In the past, my makeup routine has consisted mostly of wearing pharmacy quality eyeliner about once a month. On extra special occasions, I apply lipstick from one of those tiny gift-bag giveaway lipstick tubes that department stores give people when they “spend $50 or more in cosmetics!” My free makeup usually arrives courtesy of my Aunt Elsie, who tends to “spend $50 or more in cosmetics!” a few times a year because she is a very classy and elegant lady. As for myself, I’d describe my personal style as hobo-casual. As with most hobos, makeup has never been much of a priority.
But things are slowly changing: I’ve quit soda, started drinking water, committed to making my bed (most of the time), am trying to walk at least 10,000 steps a day and have taken a more reasonable approach to bedtime. It’s like I’m Oprah on steroids. Last week I decided that my newest small change would be to look my best every day. No more hobo casual. The first step in my physical transformation was to do something I’d never done before: Go to the makeup store. My immediate goal was to buy foundation. I am getting old now and just like my hips don’t lie, the crow’s feet around my eyes don’t lie either. Plus, I figured my natural lobster-hued skin could use a little neutralizing and foundation is the first step in building a makeup routine.
So I made the decision to visit the Sephora’s at Tyson’s Corner. However, I soon discovered that a trip to Sephora is quite overwhelming for the uninitiated. Immediately upon entering the store, I was greeted by dozens of impeccably dressed women with perfect eyebrows and smooth, flawless skin. And they all seemed to know exactly what they were doing. Everywhere I looked there were tubes and containers and bottles and I felt overwhelmed and inadequate, like a sad, lost puppy. Or maybe like the old, pre-GPS me trying to get to an unknown address. There’s this whole world out there, a world of creams and powders, foundations, primers, brushes, blushes, concealers and magical potions…it’s a world I never imagined existed and it was too much for me. I made several pathetic, unfocused loops around the store, greeted at every twist and turn my thousands upon thousands of tubes of foundation. I was beginning to panic when I remembered I have a fashionable and well put together sister who is quite knowledgeable in all things make up. So I texted her. As you can see, my anxiety level was so high I couldn’t even spell.
My sister made a few helpful suggestions but encouraged me to be brave and locate a salesperson. After doing a few more anxious loops around Sephora, I finally found Lauren. Lauren, of the smooth, even skin and beautifully applied, non-clumpy mascara; Lauren of the subtly and classily glossed lips and reassuringly perfectly polished nail. I tapped Lauren on the shoulder and looked and her pleadingly (pathetically) and explained my situation: “Lauren,” I said, “I need help. I have no idea what I’m doing. I need foundation. I don’t know where to start.”
Lauren smiled down at me (for she was very tall) and shuffled me toward the makeup desk where she informed me she would be taking my color IQ to help me determine what foundation would be right for me. She used a weird-looking contraption to take some really up close and personal pictures of my face, punched some numbers into a computer, stepped away for a minute or two, and came back with four bottles of foundation. I thought Lauren would just dab a little of each on my face, I’d choose one and we’d be done, but this was not the case.
Instead, Lauren explained to me that putting on makeup is a process. First, she told me that moisturizer is a must-do first step. So she moisturized my face, suggesting my dry skin would benefit from a $40 Sephora brand moisturizer. Then we moved on to primer, which is apparently step two. Primer, she explained, is something you must put on your face so your foundation doesn’t evaporate ($25). Then, finally, Lauren applied each of the foundations to one quarter of my face and asked me which I liked best. They all looked the same to me but I chose the patch by my right eye. Lauren told me she completely agreed with my assessment, which, unfortunately, turned out to be the most expensive one ($43).
I thought we were done, but we weren’t. Lauren told me that after applying foundation a lady then needs to apply something called “setting powder” ($20) so her foundation lasts all day. That sounded good but also meant I needed a brush. I asked Lauren how much a brush costs and she paused and then said, “You know, a brush is really an investment so you should purchase a good one because it’s probably going to last you for the next 10 years or so.” So I said, “How much is a good one?” and she said “$32.” And I said “Is there a Sephora brand one?” And she said, “That is the Sephora brand one.” Then I looked at her with both fear and disdain and then she just waved her hand and said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. A Walgreens brush is fine if it’s your first one.”
So I at the end of our session, I found myself with a tiny pile of stuff worth well over $100. And this was just for foundation-related stuff. At that point, I decided I’d continue buying pharmacy quality mascara and eyeliner because it’s not like I’m a millionaire. So Lauren walks me to the cashier (she literally walked me through every part of the process) and then told me she had to help another customer. I texted my sister and asked her if I really needed all this extra stuff. My sister said it wasn’t absolutely necessary, so as soon as Lauren was out of sight, I secretly put everything back but the foundation.
So that’s the story of my first foundation purchase: One woman’s personal style transformation from hobo-casual to hobo-chic.