One of the best things about beauty is how DEEP the subject goes. It isn’t just about How To Apply Lipstick (although technique is important), and being a beauty editor isn’t just about “Go buy this thing” (although sharing products that I love with you is awesome).
Beauty, however you define it and however you use it in your life, is about OURSELVES. It’s about taking charge of how we want to be seen by the world. It's about self-love and self-expression. It’s about who we are and who we want to be. And it offers us an immediate, vital way to bond with other people, which can be really important.
My first beauty bonding experience was with my mother.
I bit my nails pretty horribly when I was small, and I remember Mum singing songs while painting them pale purple to discourage this habit. It didn't work--I bit through college--but she was so gentle that it really made an impression on my baby mind. It also started my lifelong obsession with nail polish.
Fast forward to a few years ago. As a nurse, my mother never painted her nails, but now that she's retired she's been embracing the beauty of fun nail polishes. My mum and I are really different, and it can be hard to find common ground, but now we talk about polish colors (she’s just discovered Deborah Lippmann) and I share my hard-earned manicure secrets. Beauty has given us a new shared language.
Beauty is also a way to be a part of big, life-changing moments.
I’ve done makeup for a lot of friends' weddings, and it’s really fun to help someone you love look even more beautiful as they get married.
The above photo was taken at my friend Kelsey’s wedding. I also did her makeup for prom, and then again for ComicCon. Over the years, beauty has given us ways to strengthen our bond, and whether it's blue liner or niche nail polishes, it’s been a constant throughout our friendship.
Beauty has also helped me create new friendships at times when that was really hard.
As a teenager, my high school participated in a national dance contest called the Rock Eisteddfod. Being chosen as a dancer was a Big Deal. You got out of class to rehearse and compete, and you got to wear a cool T-shirt instead of your uniform some days.
It also meant going nuts with creative hair and makeup. My best friend Jasmine and I--both veterans of buns and boring performance makeup--were so excited about this, we spent months planning and drawing up elaborate face charts.
But not everyone was as stoked as we were, and so before each performance, Jasmine and I staked out a little section of floor and helped people with their makeup. We re-braided hair and wielded eyeliner like professionals, making friends as we went with people who otherwise never would have talked--or been nice--to us.
Beauty was my bridge, and across it I could see a world where I wasn’t constantly picked on. I learned that makeup and hair knowledge was social currency in Girl World, and that if I was good enough at it, I could use my skills to make friends.
Those skills made my social life in college. Striking up conversations with strangers wasn't my strong suit--but I could damn well show people how to use liquid eye liner. I could dye streaks in their hair. I could tell them what color lipstick would look good on them. This was how I brought people into my orbit.
My dorm room, and later my first apartment, saw a steady stream of people looking for beauty help. And that’s how I made friends--luring unsuspecting undergrads into my web like a very glamorous (friendly!) spider.
I went to Miami with Allegra last March, where we were joined by her husband Jared and best friend Maral. One night, we went out for family dinner and Allegra wore a really elaborate ponytail that was sectioned off and teased into awesome little “poofs” down her back.
As awesome as this looked, you KNOW brushing it out was gonna be a nightmare. So for 40 minutes that night, we sat together in the bathroom as I sprayed each section of her hair with leave-in conditioner and painstakingly combed it out. I knew before then that Allegra and I were friends, but that was the moment I really felt that I had made a friend for life.
On that same trip, I met Maral and we bonded immediately. Mere hours after meeting her, I was dyeing her platinum hair cotton candy pink and we were sharing our life stories.
And again, I knew had made a friend for life.
I have so many other stories to tell: about all the nice girls you talk about mascara with when you're drunk in a bathroom, about how my best friend in the world and I are engaged in a standoff about how I'll wear my hair for his wedding, about how I've gotten to know so many of YOU based on our mutual love of all things beautiful. It's so wonderful. And I want to hear your beauty bonding stories in the comments!