The past few years have seen rise to a huge debate surrounding the culture of wearing makeup. One camp argues that makeup is inherently oppressive: that it forces women more specifically, to cover up their natural faces in order to be accepted by society. The other camp suggests that makeup is an art, an expression of creativity; there are plenty of people who don’t wear makeup, and so in investing into it, makeup is simply a personal choice and something to have fun with. But is one of these views truer than the other? And is it possible to find a middle ground in which both views can meet?
From my perspective, the sense of a societal bias towards women who do wear makeup is certainly present. Days when I don’t ‘put my face on’, I am approached by a countless number of people asking if I’m sick or if I’m feeling okay. High school and that stage of adolescence have hugely factored in to these beatification expectations. If you didn’t rock up with cosmetics plastered on, you were deemed ugly – and if you didn’t know the art of applying mascara without poking your eyes out, you were labelled weird. No makeup put you on the pedestal of being labelled an outsider, someone less than the ‘cool kids’. And not only would judgement come from the so-called MUA’s of the year, but your anti-makeup friends would too put their penneth in when you did start making the effort. Teenagers these days will set their alarms just in time to schedule in a full face without so much as blinking. Makeup in this way, almost becomes an element of what it means to be a woman and be accepted, and it has become increasingly normal for younger and younger children to wear it, making themselves look much older than they are.
There’s also the age-old idea that women only wear makeup to impress men, and so men will find them more attractive. Indeed, many men have no concept of what a bare face looks like, instead thinking that mascara, brows, foundation, and subtle contour and highlight equals a bare face. This is somewhat enforced by the thousands of “no makeup makeup” tutorials blasted across social media outlets (but be sure to find the use of at least 17 products before you look fresh faced and au naturel). Many argue that this forces women to wear makeup all the time in order to gain male approval (because as we all know, this is clearly the be-all and end-all of life). Ultimately, female self-esteem is now suffocated by this constant need to be modified, leaving them with no confidence when it comes to baring all.
Still, makeup is, for several, a pleasure. At university and college, I have found that many young girls forsake their morning makeup routines for extra sleep, finding real enjoyment from makeup when they have the time to sit down and dedicate themselves to creating a new dramatic eye look or copying that Instagram tutorial they bookmarked last week. And honestly, women don’t wear makeup to impress men. If men believe they’re being ‘tricked’, then they don’t deserve a woman spending £40 on a new eyeshadow palette and half an hour of their time blending their blush, to even look in their direction. Plus, if they can’t tell the difference between a NYX and MAC setting powder, why would they think that women were even trying to catch their attention?
Makeup is a source of confidence for many; it allows its users to cover up things like acne, hyperpigmentation, and dark circles – aspects people can be insecure about. However, body positive movements in recent times have helped both men and women to become less self-doubting, finding a way for us to accept ourselves with or without the warpaint. Whilst we understand we don’t need it, our ever-growing palette collections show otherwise.
Perhaps it’s time to meet in the middle in regards to the makeup debate, and acknowledge that whilst makeup culture can be ridiculous and unnecessary, many use its properties to give oomph to their empowering, gorgeous self. And who doesn’t love a good accentuated crease and glossy lip? (No one).