Before hitting the sack, Shirleen Wanja, sets two alarms. The first alarm is to breastfeed her one-year-old daughter, while the second one, though sounds absurd, is to apply make-up. Yes. She is a make-up addict and admits she has never let her hubby to see her without make-up for the three years they have been married!
So, when it hits 4am, as the hubby is snoring, Wanja, tiptoes to the bathroom for a quick mascara and foundation application. She confesses that it is a lot of work, but is worth it, since it keeps ‘the romance alive.’
“I feel naked without make-up. Gosh! I cannot imagine walking out of the house when I am looking plain. My mother used to advise me that I need to keep the mystery alive. My hubby has never brought the issue up and probably, he fell in love with me because of how I looked with my make-up on,” she told The Nairobian, adding, “I worry he might not find me attractive with a bare face.”
Wanja refutes claims that women who are make-up addicts suffer from low self-esteem. “ That is a lot of hogwash! Make-up is a way of enhancing our beauty. And anyway, if we don’t buy these products meant for women, who else will?” she poses. She revealed that when she goes swimming, her face never touches the water for fear of ruining her look.
And she is not alone. Christine, who works at a popular beauty parlour in Westlands, says her live-in boyfriend has never seen her without make-up. She says her love for make-up started after suffering serious acne as a teen and she had to find a way to ‘fix the problem’.
“I have tried all products to clear the marks but nothing works. Make-up transforms me into a more confident person. Without it, I think I look horrendous and pale. My boyfriend knows this and I suspect for the sake of peace, he has chosen not to talk about it. Sometimes, he will throw in a comment, but I just ignore it,” she says.
Christine spends a fortune on beauty products every month. “I spend more than Sh20,000. My daily routine is I first start with a layer of primer and concealer. Then the foundation. I apply two shades of eyeshadow, a liner and of course, a coat of mascara to my lashes, which, are fake! Then there’s the bronzer, blusher, lipstick and gloss. It’s expensive and exhausting, but I enjoy it,” she said.
So, can a woman’s marriage ever be happy or healthy if she won’t let her husband see her natural beauty? Well, according to Professor Halimu Suleiman Shauri, an accomplished sociologist at Pwani University, women need make-up. “Women are like products. When products are in the market, there is constant competition as people fight to get the best ones. Any person in business will tell you that it is important to regularly add value to their products to increase their appeal. It is no different with women and make-up. They have to add value to their looks, especially because the face is the first thing a potential suitor sees. So yes, women do need make-up,” he notes.
He acknowledges, however, that it is not always about attracting a suitor. “Sometimes women use make-up to make them feel better about themselves. It is therapeutic. It gives them a psychological boost; when you look good, you feel good. This is why there are men who are also using make-up to improve their looks,” he explains.
Professor Shauri warns that while it is okay to enhance one’s looks, women must remember that make-up will not ensure their relationship or marriage is strong. “Looks are deceiving. We have all heard of men who wake up next to women they were with and do not recognise them. Make-up is necessary for a woman, but it should be used conservatively.”
But some of the men who were interviewed by The Nairobian don’t agree with the professor. Eric Songs, a car salesman, says women who apply make-up are cheats and living a lie. “I was at a popular club in Kilimani with my boys and almost all the ladies were glowing. After a night of fun, I chips-fungad one of the chicks and we both blacked out. In the morning, I woke up before her and what I saw was scary. I had to call my friends to confirm if I had gone home with the right chick,” he said.
Many men can relate to Song’s experience. Take Samuel Maina for instance. He was clubbing with a friend in Mombasa when “we decided to go all out and party. We bought drinks and the ladies joined us. They were looking hot, so how could we refuse.” The businessman added that they partied hard until 6am before they decided to go skinny-dipping in the ocean with one of the chicks.
But when they left the club and sunshine hit her face, she looked different. “We dived into the ocean and when she re-emerged, all her make-up was washed off and she looked a tint darker, with no lashes and eyebrows I became worried,” Maina told The Nairobian. “Instead of taking her to my digs, I took her to her place and instantly blocked her number,” he said.
A city mechanic, Felix Ochieng, also shared his ordeal. “It was end-month and that Friday evening, I wanted to spoil myself, so I decided to have a drink at a local club in town. I spotted a beautiful curvaceous lady who was all made up. She was giving me the signals so I decided to join her because it was time to seal the deal. We had fun drinking and dancing and when it was time to head home, we decided to get a room.”
“But there was something amiss because she did not want the lights to be on and I obliged. I switched off the lights and waited for her, but she was taking her sweet time. She even said she needed to remove her make up because she can’t sleep with it and I was okay waiting patiently. But she was too quiet, so I went to check on her. When I opened the door, I was shocked because her face was totally different from the person I met in the club and to make it worse, the curvaceous hips that I admired had disappeared. I switched on the light and she locked herself in the bathroom. I took off!”
However, Protus Makori, an architect does not mind make-up. “I met this woman in a club and the feeling was mutual, so we decided to take it home for more fun. The morning after, she woke up before me and went to the bathroom to freshen up and when she came back to bed, I wanted ‘morning glory’ before she left. But when I look at her, I felt ripped off. She was totally different. I was like ‘who is this person? Oh, God! What have I done!’” he said. Makori says he hated himself for being so gullible. “I got her a cab and I never called her back,” he said.
- Additional reporting by Brian Guswera