By John Greenfield
Last week Dottie Brackett, co-author of the excellent Chicago cycle-chic blog LetsGoRideABike.com, put up a post that was completely unrelated to bicycling. While spending several days at home sick, too exhausted to even read books, let alone ride a bike, she found herself watching instructional beauty videos online for hours on end. “I’m not that into makeup,” she wrote. “But listening to these women’s voices was oddly comforting and I felt like I was learning something while using very minimal mental energy.” She linked to videos by some of her favorite beauty experts, like Lisa Eldridge and Sali Hughes.
Dottie’s post jogged my memory about a makeup-centric article that I never got around to writing up, so here it is. Last year I got in a debate with my roommate Meagan, a non-cycling Texan who’s a bit of a Southern belle. She spends about an hour on her hair, makeup and grooming each day, and I was ribbing her about it.
Meagan said that her beauty routine was pretty much the norm for women. I argued that my female friends, especially the ones who bike-commute regularly, tend to be lower-maintenance, wearing minimal or no cosmetics, spending little on haircuts and waxing, and only getting manicures and pedicures on an occasional lark. “Oh, they wear plenty of makeup,” she said with a grin. “You’re just not aware of it because you’re a guy.” Meagan was confident, for example, that most of my female bike buddies wear foundation, but it’s subtle enough that I don’t notice.
I emailed a bunch of my longtime pals from the Critical Mass ride for backup, explaining that I planned to write up their responses, and found out that my theory was pretty much correct. “These are my confessions,” responded my friend Gin. “I move up and down the ‘putting on a face’ continuum. Some days I don’t wear any makeup. Many days I do not even shower. I wash my hair about once a week.”
However, Gin said she does spend between three seconds and three minutes a day on cosmetics. She usually applies lip gloss and occasionally wears face powder or a lightweight foundation to even her skin out. Every few months she “tames” her eyebrows. When she feels like doing more, she’ll put on mascara, eye shadow, lipstick and possibly blush. “And I do like a good mani/pedi,” she added.
My neighbor Lisa wrote that her maintenance routine is similar to Gin’s except that she uses a lightly tinted combination moisturizer/sunscreen nearly every day, only applying foundation for dressier occasions or photo shoots. She uses a similar selection of cosmetics as Gin when she wants to get dolled up, with lipstick being a priority. “I’ve always believed (and had drummed into me by the super models and my mother) that if you can only wear one thing it should be some color on your lips,” she said.
“Sometimes I comb my hair,” my friend Ash responded dryly. “Would your roommate be horrified to see our collective armpits?”
“I am your gal,” my neighbor Julie wrote. “I don’t own any foundation. Eye shadow is for kid makeovers only. On rare occasions I wear lipstick.” She doesn’t maintain her eyebrows and tries to get haircuts for free. She’s had a pedicure three times, but never a manicure. “I don’t shave,” she added. “I tweeze hairs that appear in odd places. But I have to say I’m surprised that Gin and Lisa sometimes wear foundation—I wouldn’t have guessed that.”
Karen and her husband Kevin, the owner of a bike shop where I used to wrench, are two of the crunchier people I know in Chicago, so I wasn’t shocked to hear she possesses zero makeup. “I owned some eyeliner in high school,” she emailed. “And I know that [our friend] Lauren wears it sometime because I used some of hers in the women’s bathroom at a Chicagoland Bicycle Federation gala years ago when I was drunk. Haven’t worn it since.”
Karen dislikes mascara, but she tried foundation once in school. She stopped using it after a friend pointed out that her face and neck were two different colors. “Lipstick looks good on a lot of women, but not me,” she said. She showers two or three times a week and has never had a mani or pedi. Although most of her haircuts cost $12 or less, she occasionally splurges on a salon cut and partial color. “I am not so unconcerned with appearances that I don’t find hiding a few gray hairs and having a cut with some style to be rewarding.”
“Sometimes I wished I looked different—somehow ‘prettier,’ I suppose,” she wrote. Actually, Karen and all of our friends who responded to my query are quite attractive—all of that pedal pushing certainly doesn’t hurt. “But I’m not convinced that the pursuit of that look would necessarily pay off for me,” she added. “Maybe for your roommate it does. But I’m looking forward to reading your article when it comes out. You could call it ‘Cycling: The Only Foundation Beautiful Gals Need.’”