Renee's Story

11 Apr 2019

I started wearing makeup at the age of 13. I've worn it ever since. Everyday.

At 13 I discovered AVON translucent powder. Translucent you say? I beg to differ. Give a 13 year old a brush and that beautiful big tub of powder and you can look like a porcelain doll in no time.

The first day I ventured out with my full face on, my bestie was not as enthused. Friend: Are you wearing makeup? You look awful. Do you think you look amazing with it on? Me: Panic. Um. No, my sister and I had a powder fight. Friend: Whatever.

It was not cool to wear makeup then. I was in my first year of high school and it seemed like everyone had perfect skin. I had pimples. Pimples, acne, welts, pustules like volcanos – whatever you want to call them. Every night I would go to bed wondering what I would be faced with the next day. Each morning I would scrub with AVON apricot and almond scrub that my parents would bulk buy for me. I mean scrub. Scrub those white pustules so hard that they would explode and ooze and eventually bleed. Sorry – too much? Now, come on parents. Isn’t the first rule of infected skin – don’t open the wound and certainly don’t spread the infection with your fingers in a circular motion until you infect every other spot on your face? Everyone was always trying to fix me. At one stage my great aunt had my face covered in Listerine and sorbolene promising me clear skin in 5 -7 days. Um, no.

I was bullied. I remember a boy in my year asking me what all the spots were on my skin (come on mate, you know they are pimples you dick). I panicked. I said they were from hairspray. Yes, I had a permanent allergy to hairspray. I loved hairspray. It was the 80’s. He then said to me – why do you use hairspray? Are you from a porno? I had no idea what a porno was so I quickly dismissed his comments. Note – I asked parents what a porno was shortly after as there was no Google back then. I told Dick the next day I was most definitely NOT from a porno.

My little sister asked constantly if I had chicken pox.

My friends told me I would be pretty if I didn’t have pimples.

And the worst – I was marked as the ugliest girl in my year and a group of girls thought it would be hilarious to prank me. A hot new boy just started at our school. He was HOOOOOOTTTTT. Blond long hair, surfer, just so f’en cool. They all came up to me and said Pete likes you. He wants you to meet him near the canteen at lunchtime. Somehow, I believed them. So I did. I went to the meeting place, only to be greeted with half the school (and Pete) standing there laughing at me. Yep, straight out of a movie. It killed me.

So back to the makeup evolution. I discovered makeup and it just made me feel more confident. Let me assure you, my skills were not good. But the mask gave me a sense of security.

At 15 I went to boarding school. The AVON and black eyeliner that had made its way into my routine had to go. NO MAKEUP ALLOWED at this school. My bleached blonde hair with half a head of dark brown regrowth had to go too (I secretly thought I was Courtney love or Kurt Cobain). I had to get smarter with my application. Enter – Dove tinted moisturiser. Ok so in fairness, I should have been the palest colour but I went for the dark bronze. I looked so healthy and glowy! Well my face did anyway. My face was in the Bahamas and my neck was in the middle of a cold, long Victorian winter. By this stage my acne was somewhat controlled with medication but scars had set in – both emotional and physical.

At 18 I was Melbourne-bound and ready to start my training as a cosmetologist. Translation – Beautician. But how amazing does Cosmetologist sound? My makeup skills had dramatically improved. On others though. Not me. I smashed it – makeup application was my best subject. But my skills on my own face were not so good. This was my Estee Lauder doublewear foundation (4 shades too dark but bring it all the way down the neck so it blends) phase. Anyone that knows doublewear knows that under no circumstance should you blend it all the way down the neck. Oh and don’t wear white. My uniform was white. So I had doublewear on the face, the neck and the collar. Amazing.

I started working for Lancome in my early 20s. I had access to everything. This is where I discovered the power of skincare. If you had an amazing base, you could create flawless makeup, an almost “undetectable” face of foundation. I became one of the most successful sales people at Lancôme by creating these beautiful everyday looks that women could easily recreate at home. I didn’t try and complicate things. Just a great skincare routine and simple makeup. Side note – my personal makeup skills were still far from perfect. There were moments where I sat people down for a makeup up application and they would mostly say “can you just do it naturally” (emphasis on naturally) or "I pretty much want the opposite of yours". I actually also got told my skin was the colour of a pumpkin once, that was a highlight. (This was the Le Tan self-tanning phase with the body tan used as a face tan, you’re welcome.)

It was also somewhere around this time a man approached me on a tram and in front of everyone said “You would be really pretty if you didn’t wear clown makeup”.

Hey buddy, what gives you the right?

Another great one was a boyfriend at the time telling me if I lost four kilos and learnt how to do my makeup correctly, he would probably marry me. Nice.

What are you up to now mate?

Anyway, I am now a pro at the “no makeup makeup” look. I still venture a little down the neck to blend but most of it stays on my face. My routine – skincare, foundation mixed with illuminator, bronzer, mascara, lip treatment. That’s it. Most people would say that I wear minimal makeup. Yes, minimal items, but I do pack the foundation on. It’s all about the products you use and the way you apply it.

Anyway, I’m about to shock you. Do you know my friends have never seen me without makeup? And it took me six years for me to let my husband see me without makeup? 

I would take my makeup off in the dark – no rinse cleansers were my fave. I was the master of commando rolling out of bed at 4.30am, sneaking into the bathroom adding tinted moisturiser and a dab of cream blush to eyes, lips, cheeks and rolling back into bed (remember the scene in bridesmaids?). My husband telling me how pretty I looked in the morning (me evil laughing to myself).

What are your honest thoughts right now? That I am too vain? That I am ridiculous? Are you wondering why I care so much what my friends and husband think about me? Are you wondering why I bother? Do you think there are bigger crises in the world that I should spend my time worrying about?

Those reactions are all normal. But the truth is, I was too damaged. A lifetime of bullying had totally damaged me. It’s only now I can stop and look back on it and understand what happened to me. I wore a mask everyday for 27 years to try and protect myself. And it got me through. As I write this, I'm feeling genuinely emotional (yep, crying), it’s sad that I went through this. But I survived it.

So fast-forward to four years ago. I had just had my first baby. I had a complex skincare routine and a simpler makeup routine. Still wearing foundation everyday. Still dripping brown sweat on the treadmill at the gym. A new form of bullying arrived. Mum shaming. It was brutal. How do you have time to put makeup on? Who watched your baby while you put makeup on? Who are you trying to impress? Don’t you feel guilty spending time / money on yourself and not looking after your baby? It hurt.

You can question ME and bully ME but DO NOT bring my children into it. Do not question how I parent. I decided to look for a miracle product that could make me look amazing, feel amazing. Specifically a skincare product that would make me feel more confident about my skin so I could not wear makeup. I looked for that product and when I couldn’t find it I decided to create it.

When I finally launched Cinch, my dreams came true. I cut my makeup and skincare routine in half. I absolutely mastered looking like I had no foundation on (when in fact I did). I cut back, But NEVER have I gone completely make up free. UNTIL now.

As I entered my 40th year it was time to go naked. I made a decision to wear absolutely NO makeup for a week. Easy for most, but after hearing my story, I hope you can understand what a traumatic situation this would be for me. Or would it?

I woke up feeling sick. This was the first day since I was 13 that I would not put my mask on. I considered fake tanning my face to take the edge off. I also considered wearing a hat and sunglasses but that would be cheating.

So off I ventured – to a gym class. Are you laughing to yourself? Yes, you could say I was usually the only person in the class wearing makeup, but still this was a big step for me. As I walked in I was visibly less confident. My body language was defensive. I avoided conversation. And the conversations I had to have were rushed and scattered. By the third necessary conversation, I gave in. I apologised for my skin. I started blurting out all sorts of excuses as to why I thought my skin looked awful. I got a confused look back.

I then went to the shops. I felt anxious, small, hunched over and preoccupied. And guess what - it was only 8am on a Saturday morning (no one was shopping). WOW. I stopped and noticed my raised heartbeat, my swollen throat and heavy head. I was having a panic attack.

I decided it was time to take control. Years and years of this insecurity had put me in this position and I needed to change.

I walked in the door at home and immediately apologised to my husband for having no makeup on. And I’ve got a good one too. Husband that is. I’ve since found out that he thinks I’m pretty hot with or without makeup (bonus). Why did I apologise? I had slipped straight back into old habits. Then the worst part of this whole experiment. My four year old told me I looked pretty – he must have heard me complaining to my husband about my day. This was the real issue. This is what snapped me out of 27 years of torment. I am teaching my son that no makeup = unattractive, no confidence. This is NOT how I want to raise my son.

This was the thing I needed to snap me out of this.

That week I went on to go to a Business Chicks seminar minus my mask. What do you think happened? Yep, you got it – no one took a second look at me. No one seemed to care that I wasn’t wearing makeup. My only cringe moment was when I was chatting to two amazing women who asked me what I did. I had to tell them I had a skincare business and I was horrified that they both looked at my skin straight away (natural reaction I guess). This cringe moment was also teamed with my first hooray moment – I did not feel the need to tell them I was wearing no makeup as part of an experiment. BIG MOVE.

To be honest when I started this no makeup journey, I thought it would be a lighthearted giggle. I thought I would have this list of comments I would be getting on a daily basis about how I looked sick, tired, run down, awful. So I started a diary. As it turns out the diary was bloody boring. It seems that more people care if you do wear makeup than if you don’t. I got more negative comments when wearing a full face of makeup. Isn’t it funny how society demands we age gracefully and we look after ourselves and we look perfect all the time but if you try and adhere to these standards society also shuts you down. It’s amazing. There is the real story. Nothing is good enough.

So, over the past four weeks since I ended the experiment I can report I am happy to go sans makeup every now and again. I am comfortable with that. Don't get me wrong, I still love makeup but I now love it for the right reasons. I feel it’s a great way to express myself. I’m going to try different lipstick colours and venture outside my box now. That is my next challenge. Because I can. I am more confident. Makeup makes me feel “put together” and ready to take on the day. That is me. No one else.

1 Comment

Emma Hilditch 18 Apr 2019 Renee, you are awesome. Your story is so honest and brave. What you have been through... I'm honestly not sure I would have the guts to write sop openly about my life, all credit to you. You must feel totally transformed on the other side of all this healing and facing your fears. Standing ovation from me!!

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