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6 Weeks of Self-Care — Week 4: MAKEUP

This is the fourth post in our “6 Weeks of Self-Care” series — written by guest author Amber Daley, who is blogging about her experiences at Amethyst Salon and Opal Blow Dry Bar in the weeks ahead. Enjoy!

For as long as I can remember, I've had a love/hate relationship with makeup.

Love: as a preteen, practicing the application of eyeshadow and liner per the tutorials in my mom's beauty magazines. Hate: at the same age, sneaking said eye makeup in my backpack before school — only to be busted later when I forgot to remove it on the bus ride home.

Love: as an adult, learning what colors are most suitable for my complexion and appreciating makeup as the empowering art form it is. Hate: perpetually wondering how much is too much, when and when not to wear it, what brands to use and where to buy them, and perhaps the most frustrating of all: the ever-increasing cost of cosmetics and related application tools and brushes. 

As if to answer my thoughts about this topic, last week Lady Gaga posted a gorgeous, made-up selfie to Instagram with a caption that perfectly sums up the transformative power of makeup:

“When I was young, I never felt beautiful. And as I struggled to find a sense of both inner and outer beauty, I discovered the power of makeup.

I remember watching my mother put her makeup on every morning, basking in the glow of her power to put on her bravest face as the hard working woman she was. I then began to experiment with makeup as a way to make my dreams of being as strong as my mother become true.

It was then that I invented Lady Gaga. I found the superhero within me by looking in the mirror and seeing who I wanted to be.

Sometimes beauty doesn't come naturally from within. But I'm so grateful that makeup inspired a bravery in me I didn't know I had…”

So, in the spirit of Lady Gaga, I embarked on week four of my self-care challenge.

About Face

A random summer Tuesday had me in Kristin Kuborn’s chair once more — this time, bare-faced and, again, a little nervous. (I’d had makeup applied professionally a few times in the past, mostly at beauty counters in the mall, but had always walked away looking a bit, well, clownish. And since I had scheduled a client meeting right afterward, I hoped I wouldn’t need to scramble to find a public restroom where I could unpaint my face.) 

As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about.

I sat in a high-backed stool next to the second-story window overlooking 9th Street in Downtown Boise. The natural light was best for application, Kristin had said. But all I could think about were the occasional passerby below who looked up at my naked face. 

Was I really so insecure that it mattered? Apparently so. For many of the women in my family, makeup was LIFE. I remember hearing stories about my great-grandmother setting her alarm long before her husband awoke so she could “put on her face” before he first saw her in the mornings. Generational? Maybe. But the other women in my family — mom, grandmother, aunt — usually sported a full face of makeup anytime they went out in public, and even when camping. I entered young adulthood with the belief that makeup is synonymous with beauty, an erroneous idea that I’m now trying to unlearn in my 30s.

We chatted casually as Kristin first applied primer to my face, which serves as a base layer that both helps makeup last longer and evens out skin tone. It also prepares the skin for better foundation application by filling in small imperfections, such as large, visible pores, small lines, and wrinkles. (I had never used primer, so this was new to me.) 

Next came the application of foundation, followed by concealer (how did I not know foundation should always come first?!). She then used a bronzer to help create highlights and lowlights — subtle contouring, if you will.

Kristin asked about the eye makeup colors I tend to use (browns or grays), but I asked her to use her judgment. So she opted for a plum palette, then applied eyeliner and mascara. Last came a nice, medium shade of pink lip gloss. I normally opt for reds, but simply by observing Kristin’s color choices, I wondered if I might need to lighten things up a bit. (If you ever ask yourself the same question, the answer to this is almost always YES. At least for everyday purposes, less is almost always more, says Kristin.)

A note: While Kristin went for more of a natural look when applying my makeup, she and her team of cosmetologists are certainly capable of giving their clients more of a bold look, if that’s what you’re after. (This is something I plan to explore in the future, specifically for special events like galas and weddings.)

More Than “Skin Deep”

Once Kristin had finished applying my makeup, I looked in the mirror, and no joke, started to cry. (Week one had a similar impact, so I’m beginning to think a weekly visit to the salon really is better than therapy.) This was the first time I’d had makeup applied in a way that made me feel feminine — and not the slightest bit garish. I had a radiant, summer glow, but the look was subtle — almost like I was hardly wearing any makeup at all.

So, as I left the salon for a busy day of meetings, I felt confident, beautiful, and even a bit playful — much like when I first discovered makeup as a little girl. In the words of Lady Gaga, just 45 minutes with Kristin “inspired a bravery in me.”

Upon reflecting on this week’s experience at Amethyst, I’m again amazed at how impactful these salon visits have been. After four weeks of various treatments, I’m tending to my physical and emotional needs in ways I can’t recall having done before. I think a lot of women are guilty of prioritizing others before ourselves to the point where our wellbeing suffers. 

Whatever self-care looks like to you, caring for our physical bodies is often an impetus for us to look deeper and work on the inner stuff, too. I’m ready to buck the long-held belief that “beauty is only skin deep” in favor of a more empowering maxim that doesn’t hold women back, à la Lady Gaga: “I found the superhero within me by looking in the mirror and seeing who I wanted to be.”