I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I can’t ‘do’ makeup. These day’s everyone’s contouring and highlighting and I’m still working out a standard cat-eye.
The contents of my so-called beauty bag – a tinted SPF (50+, of course), mascara, clear brow gel and under-eye concealer, all at under 20 bucks each – is enough (or not enough) to make a seasoned beauty vlogger blush.
I’m not saying that’s all I need to look fabulous. Far from it. But it makes me look halfway human and that’s enough for me!
So when I was invited to a fancy-schmancy charity ball through work, I kinda freaked. I knew straight away what to wear, but needed help in the makeup department.
When my co-worker and fellow ball attendee said she was having her face and hair done by an artist she found on Airtasker, I booked in too.
Sure, it was $75 but it had to be better than anything my measly range of products and skill could achieve.
Hey, what could go wrong?
The makeup artist, who shall remain unnamed, worked out of her home studio – a converted section of her garage – but it was clean and tidy and had glass display cabinets of foundations and lipsticks by brands even I could recognise.
She was on a tight schedule, she announced as she hustled me into a chair.
She quickly asked if I was allergic to anything, and I said no, but as she bustled away I meekly called out that I had really sensitive skin.
With my makeover underway and eyes closed, I couldn’t see the exact products she was using, but whatever was applied to my under-eyes left them stinging.
I didn’t want to cause a fuss or make this woman late for her next client, so I didn’t make a peep.
Admittedly, the end result was a bit too OTT for my style – think heavy blush, generous black eyeliner and, in a first for me, a pair of false lashes. I toned it down a bit when I got home.
The ball itself was a blast and even though things wrapped up in the wee hours I made sure to wash my face before bed.
The next morning I woke up to rather red and puffy eyes but put it down to the cold weather and late night. I popped an antihistamine and applied a bit of hydrocortisone cream I had in the first aid kit. Little did I know the latter move only made things worse.
On Monday I opted to go sans makeup to work and it seemed to help. But the following day I had an event that required (my version of) a full face.
That night, the sh*t really hit the fan. My eyes were red-raw, swollen and sore. The next morning was worse. I looked like I had a shellfish allergy or something.
I called in sick and went to the doctor who examined my eye with a special magnifying glass thingy and promptly told me I was missing the top layer of skin.
Whatever products the woman had used (the doc suspected they contained alcohol) had effectively burnt off my skin.
I was prescribed a very greasy, clear antibiotic ointment called Chlorsig and told to apply it twice a day, and given a script for oral antibiotics “if things don’t clear up in the next few days”.
Continuing with antihistamines may help, the doctor said, but without the protective top layer of skin, hydrocortisone cream would do more harm than good.
Slowly but surely, the redness and inflammation began to lessen, but it took a full seven days before things went back to normal. Luckily, I didn’t have to use the oral antibiotics.
The moral of this story is twofold. First, always do your research. Check out the person’s Instagram account, Google their name and read through the comments or reviews from previous clients. Don’t be put off by a few negative reviews here and there, but if the complaints outweigh the praise then maybe it’s best to find somewhere else.
Research common irritants such as alcohol, fragrance and preservatives such as parabens, and which brands typically use them. Ask the artist to run through the products they’re intending on using so you can veto anything before it ends up on your skin.
Most importantly, know yourself and your skin. Is it oily? Sensitive? Prone to clogged pores?
And don’t feel embarrassed or as if you’re ‘kicking up a fuss’ by communicating those issues, however small, to whoever is about to cover your face in a whole heap of products you likely have never used before.
And for goodness sake, if your skin starts burning don’t be a wuss like me and say something!