Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Nigella Lawson's Sixties make-up

nigella-hero.jpg

For Nigella Lawson, make-up is Sixties make-up, not least because she learnt how to apply it by watching her mother

Beauty Director: Nigella Lawson

Photography: Matthew Shave

Make-up: Tricia Woolston

My whole notion of beauty, of glamour – of femininity I suppose – stems from the memory of watching my mother at her kidney-shaped dressing table putting her make-up on when I was a little girl. It was like being at the cinema in the dark, watching a film star. The film star can’t see you, but you are there, held absorbed: it’s wonderment.

My mother wasn’t chatty or companionable as she made herself up to go out, but that wasn’t unfriendliness, it was absorption in the task – an absorption I shared not least because watching my mother get ready to leave the familial surroundings of home and her role as a mother to go out in the evening a beautiful woman (and a young woman at that: I can remember her putting her make-up on to go out for dinner to celebrate her 26th birthday) was like catching a glimpse of the grown-up world. It all shimmered for me with excitement and glamour.

I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, I wanted to stay an observer, trapped in the magic of it. There’s a face people put on when they apply make-up that is so intensely private that makes watching it – even to a small child – seem like an illicit thrill. Even watching her rub Vaseline into her elbows – part of the ritual – seemed glamorous, full of mystique. I can still remember the smell of her crème rinse (this was the world pre-conditioner) and the Johnson’s Baby Lotion she’d rub on: it is more exotic to me than all the perfumes of Araby.

Of course this being the Sixties, the make-up was not subtle but like a gorgeous form of face paint: pale skin, the PanStick rubbed over the face, also smeared over lips like White-Out, the flickering ribbon of eyeliner, false eyelashes (actually, my mother always went out at night wearing two pairs of false eyelashes in case one pair fell off), hair pieces; it was the most fabulous dress-up. And it suited my beautiful mother with her Audrey Hepburn looks. Even if I haven’t inherited her diminutive glory, I wear her make-up still. For me, make-up is Sixties make-up; I have been wearing eyeliner and pale lips since I was a teenager. And of course as I learned what make-up is from my mother, so my daughter learned from me. I remember when my daughter was about 14, my sister said to me: “I see she’s inherited the eyeliner gene.” We all do a lot of eyeliner.

I don’t go full-out Sixties, but when I put my foundation on (over Skin FX Brite Prep, which contains a factor 50 sunscreen) I rub it over my lips and then put By Terry Baume de Rose on top: that’s my lipstick. I love By Terry make-up as it smells like old-fashioned make-up, heavenly scented, reminding I had a bite of an apple my mother was eating. I long to learn to put false eyelashes on myself but until that time I brush on coat upon coat of mascara: my current favourite is Helena Rubenstein Surrealist Mascara, which I have to buy duty-free when I come back from countries that still sell Helena Rubenstein; otherwise, I love Giorgio Armani Eyes To Kill Mascara.

I buy make-up a lot – any shopping that doesn’t involve a changing room is a treat in itself – but actually need only a small (if costly) amount. I tell myself that it is better to spend money on your face than on clothes, but actually my make-up buying reflects the way I buy food: I am extravagant but never wasteful. So I buy expensive make-up but make it work hard for its keep: By Terry Ombre Blackstar sticks do doubleduty as both eyeliner and eyeshadow.

I’m not saying I couldn’t do without Bobbi Brown Eyeliner Gel (in Espresso please) but day in, day out I reach for the By Terry Ombre Blackstar in Black Pearl. Because it’s so thick it doesn’t matter if you do a bad line, it just makes it slightly Anouk Aimée, which is certainly no bad thing.”

Nigella’s new show The Taste debuts on Channel 4 in January 2014 – keep an eye on nigella.com for more details

Related

yasmin-hero.jpg

Yasmin Le Bon: fashion shoot

miranda42479-rt.jpg

No funny business

tracey-joan-1.jpg

Tracey & Joan

Comments

More

Sign up to our weekly beauty email

28 Jun 2017

These beauty products are tackling anxiety, insomnia and low moods

Self-care saviours

by Anna Pollitt
27 Jun 2017

Kate Middleton has a budget beauty trick that's “quite necessary”

And your nan would approve

by Anna Pollitt
26 Jun 2017

Armpit tattoo designs are here to inspire you

Pit-ink is here for the long-haul

by Jasmine Andersson
23 Jun 2017

Hair inspiration from the world’s most famous music festivals

Exuberant trends through the ages

19 Jun 2017

Fresh, on-trend festival hair styles we love

Hot new looks to re-create this season

12 Jun 2017

Ten quick and easy hairstyles you can create in 60 seconds or less

Fast beauty on the go

by Sarah Biddlecombe
07 Jun 2017

Hot festival hair trends of summer 2017: a day by day guide

A leading stylist creates his go-to looks

01 Jun 2017

82-year-old grandmother gets first tattoo in memory of late husband

The childhood sweethearts were married for 53 years

by Sarah Biddlecombe
01 Jun 2017

This is the high street moisturiser we’re buying every 18 seconds

People all over the world are positively obsessed

by Kayleigh Dray
01 Jun 2017