Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Makeup Sex

Makeup sex (noun): cathartic copulation practiced by two consenting relationship-bound adults after a spat or argument, right? You fought. You’re sorry. You’re putting it all behind you with a little under-the-covers kiss and giggle.

I used to think of “makeup sex” that way, too. I got over it.

Now, “makeup sex” refers to the memorable and repeated experience of being screwed over by my cosmetics. It’s not the cosmetics companies’ fault. Sadly, I am an intelligent woman who, despite knowing her dermatological limits, continues to purchase and apply products to her skin, usually with horrifying results.

For me, like so many other girls, junior high was a period of dangerous experimentation. While my friends were exploring the limits of their recreational drug use and sexuality, I was living on the edge by applying glitter to my eyelids. “Ho-hum,” you say? “Yawn,” you declare? Let me tell you, I was living dangerously! As it turns out, I was allergic to whatever metallic garbage the glitter was made out of. My eyes were nearly swollen shut for a week.

Not one to learn a lesson easily, I spent a week’s worth of allowance on mascara in electric blue, teal and lavender. (God, forgive me – it was the Eighties.) The very first application of circus-caliber color to my lashes served as such an irritant to the rims of my eyes that I developed a raging infection, causing my eyes to actually glue themselves shut with bacteria-ridden, seeping goop.

I didn’t wear mascara again until I was 25, when a friend recommended her favorite brand of “hypoallergenic” mascara. I forked over forty bucks, and repeated my junior high medical misadventure. I’ve since concluded the use of the term “hypoallergenic” is actually just a little joke that advertisers like to play on people with sensitive skin.

For most of my adult life, I simply didn’t wear makeup. It wasn’t worth the hassle – or the medical bills. Time was taking its toll, though, and the smooth skin of my youth was being unkindly replaced by a drier complexion that, I knew, was just waiting to cultivate wrinkles. Fortunately, the miracle of alpha hydroxyl creams filled the beauty aisles at my favorite department store. Unfortunately, I was foolish enough to apply some to my face. Instantly, my face broke out in deep red splotches. Five minutes later, the hives started popping up. Within ten minutes, I was contacting the nearest burn treatment center and reconstructive plastic surgeons.

My highest level of makeup masochism came about a year ago, when a momentary lapse in judgment allowed me to purchase and apply a product I’d read about in a fashion magazine: lip plumper. The packaging promised “naturally fuller lips,” and it delivered, but the “plumping” effect was actually due to the blisters that immediately formed over every surface of my lips, and lasted a little longer than intended (about a week and a half).

My husband and I were in the car, en route to a family function, when I first applied it. “I wonder how it works?” I mused out loud as I stroked the clear liquid over my kisser with the sponge wand applicator. “I mean, how does it—HOLY CRAP!”

“What? What is it? What’s wrong?” my startled husband asked, as I used a Taco Bell napkin to try to wipe the battery acid off my lips. (That didn’t work, by the way – I only succeeded in rubbing it farther into my lip tissue, which, by that time, resembled raw hamburger.)

I tried to tell him my lips were on fire, but by that time, my medical status had progressed from burning to shock-induced numbness and it came out, “Muh wiffs uh on fiiiiiiiiuh!” My husband shook his head and kept driving.

I consider it a mark of true professionalism and experience that he doesn’t even bother with the “What were you thinking?” or the “You know you can’t wear makeup” and instead just drives me to the nearest emergency room.

Just when I was coming to terms with the reality that I may have to live my life in a bubble, I found the most amazing thing: Physicians Formula cosmetics.* Finally, a “hypoallergenic” label that isn’t a sick joke! All of their products are fragrance-free and gentle, even on my freakishly sensitive skin. As a bonus, they are absurdly affordable and I have yet to develop hives, blisters, seepage or partial blindness from any of their products… If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

The above essay originally appeared on LipstickDaily.com. Unfortunately, the LD mamas, Kate and Elaine, have decided to shut down the site for the time being. With their blessing, I republished this treasure here, on TheGonzoMama.com. I wish Kate and Elaine all the love and merlot in the world, and I hope they'll put LipstickDaily back online sometime!

* Dear FCC: I have never received product or compensation from Physicians Formula cosmetics.** I just like to plug a good product when I find one.

**Dear Physicians Formula: I wouldn't necessarily OBJECT to compensation or free product... Just sayin'.

Photo credits:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/434pics/ / CC BY 2.0
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashleyrosex/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Physicians Formula website


  1. This was brilliantly written! And it's so nice to know that there is a product out there for folks with sensitivity to makeup! Kudos!

  2. Thank goodness I don't have your allergic reactions. The economy might falter if I didn't keep buying all this stuff!! Gotta admit, its fun being a girl. I am so glad you found a way to play with the girlie stuff without the ER!

  3. I do love my girlie indulgences, and I'm so happy that I CAN indulge, now. :)


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