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I felt powerful when I bought my first lipstick | Sarah Hagi

I first started wearing makeup, not because I wanted to – but because I had to. When I was 19 an illness that affected my skin left me with no choice but to cover it up with carefully applied concealer and foundation. I didn’t want to attract stares from strangers wondering why I looked like an extra in Star Trek.

Each morning for years, I would perfect a real “no-makeup” look that took me up to an hour to achieve when I first started. Throughout the ordeal, I never once thought about my makeup routine as something I was into to make me feel or look prettier; it was simply a way to survive and remain under the radar until the evidence of being gravely ill was gone. It helped me to avoid getting pity stares from strangers who would see my face not made-up and quickly look away.

The scars on my face are gone now, and I don’t feel the need to wear makeup in order to look human, unless I’m sleep deprived. During my sick days, which I now lovingly look back on, one major aspect of my utilitarian outlook on wearing makeup meant looking like I wasn’t wearing any. While my arsenal of skincare products, primers, concealers, highlighters and foundation grew – it never once included lipstick. Purchasing lipstick made me anxious.

I naturally despise drawing any attention to physical myself. Growing up lanky, tall and awkward meant spending many years hunched over, trying to disappear within myself while others girls seamlessly transitioned into womanhood. Now, at the age of 24, my posture still sucks after years of doubling over thinking it would make me less visible, but the difference now is that I feel comfortable in my own skin.

Which is why after years of wanting to purchase lipstick but thinking it “wasn’t for me”, I’ve taken the step of making my makeup bag less foundation colored.

On a recent weekend trip to Paris (don’t I sound glamorous?) I felt it would only be right to purchase my first lipstick in the city where makeup heaven Sephora first opened its doors. At the Champs Élysées, I bought Nars Afghan Red, a color described online as a “muted, medium-dark raspberry red with a subtle sheen”. For me, a red lipstick that isn’t scary.

I now “get” what women mean when they say lipstick makes them feel powerful. It’s kind of like brunch, everyone does it but you feel special for talking about it. After tweeting about purchasing my first lipstick, within minutes 37 of my followers (all women) favorited the tweet, with many enthusiastically congratulating me and asking me for more details. I finally got my membership to the club.

Though I don’t want to wear lipstick outdoors, I’ve sent my friends and sisters many selfies, I’ve posted it in a secret Facebook group (healthily fishing compliments and boy did I get them). This made me realize, makeup can be as much about private enjoyment as it can be public.

Of course, there’s no one or universal reason to wear makeup and there shouldn’t be. But one big personal revelation for me is that wearing lipstick can be as privately indulgent as eating a cake by yourself. The dominant message women receive about makeup is that it’s frivolous and shallow or an indication of not loving yourself enough to show your real face. But who cares? It doesn’t really matter if you’re being self indulgent and vain if you look as good as you want to feel.

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