Going to Sephora used to be an exercise in self-loathing. I love the store now for different reasons, just as I love makeup now for reasons other than covering up my skin. I primarily buy lipstick instead of foundation; I don’t mind walking into the store without product on my face.
But two years ago, Sephora was a fantasy world, a promised land in which I would discoverthe product, the one that would end my suffering and thrust me into the world of the beautiful. Then, I could easily hang my picture next to the models whose skin looked so flawless it nearly made me weep. (Never mind that airbrushing is commonly practiced; never mind that they have access to products I may never use; never mind that everyone is different. I only saw the outer shell, and the outer shell was what I wanted.)
I would walk into that store and scout for different types of foundation, all the while hoping none of the employees would approach me. How do you suggest foundation to someone whose skin is textured with acne? How do you do it without making them feel even smaller than they do?
The aisles of glittering tubes and palettes beckoned me forward. In their sleekness, they promised glamor, perfection, beauty. They seemed the antithesis of me and I wanted them all the more for it. No matter how many times my mother told me to save my earnings, I ignored her. How could she understand that money didn’t matter in this type of situation? I would have spent – and probably have done – thousands of dollars to achieve the look I wanted.
I would travel to Sephora every other week, determined to find the one thing that would cover my face once and for all. But no matter how many times I returned, nothing seemed to work. Clinique, Urban Decay, bareMinerals, Stila, Bobbi Brown: their names became a lexicon of failure as I struggled to determine which one would be the miracle.
Eventually, as my skin started to clear up, going to Sephora became less painful. I enjoyed make up for its expressive purposes, not for its ability to mask. I started to highlight the fullness of my lips, the flickers of green in my brown eyes. In short, I began to realize that there were other parts of my face I liked, despite the fact that my skin still wasn’t precisely what I thought it should be.
Now, when I walk into Sephora, it’s an attempt at healing.