After hiding behind her ‘warpaint’ every day for most of her adult life, comedian Vikki Stone decided to go cold turkey – with surprising results.
You look better without it, you know’ used to be a familiar but ignored phrase in my house. I have been wearing make-up pretty much full time for my entire adult life. A carefully selected combination of concealer, foundation, highlighter, powder, blusher, lipstick, eyeshadow, eyebrow pencil, liquid eyeliner and, if it was for a ‘do’, lashes, too. I have a full make-up bag for on the go and a whole drawer of ‘spares’, including a ‘sports mascara’ from when I ran a half-marathon.
‘You don’t need it,’ was my partner’s mantra. I never knew what to do with this information. Was it a compliment? There was a chance it was, but I’m not the sort of person who takes compliments well, so I’d always brush it off with a, ‘What does he know?’ and carry on slapping on the make-up. In the bathroom, in the car, in the loo and on trains; constantly reapplying here and there lest anyone see what my actual face looks like.
However, he said it so meaningfully – and so often – that it became impossible to ignore. I started to observe my own behaviour around wearing make-up, and it didn’t take long to notice that when I removed it I had feelings of inadequacy and disappointment when I saw my face. What made it worse was realising I’d had this feeling every single day. Every. Single. Day. Before bed I’d just take a brief look at my face to check I’d cleaned off all my make-up. But I didn’t like to linger.
This was a wake-up call. It was time to come to terms with my own face. As women, we are constantly sold the message that our faces are not good enough without make-up – that we should paint so many contours on them that we will resemble an Ordnance Survey map, and if we spend any less than 30 minutes a day on our eyebrows, then we do not qualify as modern women.
So I stopped. At the age of 33, having worn make-up since I was 14 years old, I went cold turkey and decided to face the world without the warpaint. Now this wasn’t an exercise in fully abandoning personal grooming (I still straighten my hair to within an inch of its life and spend far too much time and money on gel nails). This was about a realisation that I have spent years trying to make my face socially acceptable, when I suspect it has actually been fine all along. Yes, my cheeks are slightly red, and I’ve got lines here there and everywhere, but that is OK. It’s normal.
It felt good to be free of the shackles of keeping my eyebrows ‘on fleek’, and God knows how much time I’ve spent on that over the years. There was one sticking point, though: as a comedian/performer, I still felt the need to adhere to showbiz standards and wear full make-up on stage. I couldn’t really put my finger on why. Shame maybe? Or trying to be like everyone else?
A few weeks after my make-up cold turkey, I filmed a TV show. I didn’t feel confident enough to go for the natural look, so I asked the make-up pro for my ‘usual’ – smoky eye, bold lip. Normally after 90 minutes in the make-up chair I feel great, but this time I didn’t like what I saw – I didn’t feel like me. My eyes looked silly and my lips too full – it was as if I’d been stung by a Portuguese man-of-war. I asked if we could tone it down. We did, but I still filmed this show not feeling like myself.
A few years ago I let another TV make-up artist paint my knees with airbrush foundation because ‘HD sees everything’. I let them spray supposed perfection into my knees (which were apparently too red!) without even questioning it. I will never let that happen again. My knees are fine. They are perfectly ordinary and I’m not ashamed of them.
I am equally not ashamed of my face. Since giving up heavy make-up, my skin has never felt better. I don’t feel disappointed with it any more. I get up in the morning and look at it when I’m washing my hands and it doesn’t need retouching – it is good enough. I’ve achieved that by simply learning to like it rather than carefully applying products.
Work is still tricky, though, so I’ve found a middle ground: a bit of CC cream and a flash of mascara, but it certainly isn’t the full works any more. As for my partner, he’s delighted about seeing my actual face most of the time – and by how quickly I can get ready to leave the house.
I have lots of female friends whose real faces I barely know, and that makes me sad. Make-up should be fun. Something for special occasions. You don’t need it to leave the house. You don’t need it to go to work. Let’s show the world our faces, because they are good enough just as they are.
Less slap, more tickle
While wearing less make-up has boosted my leisure time – I’m considering taking up baking, netball, embroidery and falconry – it has shrunk my make-up bag, which these days consists of just: Cowshed lip balm, Maybelline Great Lash Mascara and Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense CC Cream (if I’m honest I’m not 100 per cent sure what a CC cream is, but it sounds fancy and feels nice).
Vikki is on tour with her signature mix of comedy and songs until 8 November. For tickets go to vikkistone.com