My bare-faced week in the Middle East

I recently went on a trip to Israel with Christian Aid. After a long day of travelling from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv and then jumping in a taxi – which incidentally broke down on the dual carriageway on our way to East Jerusalem – we finally arrived at our hotel. It was late in the evening when I got into my hotel room and I decided I would unpack for the week.

Swimming around my head were thoughts of the adventure that we were going to have; the surreal nature of the fact that I was in the Holy Land. I was also bracing myself for what promised to be an extremely emotive week, walking where Jesus walked but also witnessing the suffering experienced by those affected by the ongoing conflict in the region.

And then suddenly I had a thought; a thought which at that moment seemed far more upsetting than anything else I was preparing to see – more tangible than the scenes of human suffering I was sure to witness in the coming days: ‘I forgot to pack my foundation.’


Surely I could not have been so stupid. Surely I could not have forgotten my most important item. But, sure enough, I unzipped my make-up bag – my only travel essential – and opened it up to find an empty hole where my Mac Studio Fix Fluid should have been. My mind flashed back to my dresser in my room in Greenwich, south-east London, where a few hours before I had been doing my make-up, ready for the journey ahead. I had forgotten to pack it.

I’m not sure how I can get across to you how much of a panic I was spiralled into upon realising this catastrophe. Some pretty crazy thoughts rushed through my head. [I won’t go into detail here about the difficulties of finding good foundation for black skin in London, let alone the Middle East – that is for another blog!] I momentarily wondered how much it would cost for me to fly back home first thing in the morning, pick up my foundation, and fly back to meet the party I was travelling with in the evening. I quickly started up my laptop, connected to the Wi-Fi and Googled whether there was a Mac store in Jerusalem – or anywhere in Israel. There was one – only two miles away from where we were staying. I started plotting how on earth I could leave the group I was with, learn the Arabic or Hebrew for ‘Taxi driver, get me to the Mac store!’

For someone who daren’t leave the house without her face on, this oversight was a tragedy of epic proportions. How could I show my bare face? Maybe I could get away with not washing off the make-up I was already wearing and seeing if it would stay on for a week?

Foundation has been my best friend for many, many years. For me, it’s a way to mask some insecurities and flaws.

I love make-up. It’s perhaps a bit of a comfort blanket – something which I feel I can’t live without. But after getting over my ridiculous state of panic and getting a bit of perspective from that still small voice and the voice of reason aka my little sister; I soon forgot all about the foundation. I decided I would take up the challenge of a week without it.

Although I did still have eyeliner, mascara and a shimmer brick, so it really wasn’t all that bad…

I was clearly the only person who noticed I didn’t have my foundation. There were no screams of horror upon seeing my foundation-less face when I met the rest of the group for breakfast in the morning.

It seems that I’m not the only one who clings on to cosmetics. Today’s Stylist magazine included a feature on the psychology of make-up, the snap judgments we make based on what people look like and the vast number of us who feel that it’s only with make-up on that we can be confident in the workplace.

Apparently women spend 10 working days a year getting ready for work, while 70 per cent of us feel ill-equipped without our faces on.

A survey cited in Stylist found that “a tide-mark of foundation indicates lack of attention to detail, heavily pencilled brows suggest cockiness and no mascara points to a potential emotional wreck”, Stylist reports. We are judged on how pristinely we apply our make-up.

Ever since I started writing this book, I’ve planned to go into work one day without make-up on. But I haven’t quite worked up the courage. How ridiculous is that?

Maybe seeing Stylist’s Samantha Flowers writing about her bare-faced week will give me the push to finally do it.

But not tomorrow though… I have a meeting.


One thought on “My bare-faced week in the Middle East

  1. Loved reading this post! Would love to see photos of your beautiful bare face from the Holy Land too… are you going to post?

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