Beauty Director Katy Young spent years changing her appearance. She reveals how embracing her natural looks helped her to accept herself

he other day I shared a photograph of myself with my colleagues from around 2OO7. The woman in the picture stared back at us: tanned, teased, better turned out than a Texan pageant girl. It’s not a part of my life I share with many people, largely because they wouldn’t believe it was me. The truth is, sometimes it’s hard for me to recognise the woman I was all those years ago. I am 42 now. My hair sparkles with the odd grey. My make-up routine is simple: primer, foundation, a thin coating of mascara and a little highlighte­r on mornings when the sun is low. But 12 years is a lifetime in beauty – enough for trends to come, go and return all over again. Which is why when I watch the new permutatio­ns of beauty – pumped lips, contouring, the current vogue for ‘skin taping’ (literally Sellotapin­g the sides of your face to your temple to achieve feline perfection) I nod knowingly. I remember the mid-Noughties for many things – Justin Timberlake, the iPod, a little thing called YouTube launching – but most of all, I remember it for fake. Acrylic nail bars had infiltrate­d the high street; overnight hair extensions gave everyone thick, Hollywood lengths, while the tang of self-tan permeated the air. I was 29 and had just come out of a six-year relationsh­ip – feeling raw and out of luck. I wanted to be someone else… and the beauty world promised to make me that a possibilit­y. Overnight, I went from someone who enjoyed make-up, in so much as it helped reveal my best bits and dampen down the bits I wasn’t so enamoured with, to someone who threw themselves into it. My pale skin disappeare­d with weekly tanning appointmen­ts (£4O); sparse, fragile lashes were replaced by thick, fluttery monthly sets of eyelash extensions (£15O). My brows became perfect crescents thanks to microbladi­ng (£2OO), while my nails rotated between a sugary French mani and vampish red thanks to a weekly shape and polish (£1O). I thought nothing of spending £5O on a blowdry before a date and if I didn’t get my highlights done on a strict eight-week rota (£3OO), I got twitchy. Did I look out of place? Not really. Fake was the beauty altar at which we all worshipped. Legally Blonde wasn’t just a box-office hit, it was a cultural snapshot of the giant blowdries, exaggerate­d extensions and fake tan/nails/lashes/everything that were to become the beauty norm. It-girls such as Paris Hilton led the super-groomed charge, while Katie Price (then Jordan, of course) and her gaggle of glamour girl

injectable­s ”AFFORDABLE and surgery HAVEGIVEN YOUNG WOMEN (AND MEN) THE OPTION TO FAKE IT as much as they choose ”

colleagues hit mainstream media. The antidote to the lo-fi 199Os grunge movement started in the salon; high maintenanc­e was in and ‘natural’ suddenly looked lazy. What’s more, taking extra care of the way I looked, however low or vulnerable I felt, was also a way of convincing myself – and anyone else who was looking – that I was OK. I remember my mother congratula­ting me on how well turned out I had managed to look, despite having a broken heart. If I looked ‘put together’ on the outside, then surely I was put together on the inside, too. And, at first, it worked. My sunkissed skin and bouncy hair had no time for heartbreak. Follwing a strict weekly beauty rota of manis and blowouts and self-tan applicatio­n made me feel like I was in control… of something. But the problem with control is that the minute you lose it, everything unravels. As soon as there were chinks in my weekly beauty calendar – from an overbooked salon to when a manicurist called in sick– there were cracks in my romantic diary, too. If I didn’t have time to get my tan or talons done, then I would cancel a date. I’d spent so long hiding behind a mask that I was terrified of presenting the real deal. Because the truth was, I wasn’t sure what the real deal was anymore. Something had to give. I was tired, I was still single and my hair was frazzled after months of blowdries. I also had to convince myself that anyone worth dating would stick around long after the tan had worn off. B ut just how pale and uninterest­ing was I really under that orange tint? Exactly how stubby were the few lashes that I had left? What even was my natural hair colour? Well, I was ready to find out. My beauty timetable became less punishing, my bank account less depleted. Bit by bit my natural skin colour started to emerge – pale, pinkish, blooming like a David Austin rose beneath the faded glow of fake tan. My hair lost its golden hue and instead revealed itself as a lovely, soft mink My lashes were thin, yes… but you could see my eyes for the first time in years. I felt alive and real but most of all relieved. Relieved to just be me. But fake is still big business. You only have to look at the entire cast of Love Island to realise that lash and hair extensions have gone nowhere and that affordable injectable­s and surgery have given young women (and men) the option to fake it as much as they choose. ‘Lashes, nails and extensions are now just too embedded in consumers’ beauty regimens – especially younger ones, who simply see them as an extension of their make-up bags,’ says Clare Varga, head of beauty of trend forecastin­g agency WGSN. Faking it has been conditione­d into us since the beginning of the beauty dawn. Victorians would use drops of toxic Belladonna berry in their eyes to dilate pupils for a more ‘romantic’ look, while false beauty spots made of mouse hair were used to hide blemishes during the 18th century smallpox outbreak. Our instinct to stand out and be noticed has, ironically, rested on our capacity to fake who we are. But a backlash is afoot. Bald spots, broken nails, skin left parched and irritated by years of fake tan… the casualties of faking it are now being felt far and wide. What’s more, a naked face and bedhead hair now says far more about you. Just look at Victoria Beckham, once the poster girl for fake beauty, who swapped extensions and that radioactiv­e tan for a multi-million pound company, a lot less make-up and a whole lot more confidence in her own skin. As for me, I did fall in love again – with the person I had become beneath my armour. Would I have had as much barefaced confidence today if I hadn’t amassed a beauty artillery along the way, though? I’m not so sure. Like they say, sometimes you just have to fake it until you make it.

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