Makeup and I have always had a fairly functional relationship. But when my good friend asked me if I wanted to join her for a free makeup lesson, I immediately said yes. I think the words mummy makeover might have sprung to mind.
It turned out my friend couldn’t make it, but I decided to attend anyway, despite the little voice in my head that whispered: “Those makeup girls will eat you alive! GOBBLE you up whole!”
“We’re just waiting for a few more people to arrive,” the doll-like receptionist at Dubai Mall’s Bobbi Brown tells me on arrival – the first clue that the other attendees aren’t attempting to sandwich the lesson in between a morning’s work and the afternoon school run. “The last two are in the car park,” she announces after 30 minutes has ticked slowly by.
“It’s our fault,” they tinkle, when they finally show up, their makeup already cover-model perfect and their blow-dried hair coiffed neatly into place.
The makeup guru appears from behind a closed door and a minute or two of air kissing follows. They all know each other, I realise; they’re all of exotic descent, and I’m quite sure already own overly large Burberry toiletry cases the size of carry-on baggage.
Our host for the afternoon turns to me and asks with a megawatt smile: “What are your expectations today?”
“Erm, to look nice,” I reply. I wonder how to vocalise that I’m hoping he’ll make me look at least a decade younger and do it fast enough so I can get to the other side of Dubai in time to pick up my son – but it’s looking like I’m the only person watching the clock.
As the 10-step lesson gets underway, I learn just how much prepping is required to keep skin in tip-top condition. Cleanser, tonic, serum, eye cream, face cream, overnight cream; it all makes my once-daily application of moisturiser with SPF look rather paltry.
His fingers deftly massage my ‘problem areas’ with gorgeous-feeling products (yes, I’m perched on a stool in front of seven sets of eyes, being used as the ‘model’ at this point). “See, if I apply the serum to half zee face, look at the difference!”
Heads nod enthusiastically as half my face wakes up from years of neglect (it’s as though my skin pores are drinking thirstily from Bobbi’s fountain of youth and are doing a merry jig). “And don’t forget zee neck,” he reminds, with a final smoothing flourish.
I return to the table, taking my place opposite a young Emirati lady with unblemished, milky skin (skin whiteners, she tells us), groomed eyebrows and aquamarine nails, and the lesson moves on to concealers and correctors. An assistant helps me find a foundation better matched to my skin tone than my own skin, and I start to really enjoy myself as I eye up products with a colour scheme more sophisticated than a painter’s palette.
“Blending is your friend,” proclaims our make-up guru; “Bobbi never says camouflage – we naturalise,” he tells us, and with the number of references made to Bobbi herself, I start to wonder if they’re all best friends.
Just as we’re being taught how to stop lines showing in the under-eye area (gasp!), I notice the time. If I don’t tear myself away from the unlimited access to expensive products that highlight, pout, plump and pale, I’ll be late for Son 1.
One of the makeup assistants flanking the table finishes off my makeover at speed, and I rush from the room, leaving all my classmates there for, I suspect, a leisurely afternoon.
“We’ll call you,” they tell me as I swing on my heel to leave the store. “For your next lesson.” And, given that it was free and really worthwhile, it’s a mummy gift horse I won’t be looking in the mouth.