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The Clinique Counter Is Where I Learned That Makeup Is Only Skin Deep

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Becca Willow, the author of this piece, felt inspired by her experiences as a singer and actor. This is written in honor of women who have overcome obstacles that permeate a materialistic and sexist society. To Becca, scars are meant to be shown.

This is dedicated to all the women who wear their scars proudly.

Christine’s Clinique Clinic 


I recall being 6 years old, walking through the department store with my Mom, my hand in hers, my step in step with hers, walking up to the
Clinique counter.

We approached, and Mom released my grasp to point toward the polished ad, dazzling above us.

“Is the bonus still on?” she asked the clerk, expectantly.

She was referring, of course, to the gift with purchase in the store: the curated and coveted Clinique Bonus.

A canvas case, zipped up to encompass sample sizes of:

Skin cream

Mascara

Eye shadow

Lipstick.

“Here sweetie,” she said, handing me a small tube. “You can have the lipstick!”

At 6 years old, I was gushing, grateful, and god-damned gleaming that I was included too. With the purchase of cosmetics, I was able to take part in this special surplus, and “bonuses” were always positives in kindergarten. “Bonus points” meant you had good joints in gym, and dim Dad always wanted the “big bonus” from work.

How could little Becca find her bonus? That was an onus I did not fully comprehend. And yet, I wanted in. On the receipt for each purchase was the hidden tax of upkeep. I could put the waterproof mascara on my eyelashes, embracing the future tears that would be erased from my history. The onus of that makeup routine committed me to an ideal –  a speil I’d been sold.

Clinique was the first clique that accepted me — I had gained entry into a club that only snubbed those unwilling to pay. The size of the samples were not accurate depictions of their weight. While stated at “50 milliliters,” the coverage of the mystery creams inside could span much more than my skin. A true sin within the scope of womanhood.

Hiding my breakouts was no different from hiding my breakups, as lotion was not just self-care. In a bottle of cream was what seemed like liquid courage. The Clinique stamp would smooth my skin, but wouldn’t soothe any pain within.

But, as a young girl, my department store walk-through was a walk in the park. An arc — shaping the vain viewpoint I grasped of acceptance, of allowance. For as pacified as the lipstick painted me, it could not paint my understanding of privilege.

During my childhood, I had undeveloped perspective on the spectrum of anxiety. There was a shadow cast on the lid of what my society knew. Not having a parent who’d buy me a Juicy Couture sweatsuit was not comparable to having a parent in an orange jumpsuit. It was only in my adolescence that I disbanded and rebranded my viewpoint. I was lucky to have access to a mall, to have a Mother, and to have mindfulness of my milieu.

The Clinique was not a clinic.

Our porcelain white skin would never begin to know the pain of some women, whose walk through that department store was one of shame. Women whose skin didn’t afford them the privilege of blending in, or whose upbringing forced them to blend their blotches till they bled.  

There was something about the name: The Clinique Bonus represented reward. For partaking in the undertaking of covering-up what was natural and already feminine, was a fantasy of the fascia, hidden behind the salmon or fuchsia tints.

The blush powder, puffed on Mom’s face, was not the gunpowder grazing another’s race, in a space of intersectionality

not yet known to my 6 year old,

in her world of bonus.

In the coming winter months when the air becomes dry,

I moisturize my proud Jewish nose when it turns blotchy. I refuse to cover the blemishes on my skin, or to begin fussing with zits that win.  

Lips turn cracked, dry, and bloody. An organic rouge drips — opposed to that from my Sugared Grapefruit lipstick with its patented, pigmented, persimmon tones. The images viewed when I was little taught me that gloss can’t ever just be spittle. Yet, what a bonus it is to be alive, to breathe cold air, and treat my face fair.

I try not to erase the bruises on my soul, just as I did not erase the bruises on my face. On my breast. On my arm. There’s no harm is showing your truth. I wish I’d known that in my youth.

Women’s beauty does not require scrutiny, nor do women’s stories nor survival skills. The actions that exemplify aggressors from our past cannot be blended, smeared, or exfoliated from our records. The strength, shimmer, and saliency of survivors are far from “made-up.”

The foundation of the face is no disgrace. Rather, it is a sign of long-believed, perceived, and conceived notions of false purity. Contrived beauty regimens, long proliferated by our regime.

I still have the same lipstick from that bonus.

Untouched from when I was 6,

Unscathed by age,

It was made to last.

For the chemical components of my baby pink lip,

Were built to withstand my tears when they drip.

We’re built to with to withstand the tears when they drip.

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