Do I Spend Too Long Trying To Look Good?

Wow, okay this title sounds like a quote that could easily have been lifted from Zoolander 3, and uttered whilst looking into the back of a spoon, but I promise you it’s not. If I added up how much time I’ve spent getting ready to go out over the years I’d probably feel a searing shot of pain, a bit like a slap to my freshly contoured face. And if I could add up exactly how much time I’ve spent worrying about how I look, rather than, you know, actually enjoying living and making memories etc, I’d probably feel it twofold.

This week the news hit that Zadie Smith only allows her daughter 15 minutes in front of the mirror each day because she is “wasting her time”.  Her brother, on the other hand, throws on his shirt and goes out of the door – no messing, straight into the day. She implemented the rule to prove a point about time-saving. Zadie’s daughter is only 7 – and the fact she’s spending that time getting ready at that age is a whole different blog post on the pressures the young girls face today – but besides that, it certainly had me thinking about my own attitudes to getting ready.

A few of my friends have began to drop the makeup thing, citing “it gives me way longer in bed each morning and sleep time is precious” – bra-fucking-go, girls. Seriously! As when an early morning meeting calls my name via the screaming alarm clock, 9 times out of 10 I’ll have set it a good 30-45 minutes earlier just so that I can spend that time doing my hair and makeup. Who’s the sucker? Me, when I’m then also spending an extra £5 each day on extra strong lattes and a further £20 on even stronger concealer (it’s a bitter, bitter cycle, can’t you see?)

But leaving the house with no makeup on comes as no hassle and no drama for me. I still usually feel confident and comfortable in my own, imperfect and untouched skin, bar for the times I’m suffering from a hormonal breakout (if you could pass me a paper bag with two eye holes cut out, that’d be great thanks.) For the first time ever, I have no problem taking off all of my makeup in front of the men I’ve dated when they slept over for the first time. I literally couldn’t care! And this may not seem like a big deal to many of you, but it’s all a far-cry from the Sophie pre-2014, that would spend at least an hour going hard on the eyeliner and shadow each day, layering up full-coverage matte foundation to no end and maybe throw in strip lashes for good measure. Just to go into uni. That Sophie spent whole relationships going to bed with makeup on as if it was normal and acceptable (and coincidentally, that Sophie had seriously shitty skin too…)

Although none of those relationships lasted, my relationship with makeup, on the other hand, has. And like all relationships, it’s been a tricky one to work out at times. The truth is, like I know many of you do, I quite enjoy applying makeup. It’s fun getting creative! It’s a bit like painting – and I was good at art in school. I definitely enjoy feeling my absolute best – which I do, without a doubt, when I’ve got a little bit of foundation and mascara on (although of course, if we didn’t have these standards imposed upon us of what’s beautiful and what isn’t, would I feel this way?) And Studies have shown that women who wear makeup and “look more groomed” tend to earn more money and do better in the workplace (but if you look too made-up, people think you’re unprofessional and often a bit stupid – it’s a fine line of fuckery only us women get lumped with). Plus, when you work in a job like mine – one where your face is weirdly such a big part of the job – of course there is the pressure to look your best at all times.

I can’t deny the joy makeup can bring – in terms of artistry, creativity, and above all, being able to enhance confidence – especially of those who suffer from bad skin or scarring on their faces. It’s an incredibly powerful tool, and I’d never shame anyone for their choice to or to not wear makeup. But it’s the bigger picture I’m looking at now – the amount of time we spend looking at ourselves, rather than looking to the world.

In one hand, makeup is wonderful, as it’s one thing that women have to enhance and create and own, that men simply do not (without facing harsher judgement from the shitrags of society). But it is absolutely a curse, as it’s something we face criticism for no matter our choices – too much makeup/ not enough makeup – fine lines of professionalism and looking “too made-up” yada yada. And that’s something men don’t have to bother with. Like Zadie said, bar perhaps a quick slick of some form of hair product and plucking a stray stubble hair, they’re out the door into the world, living their lives instead of preening and perfecting, whilst we’re here rubbing coloured creams on our faces to no end.

That time we spend in front of the mirror does add up. British women spend an average of 38 minutes a day doing their makeup. That’s 4.5 hours each week. That’s 10 whole days and nights every year. And if we take the average life expectancy of a woman – that’s 2 whole years of your life spent applying makeup and getting ready. Two whole years you could have spent doing something else, something more worthwhile.

So then, what happens if I stop wearing makeup? Well, I’m not about to find out, because I’m not going to go cold turkey on it just yet. But what I am going to do is start to be more mindful of what I wear, and how long I spend in front of the mirror. Right now, my desk doubles as a dressing table, so I’m constantly faced with my face whenever I’m trying to work. And it is distracting. Not bc I’m so pretty, obvs, but because I do look up and think “ugh my pores are huge and my eyelashes suck right now and I’d look so much better if I did X” – like a clip from Mean Girls, acted solo by moi. And instead of working on that killer blog post I’m looking into exercises to shrink a double chin or adding £££ of beauty products to my basket. This post is probably going up 15 minutes late as there’s a spot on my cheek I can see and I can imagine I’ll keep staring at it until I decide to waste a further 5 minutes trying to pop it – sorry!

I’ll never, ever stop doing something that makes me feel like the best version of myself. And if that’s wearing a bit of makeup, so be it. But perhaps, for now, I should remove the mirror from my desk, so I can continue writing instead of obsessing over my monobrow situ, and of course, spend less time trying to look good, and more time actually living.

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  1. I think we're all incredibly guilty of this! I work at a makeup counter and so like you, it's my job to look good, which means I don't ever skip a single step and probably spend around 40-50 minutes in the morning getting ready! As much as I begrudge this (yet I love makeup), I feel I can't not!

  2. Gosh two years is a lot isn't it! I used to work in Selfridges so would go all in on my makeup every day, taking about 40 mins but now I only spend about 10-15 on my make up in the morning, keeping it much more simple and then I spend longer on the weekend which I really enjoy 🙂 xx

    Frances Kayleigh | Style Beauty Travel

  3. I've been thinking about this a lot recently too. I put make up on every day pretty much and I wouldn't feel comfortable going to work without any on, but I'm noticing more and more how much of my time is taken up with it and all of the better things I could do with that time. It feels like such a waste – I wouldn't give it up because I do genuinely enjoy wearing it and sometimes (not always) I enjoy the process of putting it on, but I have this real problem with the idea of wasting time so I don't completely love the thought that I'll have spent 10 days this year on applying make up! Gulp. Perfectly written as always Sophie x

    Sophie | Sophar So Good

  4. I have to admit that I very rarely, if ever, leave the house without any makeup on. I find that it gives me confidence though and I hate to go out feeling that I don't look good. That being said, I don't wear a huge amount of make up, so it usually doesn't take me very long x

    Jenny | LuxeStyle

  5. Hi Sophie, as always, your post is written super well! Love how you play with words and how you put studies in it. I think there are not many bloggers who write as professional as you do. So your master is definitely paying it off. I actually stopped using make up for work because it really doesn't matter how I look and yes, I can sleep 30 minutes longer 🙂 Nevertheless, I still love make up. I love how you describe it as "art", and you're so right!
    xxx Janina

  6. The pressure women have nowadays to look perfect is absolutely ridiculous. When I was younger I felt so pressured to wear makeup and have my hair looking perfect but then when I was around 16/17 something clicked in my brain and I just stopped caring. Now, I go out without makeup and I feel fine. I still love to do it and sometimes I put makeup on just because I'm bored but that's just it, I like makeup because it's fun and creative and I hate how society tells young girls that they need to look perfect.

    Marta – http://www.aroundcolours.blogspot.com

  7. I am so in love with this post for so many reasons. One being, Zadie Smith – omg *heart eyes*. I also don't think a lot of people truly appreciate a well written piece of writing, and as someone who studied creative writing, I know how difficult it can be to accurately put thoughts and emotions into words on paper (screen). You write so incredibly well, and everything always flows so beautifully and I totally appreciate that!! Allllso, I used to work at a high end makeup store throughout uni and wore a full face of makeup almost every day. Once I graduated and started working in an office, I finally had a choice whether I wanted to wear it or not. And I chose not to, and now instead of spending 30-45min in front of a mirror, I've become one of those people who don't rush in the morning, and who actually eat breakfast before work. Which is awesome! But the weird thing is lately I've been watching more and more makeup tutorials and recommendations on YouTube because I feel so out of the loop. And I'm actively trying to get myself to buy a new eye shadow palette purely because I remember how happy doing my makeup made me, and I want to get back into it. It's funny when I think about beauty and worth – I kind of love that it's subjective and changing. Wow, that was a long one! Xx

  8. Ah Soph, this was such an interesting read! I think makeup is amazing – even though I don't wear a lot of it myself! I always think of makeup and fashion as art forms and therefore I think spending time on them is totally fine. Do whatever makes you confident and feel good, but don't dwell on it to a point that you start to loose your head over it! xxx