From Alicia Keys in 2017 to South Korean women today, we are seeing a vocalization of anti-makeup sentiment around the world. When Keys stopped wearing makeup (for the most part), her decision drew a lot of commentary. Some people thought it was brave and innovative, while others called it a pointless move. Still others considered the move performative and hollow. Today, many of the women in South Korea’s “Escape the Corset” movement face backlash and death threats.
Keys, the “Escape the Corset” women, and many others who choose not to wear cosmetics generate a lot of public commentary. Many women can relate to this. Friends, family, and the media all seem to have something to say about whether, when, and how a woman should wear makeup. What’s all the fuss about?
Before we dive into the reasons a woman might or might not wear makeup, let’s examine its current cultural position. In American society, women face contradicting messages that both encourage them to wear cosmetics and ridicule them for doing so. We see makeup makeup as a necessity for appearing beautiful, professional, sexy, and even healthy. Advertisements urge women to cover up our eye bags, smile lines, and blemishes. The alternative is to look old, tired, sick, or lazy.
On the other hand, women are also construed as frivolous or fake for our use of cosmetics. From tired jokes of how long it takes women to get ready to memes suggesting that men take women swimming as a first date to wash away their “deceitful” makeup, society frequently degrades women for using products that are heavily marketed toward us.
And then there’s the marketing itself. Entertainment and advertisements incessantly depict “ideal” female beauty as young, thin, and, typically, white. Women of color are constantly pressured, subliminally and blatantly, to adhere to Eurocentric images of beauty. This favors narrow noses and light skin. Women who choose to follow beauty trends from their own communities are frequently labeled as “cheap” or “tacky.” The racism in the beauty industry is not subtle.
Reasons for Wearing Makeup
While there are certainly problems surrounding makeup, that’s not to say that women shouldn’t wear it. Women have a variety of reasons for wearing cosmetics, all of them valid.
For a lot of women, wearing makeup is about expression. It can be a creative and fun activity, like art, that brings their personalities outward. Sometimes women wear makeup to help create a mood or amp up a particular trait – confident, sexy, whimsical, authoritative, or funky. Others see red lipstick and winged eyeliner as a kind of war paint. Other women, however, just like feeling pretty!
Makeup can be a way to explore one’s femininity, but some women feel that they need it to be seen as women. Many trans women feel intense pressure to “pass” as women – i.e., be perceived as women by others. Cosmetics can be essential to showing a more “feminine” face to the world. Some women in more “masculine” fields with uniforms, like policing or manufacturing, can use makeup to remind their peers and the world they are, indeed, women.
In fact, some workplaces require women to wear cosmetics, and this might be the only reason a woman applies it. We at Petite2Queen find such dress codes inappropriate, but it is within a company’s rights to have differential dress codes for men and women.
Reasons for Not Wearing Makeup
Some women choose not to wear cosmetics as an act of defiance. We’ve covered several issues in the beauty industry that make boycott a reasonable response. Refusing to wear makeup can be a rejection of arbitrary beauty standards that inundate women, or a rebellion against the double standards between male and female grooming.
The decision to not wear makeup can be more about celebrating oneself than rejecting makeup. Many women are proud of the face they were born with and see no reason to apply cosmetics. They feel that they have nothing to hide and have no desire to make enhancements. They feel perfect the way they are!
Putting on makeup takes up time and energy, and some women just don’t find makeup worth it. They would rather spend their mornings sleeping in, making a healthy breakfast, or getting a workout. Not wearing makeup also means not buying makeup, and this frees up some cash for other small luxuries or necessities.
Remember that you are beautiful – with or without makeup! Let our “Body+” playlist empower you:
What’s Right for You?
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer about whether, when, or how to wear cosmetics. We all make decisions based on our personal opinions and experiences. Our reasons vary as much as our makeup routines. So whether you prefer to go au naturel, always get yourself dolled up, or switch it up from day to day, remember to respect the person behind the makeup.
Petite2Queen provides virtual mentoring to young women in life, at work, and in sales. Follow us for more practical advice you can put to use to improve your life and career.
Alison Rollins is Vice President of Marketing at Petite2Queen. She earned her master’s degree in Global Entertainment & Music Business from Berklee College of Music. An experienced marketer, Alison is an expert leader in social and digital media. She’s a talented videographer, with an extensive portfolio of thought-provoking work. At Petite2Queen, Alison focuses on meeting the diverse needs of women at all stages of their lives.