On Makeup

Monday 21 July 2014

Much like my On Feminism post, this is something I've actually wanted to write for a while, but have put off because I've never quite managed to get the wording right. A little disclaimer before we get started - this is an extremely subjective post, all coming from my own personal experience!

I was listening to Colbie Caillat's new single "Try" this weekend, and watching the highly praised video. It really is a beautiful song and video, and a lovely idea. But part of it links into something which bothers me, and has done so for a long time. The notion that women could only ever wear make-up to impress other people. Namely, men.

In the age of photoshop and celeb culture, body image issues are all around us. The "perfect" body shape, the "perfect" face. Diets and exercise regimes and juice cleanses, plastic surgery to alter your body to what it "should" look like. Treatments to "fix" your hair. Anti-aging products, fake tans and hair removal treatments, diet pills and lip-plumping glosses.

The world is a hot-bed of insecurity and for women, it is particularly difficult. From such an early age you are fed ideas of beauty, and what constitutes beautiful - what size and what shape. Taught to cover up blemishes and create an image of perfection. Something that men are rarely exposed to because make-up is "girly", so men couldn't possibly want to wear it - a subject I don't feel I have the authority to write on what with not being a man myself, but something I think definitely deserves more of a discussion.

As someone with pretty strong feminist views, it goes without saying that this is something that I hate, and wish we could find a way to change. I'm excited to say that I genuinely feel like the body confidence movement has taken a small but positive step forward this year (check out the Body Confidence Revolution - led by Leyah Shanks - on twitter). However, lately there has been an influx of conversations around "taking your make-up off". From the make-up-free selfie to raise awareness for breast cancer - which was a wonderful idea in that it did in fact help to raise money - to the song I mentioned at the start of this post. The persistent implication, however, is that wearing make-up is something women only do to impress other people, and attract men. The irony in that is that half the time we hear men saying they prefer the natural look. I'm glad we are talking about this because so many people out there feel completely unnecessary pressure to conform to a certain ideal, with make-up playing a huge part in that. But for me, the way we are going about resolving this issue is problematic. Having someone tell me I shouldn't wear make-up, even with the best of intentions, annoys me just as much as someone telling me I should. I think whether I do or not should be up to me, and I'd like to think I won't be judged either way.

It's pretty obvious that I love make-up. I took a make-up artistry course after uni, and have obsessed over beauty blogs and YouTube channels for over five years now. All my life, the idea of make-up has excited me, and luckily I was born in that blissful period before the internet, when kids were allowed to be kids and weren't subjected to a barrage of body image messages from pre-school age. Although I didn't properly start wearing it until my mid-teens, as a tiny child I used to "do my mum's make-up" for her. That usually involved putting bright green eye-make-up on her, and drawing flowers and hearts in eyeshadow on her face. But I loved seeing what I could create, even at that age.

Since then, I grew up a bit, and rather than doodling daisys, I started seeing what I could actually do with make-up. The tricks of the trade - contouring my eyes or cheeks, getting that eyeliner flick just right. Finding the perfect lip colour to go with my blusher. To someone with no interest in the creative side of make-up, that just sounds sad, I know that. But when we live in a world where every time you turn on the news you learn about another horrific atrocity somewhere in the world, whether it's a sexual assault in Glasgow, or the devastation in Gaza, the world is a bit of a dark place these days. So if experimenting with make-up helps me have some fun and feel positive, you bet I'm going to do it.

I can only speak for myself, because make-up is an extremely personal thing. I absolutely hate the thought of young girls - in fact, women of any age - feeling that they aren't beautiful without make-up, or that they have to wear it to be accepted. You should never wear anything, be it clothes or make-up, that you aren't comfortable with. When I get up in the morning and go through my make-up routine, the only person I'm doing it for is myself. The kick I get out of my eyeliner actually perfectly matching on both eyes. The lift it gives me, taking me from the sleepy, not-at-all-a-morning-person, to someone ready to face the day. It's something I love to do. Does it boost my confidence? Absolutely. I have far from perfect skin, and the transformation I feel when going from bare-faced to "made-up" for lack of a better term, is phenomenal. But it's phenomenal for me, and me alone. It's a confidence booster, a mood lifter, a part of my routine which makes me feel good. It makes me feel creative - deciding what colour palette to work from, and changing up my lip colour from nude to bold from one day to the next. When it comes right down to it, make-up is fun, and that's why I love it.

Do I go out of the house make-up free? Honestly? Hardly ever. But I don't think that is a reflection of my self-esteem. If I hated every minute of putting make-up on, if I dreaded taking that foundation out of the drawer and taking the fifteen minutes out of my day to do my make-up, but did it anyway, then I would start to worry. Then, I might feel like I was doing it for someone else's benefit. Our society and "make-up free celeb" paparazzi shots, combined with our insecurities can trick us into thinking the moment we step outside make-up-less, everyone will notice us. But when was the last time you walked down the street, or sat on the train, and pointed out every make-up free woman you saw to your friends? When was the last time you even actually noticed a make-up free woman? If you feel like putting makeup on is a chore, and you simply cannot wait for lazy days in the house when you can go makeup free, if make-up doesn't lift your mood and bring you joy, you'll eventually find the confidence to stop wearing it every day. Because no-one should waste precious moments of their day doing something they don't have to because they're afraid they'll be judged if they don't.

But I don't feel that way. I know I don't have to wear make-up, I just want to. My eyeliner is as much a part of my identity as a tattoo, or a piercing on someone else. Every day, whether I'm going to uni, going on a night out, or spending the day at home, putting my make-up on gives me a buzz, the way going for a run is the highlight of a more athletic person's morning. I shouldn't have to deprive myself of that buzz to prove to anyone that I am a confident woman.

Being confident is about being completely comfortable with yourself, knowing what you love and believe in, and sticking to that no matter what. For me, the most important thing is that people feel good about themselves, whether that's make-up free, with a hint of mascara and lipstick, or a full face of make-up. What matters is that people know they have a choice. As long as we keep this conversation going, acknowledging the power the media has to warp our perceptions of beauty and force feed us images of airbrushed celebrities, we're on the right track. We just need to talk to kids from a young age about feeling body positive, and then the rest (what clothes they wear and whether or not they choose to wear makeup) can be well and truly left up to them.

So, although I love you Colbie, I'm quite happy to keep my make-up on for now. Because it doesn't feel like trying hard. It feels like being myself.

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Hurrah! Brilliantly written post Lynsey, I know we discussed this already but I really can't stand anyone getting dressed for anyone other than themselves, or anyone presuming I look the way I do for any other reason than because I want to.