Why Do Women Wear Makeup? A Makeup-Related Existential Crisis

Makeup KitSephora MAKES ME CRAZY. When I go into one I’m overwhelmed by the glare and the noise and the perfumey smell and need to go somewhere dark and quiet to recover. And I’m no anti-consumerist mall hater; I can shop for clothes with the best of ’em. There’s just something about Sephora in particular that gets to me.

WHY do I have such a problem with Sephora? I think it’s two things. First, it’s the sales people. Why would I buy the eyeshadow recommended by someone wearing eyeliner that looks like it was drawn on by a toddler? I wouldn’t, of course. I don’t understand why the company hires people to sell makeup who don’t know how to choose the correct shade for themselves or apply it correctly. Well, I do understand—they hire them because they’re cheap and the customers don’t complain about it and buy the makeup anyway, which is a depressing thought. Stand up for quality, people! Valeria apparently has her own qualms about the sales people there as well, since they inspired this post.

The second reason I have such a problem with Sephora is my own internal debate  about the idea of wearing makeup, and I admit this is really not Sephora’s fault.

What is my issue with makeup exactly? Really I’m of two minds about the whole topic. Why do we wear makeup? Because it makes us look better, but is it because we feel like we have to? Who’s making us feel that way, ourselves? Why shouldn’t we just be able to do what we want and look the way that we want? I don’t want to do something just because society is telling me I have to. On the other hand, it does make me look better…

It’s interesting that I have such an issue with makeup because I don’t have the same problem with buying clothes. I’ve always been into fashion, but have only belatedly gotten on the makeup wagon. Which is not to say that I’ve never worn makeup. I’ve always worn some, but in a rather minimalist way. And apparently I’ve never learned how to apply my mascara properly!


3 responses to “Why Do Women Wear Makeup? A Makeup-Related Existential Crisis

  1. I am someone who doesn’t wear makeup so maybe I shouldn’t reply to this post but it is something I have thought a lot about and I did try to wear makeup when I was younger but never got over feeling like I was trying to look like someone else.

    There are basically two reasons I dislike makeup though dislike may be a strong word, I don’t go around telling people to stop wearing makeup and I know a lot of women have a great deal of fun with it and enjoy the process and creativity and self-expression involved.

    The first is that wearing makeup is basically saying that who you are is not good enough and needs needs to be changed/altered/played with/improved. That your face is not good enough as it is.

    The second reason is that this standard of unaltered faces being unacceptable only applies to women. Men’s faces and features are apparently acceptable while women’s are not good enough and need improvement.

    As an aside, I’ve never met anyone I thought looked more beautiful with makeup, smoother certainly but also flatter and with less character and “realness” so there’s more than one side to percieved beauty as well.

    (Note that this is why I don’t use makeup, I know I can come across as a bit dogmatic but that is unintended, I am also not trying to convince anyone to stop wearing makeup or that they are wrong to do so.)

    • I completely agree with you. I personally think I look much better with some makeup but what I object to is that people expect it of me. Think of how much time women spend on grooming. Men do NOT spend that much time on it at all. And it’s because traditionally a woman’s worth has been counted by her level of beauty, and our customs are still a holdover from that. Every time I wear makeup (or even dress up, honestly) I think about how I am buying into that whole worldview, and I don’t like it. But on the other hand, I have to accept the way the world is now to some extent or I couldn’t function in it at all. So it’s definitely a complicated issue. I think everyone should be able to do what they want with makeup, but I think the discussion is valuable because it raises our consciousness about what the unseen forces are that are behind our day-to-day actions.

  2. On one hand, I agree with Hanna; the general sexism of makeup irks me greatly. Many men have pale eyelashes, undereye circles, and uneven skin tone, and they’re not panicked about it.

    On the other hand, I didn’t choose this face OR this body, and they aren’t what I’d have chosen for myself. Makeup can be an apology for one’s face, but it can also be a way to reclaim whatever features you were given. I can use makeup and interesting clothing to bring my outer self more in line with my inner self.

    I compromise: I wear simple makeup about two days every week, but the rest of the time, I go natural. I want my students to know that women don’t HAVE to wear makeup.

    I could talk about this for hours. So many issues!

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