When I was a kid I was intrigued by makeup. I would stand by my mother, her hair in curlers as she applied powders, creams, and colours, getting ready for the day. I wanted to do the same. Despite dabbing a little lipstick on my lips and brushing a touch of rouge on my cheeks for very special occasions, her stance was I was not to own or wear makeup til I was 16. At first this frustrated me. I wanted to be pretty. I wanted to be a lady. And to do that, as far as I knew, you had to wear makeup.
As I grew older my intrigue waned. I was busy with school, playing sports, and just having fun. I wasn’t particularly interested in girl talk at recess were lip glosses and cute boys were discussed. It is not that I had no opinion on these things it was just the distraction of, on average, a ball being passed, or kicked, or hit, (usually by said cute boy) that would have me running away to join the game.
In high school, where self esteem correlates with the clique you are in, which is based on popularity, which is also based on how cute you are, makeup became a real thing. Eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, foundation, powder, M.A.C., L’Oreal, Maybelline was in the hands of most of the girls in school. They would crowd around mirrors in bathrooms and on locker doors gussying themselves up to spread rumours and sit bored in classrooms.
For my 16th birthday I don’t even remember what I got or what I did but I know it had nothing to do with makeup. After witnessing the hassle that is makeup with all the primping and preening and touch-ups coupled with the fact that my face was like a volcanic mountain range where it would erupt with the slightest breeze, I was no longer interested. I didn’t need all that and my face definitely didn’t want it.
To my mother’s chagrin I kept on this lack-of-make-up train all the way through high school and university. Some people thought it was weird that I was not interested in it because as an emerging adult, I had to adult, and part of that, especially as a woman, is to wear make up. I did not buy into that. It was weird though, people seemed to want to catch me in trap to point out my hypocrisy. I would be applying moisturiser and my brother would jump out “AH HA!” and I would just look at him confused. Or friends would come up close and analyse my face, “Are you wearing eyeliner?”, stepping back I would say no. Or on particularly good skin days, my mother would swiftly swipe her hand across my cheek and check her hands for residue, “Did you put on powder this morning?” Just because I didn’t wear makeup doesn’t mean I didn’t care about my looks. I washed, exfoliated, dabbed, and creamed. I didn’t get my eyebrows done for my benefit.
I still don’t wear makeup on a regular basis and because of this people assume I hate it or have something against it. That just isn’t true. I just don’t care that much for it. I own it, a surprisingly substantial amount actually, and I wear it when I deem it fit. Sometimes it is because of the occasion and other times I just feel like it. I just don’t have the want or need to put on a face every day. I think not wearing makeup through those formative years gave me the time to get to know and like my face, so why cover it up?
What I do have a problem with is that this has warped how women and girls see themselves. People can’t leave home without their eyeliner or mascara or completely done up. When their face is clean they hide or are thoroughly embarrassed. As people tried to reinforce with me at a young age, makeup is part of “being a woman” and without it you are apparently some hideous homunculus that needs to be squirrelled away in dark locked rooms. It is utterly ridiculous.
Then there is the trend now with the contouring. People just are not looking like themselves; they are putting on a mask to face the world. They wear so much their skin tone and even their features change to fit some sort of social expectation of beauty. Really they fall into the uncanny valley, looking like crude facsimiles of human beings. It is unnerving.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve how you look. You may want to hide blemishes, or scars, or sometimes you just wanna be fancy. But you should not hate yourself or be made to hate yourself especially for no good reason. We all have flaws and things we would like to change. I have scars and pimples and greasiness. I cleanse and moisturise and dab. But I am never embarrassed about showing my face (even though my brother thinks I should be. HA!). I have friends who constantly have on make up, there is nothing wrong with that, but they literally hide and cower and even apologise when they don’t. They have NOTHING to apologise for. They are beautiful people. And I am not saying that just because they are my friends.
Because girls are starting to cover their face up earlier and earlier they are not getting used to who they are, what they actually look like. When the makeup is removed they look strange to themselves. I’ve seen people post pictures of babies that look like weird dolls having covered the poor child’s face in powders. Little girls posing this way and that trying to get the admiration of people they don’t know and will probably never meet.
There is no one finger to point this at. It is society, it is technology, it is parents. Our culture exemplifies “beauty” over brains and you must choose which one to go for. Our world is plastered with images of made up women that showcase a beauty standard that few can ever hope to replicate. And parents, yes it is a tough job, but it is up to them to point out the ridiculousness of these standards and foster self esteem and self worth in their kids.
Whether you do or don’t wear makeup makes little difference to me. Just don’t lose yourself behind those layers.