Cast your mind back, way back to five or six years ago. If you were to glimpse yourself in the mirror, what would you see? Black kohl traced across your lash line, a shimmering blanket of candy pink gloss across your lips, or maybe nothing more than an ample sweep of bronzer under your cheekbones? Now, compare that with the make-up you have on today – how much has changed? For the majority of us, probably not very much at all. A recent poll of 2,000 women revealed that 63% felt – to some extent – stuck in a make-up rut. 

Not only that, but the average woman kept the same make-up look for 11 whole years. Such is our abiding commitment to the ebb and flow of fashion, where many of us wouldn’t be seen dead in last season’s cropped flares or ruffle shirt, it’s an odd state of play. 

Over half of us buy formulas we already know, ringfencing us from the playground of new shades and textures

But somehow, when it comes to the contents of our cosmetics bag, we get stuck. It’s not as though we’re not investing heavily in beauty products: the average woman spends £280 each year on cosmetics, equating to the not insubstantial sum of £18,000 over a lifetime.

And yet, over half of us devote these purchases to formulas we already know and love, those that ringfence us from the playground of new shades, textures and ideas. That’s not to say pledging allegiance to a signature look can’t be empowering – just look at Victoria Beckham’s daytime smoky eye or Emma Stone’s Old Hollywood brick-red lip – but there comes a point when a signature becomes a structure that seems impossible to shake off.

Of course, when it comes to creeping habits, a monotone make-up look may be regarded as trivial or merely superficial, but that would be to minimise the influence that make-up has over our inner world. That sense of feeling stuck has the power to shake the foundations of how we feel about ourselves, shifting our behaviours and impacting our relationships, and can keep us neatly folded inside the gilded beauty cage we’ve built for ourselves.

Comfort & control

“I often see women continuing to replicate the make-up they wore when they felt most confident,” says senior pro artist for Bobbi Brown, Hannah Martin. And she’s not wrong: make-up ruts act as a portal to the past, a tableau frozen in time. “Ruts tend to hark back to our teenage days,” says Lisa Potter-Dixon, make-up artist for Benefit Cosmetics. Indeed, a recent Max Factor study found that 30% of us are still wearing the same make-up look we wore as teenagers.

Blooming Lovely 3

Could you imagine listening to the same music that you did aged 14? Or wearing the same shoes? Perish the thought. Like holding onto a dress you wore on a first date, or hanging a painting simply because it reminds you of your childhood, there is a dash of sentimentality to it, too. “Make-up can be a tool to remind you of a time when you were happy or carefree, or first met your partner,” adds broadcaster and psychotherapist, Lucy Beresford. “Often, we want to feel safe and make-up can seem like a safe place to hide,” she explains. “It’s an evolutionary thing, we need the risk-takers who trek off into the mountains to kill the sabretoothed tiger, but most of us are happy staying behind and nesting. We need to have these different profiles for communities to thrive.” There’s something else at play here, too. As attested by a 2016 poll that found 41% of women rely on make-up to make themselves feel more assertive and self-assured, our make-up choices are inherently tangled up with our sense of professionalism in the workplace. 

Do we fear that toying with beauty looks might then make us appear frivolous or worse, a bit adolescent? Research shows that for most of us, fitting in is a primary driver when it comes to dressing our faces, which might be keeping us from setting foot on new terrain. Another 2016 study revealed that 47% of women admit to comparing their make-up to that of friends and colleagues. “It’s the herd instinct,” says Beresford. “You want to belong so you unconsciously try to mimic what people look like and how they speak. It happens a lot in adolescence but it can happen in the workplace, too.” Without realising it, we mirror what we see in others to strengthen interpersonal bonds, in what is known in psychology circles as reflexive imitation; built on the basis that people are more likely to be friendly and supportive to those people that reflect their own behaviours.

Breaking the mould

And yet, the relative safety of conformity can quickly become a seat belt tied too tightly. Just over the other side of the fence, there are countless advantages for those that decide to introduce a change. Making a concerted effort to update your look “often comes from a place of self-love,” says Beresford. “Breaking out of a rut can be a fabulous way to tap into new reserves of strength and energy. You may feel invincible, in charge, in control, playful, energised, and empowered by how different you can look.” Seeing yourself in a whole new light can be utterly transformative. 

So where to begin? To shuffle out of any rut, first you must explore what has kept you in it. Think back to when you first started wearing your current make-up look; what was happening in your life around this time? Now, consider how far you’ve come, and list the positive traits and attributes you’ve since acquired. Next, take a long look at your reflection and select the three things you most like about your face; perhaps it’s your eye shape, the deftness of your brows, or the gap between your two front teeth. Allow these features to become your blueprint for change, the blank canvas for new cosmetic ideas to be pinned upon. 

Lastly, take a very frank look at the contents of your make-up bag. Discard anything you haven’t used for six months, assess what you have left and spot the gaps – for instance, it might be that you’ve always shied away from colour. If so, set the infusion of colour as your mission. Conversely, if you’re a lipstick fan, your task is to find an eye shadow you’ll avidly wear during the day. “Many women are under the impression that only a small number of shades or trends suit them, but in fact, most of us can wear a vast number of trends,” says Martin. “Ease into it, by changing one thing at a time,” she suggests. “Switching to a fresh, lightweight foundation is a small change but that alone can update your look and help you to feel more confident”. Potter- Dixon agrees: “Adding a primer to your base, grooming your brows, or even wearing a slightly different shade of lipstick can give you a whole new perspective.” 

Blooming Lovely 4

Hit refresh

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the catwalk is likely the last place to look for a new make-up look, such is its propensity for bonkers ideas that have no place in real life. But this season, backstage make-up artists appeared to take one big collective exhale – the most compelling trends were wearable, flattering, fluid and well, a cinch to get right. The most instrumental of these, and the singular s/s 2017 trend that will both ease you out of a rut and gently usher you into a world of endless possibilities, is, quite simply: orange. 

Orange in all its convivial forms: apricot, tangerine, acid, peach, carrot, neon, honey, spice, amber, marmalade, cantaloupe – the words alone are enough to transport you off to some warm tropical island. In fact, we’re hardwired in our love for this happy, ebullient shade. “Orange is linked in our psyche to things like fire or gold, which can carry connotations of warmth, power, and strength,” reveals Beresford. On the s/s 2017 catwalks, glossed amber lids reigned at Emporio Armani, while a rich brick tone gave red lipstick a new spin at Roksanda. A sophisticated sweep of apricot across eyes teamed with freshly balmed-lips created an athletic effect at Ferragamo. Whereas, for the hardier make-up guinea pigs among us, bold rings of acid orange around the entire eye brought the rave to the catwalk at Blugirl.

Brilliantly, the effervescence of the orange trend is such that it can be peeled off and applied to every single skintone under the sun. Its careful temperance between warm red and blue-toned yellow means it can be as perfect a fit for warm complexions as it is for dark, cooler tones. As a rule of thumb though, “if you have pale skin, go for peachbased tones, and for those with deeper skin, go for bold orange,” according to Potter-Dixon.

Orange is linked in our psyche to things like fire or gold, which can carry connotations of warmth and power

In short, this is a colour that manages to find the beauty in every face. “Orange is a huge trend this season and there are many ways in which we can wear it without it being intimidating,” says Martin. “A soft peach shadow through the crease of the eye lid is so current, as is a little coral blush. If you’re feeling more experimental then try adding a pop of colour to your make-up look with a bold orange lip. 

I’m in love with Bobbi Brown’s new Art Stick Liquid Lip in Hot Tangerine [£21.50],” she adds. Peachy needn’t just be pretty, this season’s orange is directional too. Leave it to Mac to create a mascara in a warm rust tone – its In Extreme Dimension Mascara/Work It Outin Warm Up [£15.50] adds a spark to blue and green eyes, while Urban Decay’s Vice Lipstick in Hitch Hike [£15.50] adds a warm terracotta hue that brings life to dull skin. 

“A simple pop of colour on your lips can brighten your whole complexion. Go toa make-up counter and try on some different shades,” says Potter-Dixon. In fact, “a simple change of lipstick shade or liner technique can really change the way our make-up looks. Swap coral for nude,” suggests Martin. “If the thought of orange eyeshadow is a bit daunting, try a cream blush instead,” says Potter-Dixon. 

Try Benefit’s Majorette Blush, [£24.50], a mid-toned, non-glittery burst of warmth for cheeks; try patting it on your lips too for an elegant stain effect. Ultimately, when it comes to biting the bullet and relinquishing the safety net of make-up past, the most important thing is to get stuck in. Remember, it’s only make-up – it washes off. As Amelia Earhart once said, “the most effective way to do it, is to do it.” Fortune favours the brave.

Shop the new season’s scents and beauty staples