Friday, 16 January 2009

Mysteries of the Make-up Counter-Culture

I have never been accused of being a terribly girly sort of girl. As a youngster, while all of my friends with XX chromosomes were dreaming of owning Barbie's  dream house and marrying her off to Ken, I was hoping for a new hockey stick with a decent blade. While they were all hoping their mothers would take them for manicures and pedicures, I was praying for Blue Jay tickets. And while they all fantasized about the ultimate wedding dress complete with the perfect shoes, I just wanted to change out of my heels into sneakers. So, it should come as no surprise that I have never really been all that knowledgeable about the mysterious world that is cosmetics industry.

I am krill in a shark tank. I am Daniel in the lion's den. I am the Jamaican bobsled team. I am so ignorant on the subject that I require tutoring sessions. The experience is overwhelming. One step into a department store and the barrage is in full swing. Perfectly coiffed and over-made salespeople surround and attack. They push lotions and potions, refining masks and pore minimizers (Do they also sell pore maximizers for those that are "pore-challenged"?), eye paint and face paint in hues with names that sound more like a salad than a blush, and scents that bring this asthmatic to her wheezing knees. These people have no problems pointing out my problem skin zones (In the world of skin care, it is all about targeting your zones; dry zones, oily zones, patchy zones or breakout zones!) or insinuating that they have all of the answers to my issues. Who knew I had issues?  In a department store, the cosmetics area is so large that it literally encompasses a full floor, with counters from dozens of companies, most of which are foreign to me. Heaven forbid that one should want to purchase a Revlon lipgloss at Bloomies! That is so bourgeois. 

A dear friend of mine is the makeup maven and my personal touchstone for all things cosmetic. This is a woman who follows trends in the industry the way that I follow music, politics or baseball. Whenever I am with her, I am in awe and completely submissive. She is like a graceful dancer, easily maneuvering through the crap. She actually can speak with authority on mineral based foundations and she knows every brand and colour that is new. When Sephora finally opened a store in Toronto, I honestly thought that she might declare it a national holiday. She has more points as a frequent shopper there than she will ever be able to use, and I honestly believe that they may create a "super-elite" status just for her. Every time that I am with her, we take several trips to the cosmetics counters. She has a thing about lipstick. She told me once that she continually is experimenting and purchasing new tubes because she hasn't yet found that elusive perfect colour combination. Several years ago, when her family held a garage sale, she allowed her son to sell off hundreds of unopened lipsticks and glosses that she never used. All in shades of brown! Oh sure they may of had fancy names like "rum raisin" and " New York coffee toffee", but to me they all looked brown. Her son made hundreds of dollars that day, because apparently there are many women out there just like my friend. 

I am far more utilitarian in my cosmetics purchases. I use drugstore moisturizers, and my foundations are purchased at Target. I own 2 blushes, a half a dozen shadows and several shades of the aforementioned Revlon lip glosses. I use Oil of Olay body wash and I buy my shampoo and mousses on sale. I colour my own grey (horror of horrors!) and I never, ever use scented anything. (I can't even come within 10 metres of stores like the Body Shop or Bath and Body Works, for fear of a scent triggered attack!) I am a mess when it comes to brushes. I use a blush brush for foundations and a liner brush for shadow. Yesterday, as I entered a MAC (cosmetics, not computers!) store at the mall, I was stunned and amused to note that every salesperson was equipped with a holster of brushes strapped to their chests like some weird kind explosive device. They whipped them out at will, and they knew which to use for shading and which to use for foundation. I was duly impressed, but still unwilling to invest. 

There is evidence to suggest that in times of economic hardship, one of the few industries that actually improves is cosmetics. Maybe people feel that a new lipstick or cologne provides that little lift to get them through a rough spell. As for me, I would rather get my little lift from a good bar of 70% extra dark chocolate. We all have our vices.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dawn

    Of late I have been desperately trying to find just the right shade of lipstick to compliment my new hockey uniform (which is purple and black). Can you ask your friend if she would mind making some suggestions on my behalf.

    Thanks much