Have you seen this one?
27 Photos that Demonstrate the Power of Make-up. The series of images shows before and after, and some during shots, of women decked out in heavy “contour makeup.” These techniques have long been used in the fashion/TV/celebrity world, but they seem to be moving into the daily routines of ordinary women. The effects are surreal. Most of these women are unrecognizable! And I’m just not sure how I feel about it.
I’ll be really honest here. I look at the no-makeup image and think that this is an ordinary, humble looking woman; whereas the made-up version is the pretty/gorgeous/attractive/hot one.
And then I hate myself for thinking that way–that a painted version of a person, literally wearing layer upon layer of liquid and powder and shimmer and bearing little resemblance to the original, is more beautiful than the natural version.
My Own Makeup History
I remember when I first started wearing make-up — a half-dried up tube of Great Lash mascara I “liberated” from my older sister’s room — in 7th grade. Ever since, I’ve been a make-up wearer. It was partially driven by the insecurity that emerges sometime around the tween years, when zits and peer pressure also flare up. I was stressed at the idea of college roommates seeing me without makeup — oily, blemished skin, barely visible eyelashes, blotchy tone — when I’d inevitably wash my face before bed. I also did just enjoy the personal pampering and colour experimentation.
Nevertheless, I have always been a makeup minimalist. I’m usually in the 5 minute face category–some powder (my skin is very oily), blush, mascara, maybe eyeliner, and a tinted lip balm (although lately it’s just coco butter because the tinted lip balm fell into the black hole of toddler exploration). I use makeup to enhance my natural features and cover up imperfections, etc. (Of course, I also know at the other end of the discussion are women would feel affronted by even my low level buy-in to the concept.) But it’s a pretty natural-looking face I put forward every day, and it’s a very natural look that I usually admire (take a look at my Pinterest beauty board, for example.)
So, Why the Mask
Given my love of Lauren Hutton’s wrinkles and my never-ending quest for a lipstick that matches my natural lip colour, why would I point to the made up images as the “pretty ones?” Is it social conditioning and ever-escalating celebrity worship (Kim Kardashian is the contour makeup poster woman) that makes us feel this way? Like how eating saltier and sweeter foods trains your tastebuds to think that this is what tastes good — the more we see these images, the more we come to see this look as true beauty. Probably.
I will say that I admire the work these people can do–make up artists and enthusiasts who learn these contouring tricks. I can’t do it. But, this trend of making your face actually look completely different (seriously, what’s with the noses? Rhinoplasty with makeup!)? At the risk of sounding very old… it disappoints me.
Every woman has a right to wear or do what will make her feel the most beautiful, and I don’t want to minimize or criticize that. I know people who truly enjoy playing with makeup and have a real talent for it. It’s the deliberate attempt to dramatically alter one’s appearance that doesn’t feel right to me. I guess I just want everyone woman to feel a bit more comfortable in her own skin, and all of us to appreciate our billions of unique faces, rather than trying to look like everyone else.
* * *
I did get over my college pre-bed face washing phobia, and was soon lounging in our courtyard wearing a bathrobe and a face mask and smoking a cigar with one of my dorm mates. And over time, I’ve grown more confident with myself, though I still like to throw on a bit of makeup every day to “look my best.”
But my contradictory perception of beauty irks me. I hope I will be able to further internalize the balance I already wear on the outside, for my daugter’s sake. Sure, dust on some powder to give you a little more glow, or swipe on a few coats of mascara to highlight your crystalline eyes, but you–the real you–are beautiful. The makeup just enhances that.
What do you think?