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One discussion that got the Invisible Woman’s brain twitching after that Samantha Brick article was – should women go bare-faced or not?

So then, Samantha Brick… (and why not, everyone else has written something). Whatever you think about her startlingly immodest piece in the Daily Mail and the subsequent fallout, it certainly ignited discussion – most bad and largely predictable but some interesting. Woman’s Hour got my brain twitching with a discussion about whether we (that’s women and men) focus too much on the way we look. Charlotte Raven, who wrote a thought-provoking piece about the art of not looking good, took the view that, yes, we do, while Liz Jones drew up her battle lines on the opposite side of the argument. Charlotte is content to be out and about without make-up (although I’d argue that not wearing makeup isn’t the same thing as not looking good) while Liz won’t even let her husband see her bare-faced in the morning. She looks, she said, “like a pufferfish”. It was suggested by Liz that it’s arrogant and disrespectful to shun grooming and cosmetics. It is? Where did that come from? Isn’t it a variation on the oft-quoted Good Wife’s Guide from the 1950s, which advises, prior to your husband’s return from the office: “Prepare yourself… touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking.” In other words, care about your appearance – nothing wrong with that. But we might ask ourselves who we’re doing it for?

I could say, as many of you doubtless will, that it’s up to you. Of course it is. No one’s going to arrest you for not wearing mascara, but nor can the issue be dismissed as trivial. Before the arrival of “slap”, women used to say, “I’m going to put my face on”, and that pretty much sums up my attitude to “to makeup or not to makeup”: different faces for different things. For work, it’s a good base, neutral lipstick and an eyeliner flick. For going out, it’s the same with a bit more oomph and a more dramatic lipstick (usually because I’m going straight from the office). For weekends, it’s nothing – absolutely nothing. Unless I’m going somewhere, in which case please see above.

These are my three different faces: Work Face is business-like; Going Out Face is girl-ified; and Weekend Face is my “private” face. The first two could be described as masks but I’m happy in all of them. I like wearing makeup (I agree with Liz Jones that it’s fun) but conversely I happily take it off again at night because I love the feel of fresh bare skin. All of this I do for me, and entirely for me because it makes me feel good and I enjoy a bit of artifice. I couldn’t give a monkey’s what anyone else thinks about it, but I hope someone would tell me if I had lipstick on my teeth.

So what do you think when you see a woman walking down a city street without makeup? Do you think, “Good for her”, or “Poor thing, she’s letting herself go”? Or perhaps you don’t notice her at all. Returning to last week’s theme of a first impression being 75% based on appearance, I would suggest that these three responses are overwhelmingly age-related. The first is more likely to apply to a young woman, the second to a woman of, say, 30 plus, and the third to any woman above 45, who has become… invisible. But then I rather enjoy hiding in the magic cloak of invisibility, when I choose to. In my view, that’s the only reason to makeup or not to makeup – not because I’m afraid of what others might think but because I choose to.

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