I hope you all have enjoyed this series as much as I have, and thanks again to Emma and Mistie for not only inspring me to wear a bare face, but for sharing their stories here. Below are some final reflections to wrap up this series.
For further investigation:
One of my long-time friends who has never really worn makeup commented on how she thought this series was interesting as an outsider. I asked her why she never joined the makeup club in high school like the rest of us: “Well, my dad wouldn’t let me wear it until I turned 18, and by then I had just gotten used to the way I looked without it, and I didn’t like the way it felt on my face, so I never started wearing it.” This fascinates me—the stories behind those that never wore makeup in the first place.
Another friend commented that this no-makeup thing was fine for us youngins’, but for those twenty or thirty years ahead it’s a necessity. Aging and self image is a whole other discussion I am not qualified to speak to, but it’s made me curious to engage older women who do not wear makeup and hear their stories. However, I have the notion that no matter how old we are—pimply-faced or wrinkly-eyed—that we look in the mirror and think, “I would feel better about myself/look prettier/be more confident if…”, whether that’s a made-up face, tan skin, smaller waist, bigger boobs, better hair, or cooler clothes. There’s always something in need of improvement, but it turns out applying a few cosmetics to our faces can give us at least a piece of that idealistic self.
Lastly, I’m intrigued by the women who can sport a beautifully made-up face one day and go all natural the next, paying no mind to the stark contrast in their appearance. I know a couple of people that do this, and it takes some guts in my opinion.
As much as I dislike the way makeup influences our perception of beauty and perpetuates unrealisitc standards for women, there is something nostalgic and even unifying about it. I remember watching my mom put on her eyeshadow and mascara and admiring how pretty she looked, or seeing my Grannie apply lipstick in the car and telling me how lips lose color when you get older. I was mesmerized by the half-moon shape of her lipstick, and I daydreamed of when I would be old enough to have a tube of my own. And then there are proms and weddings and sleepovers when we’ve all gathered around the same vanity, taking turns at the mirror, penciling each other’s eyeliner, and learning the art of covering a blemish. I will probably always love the chemical, talc smell of makeup, because it makes me think of these women and memories. For so long cosmetics have comprised my definition of what’s feminine, and though I am trying to reconstruct that definition, it will always be there. And that’s okay. Like I said, I don’t believe makeup is evil, it’s just not as innocent as we think.
Secondly, though I understand the perspectives of Mistie and Emma, and even agree with nearly everything they said, my own “relationship” with makeup has not been like theirs: I did/do not feel pressured to wear makeup to please or impress others, as Emma stated, and I’ve never had to have makeup on for guests or being out in public like Mistie did, nor did I feel the Lord leading me to abandon it. Makeup has always just been something I put on to look prettier and more put together, and I never thought too much about it. But thanks to Mistie and Emma, this makeup hiatus I’ve been on has caused me to think more critically and consciously about cosmetics and how they influence my self-image and confidence. I am grateful for the change it’s brought about thus far.
A couple months back I was checking out at Walmart, and right at the end of the transaction, as if she almost didn’t feel comfortable saying it, the young lady helping me said, “you know, you’re really pretty.” I was flattered and surprised, because after all, I wasn’t wearing makeup. But also because that’s not something we hear enough as women, especially from a stranger.
I’m good at complimenting a friend’s outfit or hair or shoes, but when it comes to the more physical, corporeal aspects of her appearance, the words get stuck and I feel awkward saying them. I love your skin tone. You have beautiful, twinkly, almond-shaped eyes. That grey streak framing your face is so cool. I love the sharp angles of your jaw. You have great posture. These are all things I have thought about some of the women in my life, but I have yet to tell them. Why not? If the sweet checker at Walmart can make me feel more confident with a simple compliment, can I not influence the women around me just the same?
So if you come across a woman today and see something you admire (whether she’s wearing makeup or not, and whether it’s something physical or a character trait), see if you can tell her. I guarantee you it will make her day. Because with or without makeup, the most important thing is that we feel confident and empowered as women apart from having to change or manipulate our appearance.