Why I’m not wearing make-up to work any more

Before all the big career moments in my life – interviews, clashes with bosses, being asked to talk about Taylor Swift on Radio 4 – I have scurried around for my faithful Chanel mascara, my By Terry Baume de Rose Lip Care and my Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser. Because to be professional is to be polished.

This is not the same approach I take in my personal life. On dates, I’d arrive make-up-free with wet hair. A night out might include some glitter and maybe a lipstick, but not much else.All in all, my make-up pack remains in the washroom or around my work area. Some portion of this is sheer sluggishness, yet another piece of this is a significant dismissal of the possibility that ladies need to plan something for their face that men don’t need to do, so as to be regarded satisfactory by the worldI know many women who don’t feel good enough to leave the house without some expensive product on their face. Sometimes, a saunter around beauty counters can feel like the stinging clap of capitalism and the patriarchy high-fiving.

Yet, something about the working environment has meant one rule for work and another for play.Quickly, I understood that I would possibly be paid attention to on the off chance that I had the essence of an expert – and that implied prepped; it implied enormous dark lashes, some shading in my cheeks and on my lips. The make-up was a message: I’ve turned up, I’m prepared, I’m readied and you can pay attention to me. Some portion of this was maybe borne out of feeling youthful – like clomping around in your mum’s high heels when despite everything you’re sucking your thumb – yet there’s something natural in needing the world to believe you’re an adult when you’re particularly not. 

Furthermore, some portion of this is progressively tricky. Ladies need to look (sound and carry on) a specific method to be paid attention to, to be satisfactory. What’s more, this is something men don’t need to do. Thus I came to comprehend that my entrance into demonstrable skill depended on a profoundly feminized custom. Strengthening this basic gentility fortified my demonstrable skill. I didn’t get why. Particularly to other ladies. Be that as it may, it was there. Ladies need to set themselves up as needs be all together for the world to tune in to what they must state. I expected to wear some slap.

Listen to Emma Gunavardhana on skipping her morning beauty regime

Yet, now, I don’t quite feel like the little girl tripping over in her mother’s heels (well, a lot of the time, but not all of the time). And my career has taken a slightly different turn than expected. I work from home, but I meet a lot of people. I have a lot of coffees and lunches, trying to persuade people to give me money for my services. And now my skin is thicker, my sell is slicker and I’ve realised I’ve stopped wearing make-up to these meetings. As I sat opposite a Gucci-loafered woman who looked like she might wear grey cashmere around the house, talking to her about a potential project, I realised I’d arrived without a lick of mascara. And, yes, we’re partly in a phase where no make-up is a thing, à la Alicia Keys, and “no make-up make-up” is also a thing, à la a lot of women on Instagram, but I was conscious that I’d broken my own rule 101: professional is polished.

And, yet, I was polished. I had a navy Jaeger blazer on (possibly one of my greatest charity-shop finds ever). I had brushed my hair. And, most significantly, I felt confident. I didn’t need my make-up to prove to this woman that I was to be taken seriously because, maybe for the first time, I realised I could do that by myself.

The older I get, the more I realise that we are actually all very confident. . Yet, with time, you start to peel some of those layers away and your confidence starts to show, like the corner of a dusty box you’ve been looking for, hidden at the back of the garage. For me, turning up to a professional meeting without a scrap of make-up is getting ever closer to the pea of confidence under all those heavy, tear-stained mattresses. That’s why I think it feels significant.

I understand that talking about make-up can be divisive. We’re so deeply tribal at the moment that expressing an opinion on it – one way or another – can be misinterpreted as a shaming of those who feel differently. Yet, last week, I went for lunch with a woman whose bright red lips and thick dark lashes looked incredible under her ash-white hair. She looked great. My choice to not wear make-up is no statement about anyone else.

And I’m pretty sure that, in some professional environments, some women (and men) might still think I should be presenting myself in a certain way – and I’m also sure that more corporate worlds are much trickier to navigate. But if I don’t have those constraints, who exactly was I wearing it for? I know now it certainly wasn’t for me. And leaving that behind feels like a big step in my professional – and personal – development.

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