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Krysten Lindsay Hager: How Buying Foundation at the Makeup Counter Rocked My Foundation
Monday, February 13th, 2023

I grew up during the time when supermodels were on the cover of practically every magazine. I can remember my friends and me scouring the pages to find out what makeup shades they used to try and recreate the looks as if the right lipstick shade would transform us into Christy Turlington.

But as fun as it was to try and recreate the makeup, there was another thing that wasn’t so fun and that was the treatment we often got at the cosmetic counters. I remember going with friends to purchase new makeup only to walk away with a shopping bag and a complex. How many times did we go for help with our teenage skin only to feel worse about ourselves after the encounter? I had oily skin growing up and used powder during the day as well as what they called oil-absorbing foundation and mattifying lotion before that. Yes, I did get shiny and my skin wasn’t perfect, but I would go to the counter for help only to be told I’d need a slew of products to help with my, “problem skin.”

I would use money I saved up to buy products I probably didn’t need, but it was the sense of feeling gross without the help of these pricey items that hit my self-esteem. I can remember the cosmetics workers wiping harsh astringent on my face that physically stung as much as their words as they complained about my shiny skin. Then they’d apply thick layers of oil-free foundation making sure none of my real skin texture would show through. I was told I had large pores and that I needed to use base all over to cover them as well.

I believed this until I got sick in college and went a week without makeup. I had to pick up a prescription, and I was too exhausted to put on makeup, so I ran in with just lipstick on—something I never did because I had been led to believe I needed a full face of base to be presentable. And while I was there, someone complimented me on my complexion. I thought they were making fun of me and wondered why a stranger would do that.

I mentioned it to a friend who said she also spent years wearing heavy foundation due to things she had been told by beauty counter workers as well. She said she wouldn’t go to the grocery store without concealer. I admitted the brand of foundation I used in high school was also used by actresses on camera…as if that kind of coverage was necessary for sitting in a classroom.

I started to ask more friends who all shared something they were insecure about that had come from a stranger selling them a product. One said she was told she had to wear mascara because of her, “tiny hamster eyes,” and cried when she was told by a doctor that she’d have to go without it while she healed from an eye infection. Another was told how bad her skin texture was that she still won’t even do a Zoom meeting without makeup on.

A friend asked if I remembered us going to pick up huge bottles of that stinging pink astringent to try and save our skin and being told we also needed primer, moisturizer that was more like butter, and a mattifying lotion…as if all of that wasn’t going to clog our overactive teenage pores. I did remember because I was told how primer was a necessity for me with my problem skin and I felt bad about myself every time I took that tube out. Oddly, when I worked with professional makeup artists doing fashion shows, no one criticized my skin at all. It never occurred to me that they weren’t selling me anything. They had no reason to chip away at my self-confidence to get me to buy a product.

The thing is, my skin was actually pretty good for a teenager. And if anything, stripping away the oils and then piling on chemicals probably wasn’t the way to go anyway. I wonder how many of us still have the judgmental words of a cosmetic salesperson in the back of our minds when we look in the mirror. I applaud the salesperson at the Lancome counter who once refused to sell my nineteen-year-old friend an anti-aging cream she was convinced she needed. And I’m grateful to the makeup artist at Barneys who built up of the confidence of an eighteen-year-old me by complementing me instead of trying to make me feel like I needed to buy more makeup to look presentable. My mom sent me photos she found of me in my teens, and I was surprised that my skin looked smooth. That certainly wasn’t how I felt it looked back then.

It wasn’t until I started questioning the treatment my friends were getting in front of me by salespeople. I knew they were fine without the items being pushed. While I couldn’t see that for myself, but I certainly could for others.

So, I decided to write a scene where my fourteen-year-old character, Landry Albright, goes to the cosmetics counter in Best Friends…Forever? I decided to hit on two things in the scene which showed her trying to emulate model’s ad look only to find out the taupe lip gloss that the model is wearing looks terrible on her. She questions why Talisa can look so beautiful in it, while she looks like the undead. Landry’s also convinced that the gloss is all Talisa is wearing because of what the magazine says. However, she soon finds out a lot more makeup went into making Talisa look “naturally perfect” in that ad.

I also have Landry encounter a sales person much like the ones that have impacted so many of us over the years by preying on our insecurities. Only this time, Landry gets clued in about it being a sales tactic to get people to buy more. She also encounters a kind person behind the counter who helps boost her self-confidence and find something she’d like to wear instead of making her feel she needs makeup to look “presentable.”

A friend told me how she hated getting matched for a foundation color because the people behind the counter would stand there and scrutinize her and she felt hideous and judged. I put that in the story as well to let my readers see that others have had encounters like that so maybe they’d feel less insecure. When I read these scenes in my writing critique group every woman in the room shared they had had an experience similar at a cosmetic counter. All the men in the group were shocked by the way we had been treated.

I can only hope that reading what Landry goes through will make the readers feel less alone should they go through that same situation. It took me years to get to that place and it makes me sad to think of how many preteens had our self-imaged shaped by a sales tactic. So here’s to embracing how we were created and leaving the judgments of others behind us.

Find Best Friends…Forever? here (Free in Kindle Unlimited):

About the Author

​Krysten Lindsay Hager writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. Her work includes YA contemporary novels and middle school fiction. She received her BA in English and master’s degree in liberal studies from the University of Michigan-Flint.

Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Bellbrook Times, Springfield News-Sun, Grand Blanc View, Dayton Daily News and on Living Dayton.

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One comment to “Krysten Lindsay Hager: How Buying Foundation at the Makeup Counter Rocked My Foundation”

  1. Krysten
    · February 13th, 2023 at 5:20 pm · Link

    Thanks so much for having me on today

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