In April, almost a month into lockdown—what I now think of as the Tiger King and sourdough period of the pandemic—I settled into a horribly lazy routine. After waking, I’d pull on the same black jeans I’d left crumpled at the foot of my bed the night before and curl up in the same armchair in my living room for most of the day. I’d toggle between playing online Scrabble, checking social media and reading the anxiety-inducing news. Because I never left the house (or even sat near a window), I didn’t wear sunscreen; so by the time I retired to bed, I didn’t even wash my face. It was a definite low period for a beauty editor.
This cycle broke as I began to venture outdoors, seeking fresh air and sanity, and sunscreen became a necessity. But for weeks, I still felt no real impulse to wear any makeup—until boredom gave way to sadness and I found myself reaching for lipstick. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t seeing anyone; I started wearing bold swipes of colour again in an attempt to carve some normalcy out of a world that felt uncertain and surreal and like it would never return to its previous iteration. Maybe that’s why Isabella Rossellini’s masks are also smeared with red lipstick inside. She recently told The Guardian that she wears it to make herself feel good, proving the point that there is comfort in wearing makeup for ourselves and no one else
“I look in the mirror every day and I’m bored of seeing myself,” says red-carpet makeup artist Jo Baker, who fled her home base in LA during the pandemic and has been holed up with her mom just outside London, England. “Makeup does make a massive difference,” she says. “It’s like wartime basics. When you think of all the women back in the day, you remember them with this red lipstick on. Mascara and lipstick are hearkening back to that kind of survivalist time.”
Because in 2020, we are trying to survive. So when socializing all but stopped, I used the Zoom invites that began to pile up as a reason to add colour to my face and feel human again. I leaned into these opportunities and applied not only my signature berry lip but also a generous helping of blush to help me look alive even though on most days I felt dead inside. Because, as Baker says, “If not now, then when?”
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