Yep, you knew it had to come – the discussion about makeup*. Empowering? Or does it make us a slave to vanity and sexual objectivity?
I actually love makeup, which may surprise some of you. Yes, me, Miss Sneakers-and-Cotton-Panties. I love makeup.
I think that it’s wonderful that we have the option of playing with colors and lines and shadows to enhance our features. Makeup speaks to the artist in me, and probably in all of us! It’s just plain fun.
Fun or not, though, I never wore much makeup. I started out a little besotted with it, though the feeling didn’t last. At 11, I begged my mother to let me buy an eyeshadow compact that contained 10 different colors. She graciously allowed me to have it so long as I promised to only wear the eyeshadow on weekends – never at school. And I obeyed, slathering electric blue eyeshadow on my eyelids every Saturday morning. (What can I say – it was the 80′s.) At 12, she let me buy clear mascara – a purchase that made me feel so grown up because I was allowed to wear it to school.
Oddly, when I turned 16 and was allowed to wear makeup regularly, I lost all interest in it. I sometimes wore mascara to school, but that’s it. The only things I faithfully applied were concealer, foundation and powder.
This trend continued until I was about 28 and met a woman who always came to work wearing the most beautiful, color-coordinated makeup. Around this time, mineral makeup was becoming the rage, and my mother was having a ball buying BareEscentuals products for me on QVC. And I wasn’t complaining!
I started dating someone some time later, and was suddenly very aware of my face. Or should I say, my makeup. For the first time in my life, I was hyper-vigilant about wearing makeup and keeping it looking fresh all day long. I’d sneak into bathrooms on dates to make sure my mascara wasn’t running or that my blush was still shimmery.
One night, after I washed my face, I looked in the mirror and was not thrilled with what I saw. I thought my eyes looked awful without the makeup. The feeling of dissatisfaction alarmed me – I had never felt inadequate without makeup on before.
Not long after that, I had another unsettling experience. My boyfriend was talking on the phone while waiting for me to get ready for a date and, not wanting to interrupt his conversation, I slid him a note saying, “What kind of makeup should I wear tonight? The usual? Or something hot and spicy?” He scribbled something down as he was talking and slid the paper back to me. It read: “NONE!!!” He wasn’t a big fan of makeup and had been encouraging me not to wear it all the time. After reading that note, I decided to go for it. And once again, I was disturbed by how hard it was! I was so scared he would think I wasn’t very pretty. (And keep in mind, even though I wore makeup every day, I did not wear a lot of it.)
That was my second wake up call, and I decided to listen to it. This was also around the time I started “going natural” with my routine – making my own shampoo, discontinuing my use of harsh chemicals, etc. I had already felt that perhaps it was not good for my skin to absorb so much makeup every single day. And after realizing just how inadequate I felt without wearing it, I knew I had to take a serious look at it.
Some of you may remember my Naked Face Campaign from last year. I encouraged women to wear less makeup and to do something radical – send me a picture of themselves with no makeup on! The plan was to make a collage of all of us. You can see me here, and Melanie, of My Magical Journey, here. I also got a few photos from brave readers but in the end, I did not receive enough to make a collage. (I think I have a total of four pictures, including me and Melanie!)
So all this brings me to a familiar point – as much as I love makeup, how does it become such a crutch to our vanity? (And please understand, I’m using “our” in a generic way – I’m not suggesting every woman has a problem being in public without makeup.) Do we have to wear it to be considered sexy? Do we have to avoid it to be considered empowered?
I’m going to do something I don’t normally do in these posts and answer these questions myself. NO on both counts. I definitely think we can wear it or not wear it and just be our own amazing selves.
However, I think makeup disempowers us when we begin to dislike the “naked face” we see in the mirror. If we don’t feel pretty without it, then I think we’re on dangerous ground. On that same note, I think it becomes disempowering when we wear too much makeup most of the time. (Not to name names, but Kim Kardashian comes to mind, fake lashes and all. I find her much prettier without makeup.) Can you go to bed without makeup on? Has your partner seen you without makeup? If we can’t accept the way our faces look without embellishment, then again, I think makeup becomes more dangerous than helpful.
Yet when a dab of blush or swish of mascara or touch of lipstick gives you an extra boost of confidence? Well, that’s just awesome!
What do you think?
*Please note that I decided not to discuss the potentially hazardous chemicals in some makeup products, or anything related to that topic since I feel I have covered that in past posts – and will likely revisit that in the future!