Makeup was always the subject of controversy. Whether it was a symbol of status, or just a tool to accentuate features, makeup related to something more than just a pigmented paste and people always had an opinion on makeup and who can/should use it.
A concise history
We know people have been decorating themselves since the dawn of time with warpaint and clothes and what have you, however one of the first signs of the true use of makeup was in ancient Egypt where Egyptians used makeup for a religious purpose and celebrations. Its no secret that Cleopatra was considered the beauty icon of the time with her elaborate beauty regimen like bathing in milk and other such wild ideas. However, makeup wasn’t used only on women in ancient Egypt, men also had their moments of glamour. Granted, not everyone had access to cosmetics but before public ceremonies, the pharaohs used special makeup palettes often created just for that event and to symbolize the dramatic change that was going on.
Centuries later, with Christianity rampant and controlling governments, makeup became a sign of vanity (a sin) and was chastised, and meant only for the lower class, especially prostitutes. Oddly enough, this mentality stuck around until the beginning of the 20th century. The first time humanity really saw a new rise to makeup was during the roaring 20s, and the rise was made possible by film. Originally, makeup was intended for actresses of the silver screen whose features needed to be made more dramatic due to the poor film quality. Kohl liner, lipstick and powder all rose to fame only because of film. In fact, the classic bee-stung lips that are the chief characteristic of 20s beauty (aside from bobbed hair) were created when Maxmyllian Factorowicz, founder of the Max Factor makeup brand, took a pomade with his thumb and pressed it onto an actress’ lips. Two presses on the top lip to create a cupid’s bow, one on the bottom lip. The rest was filled in with lip liner. The reason for such a style lipstick was because at the time, the lip products melted off due to the high heat from camera lamps and applying the pomade in such a manner kept the product together. And so, the bee-stung lips were born. Of course, how could women keep calm when watching their favorite film starlets like Clara Bow and Louise Brooks break hearts and look so beautiful doing it? They wanted this new makeup too. This was also the period that the term ‘cosmetics’ changed to makeup and started to be sold everywhere. At the time, makeup became a sort of accessory. It was considered stylish to carry around a pressed powder or a little tube of lipstick.
Since then, makeup became a staple in every woman’s life, and became normalized in society…to an extent. My sophomore year Home Ec. teacher was the most charming Southern Belle from Atlanta, Georgia. She told us that her grandmother passed away never touching so much as rouge in her life thinking it was sinful and lacked class. As the years went by, makeup became used more and more to cover up flaws and accentuate features. Though it became normalized, women began feeling like they absolutely needed to wear makeup in order to look presentable to the public and to look prettier. And this is also where I believe there is a difference, between makeup back in the day, and makeup today.
What makeup is today
Personally, I feel that makeup in society has gone through a massive change in the sense of what it truly means. Makeup used to be (and sometimes still is) a means to perfect yourself, to conceal features we don’t like and draw attention to features we do like. And while that is truly fine, and it is ok for you to wear makeup because it makes you feel more confident, I believe the huge makeup industry that we see today is about more than just looking pretty. All of the people we see who are makeup artists, who create YouTube channels dedicated to it, and who are fascinated by makeup don’t see it as a chore to do to look better. With all my heart I feel we, the beauty mavens who receive so much criticism for our love for makeup, don’t do it to look better but because it is simply enjoyable for us.
I know any girl who is more involved in makeup and that is reading this post can commiserate on the never ending comments of family and loved ones.
“But why do you feel the need to wear makeup?? You’re so pretty without it!”
“Babe I think you’re so pretty without makeup you don’t need it.”
“Goodness you spend so much money on Sephora and Ulta, but you’re already so beautiful!”
Dear grandparents/parents/boyfriends/friends/random people I’ve never met before,
The compliments are noted, thank you. And I don’t need to wear makeup, you’re right. In fact, I am perfectly content and confident with my features the exact way that they are. I have no issues not wearing any makeup at all no matter where I go. The problem, my friends, is that I simply love applying makeup. To many girls it is a legitimate interest, just how some can enjoy drawing, cooking, baking, knitting, or literally any other pastime. Makeup has a stigma and I do understand where it comes from, but it shouldn’t apply, especially not to girls who do it for fun and who love makeup for the process and not necessarily because they see it as something they need to do to feel prettier.
The stigma around loving makeup is that you are shallow, insecure, and lack confidence. Out of all the people I’ve met who also loved makeup and were more or less professional about it, none became confident because of makeup, none felt like it was imperative to wear makeup, and none did it because they felt ugly without it. I swear that just about every person I have met who loved makeup and saw it from a more legitimate and professional standpoint didn’t love it for making them prettier. As a matter of fact, looking better (because that is what makeup was intended for like it or not) is more of a byproduct of the interest and fascination and not exactly what we aim to achieve. Maybe some do, but at the same time most of those makeup-crazed individuals do it for the fun of application and not to turn heads. I’ll be honest, I don’t wear makeup to look prettier. I do it because I enjoy it and because I enjoy putting makeup on. For me, the actual process of sitting down and “beating my face”, as the pros put it, is what makes it enjoyable. People telling me I look good isn’t what I aim for and those compliments don’t make me feel any better about myself.
On the other hand, if its a person who I see also loves makeup and the beauty industry tells me “your makeup/eyeliner/blending looks amazing”, then I will feel proud. What is the difference you ask? Well, because anyone telling me I look good is a pretty shallow compliment, its something based just off of physical attributes (even if I had to put efforts into getting to that point), however when a fellow makeup lover tells me my makeup looks good, they are complimenting my technique and my skills. And that’s what counts. They are complimenting something I cultivated, something I invested my time in, something I’m interested in. There is a shift between the pure physical look and the effort and skill you put in to create something.
In the same way you wont try to deter an artist from drawing, an amateur chef from cooking, or a baking enthusiast from baking, why should you tell someone who is interested in makeup to stop doing it? To me, its people being closed-minded and living in the past, thinking that makeup is purely for enhancing features and refusing to see the different facets of it.
Makeup is a science, makeup is an art. There are so many products and techniques out there, and all of us are specialists. We know about skin, about ingredients, about color combinations, about structure, about optical illusions. And we never stop learning. To us its about so much more than a compliment of “wow you look so pretty”.