‘What’s that for?’ Explaining a modern makeup box to a 94 year old


*Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

My grandma is ninety-four.

She’s pretty epic for an old lady. She’s had a very interesting life – she came over to the UK from Austria after WWII and married my grandfather. She beat cancer twice. And she was an awesome cook. Her apple strudel was amazing. I’m sure my attempts would just disappoint her.

Now, she’s housebound and has vascular dementia, but I like to hear her stories of life when she was younger. She remembers those times more clearly than recent events – her short term memory isn’t great, but get her talking about something that happened in the 30’s or 40’s and she’s well away.

Modern times confuse her. She doesn’t understand how modern things work – like my iPhone, she doesn’t get how it’s so small and yet is basically a computer in my hand. She thinks they’re very clever, but prefers not to get involved with them. Her television is confusing enough, she says.

One thing she loves for me to do with her is show her my new makeup. She loves it when a Glossybox lands on the doormat, so she can have a good look at what’s in it. But bless her, she doesn’t get what half of it is for. Back in her day, makeup was just pressed powder, some rouge and a shonky lipstick in a garish red or pink. Half of the products I use didn’t exist in her day, and she doesn’t get what they’re for.

I took her through my makeup collection the other week just for a laugh, and her reaction to some of the products was hilarious. I’ve chosen five that particularly seemed to get her interest.

MUA Shimmer highlighter

‘This is blue, why is it blue? Does it make your face blue?’ No, Grandma, it doesn’t, it just gives you the most subtle glimmer on your cheekbones.

‘But why is it blue?’ Try as I might, I couldn’t get her to understand that just because it’s blue, it doesn’t mean that it comes out blue on the skin.

Huda Beauty Liquid Matte lipstick

‘That can’t be lipstick, how does that work? Oh, that’s horrible and dry!’ Back in Grandma’s day, lipsticks looked like ‘normal’ lipsticks. I don’t think she gets the concept of liquid lipsticks. She also didn’t love that this one is ‘brown’. It’s not really brown, but in her day, lipstick was red or pink.

LA Splash Lashes and Eyelure lash glue

‘Why would you want to stick fake eyelashes on? This goes on your eyelid? It looks like corrector fluid.’ Now she has a point here – the Eyelure lash glue does kind of look like Tippex (other corrector fluids are available) but I showed her how it worked. I also tried to explain the concept of magnetic lashes to her but she didn’t really get it, I think.

Maybelline Dream Urban Cover foundation

‘It’s so pale. Are you really that pale? You need to go out in the sun more.’ That was her main issue, was how pale the foundation was. I can’t help that I’m a pale-ass girl. It’s genetic, anyway. She isn’t exactly tan. I think she understood how I put it on and also how a beauty blender worked – she liked them, she thinks the ‘little expanding sponge’ is a clever invention.

Collection Cosmetics Lasting Perfection concealer

‘If you have foundation on why do you need concealer?’ A valid point, but I explained to her that I get really dark circles under my eyes. ‘So why don’t you just put more foundation on then?’ Because it doesn’t work like that. Concealer, I said to her, exists so that you can brighten up the under-eye and cover up the dark circles. Which I get. Because I’m constantly tired.

Her answer? ‘Go to bed earlier and stop staying up late on that Internet.’ Okay Grandma. I will.


Makeup has changed a lot since my grandma was wearing it. She cooed her way through most of my makeup box, recognised some products but mostly, looked at it with total bafflement. She did say it’s really something that makeup has come on so much, but I think she’d rather leave it to us youngsters. She seemed rather overwhelmed!

I may sit her down with some YouTube makeup tutorials and see how she does with them. They may just blow her mind!

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