Monday, June 09, 2008

Me and cosmetics: like putting pants on a cat

Every time I try to strike up a mutually beneficial relationship with cosmetics – you know, I buy you, you make me look better and improve my self esteem (much like the relationship between sugar daddy and trophy wife) – I realize that my efforts pretty much amount to putting pants on a cat: it seems like a good idea at the time but ultimately, it’s not any where near worth the effort.

I was thinking about this last week after going to a wedding where I quite possibly managed to make myself look halfway decent. Let me underscore the term “halfway” because really, I don’t want you to think I’m being coy and humble. It really was “halfway,” like two steps to the left would have turned me into Tammy Fae and two steps to the right would have turned me into Charlize Theron in “Monster.”

The problem is that I don’t know how to use the tools. Set lipstick, eye shadow, foundation, mascara, concealer or eyeliner in front of me, and there’s at least a one in six chance I’ll end up either gouging my eye out or accidentally eating something. It’s like putting clay in front of someone with no hands or paints in front of a blind lady. Except in those instances they have a fair chance of at least creating abstract art, something which is rarely if ever appreciated in the application of make-up. Which is totally unfair.

I’ve read manuals. I watch Carmindy work wonders on “What Not To Wear” and yet my years of just not caring and figuring, “Eh, good enough,” have taken their toll. I’m inept! I missed the learning curve years that start at 13 when you and your friends are accidentally applying enough eye shadow to look like 87 year old retirees without realizing it. But it’s okay because everyone in your class is doing it, and there’s Humiliation Safety in numbers. It’s how the government has functioned all these years.

In part, I blame my complexion (for the make-up thing, not for our government). My complexion has flummoxed me for years. I have what’s known as an olive skin tone. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are tons of great things about this skin tone, the best of which is that I rarely get a sunburn and no one ever says, “You look pale.” So thumbs up. The fact of the matter is, though, that make-up is designed for pink ladies. Yes, it’s true. Make-up is designed for women with those baby pink complexions that look great with any lipstick or blush. And I hate them. Because you know what happens when an olive-toned person applies blush? You don’t think, “Wow, that pink woman has a really healthy glow.” You think, “Wow, that olive skinned woman smeared an orca’s worth of blush all over her face. Is she drunk? I wonder if I can take a picture with my cell phone without her noticing. Of course I can. She’s drunk!” Or, um, so I would imagine.

I’ve basically given up at this point. A little mascara here, a little lipstick there, a longing glance at the blush counter every now and again – that’s my relationship with make-up. And I’m okay with it. Mostly. Sometimes. Usually. From time to time, though, I do wish I could enslave the good people of “What Not To Wear” and force them to help me achieve world domination through the awesomeness of my wardrobe, hair and make-up stylings. That’s not weird, right?


The Other Laura said...

I too have missed the boat when it comes to make up. Occasionally I put on lipstick and invariably wipe it off ten minutes later because I think it looks "weird".

wendy said...

It's not weird at all. I think about the same thing.

What are we going to do tonight brain?

Same thing we do every night Pinky.

But where are we going to find rubber trousers that big Brain?

Trey said...

Have you tried going to a makeover session (like a Mary Kay party) or to one of those makeup counters at the mall? They may be able to steer you in the right direction, product-wise.

Nyx said...

It's totally worth the small fee, sometimes no fee, to go to your local mall make up counter, and let them do a 'makeover.' They'll pick out products that work for your skin, and show you how to apply them... They'll then try to bully you into buying -all- the products they just showed you, but you're not obliged to do so... Though I usually buy a few pieces, if I'm not paying for the makeover. Well worth the money, and it's how I got started on being able to wear some make up.

onepinkshoe said...

Hmmmm, I don't know if this well help because I'm "pink" but I LOVE Bare Escentuals mineral makeup. A 4 year old could apply the stuff. They must have something for your skin tone, they have a lot of shades.

Anonymous said...

I've got the same problem- except for the skin tone. I'm not olive-skinned, but I'm half Mexican, half general White-European, so I've got an almost orangish-white tone. However, makeup and I do not see eye-to-eye. When I try to do so with mascara, for example, it just pokes me in said eye and then runs off cackling. It's unfortunate and painful.

However, I wholly approve of putting pants on a cat. At least, on my crankiest cat.

Mickie Poe said...

As a witness to your makeup application at the wedding, I can honestly say that A.) You looked beautiful and B.) I was surprised that you went with the natural-looking makeup and not the fancy-schmancy look to match the beautiful dress and necklace.

I think I do OK with makeup but I still do NOT understand mascara. I buy waterproof mascara, I read up on application techniques, and yet, every single time I wear it, most of it ends up under my eye, darkening the bags I tried to hide with concealer. I've stopped using it which I wish I didn't have to because I like the way it makes my lashes look.

Katie said...

I don't usually wear make-up, but when I do, it's mineral powder (which is skin tone neutral but gives you a nice glow and evens out your complexion), brown eyeshadow (tough to screw up), maybe mascara and lip gloss.

Mintychip said...

I'm so glad to learn that there is someone else out there who is as confused about makeup as I am. I can not for the life of me understand it.

The ironic thing is that I often get the comment that my makeup looks really good.

Coco Bunny said...

Make-up counters are your best bet. Try eeeeeeeverything. They've got enough make-up remover in department stores to drown the Titanic in case any of it looks horrible. But as for picking colors that work with olive--that's what you do.

Or skip blush. I think it's overused.

I'm really pale, so I have the opposite problem: make-up is usually too pink or too orange...or it looks like goth kid whiteface. :o( But that's what I do: bother people at the make-up counters for a while.

Anonymous said...

LOL at "makeup is for pink ladies." My skin is pink and blotchy, and if I'm not careful in the sun, I get this horrific lobster-red sunburn. If I use makeup that has too much pink and red in it, I look like I have measles.

The trick I've learned is to go for cool, neutral shades--mostly blue, brown, and plum--which cool off and tone down the pink. I also use cosmetics pretty minimally. In warm weather, I almost never bother with blush, as my face is usually pretty flushed, anyway (sigh). So it's usually just a bit of eyeliner and mascara, plus some lip color, and maybe a dab of beige foundation under the eyes, if there's dark circles to cover.

The only time I wear more than that is if I'm going somewhere special. I look at pictures of myself e.g., from my brother's wedding two years ago and barely recognize myself.

For an olive complexion, I think it would just be a matter of finding out what colors work best with your skin tone. As others here have suggested, a makeup consultation might help. You don't even need to get expensive products--there's a lot of fantastic cosmetics you can get at pharmacies and chain stores (Target, Wal-Mart, etc) that are very reasonably priced.

Good luck!

Catty said...

Try your local MAC counter. They will help you pick out shades that match your skintone. As someone who is very pale, but not a "pink" girl either I have had the best luck there. (Drugstore brands are impossible, they turn almost anyone orange or pink...don't go there!)

Not only that, but when you are ready to move on to blush and eyeshadow they will not only help you figure out the best colors but also show you how to put it on with out looking like a hooker :)

Plus...they name their lip and eye colors fun names that will make you laugh!

Black Eyed Gurl said...

I have 2 words for you:
Bare Escentuals

They actually include guides and videos with their starter sets. And their stuff generally looks good on everyone. Actually I've never met anyone who couldn't a) use the products or b) look good in them.

You would probably need to buy the Medium set. BUT with this set you get 2 shades to try: Item A3509 on (yes I am sending you to QVC, you can also buy the set at target, but its cheaper on qvc). Also it includes something called warmth, which is like blush, only it doesn't make anyone look like a whore. There's also a video with this set!

They also make a set for eyes and "advanced" kits for sepcific things (smoky eyes, eyebrows, ect). They also use brushes for eyeliner, instead of pointy, pointy sticks.

Bare Escentuals is so easy I taught a 10 year old how to use it last weekend in under 20 minutes, and they have no attention span! Imagine what you can learn!

Also with the BE stuff you never end up looking like a cheap french hooker or alternately Tammie Fay. It's good stuff like that.

Kimberly said...

I second the recommendation for Bare Escentuals. It takes me five minutes, doesn't look heavy and covers up the nasties.

I missed the learning curve years in french braiding one's own hair and lacing my Keds without any of the lace ends sticking out. The other kids' Keds had just four straight rows of shoelace. Not me. Could never figure it out.

Kathe said...

I gotta agree - go to a good place like Merle(sp?) Norman's or Sephora. I have been meaning to do the same for years. I have developed some kind of makeup allergy (on my honeymoon no less - eh, at least it wasn't on my wedding day when I was having make up done!)and now I only use all natural mineral makeup and only like every other day b/c the reaction was so bad. So far so good. My best teacher was my oldest sister - she said you have to apply it so it doesn't look like you have any on. I do ok, but most of the time I just say the heck with it and go au naturale. :)

Pants on a cat - now that's an idea I can get behind!

Liz said...

Thanks for all the great advice, ladies. I'll definitely look into this Bare Escentuals stuff. Sounds like it would be right up my alley.

I'm also heartened by the number of people who believe pants on cats is awesome. I feel like we have a sisterhood going! :)

Lisa said...

Um, we totally plan to NAME out next cat Pants. 'Cause, you know, anyone can name a a Socks.

rachel said...

i vigorously vote for Sisterhood of Cats with Pants.

The thing that freaks me out about makeup is that it can look perfect in one light, but halloweenish in another light, just like that. Self-tanner is even worse.

Marcie said...

This is the most amazing post I have ever read. I feel the same way. A friend of mine works for Bare Essentials and did my make up for her wedding last weekend with her stuff.... I looked FANTASTIC. I have /never will be able to replicate that look again. Thanks for letting me know it is not just me!

Jubes said...

Apparently geek girls love Bare Escentuals, I'm on that wagon too. Definitely recommend. Also, if you stop in Sephora, check out the Nars line. It's definitely made for olive skin (I'm a pink - can't go near it with a ten foot pole). Now that you mention it I don't think I've ever seen blush work on an olive completion. However you can wear most bronzers - and bright orange lipstick - of which I'm envious.

Anastasia B. said...

World domination through hair & make-up... is it weird? No. But the fact that you've taken my brilliant plan and showed it to the world... is a little weird.

whatever said...

Same. Except I'm of the pasty white sort of coloring. And I still don't care. Don't see it happening anytime soon either.