The grind of the 21st century throws up obstacles at every turn. Nikolaus Oliver is on hand with advice to guide you through. This week: Why make-up matters for one third of men. Make-up is often seen - especially by men - as the antithesis of looking natural. Men always say they wish their wives or girlfriends wouldn't bother with it, but is it really true? Not according to Calvin Klein, who understands these things. He laid bare the truth about this when he said, "The best thing is to look natural but it takes make-up to look natural."
Two interesting things have recently come to light about make-up, that in my view warrant looking at the whole subject with fresh (and freshly made-up) eyes. The first is the discovery that Neanderthal people wore make-up. Specifically, they favoured glittery make-up, no doubt because it went well with their disco frocks. The scientist responsible for this revelation, Prof Joao Zilhao, found the evidence in a Spanish cave, suggesting perhaps that the Neanderthals also liked to holiday in Ibiza, as all good party animals do.
The second piece of news is that the heavy eye make-up worn by Cleopatra and other ancient Egyptians didn't just look cool, but had remarkable medical properties which protected them against eye disease. Something about very low doses of lead stimulating the immune system. Other research, based on the study of ancient coins, has revealed that, far from looking like Elizabeth Taylor, Cleopatra may have been, shall we say, a little challenging on the eye. Thus her interest in make-up may may not have been wholly medicinal.
So, make-up is good for us, and even our prehistoric rivals the Neanderthals were into it. Where do matters stand today? For a start, around one-third of men admit to dipping into their wives' make-up bags and having a bit of a daub themselves. Makes you look at some of your co-workers in a new light, doesn't it? Mainly, they like the tweezers and nail files, but 10 per cent are using foundation cream and concealer, and five per cent are pinching hair removal cream. Hmm, let's move on.
By watching the "lipstick index" we can glean where we are in the recession. If we're in the double dip, make-up sales will soar as women buy themselves cheap treats, although after a certain lady once spent Dh1,800 on replenishing her stock after she left her make-up bag in a taxi, I would question whether make-up could be classed as cheap. When times are good, they move rapidly to more expensive rewards: diamonds, pearls, Ferraris.
What we've learned is that make-up is a modern essential. After you with that powder-puff, mate.