Yesterday I went to get my eyebrows shaped. I say shaped, I mean torn from my face. It had been about two years since my last appointment at the Benefit bar, so they were starting to take over my face. Not that I minded that, but it was starting to cost me a small fortune to pencil them in. And also now my resting bitch face looks even more menacing. What I like about getting my eyebrows done at Benefit is that they always finish by putting concealer around my eyebrows, masking the raw red skin where the forest was uprooted. This means I don’t look so surprised on my way home. It’s a nice touch.
However, this time I was also offered another product. My brow stylist (stylist?) ventured that the skin around my eyes was looking dark, a little puffy even. Luckily, she said, she had the perfect eye cream for the job. The eye cream was applied, and she said this would solve the problem- a problem I wasn’t aware I had.
This isn’t new to me. I really suck at applying makeup, so when I buy anything new, I ask for the consultant’s advice. Without fail, every single time, the consultant finds a flaw in my face, and offers a remedy. It’s always a flaw I wasn’t aware I had. But now, of course, I could point them all out to you in an instant. If they didn’t exist before, they do now.
I don’t really blame the consultants. I’ve worked in retail long enough to know that there is enormous pressure to sell extra items to each customer. I’m sorry that the time they took to explain the significance of my hooded eyelids didn’t result in an extra sale.
I’m also not surprised that capitalising on insecurities and flaws is their selling technique. I mean, look at all beauty adverts ever. But for all the issues with beauty adverts, at least they’re impersonal. It doesn’t have to be YOU with the dry skin or the wrinkles or anything else. However, as soon as you translate this to a face-to-face conversation, it gets personal. The expert is telling you that you must solve your wrinkle problem. Even if it wasn’t an issue for you before, it sure as hell is now.
Why do we do this? I don’t doubt that it’s an effective way to sell- I’m seriously considering that eye cream. But that doesn’t mean it’s right. No other industry encourages us to buy things by knocking us down first (It reminds me of one of my favourite Mitchell and Webb sketches). And how could they- “There’s something wrong with your roof” isn’t as much of a personal attack as “There’s something wrong with your face.”
I think this comes from a common assumption about makeup- that it exists merely to cover up these flaws in our faces. But it’s so much more than that, obviously! We wouldn’t have purple lipsticks, green kohl eyeliner and rainbow highlighter if we just wanted to mask our imperfections. It’s an art form, a hobby, a really great way of feeling good about yourself. There’s enough pressure on us already to be makeup experts with perfect faces. Don’t send us home from the makeup counters in shame. Buying makeup should be an enjoyable experience, not one where you go home with more insecurities than you came in with.
The psychologist in me wants to know what the most effective way of selling makeup would be- both for profit and returning customers. Is it really more beneficial to sell products based on a negative appraisal of the customer, or would an encouraging consultant who focused on making the customer feel good and comfortable with makeup perform better? I would really like to know. But in some ways, it’s irrelevant- this current method is unethical, and profit margins shouldn’t be enough to disregard that (she said hopefully).
So, to part, dear readers, STOP TELLING ME THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH MY FACE.
Also, if you have had good experiences with makeup artists and consultants who haven’t critiqued your face, let me know! I’d love to hear about it