Does Makeup Harm Femininity?

I was 13 years old when it happened. I sat down in front of the mirror and took a deep breath. My left index finger glided across my eyelid, leaving behind an electric blue residue. I smiled. Despite the fact that the eyeshadow was actually a hideous shade of blue that did not match my complexion at all, I felt

From that point on, makeup became a mini-obsession. Unfortunately, at 13 years old I did not yet realize all the nuances that accompanied a face full of makeup. But before we get too invested in the self-revelation aspect of this post, let me put it in perspective.

Makeup in Numbers

The global makeup industry is worth $382 billion.

The United States is the largest consumer in the beauty industry (go figure), making up 25% of the entire world’s cosmetic market and bringing in roughly $86 billion in revenue per year.

The estimated annual spending on cosmetics in the U.S. is $8 billion, and the average American woman spends around $3,756 on cosmetics per year.

These numbers are astronomical. And they have an impact on real, everyday women–myself included.

What’s the big deal?

Throughout my tween and teen years, my idea of beauty was based solely on how I looked wearing makeup–mainly because I wore it every single day.

I can count on one hand the number of days I went to school without makeup (and I guarantee you, those were the five worst days of my high school existence). I had no self-confidence or even self-image outside of the realm of makeup. And it severely harmed my notions of femininity.

It wasn’t until my senior year of college (yes, a whole five years later) that I explored what beauty means outside of makeup. After completely giving up on wearing makeup to my 8 a.m. college classes and still somehow managing to roll in 15 minutes late, I had a change of heart.

It’s almost like my high school self had been convinced that my natural face was not feminine enough or perhaps too average or just not something enough to be beautiful. (And even though I laugh at how silly it is now, when you’re 16, that’s the biggest deal. Like ever.)

I soon realized what I had believed about myself for so long was just a lie. After spending weeks on end without makeup in the summer, I looked into the mirror. I noticed the depth of my eyes and the gentleness of my smile. I had finally accepted my natural beauty.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky.

You really look more your age with makeup…
You’re so much prettier without makeup!
You look so much younger without makeup!

Or my personal favorite on a day when I’m bare-faced…
Are you feeling okay? Are you sick?

As soon as someone tried to pit “made-up Kristen” against “makeup-less Kristen,” I got annoyed. For someone who already spends most of her time comparing me against myself, it bothered me. Couldn’t we just appreciate both looks?

Flash forward to summer 2019, when I’ve barely made the attempt to put on anything other than sunscreen. I’m getting used to my face without makeup, and I kind of love it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love makeup. I readily admit that I’m a diva at heart, and I would choose a full face over a no-makeup look most days. (13-year-old me really had no idea what she was getting into when she decided to put blue eyeshadow on her eyelids.) But now when I wear makeup, it’s for a completely different reason.

There’s nothing quite so enjoyable as sitting down with fresh brushes and all my favorite products, knowing I have time to concentrate on my look. It’s therapeutic. It’s rejuvenating. And though I know my face doesn’t always look as glam as when I’m (literally) shimmering in my favorite Becca highlighter, I’m confident in it anyway.

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2 thoughts on “Does Makeup Harm Femininity?

  1. Great article! I feel confident both with more without makeup. On the days that I don’t feel like wearing makeup I just slap on some cute accessories and walk out the door (I’m definitely a diva as well lol.) I feel that makeup should not define who we are and if a person chooses to apply it then that is their choice. Some people wear it as a confidence booster while others wear makeup for the creative aspect.

    Like

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