“…but I don’t want to look “made-up”.”

How many times have I heard that over the course of the years I have spent as an image consultant?

More times than I can count. Then I smile my most reassuring smile and say: When you wear your right colours then wearing your right make-up will mean the difference between people telling you that you “look well” and telling you that you “look fabulous!”

I think many of us have this fear that, if we give in the the lure of the cosmetics box (and the “expert” instructing us) that somehow we will end up looking like the girl on the Clinique counter in Boots. The French word Maquillage expresses the look exactly – it carries with it the inescapable feeling of artifice and a mask behind which we can hide but which will never be real. I always think of Queen Elizabeth I with her dead white face under an elaborate wig whenever I hear that word.

And for some people, it is a mask, a protection. Some women would as soon leave the house stark naked as walk out without the full war paint.

But if we want to be real – to be transparent and honest – do we need make-up? And if we do, how do we do it so that it is a part of who we are and not a barricade we hide behind?

Today I had the privilege of working with a client who, for many years has been a more or less make-up free zone. She was not always this way; 15 years ago, when we were both in London, she wore the full works, but for very valid reasons, she stopped doing that and just wore her own bare skin.

But the time had come to revisit that decision, so she came to see how she could create a look that gave her a groomed and finished appearance without looking “made-up”.

To cut a three hour session (lots of chat and giggles included) short, we created an incredibly natural look. For those of us old enough to remember the Harmony Hairspray advertisement – the “is she or isn’t she?” – that was how natural it looked. But the effect was that my client looked ten years younger, she looked more alive and glowing and she looked prettier. She also looked more “groomed” and professional. At the same time, she looked totally like herself, and given that her work as a therapist means that she gets physically very close to her clients, even at point-blank range, she looked natural.

What was interesting for me was that, 15 years ago, we had both gone to the same image consultant (and had our lives transformed) and we had both learned the same make-up techniques. But that was in 1996. Times change, fashions move on, in make-up as well as clothes. My client, when she went back to cosmetics on her own, created a face that, in her words, “Looked like a member of Bananarama!” A good look for its time, but not for today.

As an Image Consultant, I recommend that you refresh your make-up look at least every five years. So just check that you’re not wearing a face that went out of date 10 years ago. If you are then stop; look at magazines, get a make-over in a store, best of all, go to a colour analyst and image consultant and find the best colours and styles for you and your face – and find one who works with who you really are and not who you’d quite like to be if only you’d inherited different genes!

Good luck with the make-up. Have fun; play with it. Pretend you’re 17 again and have a make-up party with your friends. Go through your make-up bag, chuck out all the grungy eye-shadows and treat yourself to some new ones. Most of all, find yourself a fresh face that is really you, and which looks great. People really will notice! And let me know when they do!


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