, a little bit of peachy corrector to neutralise the tired tones provides support to my reflection (and does wonders for my ego). When I was younger, and my lips were naturally fuller, an emboldened red lip made an occasional appearance (until my partner made a passing comment about how he prefers how I look when I don’t wear lipstick*). But the admirable dedication to apply layer upon layer of product, the artificial command of light and shadow placement with skilful contouring and highlighting, and depositing of coloured minerals upon the eye and cheeks have never been a part of my personal beauty ritual.

I am still unpacking all the reasons why I feel a growing “discomfort” in wearing makeup as I  grow older, but on a tactile level, too many textures and smells make my skin feel claustrophobic.

*Just to be clear, while my partner never told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t wear lipstick – nor would I ever not wear or do something because I was “told” to do so, his comment impressed itself upon my subconscious and thinking back, that’s when my wearing lipstick began to wain. On rare occasions that I have opted into wearing lipstick again, I apply it and take it straight off just at the thought of having to reapply throughout the day!

I recently had a very talented and well-respected makeup artist do my makeup for a photoshoot and in spite of it being a well-executed “natural look,” I didn’t recognise myself in the mirror. I had never seen makeup creasing in my fine lines and deepening wrinkles, and it made me feel older than I have ever felt. In fact, I had not “seen” my age before that day. It was alien and uncomfortable. As uncomfortable feelings often do, it got me thinking…

As a professional makeup artist myself, I too have the incredible privilege, but moreover, the responsibility of making my clients feel the most empowered versions of themselves. That is not always an easy task, despite twenty years of practice. I suppose that if these years of experience have taught me anything, it is that regardless of my confidence in my abilities, my aesthetic and my client’s preference matter in equal measure. I have learned to respectfully decline work where this alignment is not synchronised, and instead, refer clients to more suitable artists to achieve the desired vision of themselves. Recognising our reflection matters.

Putting our “best face forward” is subjective, but that subjectivity matters to how we feel about ourselves.

How we wear makeup – much like fashion – is an extension of our personalities. This concept is what draws me to my profession. I don’t care for the product per se, but I am persuaded by their power to transform how we see ourselves and how that makes us feel on a deeper level. For a long time, my curiosity into how and why people wear makeup has fueled many of my creative endeavours. It’s something I explore in-depth in The Beautiful Art of Letting Go workshops that I facilitate.

Have you ever stopped to think about why you wear (or don’t wear) makeup? There is no right or wrong answer, of course, but like so many other daily routines in our lives, these underlying “habits” are seldom ever even considered. While skincare easily becomes ritualistic, makeup application tends to become a more routine practice for most of us. I urge you to contemplate this question next time you are applying your makeup and reflect on your transforming reflection.

© Noah Buscher

Take your time. Enjoy the process. It can be an eye-opening opportunity to get to know yourself a little better.


Has a throwaway comment by a loved one, or even a stranger, ever influenced your beauty decisions on a conscious or subconscious level? If you have ever heard any of the following comments/questions (which, in some instances could even be considered microaggressions) they just might have:

  • “You’re looking a little tired. A bit of makeup would help”
  • “Wow, you look better than usual!” Perhaps on a day that you have made a little more of an effort with your hair and makeup.
  • “Not wearing makeup to work makes you look unprofessional”
  • “Makeup is a cultural thing”
  • “You should really make more of effort with your appearance”
  • “You look so much better when you don’t wear makeup”
  • “I love how expressive/brave you are with your makeup looks”

This is not an exhaustive list, nor are they necessarily all negative comments or questions – but they are all impressionable.

I’d love to hear how wearing makeup makes you feel, and for those of you feeling brave enough to share your findings on the reason why you wear makeup the way you do would be a privilege to hear about too.

At the end of the day, I hope you know that you are beautiful with or without makeup.