I like makeup, but I am not a beauty guru. I don’t claim to be an expert or know all the latest tools and tips, but I enjoy makeup. I love experimenting with a new eyeshadow palette or trying out a bold new shade of lipstick. I used to be an avid collector of Debenhams Beauty Points and the novelty of having a Sephora in Sydney hasn’t worn off yet. Makeup isn’t my life, but it’s a fun part of it.
Since moving to Sydney, it’s a part of my life that I have had to re-examine.
First of all, it is hot here. Even in winter, at eighteen degrees with not a single cloud in the sky and high humidity, it is hot. Layering up foundation feels wrong, especially considering the fact that I choose to wear factor 50 sun cream every day to protect my skin (no wonder I never tan…)
The difference between beauty standards here and beauty standards back home is more than that, though. Australians don’t really seem to wear makeup, definitely not in the daytime at least. Corporate women strut confidently around the city, bare faced and ready to take on the world. I live near two high schools and there are no girls experimenting with blue eye shadow or disastrously matched foundation walking out of those gates. There’s nobody walking around in platform wedges and layers of bronzer at the beach. Everyone’s just getting on with their day to day life and letting their skin breathe.
It’s not too dissimilar on a night out either. The first time I went ‘out out’ in Australia, I felt paranoid. I had red lipstick on and I think I was the only person in the entire bar to be wearing lipstick at all. One of the women I met said ‘I didn’t realise we were getting that dressed up’, but to me wearing red lipstick for a meal and drinks with friends didn’t feel dressed up – it felt normal. Looking around the room, I realised that it wasn’t the norm at all.
That’s not to say that all Aussie beauty is completely natural – I have seen a fair amount of lip fillers, Botox and boob jobs during my time here – but more to say that, from my experience here, Australian beauty is pared back, people’s features doing the talking rather than the products.
For me, this has been a learning curve. With having a birthmark, my usual method of feeling confident in new situations is to conceal, conceal, conceal. I’d layer up foundations on my skin and then add a bold, jazzy colour on my eyes or lips somewhere else, but doing that here felt wrong.
Stripping back the layers has actually taught me so much more about beauty, looking after myself and appreciating my natural appearance. I don’t think I would have half of the confidence in myself that I do now if I hadn’t come to Australia. I would have still been cripplingly insecure about my birthmark, but being around people who don’t care if they have acne or redness or dark circles under their eyes has made me learn to accept my skin difference for what it is – a difference, but not something that makes me ugly.
I take better care of my skin now than ever before, investing in a skincare routine because it’s my skin that does most of the ‘talking’. I go out to the shop or library makeup free, something I would never have done before. I brought three pairs of false eyelashes with me when I left England and haven’t worn a single pair once. I don’t feel the need to. I don’t feel the need to do half of the routine I used to.
I’m probably never going to be fully comfortable being a totally barefaced Aussie girl, but I’m okay with that. I still enjoy using makeup and buying new products. I will still wear lipstick and still do my pathetic attempt at a contour, but not to conceal, not to hide myself. I do it because I want to. For me, that’s the real joy of makeup.