Makeup isn’t what it used to be.
Growing up, my options were limited to just 5 products: lipstick, eyeshadow, foundation, blush and mascara. That’s all anyone I knew wore.
Women “put on their face” if they were going out, but otherwise they went makeup-free. Although some of the girls in high school dabbled in concealer, I don’t remember anyone wearing a full face of makeup. It just wasn’t done. Our parents wouldn’t let us.
How things have changed!
These days, as soon as a girl hits puberty, foundation follows close behind. Even the preschool set wears sparkly lip gloss.
Are we in danger of losing sight of honest beauty?
And is that affecting how men think of us?
The Curse and Blessing of Makeup
Makeup occupies a complicated place in the feminine heart.
On the one hand, it’s so much fun. Your face is your canvas, and you get to paint it every morning. Matching your makeup to your outfit and mood soothes the creative soul.
On the other hand, makeup is a mask. It hides what you don’t want people to see. It allows you to put on a face that isn’t yours.
In comparison, your unadorned face looks so plain. Looking at yourself without makeup is like looking at yourself naked. You’re not sure you want anyone to see you so vulnerable.
Throw dating into the mix, and the pressure heats up.
How often do you sneak off to retouch your makeup on a date?
Have you ever woken up before a man so that you could sneak into the bathroom and redo your face before he saw you?
How many hours of your life have you wasted wondering what a man sees when he looks at you?
Of course they’ve studied these things.
So you’re allowed to wear makeup, but you have to hide the fact you’re wearing it. Your makeup drawer full of products becomes your dirty little secret.
It doesn’t help that makeup is notoriously capricious.
Eyeliner smudges, giving you panda eye. Bright lipstick wears off, leaving you looking like a child outlined the edges of your lips with a red Crayola and forgot to color in the rest.
Not to mention the spots that spring up overnight if you forget to cleanse every last speck of foundation away.
If you follow the women’s movement, your makeup drawer casts an even greater shadow.
Some claim that the makeup industry is anti-women, because it represents pressure to conform to culturally-accepted standards of beauty.
By spending so much time and money on pursuing impossible standards of beauty, women have less energy for higher goals, like breaking the glass ceiling. If women cared less about their appearance, the thinking goes, they’d be making greater strides in politics, business, and culture.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Artist Courtney Privett created an amazing visual of some of the mixed messages women receive about beauty in her “Nevertheless, She Persisted” series.
How often have you heard people say:
- “You’d be so pretty if you made an effort.”
- “You’re going gray. You ought to dye your hair.”
- “You’d be so much prettier if you wore makeup.”
- “You’re wearing too much makeup. You look like a clown.”
- “You’re too old to dress like that.”
- “Your clothing is distracting the boys.”
As much as feminists claim that women shouldn’t let their appearance get in the way of their dreams, it’s clear that culture sends a different message.
Professional success in any field that deals with the public requires a polished image. You have to look a certain way to make that all-important first impression.
Even though I’d like to believe my credibility relies on the strength of my research and quality of my insights, I know that, as a woman, I can’t escape comments on my appearance.
And that’s why I believe that makeup is an ally.
Makeup gives us courage. It helps us feel confident. It gives us the armor we need in a world that can so easily skewer us.
With makeup, you can look the way you want to look. You can give yourself the high cheekbones, lush eyebrows, and intense eyes you’ve always wanted.
And, at the end of the day, you just wash it all off. You’re still you.
No one condemns men for wearing suits and ties. No matter how podgy or pale a man is, he can still step into a garment that clothes him with power and importance.
So why pick on women for wearing makeup?
Makeup is part of my daily routine, and I enjoy it. I cover up the dark circles under my eyes, draw in my sparse eyebrows, dust my skin with powder to mute shine, and moisturize my lips with a neutral lipstick. I look completely natural—only younger.
And if I want to draw in cat’s eyes with liner, or contour my cheekbones, or make my eyes stand out with shadow, why not?
This is my face.
I get to decide what to do with it.
That’s one thing the women’s movement can agree on. No one has the right to tell you what to do with your body.