So today I spent a couple of hours getting my hair done – lowlights, to be precise. This is a fairly new thing for me, this is probably fourth time I have had her cover my gray this way after more than 15 years of not coloring at all. I have had gray hairs since I was about 11 years old; my father was completely silver by the time he was 22. But in the last couple of years it’s felt very harsh to me, probably because I am fairly certain that at some point I am going to be seeking new full-time employment and competing with women 20 to 30 years my junior.

There is something about the higher temperatures that cause my hair to grow more quickly. It’s been 8 weeks since my stylist cut and colored my hair, yet there was so much new growth it appeared as if she had not colored it ever. When I looked at the outgrowth, it was at least an inch wide and distressing to see in the mirror each morning. We chatted about it and agreed to experiment with additional coverage as well as a shorter period between appointments – going from 8 weeks to 6 weeks this time.

I am always happy when I leave the salon, except I have what M terms as “big sexy hair.” The term “big hair” landed like a lead balloon the first time he said it, and of course that was the last time I asked if he liked my hair. I like my stylist a lot and don’t especially mind the fluffy blowout, because it gradually de-puffs into it’s normal state as the hours pass. Today, though, I wondered if it was too dark. I asked trusted associates and they all agreed it looks good, not too dark. Since my hair is almost black anyway it would have to be that dull, coal black to be much darker, but the contrast between where it was this morning and where it is now is starkly noticeable to me. I still like it, but I do not always trust my own judgment. M thinks it looks normal, natural; he would tell me if I looked like some middle aged woman chasing youth through unnatural hair color.

It always gets me thinking about other matters with regard to personal appearance. I have never used cosmetics, and after this much time I am almost afraid to experiment. I fear inadvertently taking on the appearance of a unsophisticated clown trying to pass for normal person. But I have to admit noticing the differences with friends and family members when wearing makeup versus not wearing makeup. It’s not that they are less attractive in their bare skin; they look different, perhaps more tired or even older.

Thinking about experimenting paralyzes me. The best I can come up with is trying eyebrow threading (I have an appointment next week). I pass cosmetics counters and I contemplate chatting with a consultant, but they are so perfectly face-coiffed and I really do not want to add a lot of time to my preparation to leave the house so I just keep on walking. I almost wish there were makeover services that I could hire by the hour to help me figure out what I want to do, how I can look a brighter version of me without having to use industrial strength chemicals to remove my shell each evening.

I am meeting some former coworkers next week for dinner and will bring it up with them. Perhaps they can send me to a trustworthy makeup counter. Worst case scenario? I could test drive something and when M looks horrified I’ll say I am auditioning for clown school … hey, it could happen.

8 thoughts on “Personal appearance matters

  1. On the makeup issue – I have just been there. I have never worn a lot of makeup (just lipstick really) but decided I needed to wear it for work at least to look more “done”. But I am totally scared of looking like a clown. So I took a friend I trusted to be honest (and who understands makeup better than me) and went to Sephora. I booked a 45 minute makeover ($50 I think or free if you spend X and you will likely spend x). I explained what I wanted {natural looking/polished/not heavy feeling/easy to travel with/etc} and what I just wouldn’t do (eye liner/curling lashes/etc). She went to work, my friend kept watch/interacted with us in, and she showed me what she was doing as she went along – used a mix of products – so I got the best results not just a specific line. When she was done I looked like *me* just polished up a bit. Then I had her gather up everything she recommended (including brushes) AND – most important – do one of their pages where they show you what to put where – including product/color/brush to use and write out the steps in order. It has been a month now. I wear it for all work and for going out. I get tons of compliments on my “new” (they aren’t) glass – I look slightly different/better and it is hard for people to pinpoint why. They assume they are the glasses. I can do it in under 5 now (but I still check the reference sheet for colors on the eye). Highly recommend Sephora – most malls have them – when you book the appointment tell them what you want and remind the person when you go in before they put with someone. BTW – my husband didn’t notice at first – which was a bit disappointing but also a relief that I didn’t have some weird makeup mask on. Anyway – just my free advice. Oh one more thing – i suggest going all in – get what they say to get, get detailed instructions and commit to when you will *always* do your makeup for 3 months. You can totally do this. Worst thing is in 3 months – you throw a bunch of stuff away. More likely you will pare down what they gave you just a bit (i have dropped one eye shadow step and dont use mascara all of the time) and get in a routine.

    1. SAK, THANK YOU! This is precisely the sort of advice I was hoping to receive. You stated it precisely right: I want to be more polished. I am so not a granola kid or a tree-hugging environmentalist (this despite the fact that I work for an environmental firm). Through the years of working full-time and raising children and the hectic craziness of all that, I have never learned the skill or developed the discipline. Tomorrow I’m calling Sephora to see if I can get an appointment with someone, preferably at least old enough to remember the 80s, even if it’s only of their first steps or their first words. *laugh* If I can ever figure out again how to make pictures upload from my phone, I’ll be sure to post after pictures.

  2. So when I read you wanted someone old enough to remember the 80’s I laughed. I wouldn’t be too firm on that – I’m 45 and except for the supervisor all of the makeup artists could have been my kid – born after I finished college! But that is better – they were willing to experiment/weren’t settled on a look. I can’t stress enough a couple of things – take someone who speaks their language – maybe your daughter? – who has a makeup look you like. My friend that went with me is 27, doesn’t wear makeup all the time and and when she wears it looks polished. Keep using the words – professional, neutral and simple. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and if you really don’t like something – trust your gut – and say so – they can take it off and do it over. And one thing I forgot – wear something you would wear the makeup with – I wore business casual – more one causal end – what I would wear without a scheduled meeting but when I would see colleagues and go out for a causal dinner drinks. You want your made up face to “match” you. I went on a Friday night afternoon/early evening (busy for them but lots of people working) and we saw a lot of women getting the free mini makeover they do – clearly getting their party makeup done before going out. They chose to get very elaborate makeup (like a mask almost) clearly anticipating where they were going that evening vs what they wearing then – complete disconnect between their face and the rest of them – a variation on the clown look in many ways. Fingers crossed for you – this will be great I know. Oh you want to book the “Custom Makeover” – – you don’t need someone to help you shop – you will either have a list of what to buy or – like my artist did – they will go get you what they used.

    1. Yes, I know I’m sort of wishful thinking! It seems every person I see in Sephora (I have been to our local locations a few times buyng gifts) is about 21 or younger. But both my daughter and my son’s GF are eager to go with me, so we’ll make it a girls lunch thing. I trust both implicity not to let me wander around looking clowish. Besides, my daughter is getting married someday (engaged, no date set yet, which is fine with me) and I want to be prepared to look my best. Her fiance’s mother and sisters are very chic and stylish, and I certainly do not want to feel like the dowdy, country cousin!

      But THANK YOU for the advice about clothing and such. Ours is a supremely casual office, but I still have clothes that are reserved for work.

  3. I struggle with my appearance at times. I’ve always been teased, but there’s not much I can do in way of why people tease me. My hair is very fine, so styling it is a challenge. I despise spending more than 10 minutes on makeup. I rarely wear it (even to work), but when I do.. it’s minimal: primer, foundation, under eye concealor (I’ve always had naturally dark eyes), mascara, & lip balm. If I’m feeling fancy, maybe some eyeliner & gloss. I recently discovered LOFT XXS & 00 petite sizes (I’m naturally petite like my mom & great-grandma), & it’s done wonders for my self esteem to be able to buy stylish, adult clothes! Honestly, I think the prettiest women are those who can pull of casual, laid-back sexy in jeans & a white v-neck type outfit.

    1. I think a lot of teasing comes from jealousy. I’m not at all petite and sometimes wish to be a tiny, fine-boned person like my mom was, but I take after my father’s heritage. I am wishing for a slightly more polished look, I think; nothing too fancy or “made up” like, just a little brighter version of me. One of my other commenters gave me some great advice and tips, plus my daughter and son’s GF are eager to help, so I’m hopeful.

      I’m wish you on being in awe of anyone who can pull off laid-back casual with finesse. In my opinion those who are comfortable and confident with themselves make the most attractive people. I’m still hopeful to arrive there full-time someday!

  4. I don’t think it takes much to have a little more “polished” look. I’ve always worn make up, but it’s very minimal. If I could have only one item of make up it would be mascara. My morning routine is first a bit of moisturizer (just something cheap from Walmart). Then I put on a light foundation, just to even out my light skin tone. Then I put a touch of brown eyeliner under my bottom lashes. Swipe on some mascara. I also have super light eyebrows, so I use an eyebrow crayon type pencil I get from Avon to fill in where they go all blonde out toward the edges. That’s it. Occasionally I put on a bit of lip gloss.

    I honestly think the make up counter’s, like Sephora, are a bit intimidating and then you end up buying all this make up you probably won’t want to wear or bother with putting so many different products on.Just experiment at home. You can always wash it off it you don’t like it 🙂 Try a foundation as close to your skin color as you can find (maybe even buy a couple different ones to try, if you are buying the less expensive drug store brands) and a tube of mascara. I’d go with the NON waterproof kind, since you will probably want it to come off easily if you don’t like it. Just try that for awhile until you feel comfortable wearing it and then you can add eye liner, blush or some lipstick/gloss.

    1. After consulting with my daughter and my son’s GF, I think I am going to try almost exactly what you suggest – a tinted moisturizer, a little mascara, and perhaps some tinted lip balm (who knew there was such a thing?). Both girls are pretty minimalist cosmetic consumers and felt this would be a great “baby step” for me. Since I’m already a Clinque skin care consumer, I am going to swing by their counter and get a matchy-matchy skin tone recommendation for the moisturizer and then try a drugstore mascara and Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm. That should be enough change for this month. DD’s fiance has a cousing working at Sephora, so I may still go by and have her help me if I still feel the need for a bit more color.

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