A friend of mine was horrified by the Today show and their “No Makeup Monday.” So much so that she texted me regarding her outrage.
“They looked downright scary. People need makeup. And as we get older, we absolutely need makeup.”
“I disagree,” I texted back, a bit annoyed. “Society has conditioned us to believe that. And there is such a huge double standard. “
“Double standard? Matt Lauer looked like shit too! All I’m saying is would it kill people to run a brush through their hair and slap on some lip gloss?”
“Not wearing makeup some days is liberating.”
“Liberating?” said my friend. “I say yuck and lazy.”
And so goes the dialogue we have with our friends and with ourselves. It’s painful and anything but pretty.
Do I wear makeup? Do I look like shit without it? Do I look beautiful in my 40s? Do I need more makeup to cover up these damn wrinkles, no-sleep circles and darkening age spots?
WAIT, before we continue, let’s caveat all of this to say that there are much bigger issues in the world than whether we apply lip liner. I’m staunchly on the side of no makeup is fine, especially if you’d prefer to spend your money on things like, oh, feeding your family.
Ok, now that we’ve cleared that up…
I am a 46-year-old woman who loves dabbling with makeup — not to any Tammy Faye Bakker extreme, mind you, but enough to be dangerous with a liquid liner.
Probably like most of us, I’m a bit bipolar about it. I toggle between fancy days and plain Jane days; buttoned-up meetings and Saturday errands; girly-girl interest in face paint and WTF-I’m-a-Feminist disinterest. I love the way a manicure looks but getting one is about as fun and interesting to me as watching paint dry — oh wait, that’s what it is.
I think many of us are secretly very knowledgeable about things like BB creams and multi-use lip gels. Or maybe that’s just my own hidden skill. One out-of-town friend said she likes to stay with me because my shower is like the contents of a beauty aisle.
Sure, I’m stocked with oodles of jars and creams and powders, but I’m just as happy to go makeup free. Mostly because yes, I am lazy and/ or on those days, I’d rather use those extra five minutes for other things: a longer snooze, that last chapter, a smooch with my husband. (Hair? Now that’s another matter entirely.)
That being said, if there was an airbrushing tool that could shellac the whole thing on in one spray, I’m sure I’d use it.
Like I said, bipolar.
In the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about makeup a lot, inspired by a few different events and articles.
One was this piece by 20-something fashion blogger Leandra Medine – aka the Man Repeller — defending her decision to not wear makeup (after being called “ugly,” which is beyond ridiculous.) She writes, “I want to know that if I don’t wash my face, I won’t tarnish my pillow….More important than that though, I am comfortable with how I look. I don’t hate what I see when I look in the mirror…” It should be noted, too, that sort of an unspoken ethos in fashion, that it’s the clothes that count — you’re just a mannequin. A lot of the top designers, editors, fashion insiders don’t wear much makeup if at all. If you ask me, Medine fits right in.
Over on the other end of the age spectrum, I watched a woman more in my 40-something zone, Mika Brzezinski, spontaneously and emotionally remove her makeup live on stage at the Women in the World summit. During this Dove-sponsored panel, it was clearly a big deal for the MSNBC anchor to remove her “face.”
To cheers of “Take it off” from the audience, Mika spent about 20 minutes removing her makeup and told a story of being denied entrance to CBS once, because she was unrecognizable in an unmade-up face.
“Makeup shouldn’t own you,” she added.
For their part, Dove has capitalized on the inner-beauty bandwagon, with their various viral-videos — from their Real Beauty Sketches, to the mom and daughter “Selfie” experiment to the bizarre Dove Beauty patch — which (spoiler!) is a placebo meant to make women realize, hey, you’re beautiful just the way you are. Brilliant marketing, though it always feels like a bait and switch — “Feel good about you! Now buy this body wash!” They’ve even inspired a hilarious parody video, that takes their “social experiments” to task [via Jezebel]
Ultimately, in all of these scenarios — whether you think it’s shameless or insightful — we’re talking about beauty, self esteem and the double standard, and that’s a good thing.
Last year The New York Times tackled the makeup question in this multi-perspective feature on whether makeup helps or hinders self-esteem. One of the authors, Nancy Etcoff, a research psychologist, cited her study of the impact of makeup on viewers. She asked people to rate photographs of women with and without makeup.
“Faces with natural makeup were seen favorably but faces with more dramatic makeup were seen as less trustworthy…. Grooming rituals can be temporary confidence boosters, and studies suggest that the confidence they inspire is itself attractive…”
Makeup, she wrote, “is a powerful but understudied tool.”
The article also points out that “makeup won’t help the woman who feels like it’s an obligation.”
For me, makeup isn’t a requirement, but a mood enhancer. Give me a hit of that lipstick and I’m good. It’s that extra polish. And sometimes, stylistic self-expression. And yes, as my features shift, dull or — eek — enhance with age, there’s no shame in a bit of synthetic beauty.
The thing is:
Let’s just get past judging women by the quality of their hairdo and instead by the content of their character (see: Hillary).
Let’s allow for a woman to feel empowered by her makeup if she wants, or empowered by her lack thereof.
Let’s do a better job of seeing and accepting ourselves — and our daughters, mothers and sisters — as beautiful human beings, even if we do have a pretty kickass stash of products in our shower caddy.
And what do you think? Could you go without makeup for a week — even just a day? Tell us why or why not on our Facebook page or in the comments below.