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makeup : why do we wear it?

I sneezed and a muddled smear of bronze, foundation and blush came away on the sheer white of the tissue and I wondered for a brief moment ‘What was the point of even putting it on?’

Why do we camouflage ourselves with makeup? It fascinates me how many men seem comfortable with their blatant imperfections, while we women do not. Regardless of visible acne, unkempt hair or an uneven skin tone, men seem content to present themselves to the world as they are, while as women, some of us have an ingrained desire to wear makeup in order to affirm ourselves.
Why do we wear makeup? Is it just another social custom or a primal drive?

The desire to decorate one’s face and body has roots in prehistoric times. A camouflaged body meant safety from wild animals and enemies and as time progressed, decorating one’s self with plant material like henna or tattoos ‘became linked to identity, ritual celebration and a medium to allure the opposite sex.’(Corson 1972; Polhemus, 1988.)

Since then, the art of using products to enhance one’s physical attributes has lost its original charm. We now invest our time and money into cosmetic companies that feed off our every insecurity while setting unrealistic and unsettling standards of beauty. Dark eyeliner has become a replacement for traditional Egyptian kohl, an illusive promise to widen small eyes while blush leaves the impression that a woman has been blushing or is flushed. In essence, makeup serves its purpose making women appear healthier and more youthful.

But is it socially imperative?

According to Author Catherine Saint Louis, we wear makeup because it increases our chance of social likability, attraction and ‘trustworthiness’. She provides the example of a study that was designed by Proctor and Gamble in which 25 women from different nationalities were selected and photographed ‘barefaced’ and wearing varying degrees of makeup. The images were then judged by 149 adults, 61 of these adults were male and overall, a judgment was made that the women appeared more ‘competent’ in luminescent shades of makeup as opposed to looking natural.

Professor Hamermesh (Princeton University 2011) concluded ‘I think we’d be a fairer world if beauty was not rewarded, but it is.’ Has makeup changed the way we perceive women? This study seems to indicate that women are judged on their physical appearance and not on their intellectual capabilities in the workplace.

It has been known that for many centuries, facial symmetry has indicated a woman’s health, fertility and beauty. In urban Western society, a woman that possesses certain traits is considered more attractive than those who do not. ‘A small jaw, nose, large eyes and defined cheekbones’ are often infantile characteristics coveted by European nations. While not all of us possess these defined features, makeup can certainly alter facial perception.

According to Pastor David C Pack, the art of painting one’s face is an inherent sin that warrants ‘death for eternity in a lake of fire’. Pack states that wearing makeup is a vain ‘conformity to the world,’ an alteration of a woman’s natural features that is dismissive of our ‘character and conduct’ and aims only to seek selfish and lustful approval. As far as Pack is concerned, a woman who wears makeup is considered ‘a painted whore’ in God’s view. While the author, like any religious zealot, has dissected and misconstrued passages from the bible to apply them to our modern day and modern lifestyle, an admittance must be made that the desire to look beautiful, ‘is an ultimate pull of vanity’ (source).

Makeup is clearly used for many reasons. Whether it is an act of self-expression, enhancement, covering one’s flaws, or an everyday habit, it has become an integral part of our society. The importance in wearing makeup is realising that it cannot be a replacement for a strong, confident personality or the innate beauty that we are all adorned with, it can only be colour left upon the canvas we were born with. Makeup is neither a sinful indulgence nor a negative custom and why we wear it, is our own business. To me, it is simply another art form.

By Sophia Anna

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One thought on “makeup : why do we wear it?

  1. i think you really hit the nail on the head with your point about “The importance in wearing makeup is realising that it cannot be a replacement for a strong, confident personality”.
    if i could make one small criticism though – i think you can make most of these points without directly referencing all those different authors – it makes it sound more like a dispassionate news article rather than an op-ed. :)

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