I am not what you would call adventurous when it comes to makeup. I wear lipstick, a little tinted moisturizer, some mascara and nothing more. This is not because of any God-given beauty that renders me naturally stunning – it’s just that I am supremely clumsy and untalented when it comes to cosmetics. I have never, ever known how to apply two colors of eye shadow correctly onto my eyelid. And no matter how many times my daughter has tried to show me how it’s done, I still can’t use blush to create the illusion of cheekbones. My face is somehow makeup-averse. Even when it is skillfully applied by a friend or makeup artist, it looks wrong on me – I end up looking painted, garish and overdone. I have invested in several professional makeovers and each time I’ve come away looking like some kind of demented, bad-girl circus clown.
The only sure-fire trick in my makeup arsenal is a particular MAC lipstick, a shade called “Hug Me.” I can’t tell you why, but this one perfect, pinkish brown lipstick adds warmth and definition to my face; it detracts attention from the dark circles under my eyes, and subtly rearranges my features, instantly making me look years younger. Well, I think it does, although not everyone seems to agree (as my mother used to say “It’s lipstick, not a friggin’ magic wand.”)
In a rare blend of shallow vanity and noble altruism, my lipstick addiction not only improves my appearance, it lets me feel that I am doing my part to help the planet: MAC’s recycling program allows you to return any six empty makeup containers and get a free lipstick on the spot. This program delivers a double whammy of feel-good opportunities: it saves me $15.00 while also letting me reduce my carbon footprint. I am not generally the most organized person and I’m not known for my long game, so the fact that I can save and keep track of half-a-dozen empty lipstick casings shows a surprising amount of discipline and foresight.
I do have one small problem with the recycling program – when you purchase a MAC lipstick it comes nicely sealed and sensibly protected in a small black cardboard box. But when you recycle your six used-up containers, the ladies at the counter drop a naked lipstick tube into your hand – no box, no bag, no nothing. There is something jarringly casual about this transaction, and it also seems a little shady – the lack of a box always makes me think that the lipstick may have been found in the street, or on the floor of some gas station ladies’ room.
When I’ve asked the MAC saleswomen why there’s no box with a trade-in, I always get the same vague response, an airy non-explanation that trails off after some mumbling about “policy” and do I need any eyeliner? But I never push it. These ladies know I’m hooked on Hug Me. They can sense my panic as I anxiously ask if the shade is about to be retired. Because as any woman knows, the more perfect a lipstick is, the more likely it is to be abruptly discontinued. I was caught unaware when this happened in the late 1970s with Maybelline Frosted Mocha, but I won’t be caught off-guard again. I call the company periodically, and I check on the website for news of my favorite shade’s demise. Before it disappears forever, I plan to purchase a lifetime supply of Hug Me. But I wonder what I’ll do with all those empty lipstick tubes…