I still remember when I bought my first bottle of mascara for myself. I was shopping with my father, and little eleven year-old me asked with trepidation if I could buy my own bottle. I remember the look in his eyes followed by, “you should ask your mother.”
Standing in the makeup aisle calling my mother on Dad’s cellphone, she coached me through picking one out in the plethora of options. It was pink and green, and it was Maybelline. From that day on, I’ve never looked back.
Ever since my first interest in makeup, the relationship between and me and the beauty industry has been long-lasting with many ups and downs. From finding my perfect foundation to learning tools of the trade, the art of makeup has been a serious study and beloved pastime. It is a passion million of individuals share with me.
Surprise, surprise, there eventually came a day at thirteen when a boy in my class was sitting next to me and looked at me with a serious expression. He gave me a comment I never saw coming.
“You wear too much makeup.”
While yes, the color foundation tended to turn orange much to my horror and I had put on a new lipstick I had picked out with a friend, I did not consider it too much makeup. It was the same amount my mother applied in her bathroom every morning, and I considered her beautiful. So why was it wrong on me?
I shrugged it off, and in that moment began the dichotomous relationship that I believe all makeup users have in some form or fashion: the social commentary that begins to run on my own face.
When we think about it, it is plain as the powdered nose on my face. The concept of itself is not even new. Roman philosopher Plautus wrote, “A woman without paint is like food without salt.”, a much more eloquent critique than middle school boy who decided to give me his input.
We do it with celebrities. Kim Kardashian commented she decided to start wearing less makeup from time to time when also-famous husband Kanye West said that he preferred her face sans-makeup.
People feel the need to comment on the random stranger walking down the street with a lip color they do or do not like. Guys/gals and other significant others decide to critique their partner’s beauty routine.
However, the reality remains is that the work people put in every morning to curl their eyelashes, fill in their brows, put on lipgloss, and conceal any blemishes is not for them, for you, or anyone but themselves.
I was taught alongside the proper application of eyeshadow and blush that makeup and beauty routines are to put forward your best self. Much like showering and brushing tangles out of your hair, makeup is a part of polishing yourself to look the best you can as you take on the day. It was never intended for the likes of anyone but one’s self as a mode of empowerment.
Dating back to Ancient Egypt, makeup has been integrated into culture, drama, and society. It has always been a key player in the understanding of what it means to be beautiful in every era since. For instance, Elizabethans considered makeup to be a hazard to one’s health, but it was still a trend to apply egg whites to one’s lid for a glossy effect. The importance of makeup applications has obviously persisted to the modern era.
The real reason why everyone seems so bent in having a say in another’s face goes back to the misogynistic long-held belief of “good girls” not wearing makeup. Makeup was considered in western societies to be something for actors and prostitutes, and women who thought otherwise were condemned.
This can be seen in the history of the iconic Elizabeth Arden, who opened up her own salon in the early 20th century after bringing chemistry to the creation of makeup. Fighting with the suffragettes of New York, as written by Beauty Editor Beth Anderson in 2016, “In 1912 she marched with 15,000 suffragettes in New York, many wearing red lipstick as a symbol of strength. Her company, Elizabeth Arden, supplied lipstick to the suffragettes.”
Later in history, Arden was known for creating a lip color to match the red on the nurse’s uniform in World War II, allowing women to polish themselves and feel elegant in even the hardest of circumstances. Her story of empowering women through makeup continues on through ages, rising to be one the most successful business women in America through the magic of the beauty industry.
Arden fought back from those stereotypes that sought to condemn the use of rouge, powders, and the like. People feel empowered when wearing makeup. It makes us feel more comfortable, more lovely, more confident, and that has nothing to do with those who get the privilege of admiring the hard work.
So next time you see someone with a full face of makeup, suppress the inner urge to criticize if it arises. Remember how fierce and wonderful they must feel. Think of the time it took. Maybe it was a few minutes, but it also might have been hours.
I am never surprised to hear stories about waking up at the crack of dawn to have a full hour just to do hair and makeup because it is part of their identity and how they feel most beautiful. I myself feel uncomfortable without some form of makeup on due to so many years of wearing it.
It is part of who we are. It is a part of our culture. It is a part of our history. When I put on makeup I feel empowered and at my very best, and it is not for any boy. EVER. Until the day I die, my beauty routine is really just for me.