I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with makeup. I love how you can transform yourself by applying a few powders and creams to your face. I love how stunning makeup can add an extra layer to a runway show. I love how so many men and women and nonbinary folks use makeup to express themselves creatively. I hate how terrible I am at it.
My complete lack of makeup abilities have been weighing on me a lot lately, especially because I follow so many beautiful, talented people who do incredible makeup on Instagram. I see their stellar looks every day and with every look I see, my desire to know how to do makeup increases. I’ll sometimes even sit in front of a mirror and smudge my face with whatever makeup I can scrounge from my own meager collection, trying to improve my nonexistent skill.
I attribute my utter lack of knowledge and until recently, interest, in makeup to my upbringing. As a young girl, I was not allowed to wear makeup at all. My mother finally gave in when I started high school, and at that point, all of my peers had already grown out of the awkward, terrible, I’m-still-learning-how-to-do-this phase of makeup because they had been wearing it all through middle school. So I stuck to the basics. Brown eyeliner pencil on the bottom lid, a metric ton of foundation (to cover my acne, of course) and mascara. No blush, no highlight, no contour (something that wouldn’t really become popular until later), no lipstick, and especially no eyeshadow and no eyeliner on the top lid. Ever.
Now, every time I try to do makeup, I just feel foolish and like I’m not doing anything right. And I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how to apply eyeshadow. I have no instinct for it. It just ends up looking like I have two black eyes or like I indiscriminately smudged some dirt in my eye area. It’s sad, and something I’m afraid I might not overcome.
Another thing about makeup that I struggle with is the patriarchal aspect of it. I know that many women do it for themselves, but the concept of makeup is rooted in a place of inequality. Men are fine the way they are, while women have to plaster on an entirely new face. You may not think this still applies, but it does. In a business class I was taking last semester, the professor was giving tips on how men and women should dress for job interviews and said that women MUST wear makeup, so it looks like they put effort into their look. It shocks me that these standards are still widely accepted in our culture.
There’s also the gross concept of “taking her swimming on the first date,” because men are afraid a woman isn’t actually beautiful without makeup. Or the double standard that men want a woman who is “naturally beautiful” and doesn’t wear much makeup, but think a woman looks sick and tired if she’s wearing none at all. It’s tiresome, and at times I feel like I don’t want to play into that hand.
But I do like the art of it, as I do with fashion. And, unarguably, one of the best makeup artists in the business is Pat McGrath, who has created so many iconic looks for iconic designers over the years.
Overall, I have a very complicated relationship with the concept of makeup, and maybe I’ll just have to get over the fact that I’ll never be great at it. Or maybe I’ll put the work in and learn. Or maybe I’ll just stay the girl I’ve been forever, someone who doesn’t really care much about it and wears a bare face almost every day.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what I think about makeup or what anyone else thinks. Makeup is a fun way to transform yourself temporarily and in that respect, it will always be a positive art form. Now we just need to remove all of the expectations and standards put on women attached to makeup and we’ll really be in business.
Bare and Beautiful,