// Some Thoughts + Perspective on Make Up
Growing up, I recall the first time I had my make up done at a counter in the mall and thought I was fancy as fuck. Make up was one of those elusive things everyone else could do, but me. Girls who excelled at being feminine could do it and I was an awkward gazelle who came to terms with the natural look being my only look. Even now, Sephora is the only reason I know how to apply anything make up related as an adult, and that still leaves a great deal to be desired. I’m fascinated with how good make up looks in youtube videos. Mesmerized to be honest. Yet, the minute I attempted any of these methods, I look old. My skin looks rough versus supple. The delicate balance of pores, freckles, and spots I had grown to love over the years change to a homogenous blur of products that looks far better from afar (or in photos) than seeing me in real life. Or at least I think so.
This leads to an odd relationship with make up. Total awe on one side with a desire to create looks I see advertised yet feeling like a stranger in my own skin on the other…all the while questioning why I even feel the need to want to know how to do make up all the while not even trying to do it. These days my make up routine is a skincare routine. I’m literally glowing from all the oils and more concerned with looking like skin, than covering it in any way even with uneven skin tone, dark circles, and blemishes out in all their glory. If there was anything I did enjoy (and could actually execute) it was (and still is) mascara. My entire face opens up. My eyes that normally disappear behind glasses can be seen again, yet I find myself wearing it less and less to almost never. Not even to ‘special occasions’ or places where women are expected to look our best, a best that must include a face that is not naturally ours.
Make up is often a lose lose. If you enjoy it, you’re superficial. If you don’t wear it, you either don’t care about yourself and anywhere you’re going or you’re trying too hard to be counterculture. We shame women who like to wear it. We shame women who don’t like to wear it. Again, the conversation turns to what everyone else thinks women should be doing instead of celebrating what women actually want to do. Though I think the nature of make up leaves space for interrogation of self and societal standards around appearance. The biggest issues around make up arise as we are again sold the idea we need to fix ourselves from an industry that profits on our personal dissatisfaction with our outward appearance and how much worth we derive from that.
Make up in itself has not introduced any new discussions outside of men feeling lied to (take her to the pool on a first date they cried) and women defending their desire to want to enjoy playing with appearances (both with make up and without) if they so pleased. Interestingly enough, playing with appearances for women also means playing with perception. What we do and don’t put on our faces is that deeply rooted in our judgments of women and ourselves.
Making a decision to not wear make up did not feel revolutionary to me. Perhaps it feels confident in a world where entire careers are built on the ability to execute a full face and people have been hired to make me look better for photo shoots, weddings, special events and all celebrity functions. To be honest, it only felt confident because I tangled up so much of what it meant to be a fully functioning woman in being able to do my own make up. I never learned. I still look like a child trying to figure out brushes and colors and blending (wtf is a silicone beauty blender anyway?) I recall dating a guy who liked girls to be made up. I felt like I had to achieve this type of female excellence to be deemed worthy enough to be a girlfriend. In no way should genuine female excellence or self-worth ever be correlated with how well you can cover your face and your ability to appear a way that society deems more worthy than you natural state (unless, of course, costume design, role play, and other playful things are involved in your skills and interests.)
So in not wearing make up, it often feels like I’m standing up to things I learned about what women were supposed to be able to do, and how mature or professional women presented themselves. Am I any less put together if I don’t wear make up? Am I any less prepared for nights out? Am I any less a female if I can only use mascara? Or conversely, am I also smarter when I don’t wear make up? Am I more likely to be taken seriously with or without make up on, or is it that tricky space where some is better but too much is bad?
The responses I get from men and women differ on the subject of make up. However, perhaps it’s being in wellness and a mental health advocate that most my feedback is not about highlighters but about simplicity and truth, from women and men. Though the most beautiful aspect was the lack of shame for those who love make up. Of course, I will champion a space where we do the self-analytical work of figuring out why we do what we do, judgment of others dies and make up just being a thing, not a defining characteristic.
I’m more interested in what not wearing make up means to me and for me, not so much how that decision is perceived. I view make up much in the way I view plastic surgery (which I talk about here.) There are myriad reasons a woman (or hell, anyone) decides to wear make up that are range from social to psychological, yet taking a self-analytical approach to why we wear it, feel the need to wear it, or view ourselves without is worth exploring. Where you land is personal, but maybe you garner new revelations for yourself (and how women are judged yet again) in the process.
In exploring my relationship with and perceptions about make up, I also found there is a notion that make up exists for the undesirable and insecure, and a resounding “you don’t need it” is offered up when those deemed attractive discuss having a bare face. I also wonder why we champion those societally appealing faces when rocking a bare skin (that’s always clear and generally privileged) while those who are more marginalized are either not noticed, assumed don’t care about themselves or lumped into some form of bravery in the face (no pun intended) of mainstream beauty standards. Much like body positivity where it has become only ok to be body positive if you still fit a narrow view of what is acceptable and what isn’t physically, I feel like make up starts to edge on this sentiment. Pictures of stretch marks and barely there rolls are the same stretch to outwardly validated confidence as the look at my dark circles, pimples and spots sans make up. When will we stop apologizing for our natural state? When does admitting perceived flaws no longer equate to self-esteem? If anything it normalizes the already normal, and though it might be self-actualized, it’s only outwardly. When does the hard work of discussing our insides come up?
I will admit I’m sad when I see someone who cannot even run mundane errands without putting something on their face. Part of me begins to think of all the time and mental capacity they could save if they stopped caring about what anyone else thought, or if they are wanting to hide something that actually has nothing to do with their appearance. It reminds me of my eating disorder and how when it lifted, I had so much more time when I wasn’t obsessing over my body or food intake or what someone else might see if they looked at me.
I also think it’s worth noting how we become jealous and how we compare ourselves to one another. I’m not above this either. Flawless winged liner is an art but I ask myself where that envy comes from. Are we jealous of how the world perceives them? Are we jealous of who we think they are or what their life must be like? Are we still comparing our insides to their outsides and never measuring up?
The real task in all this talk of make up or no make up is to question why we do the things we do, or feel the need to do. Ask yourself what would happen if you changed how you behave or challenged habits and beliefs. Explore what parts of the world you’re willing to accept are a certain way and which parts you do and don’t adhere to, as a personal choice. From this place, do what you’d like to do. Own what you decide and know it’s malleable. There are no hard and fast rules on anything in life to be perfectly honest with you. Take some and leave some. It’s like food habits that turn into identity and having a dogmatic approach to what we choose to eat. Make up is much the same way. Something to use but not build an identity around. I believe in a no rules, no obsession approach to most everything in life.
Maybe that is make up and maybe it’s just skin. Maybe it’s a hybrid of both.
Do things that feel good for you and that make you feel the most like you.