I recently had a realization that I’ve been pondering ever since: I’ve been passionate about beauty for seven years, and I’ve had a beauty blog for four of those years, but I’ve never considered myself particularly good at makeup. Believe me, I’m not fishing for compliments; I’m simply stating the truth as I see it. I’m decent at makeup. I can put together a passable face in 15 minutes. I can do a simple look for daytime and a smokier one for my rare nights out. Overall, I’d give my skills a B, and I’m fairly satisfied with that grade.
At the same time, I feel slightly absurd calling myself a “beauty blogger” when I’m seldom impressed with my own creations. Granted, I’ve never claimed to be a makeup artist or a guru or whatever; this blog is a chronicle of my life as a makeup consumer, hobbyist, and overthinker. But starting a single-topic blog implies a certain level of expertise. And when I come across posts like this one, or editorials like this one, I’m reminded just how far I have to go. I don’t feel that I’m in a position to offer tips or advice, and I doubt I’ve inspired many people with my artistry. That sounds like impostor syndrome, but it really isn’t. I know that I’ll probably always be an enthusiastic amateur, and that people visit my blog mainly for the writing, and I’m fine with that. But I want to get better. I want to look in the mirror after the final swipe of lipstick and think “Wow,” not “Well, that’s probably good enough, and I certainly don’t have time to wipe it all off and start again.”
But simply resolving to “get better” isn’t good enough. What does “better” really mean? What, exactly, am I trying to improve? Which brings me to the title of this post: what does it mean to be “good at makeup”? After some thought, I’ve isolated four criteria that I’ve been using all along, albeit unconsciously, to decide whether someone is good at makeup: creativity, versatility, adaptability, and consistency. (I told you this blog was a chronicle of overthinking.)
To me, “creativity” means the ability to put together looks that make people say “Why didn’t I think of that?” It means having a large repertoire of inspirations: historical decades, fashion designers, fiction, mythology, global trends. It also means bravery: the willingness to take risks on your own face, to play with unorthodox color combinations and makeup placements. When I think of creativity in the beauty realm, I think of Pat McGrath’s work for Dior in the 2000s:
|Dior F/W 2009 (source)|
Obviously, this sort of look isn’t viable for your average workplace. But creativity on a smaller, subtler scale can be just as compelling.
If creativity is the theory, versatility is the practice. You might be able to think up ambitious concepts, but how well can you execute them? I’m sure we can all name at least one YouTube guru who has attracted criticism for creating the same look over and over with different products, or who has announced that they were going to do something “totally out of my comfort zone, you guys,” only to end up with the same old warm-toned eye and glossy nude lip. Needless to say, there’s nothing inherently wrong with having a comfort zone and a signature look. Personally, I feel most like myself with a subtle, neutral eye and a bold lip, and I doubt that will change in the near future. But I’d like to have the ability to alter my look significantly on the rare occasions when I feel like a change, and that ability eludes me much of the time.
How good are you at adapting common techniques to your own features? How well do you know the shape of your face? If you see a beautiful editorial look on a face very different from your own, can you adjust the placement and colors to make the look work for you? If you’re using a color that doesn’t usually flatter you, can you blend it with other colors to make it more flattering? Why am I asking so many questions?
In scientific terms, this means that given the same products and tools, you can reproduce your results on a different day. Your liquid lipstick generally stays inside the lines; you generally don’t end up with clown cheeks unless you’re trying to. This criterion is my true Achilles heel, especially where eyeshadow is concerned. About 75% of my attempts to construct an eye look with more than three shadows end with muttered curses and a vigorous application of micellar water. Yesterday, for instance, I wanted to do a muted coral look with a touch of glitter. After 30 minutes of blending and patting and scrutinizing and blending some more, I ended up with this:
|I know I still need to review Glossier Boy Brow in Clear. Suffice to say that it doesn’t hold recalcitrant brow hairs as firmly as I’d like.|
Is this terrible? No. Would I have attracted pitying glances if I’d worn it out of the house? Probably not. But I’ve seen thousands of images of great eyeshadow, and I’m self-aware enough to know that this didn’t measure up. So I wiped it off and slid back into my comfort zone, producing a simpler look with two shadows and a pencil liner. I added a bold lipstick (ColourPop Dream Easy) and went about my day, feeling comfortable but a little disappointed in myself.
Really, I wrote this post because I’m very curious how other people define “good at makeup.” (I almost posted in r/muacjdiscussion before remembering I HAVE A GODDAMN BLOG.) So let me ask: do you consider yourself good at makeup? And what does the concept mean to you?