Beauty is in the eye

*First published by Soho House group*. Author of Sunday Times Bestselling book Parenting The Shit Out of Life and founder of Flex Appeal – a campaign to fight for flexible working for all – Anna Whitehouse talks about postpartum beauty and why a catseye flick is not crossing the line

The first (and last) ever beauty vlog I did was called ‘How Not To Scare People With Your Face’. The basic premise of it was cobbling together a vague look in 60 seconds with a toddler hanging off your left leg – quite the challenge if you’re attempting a catseye flick. Either way, I had come to the realization that phrases like ‘this look will take you seamlessly from day to night’ and ‘a slick of neon yellow eyeshadow’ just didn’t wash on the nursery run. So with a make-up bag that was once brimming with versatility, I ended up with three items: Benefit’s concealer for dark circles, NARS orgasm blush to make it look like I might have some life in me and – somewhat punchily – Tom Ford’s Liquid Liner.

Having never considered that feline flick because of the sheer skill it requires, the beauty director at Stylist Magazine where I was working at the time told me to give Tom Ford’s pen a go. One steady slick across my sleep-ravaged eyelid and I was sold. In 10 seconds my eyes were crow-barred open and as the tiredness got more intense, the flick heightened like some sort of exhaustion graph.

I had found my maternal arsenal – the three things that could Sellotape over the cracks and not have people repeatedly asking, “are you OK?” That’s really what make-up has come to mean to me, a shield against the raised eyebrows and concerned questions. But it wasn’t until I got a fairly feisty comment on my Instagram that I started to question why I was blending and highlighting. It read: “You speak about postnatal depression and being in a maternal fug, and, yet, here you are with a face of make-up. I don’t buy it.”

It knocked me a little because I felt she had genuine grounds for being disgruntled. Am I some made-up blushing fraudster? How can someone in a postnatal fug who is feeling unable to walk outside the front door even consider something as vain as a catseye flick? I wondered if covering up was ever a good idea? We tend to cover up bad things: lies, bank robberies and here I was slotting my face into the police line-up.

It was one of those inspirational quotes (that I often find uninspirational and dispiriting) on Instagram that read: “Make-up is art, beauty is spirit.” While the whimsical italic font was painful to navigate, there was something in it. It comes down to how you feel not how you look and what’s a little blusher among NCT friends? Whether you go bare-faced or high-browed, red-lipped or mascara-free, it doesn’t matter, really, and everyone’s armour is different – some mainline miaze snacks, others slick on some of Mac’s Lady Danger lipstick to accentuate the bloodshot eyes.

But while I was lactating all over the place and wondering where my mind, body and spirit had dispersed to, I felt momentarily comforted in the fact that I could draw a straight line on my face in under 10 seconds. It’s a small win but a win all the same.

Image: Miles Aldridge

Anna Whitehouse

Founder of Mother Pukka, Anna Whitehouse likes super hero cape-making classes and dislikes the naming of celebrity couples (TomKat, Brange etc.) She tries (and often fails) to parent the shit out of life.

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Turns out I’m not an afternoon person either.

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