I did not wake up like this: on beauty & lies


I’m a bit fed up of being made to feel ugly.
It’s not by anyone who actually knows me or sees me, I should add – but, like any dutiful 21-centurion, I care not for these opinions and choose instead to listen to the advertisers, manufacturers and purveyors of all things ‘female’.

This morning whilst attempting to remove my ‘tangle teezer’ from the jaws of my bed head, I heard a knock at the door. The postman, with a much-anticipated parcel. I couldn’t face the world unfinished, but if he left, I’d have to drive 10 miles later to collect it.
In a panic, I caught myself lamenting the fact that I wasn’t one of those ‘natural beauties’ who wakes up glossy and ready for their #wakeupselfie, and then I remembered; those girls do not exist.

I forgot at first because it’s tough to let go of the dream we’ve been sold our whole lives – the dream of waking up every single morning with a messy updo, flawless baby skin, neck-down alopecia and a radiant, orgasmic glow.
It seems so achievable, too! Just buy that latest beauty thingamy and you’ll be there. Oh actually you need this special cream too, (except we’re calling it ‘perfecting fluid’ now so you don’t confuse it with the last tub of gloop we flogged you).
What’s that, you’re still not perfect? Well, it’s working for all the other women, dontyouknow. You must be lazy and somehow inherently flawed. Imagine how ugly you’d be if you didn’t make this much effort! Better buy some extra products, quick.

No, nobody wakes up every morning flawless, because it takes time and effort that we don’t have to spare; energy that quite frankly could be far better used on activities such as hoovering, eating cake and reducing the national debt.
& even if such a girl did exist, the media & marketers would quickly invent another problem (cankles/thigh gaps/cellulite/bingo wings/resting bitch face/any other anatomical descriptor that 1000 years of medicine has not needed a name for, but the Daily Mail has coined regardless) to put her in her place. No longer a slave to the kitchen, we’re now chained to the bathroom sink, and we’re told it’s pampering, indulgent and fun.

Would you rather, on balance, squat on the cold bathroom floor tiles and rip your leg hair out with wax, or do as your boyfriend gets to and lie on the sofa downstairs listening to music?
Which sounds more like pampering to you?
(I once dated a man who told me ponytails & updos were ‘a waste of women with long hair’, so I wore mine down for four years, even when eating pasta. I only have myself to blame for this stupidity, on both counts.)


I should say, I really am not anti- all beauty products; there are a select few that I religiously buy and use and love, because they do what they say and they make me feel nice. I’m planning on writing about those soon, but I couldn’t do so without getting all of this off my (no doubt insufficiently pneumatic) chest first.

We’re supposed to grow hair on our bodies; we’re supposed to age and bruise and have cellulite and sweat and get rough skin on our feet when we walk a lot. This is what natural beauty looks like for women; the only people who wake up silky smooth & hairless are children, & as gorgeous as Orla is, I do not wish to look like her now. It would, for one thing, greatly impinge on my gin-purchasing liberties.

& finally, while I’m at it, can I just add that there’s nothing wrong with cuticles growing as they do? I humbly suggest that anything that requires me to rub oil in them, jab at them with pointy wooden sticks and then CUT them might actually be the real problem here. It took a professional manicurist making me bleed into a fresh polish for this to register in my foolish, beauty-poisoned brain. .

I am sure you already know all of this; I sort of knew it too, but it’s something else to truly believe it, and to even internalise it a little bit.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be truly cured of my beauty poisoning, but that’s ok. It’s ok to shave your legs and wear eyeliner whilst loathing the toxic patriarchal bullshit that makes you want to, I think.
But as a ‘pretty girl’ who posts pretty pictures, it seems important to be clear here: I wake up just like the supermodels do; completely, flawfully human.

  • Siobhan Watts

    I love this a lot, and it’s all so true. For years I felt like I just wasn’t very good at ‘being a girl’ because I didn’t get my haircut every 6 weeks, go for manicures, know anything (or care to know) about make-up, expensive beauty products and all those things. I use what I use, and what works for me. What is cheap and simple and makes me feel good. There are a million things I’d rather be doing and spending my money on than having things waxed, plucked and all that business. And at 30 I’ve realised that doesn’t make me at all bad at ‘being a girl’ it just makes me great at being me. Also, I dare say that eating good stuff and being really quite happy makes you far more beautiful than anything else. I’ve followed you on Instagram for ages but this is my first time reading your blog, it’s wonderful and I can’t believe I’ve been missing out! Have a lovely day x

    • Could not agree more with you – six weekly haircuts and manicures have never ever made it onto my agenda, because I have always been too busy or poor or both. When you look objectively it is so obviously nonsense; if the pineapple industry announced we all had to eat a pineapple every six weeks to stay healthy, we’d all see immediately though it as a shameless sales ploy! But this crap is more ingrained than that.

      ‘Great at being me’ is going to be my new mantra when I berate myself for beauty-laziness. Thank you for your lovely comment, and for stopping by. It means a lot! x

  • Helen Stephens

    Too right Sara. Too much pressure on women, although men are catching up sadly. I have a phrase I say to myself very often, ‘Come as you are.’ I love it, it feels kind and takes the pressure off.

    • I remember in my GCSE business studies class, reading about how beauty products for men had always failed; we discussed how no company had ever managed to successfully market moisturizers or face washes to the male population. It’s remarkable how much that has changed in the 15 years since.
      Still, at least they don’t have to have moisturised underarms. *glares at dove*

      Come as you are. Love this. You are so wise x

  • I’ve stopped reading glossy magazines because of this. They always made me feel inadequate and like everything was wrong about me and that I needed all these products because if I didn’t, well then I just wasn’t doing things properly.
    Now I just do what feels good to me πŸ™‚

    And yes! The cuticles thing! It just creeps me out, why would anyone think to stab and push at a piece of skin that is obviously meant to be there?!.

    • Yes! Glossies are toxic, and I’m pretty sure that’s where most of my insecurities came from. I consumed those magazines in my teens like they were the bible to successful womanhood! I was just one heated eyelash curler away from GLAM, for sure! Sigh.

      We need to start a cuticle revolution. I’m going to see how long I can grow mine! πŸ˜‰ x

  • I love this post so much. I’m not sure when it started happening but lately beauty adverts on tv just crack me up! I find them so hysterical. The sultry looks and the made up words about effectitude and muti-demtitional-shimmeryness, etc… I’ve always been on the lazy side of caring for myself with products, but that’s not to say I haven’t felt bad about myself for not making an effort. And it’s so sad to think our sense of self worth is based entirely on how much money feeling bad about ourselves can make other people. What nonsense!

    • Thanks for this, Freya! I guess it’s telling that you still use the word ‘lazy’ to describe your beauty habits, which carries a lot of negative connotations despite itself. We’re supposed to make an effort all the time, and it’s exhausting!
      We’ve had a pretty long break from TV in our house, and lately caught our first cosmetic adverts in several years. Like you, I was laughing, and R, now father to a lovely little girl, was outraged! All those words like ‘perfecting’ and ‘flawless finish’, and the open-mouthed pouts and come-hither eyes. It’s surreal!

  • Great post and I agree with all of the above. All this insecurity is totally down to big corporations dictating what we should look like. I love beauty products and will probably never quite be able to shake off my belief in their magic powers but I’m very much aware of the problem. To counteract it, I try not to spend too much money on them and only support brands that I actually believe in and that don’t use ridiculous expectations to sell their stuff. Although I love to put on face masks and ‘pamper’ myself and enjoy putting on nail polish etc, I often just forget – life’s too short to make these moments of indulgences into a strict routine!
    Thanks for sharing your honest opinion and I cannot wait to see what beauty items you do use πŸ™‚

    • This is wise advice, for yourself and for others! I have long been amazed that no beauty company has taken the refreshing approach of non-airbrushing all of their cosmetic models. Just show us how it really looks, when applied properly. It’d go viral!

      Thanks for such a great, thoughtful comment. Beauty products coming soon – it’s a pretty short list! ha! xx

  • Love this post Sara. Recently, I worked on a pitch to a big beauty brand all about how consumers don’t want to be sold shiny glossy models anymore but want ‘real’ helpful advice and tips that they can get from bloggers, make up artists etc. not sure how it went down as I moved onto another project but it was a great strategy and project. I personally only buy products that make me feel good, that aren’t tested on animals at all, and are as natural as possible. I have never indulged in manicures often because I hate having my cuticles cut off! So gross. I still feel insecure most days even with makeup.

    • Nodding along to all of your comment. I wonder how that project will turn out? You can’t help but feel it’ll be twisted up at some point into just using the faces we trust to sell us the same old lies, but it gives me hope to hear that people like you are involved in the processes.
      I recently threw all my nail polish away because I realised i have no time or inclination to ever use it. I think the whole point of the cuticle thing is to make nail varnish go on better? I’m taking pride in growing really long, supportive cuticles πŸ˜€

  • Faye Larsen

    I so needed to read this today, thank you thank you! I was just saying to Curt last night that I am undergoing an image confidence crisis because I have spotted three grey hairs this week, have a hormonal spot outbreak all over my chin and a realisation that my knees have all of a sudden started to look saggy (when I mentioned this last one he did look at me like I had grown an extra head). He hadn’t noticed any of it and was completely unconcerned in any case. I am a pretty low maintenance person nowadays but these things do all bother me and I have already bought a box of hair dye to cover those greys! I hate that we are made to feel like we have to conform to some beauty ideal when we all know deep down that beauty is on the inside. I am trying to make peace with knowing it’s ok to want to look the best version of ourselves but also setting an example for my daughters that we are so much more than just our looks xxx

    • Saggy knees! This made me laugh, but also so sad for us all. We have such a lot of new body-hating ahead of us, if we can’t fix the damage in our heads. You’re right – we do know it deep down, but I think the thing that keeps me ‘in my place’ on it is the fear/knowledge that 90% of the people around me do not know it, and will judge me by the same old standards. It’s exhausting.

      I get quite excited by the prospect of going grey – I’ve never been able to colour my super-dark hair, so the idea of being able to experiment with new looks in my old age quite appeals. I think I might go blonde πŸ˜€

  • BritW

    Okay. It’s official: I love you.

    • Hurrah! & now the feeling is mutual πŸ˜€ x

  • ekate400

    This post is beyond wonderful. Thank you for being brave enough to say this.

    • Oh, thank you Kate! It’s not so brave now that I know it’s all just the truth. Brave would be posting the pictures to prove it πŸ˜‰ x

  • akanekinomoto

    One of the best posts I’ve read in a long time! πŸ™‚

    • That’s pretty much the best comment a girl could ask for! Thank you πŸ™‚ x

  • Such comforting words, makes me feel like IΒ΄m not alone dealing with all this on a daily basis. You know, between your blog and your instagram I feel like I could spend hours submerged in a world of pictures and words. I really love what youΒ΄ve done with both. xx

    • Such a compliment Susan – both your lovely words on my work, and knowing that this post brought you some comfort. I could do with rereading it myself most days, I think. It’s one thing to write/say it, but another to keep believing it, you know? xx

  • Very true! I have been reading a lot lately on natural cosmetics & how to use cupboard products as cleansers and stuff. Your words fit right in & I will join your free the cuticle movement.

    • Hurrah! Let the cuticles be free! Yes to using what you already have. Isn’t it funny how male skin is allowed to just be, but women’s skin is somehow inherently dirty and in need of purifying/deep cleansing/renewing? hmmm! x

  • Gosh this is perfect and so needed sometimes. I’m very easy going and laid back about how I look (read: I don’t wear make up except the occasional swipe of mascara and I don’t even own a hairbrush–but I promise I look put together). But I am constantly made to feel like I have to run to the nearest beauty store and purchase a bunch of useless things in order for someone else to find me beautiful. So I really needed this and it’s powerful words πŸ™‚ Thanks for writing

    • Thank you Chandler – better a late reply than never, right? Not owning a hairbrush is my new life goal! πŸ˜€ I am the same as you I think – when it’s just me, I don’t give a rats arse about looking ‘good’, but external opinions make me feel like it’s a failure without it. Compulsory prettiness.

  • Mina Fagerlund

    Thank you. I needed this.

  • that’s food darling

    Let it be written! Dear, I couldn’t have said it better. I quite agree with you.
    Sometimes it bothers me – to give just an example – that I wake up and have to recognize while looking in the mirror that my skin still is blemished like a girl that hits her puberty. But then it starts bothering me, that it still bothers me – cause all that negative thoughts that I put into this issue is just wasted energy.
    I guess there are just a few, truly few women who are blessed with flawless baby skin, orgasmic glow, and all that other ‘pretty girl’ stuff.
    For the love of completely, flawfully women, as we are! xx Lisa

    • Hurray! The more of us the better! I hear you on being bothered by your own botheredness. It’s a downward spiral for sure.
      & see, I honestly don’t think there’s a single woman alive who possesses ALL of the pretty girl factors. There are women with perfect skin, sure, but they’ll have stubbly armpits and greasy hair and ingrowing leg hairs. The only women who don’t are inflatable. x

  • Rachel Parker

    What a brilliant blog Sara. I have just bought an Estee Lauder facecream, pricey, offering me so much and promising so much, but I did NOT buy it for those reasons, I bought it be because (the sample I used last week) it smells wonderful, I can smell it all day and it’s THAT which makes me feel happy and all day I smell it I feel happy even when I’m exhausted, juggling being mom, PA, wife and cleaner of the house! I love your blogs so much. I love beauty blogs with lots of product reviews but I love your blogs much much more. Real life beautiful blog. X

    • Yes to this! If something is a sensory delight, and makes your skin feel nicer to wear (I’m struggling to phrase this, but hopefully you know what I mean!), then it’s a lovely pampering thing to have. It’s just when we feel insufficient without these products that it becomes an issue… thanks for your lovely words Rachel! x

  • This is beautiful!

    xx Katie
    lovely letters

  • Pingback: stuff that works: beauty - meandorla.co.uk()

  • Yes yes yes! I agree with all of this. I’ve ranted about this a lot on my blog too and have been on a rather epic journey with it all. I’m now proudly fury-of-pit but not quite there yet with legs or bikini line. Women feeling like they need to remove body hair, at great expense, time and often pain vs men who can sport their body hair how they like= rage. and all of this x 1000 since having Frankie too. I dont want her to be subject to this shit! and I want her to see me loving my body so she has a good role model.

    • See, I’m all about letting the legs and bikini line do their thing most of the time – because nobody except me & R will see it! I’m definitely more scared of strangers and their loudly shared opinions. It’s so tricky with a daughter to consider. I look at her, so completely unselfconcious, totally unarsed about her crazy hair and dirty face, and I can’t willingly force her to change that. But then we go out, and we’re judged. Ugh. x

      • aww thanks for the reply! I’m at my laptop right now and am procrastinating so can reply straight away (hah) I had to read back to see what my comment was about- gosh i left a passionate rant! I am getting into even more tricky conversations with Frankie about image as she gets older. She is beautifully un self aware and expressive, she teaches me so much about self acceptance and giving NO FUCKS about what people think! but she is also so aware of me and what I do which is amazing but also sometimes crushing if you know what I mean?! I would dearly love to demonstrate to her that I don’t care what other people think of me so don’t shave or wear make up for them, unless I, for my sake, fancy dressing up for a party or just because, every now and then and having fun with it- because I do think that clothes are creative and expressive and artistic and that its fun to play with them. But I’m just not that strong, not there yet. I still begrudgingly shave my legs to go to the swimming pool. i still wear make up to meetings and events so I looks more professional. I wear make up much less than I used too and no longer as a mask– but more than I’d like. I am aware of the pressure on me as a young woman to look and behave a certain way. I see it yet I cant quite untangle myself from it. not fully. I am RIGHT in the middle of all this so forgive my long ramblings. I am also avoiding work sooooooooo…….

  • Pingback: slow living and simplicity - me and orla blog()

  • Pingback: Me & Orla On When to Make The Leap From Day Job To Full-Time Bloggerheymama()

  • Sus Davy

    This, is everything. Exactly what I needed to reed this morning. Absolutely spot on!

    • Thanks Sus! I’m so pleased to hear this! x

  • The cuticle thing. My God that resonates. I constantly look at my cuticles and feel like a disgusting swamp person because they don’t look like they’re in a hand advert. On the rare occasion I get a manicure, I feel so embarrassed and judged because of the state of my nails, but that’s why I’m paying the lady Β£35 to “fix” them…

  • Pingback: beauty products that actually work - meandorla.co.uk()