I’m in my final year at university. Aside from all the, y’know, academic work, it mainly involves weathering a seemingly never-ending crop of 21st birthdays.
Obviously every one is special, even if all we do is drink at our living room table until we fall asleep. A couple of weeks ago though, my friend Jess went the extra few hundred miles for her celebration, and I found myself on a 14-person road trip to England's Lake District.
We stayed in a barn with no heating and one giant mattress that required us all to curve our sleeping bags into a long spooning line to conserve body warmth. It was basically camping with walls, and unbelievably fun.
I love experimenting with hair and makeup as much as the next person, but I could never be accused of being high maintenance. My daily face routine is generally quite basic. However, I’ve got to admit to a moment of confusion and dismay when I realised, upon arrival at the barn, after rampaging through the two floors while throwing our stuff everywhere and screaming with excitement, that there was absolutely no mirror to be found.
I mean, I had packed some makeup. Everyone has their visions of looking nonchalantly cool on holiday, even if it’s a rough and ready into-the-wild weekend away like ours. But here we were, deep in the remotest valley of the Lake District, facing a few days mirror-less and thus makeup-free.
Not a problem! I hear you cry. And, sure, of course it wasn’t. But it was slightly surprising to be away from home and with such a large group, barefaced.
So, bar a little bit of concealer (more necessary than usual due to a random breakout--thank you, hormonal contraception!) and some leftover mascara/liner from the day of our arrival (sorry, hygiene) I’m happy to say I embraced it. (Besides nicking a friend’s tiny compact mirror to put my contacts in, because glasses are less than practical when you’re risking your health jumping into glacial lakes.)
As we were exposed to the elements much more than usual, makeup verged on impractical, as a friend who went off on a hike and returned with streaming panda eyes attested. And I’m sure that with our general mud-encrusted, sleep-deprived, kind of hungover selves, we weren’t exactly looking glamorous.
But I loved every minute, and I think everyone looked great--maybe in a different way than they’d prefer, but healthy, happy and beautiful. (I would include lovingly compiled close-ups of my friends’ dirty naked faces, but I have a distinct feeling they might not appreciate it.)
On a more pragmatic level, we did discover some common ground on what the most useful makeup products are to have on hand when you’re travelling light.
Any kind of outdoorsy trip, from wild camping to a festival, leaves you with two main beauty options: disguise or distract! Sensible essentials included any sheer gloss or salve, such as Vaseline--obviously perfect for protecting lips chapped by ferocious mountain weather, but also great on lids to brighten up eyes; concealer for any blemishes and under tired eyes; and the perennial basic of good mascara, which you’d better make waterproof!
Alternatively, bold eyeliner will make you look made up with minimal effort, and bold lips worn without even mascara to keep them company is a high fashion look that you can use these circumstances to push you into trying.
Our makeup fast did give us pause for thought. We were a bit outnumbered by boys on the trip, and it was interesting to think of this as just another weekend for them appearance-wise (although I will admit, shamefaced, that the only person to take advantage of the shower with its highly unreliable hot water was actually male).
It made us wonder what it would be like to never wear makeup, whether we’d feel liberated or deprived. Why do we sometimes feel like our own faces, in their natural and clean state, are inadequate for certain situations?
Although I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first, I did enjoy my short beauty hiatus. It’s so hard to tell with things that are implicitly expected of women, such as wearing makeup, removing body hair etc, where the impulse to conform originates. How can you tell what’s truly your choice, and what you’ve absorbed from your environment? Of course, I don’t have the answers, but I’d be interested to hear what you think.