What is Real Beauty? The Contour Makeup Trend

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.

Makeup Free (top left), daily makeup (top right), getting ready for a wedding (bottom)

Me: Makeup Free (top left), daily makeup (top right), getting ready for a wedding (bottom)

What do you think?


13 responses to “What is Real Beauty? The Contour Makeup Trend

  1. I seriously hate contouring. Ive met people who contour on a daily basis and it transforms their image dramatically. I find it difficult to respect people that do it all the time. Like what do you do if you date someone that has never seen your real face. Yes, people date off of personality but looks can be a factor too. I think most people are beautiful without 30lbs of makeup. Yes, I wear makeup (dabble of powder, sometimes mascara and eyeliner like once every 6 mo…) I respect that makeup is a hobby for many and others do it because of insecurities but people are overdoing it tooo much…stick with your natural look. I also don’t think this will die out…..thanks to social media, people know how to contour, do it correctly and look phenomenal as a result. Why would people go back to their previous face after they contour on a daily basis?

    • I agree–that kind of make up power can be really addictive. I tend to wear a small amount of makeup daily, but I’ve gone through phases of wearing more at times, when I get hooked on a certain look. Then I’ll have a reevaluation and dial it back a bit again.

      And I agree about it being strange when even people close to you haven’t seen your true face. I wonder what kind of effects that has on your self-esteem and anxiety levels, to be hiding in that way…

  2. I agree that if you want to enhance your features with a little makeup that is fine. If you choose to wear no makeup, that is also fine. Heavy contouring was used in film, photography, and television. It does not look great in daylight, especially if the person applying it is heavy handed. It is just the ” current” makeup trend due to the Kardashians. It will change, guaranteed !

    • Exactly! I think it turns out good in photos, sometimes (hence the craziness on Pinterest, Instagram, etc) but it ends up looking really odd in person in most cases. Agreed–a fad! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. I googled face contouring is disgusting and managed to get this site .. I have a round face and I get criticized for it
    Every person that knows me or don’t at home or in a professional makeup salon would always go like should I make ur nose appear smaller ur cheeks less noticeable NO I don’t want that I’m comfortable with how I look it’s how I was made why should I change my look to fit to what people think is gorgeous and hot

    • Good for you! I’m glad you found the post! Similarly, whenever I get my hair done, they ALWAYS suggest I get some “colour done.” No, thank you. I love my natural colour because it is uniquely mine! I always know a good stylist when he/she DOESN’T recommend colouring!

      Take care–thanks for commenting!

  4. I understand where you’re coming from. I seem to have a love/hate relationship with makeup as well. Makeup is a great thing in that it helps us woman feel more confident and allows us the freedom and control to present to the world what we want to present. It’s up to each woman how many layers of makeup she wants to put between herself and the world but in the end, that’s her choice and no one can take that right away from her.

    • Yup, I definitely agree that it’s everyone’s choice what try put on. As I said, I wear makeup pretty much every day and it makes me feel more confident for sure–even the small amount I do wear feels like a big difference to me.

      I guess I just always hope that people aren’t so unhappy with themselves that they want to completely cover it all up and look like a different person.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • That’s true. Using makeup to boost your confidence or brighten your mood is one thing, trying to change your appearance because you aren’t happy with what you see in the mirror is symptomatic of something much bigger

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