is makeup good or bad for women’s self-esteem?

A version of this piece originally appeared on Daily Life, and I’m republishing here with some of the original parts. My editor wisely slimmed it down, because I am long-winded and the internet is a faced-paced place. But the awesome thing about a personal blog is that you can keep everything you like about your writing. 

The New York Times had a little debate about makeup recently. Essentially, the question posed went like this: “Is makeup good or bad for women’s self-esteem? Because it seems like it’s probably really important that women wear it all the time.” It’s not the first time this question has been raised in the mainstream media. Attempting to argue that women shouldn’t feel pressure to wear makeup, Thomas Matlack made the case that his wife is stunning without it. Because she’s just stunning. Slate thought this was a counterproductive and slightly obnoxious point, and I agree. Emphasizing that some women look “naturally gorgeous” without makeup isn’t exactly reassuring. Actually, it just feels like more pressure.

The idea of pure, natural beauty has this whiff of cruel competitiveness about it. Some women have “it”, others need makeup. And then we have this dichotomy, where some women “need” the help that makeup gives their faces, and some women, blessed by a God who is on the Victoria’s Secret mailing list, don’t.

If there’s such a dichotomy, then I know which side I fall on. I mean, I get the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, too (because no matter where you hide, it will find you). I am not a “natural beauty.” By which I mean, I would never be asked to play the love interest in a music video about a girl who doesn’t need makeup because she’s so beautiful. I mean, when I wake up in the morning, my face is puffy and weird and my eyes look squinty and confused, and my skin is sometimes cleverly unpredictable, like we’re playing some ongoing game called “Guess where the giant mutant pimple will turn up next?”

(I don’t think they’d want to play…source)

But I don’t wear makeup.

Not because of some defiant decision I made about embracing my inner earth goddess or accepting the hard, bare truth or something. Not because I’m making a political statement about equality and oppressive beauty standards. I just never learned how to do it.


I’m twenty-six now, and honestly, it seems a bit too late. Going out with a stylish friend the other night, she exclaimed, “I HAVE to do your makeup!” And she did, laughing. “Stop moving! Look up! You’re twitching!”

“I feel like I’m being tortured!”

“It’s just eyeliner!”


(oh my god, please be careful!! source)

There are so many components, so many little wands and sticks, and I can imagine very vividly most of them ending up getting stuck in my eyeball.

“How do you not know how to do this yourself?” she finally asked, as I shrank away, blinking hard, my eyes watering defensively.

I want to blame my mom. She never wore makeup when I was growing up. I had an aunt who did, and she bought me a makeup kit when I was ten or so. My mom took it away. “You don’t need this,” she said. “It’s silly.”

But it was more than that: wearing makeup never made me weird because I was already totally different than the majority of my peers. I was homeschooled up until college, and while I had plenty of friends my own age, I almost never hung out in a group of girls. I’d socialize in big mixed groups or hang out with one or two other girls at a time. So there was a lot about being a girl that I didn’t learn the way most girls learn it. Makeup was one of those things. It didn’t even occur to me to make an effort.

In grad school, I fell in love with a gentle, charming man who invited me to an intimidatingly fancy work event, a black-tie gala of the sort that I’d only thought existed on Gossip Girl. Frantic, I bought a little black dress at Zara, which was, for my grad student budget and non-existent knowledge of fashion, about as glamorous and high-end as one could hope to get, and I went to a hair salon to have my hair and makeup done. I didn’t trust myself to do it. When the stylist was finished, a man getting his hair cut across from me said, “Now THAT is better.” But when I looked in the mirror, I saw a creature with painted-on features, attempting to transform into a living Barbie, but the Jewish version. With my Ashkenazic nose, round, owl-y eyes, and pale skin, I was like the Barbra Streisand doll. “Going to Synagogue Barbie,” my box might say. I’d be carrying a miniature Torah in my frozen plastic hands.

(miniature Torot are SO cute…source)

“What a beautiful girl!” the HR manager gushed to my date at the party, as I teetered nervously beside him on my new, tall heels, praying I wouldn’t suddenly fall. Success! I smiled, hoping I didn’t have lipstick on my teeth.

In women’s magazines, makeup fills whole glossy pages—ads, tips, trends, colors, advice on how to look just like this celebrity or this other celebrity who has been so impressively creative about her eyeshadow. Some women feel pressure to wear makeup. Some women work in environments where it feels obligatory. One perfectly coiffed, lovely friend told me that when she showed up at her Wall Street job without full eye makeup one day, her coworkers asked her if she was sick. Because, they said, she looked ill. A lot of my friends wear more makeup every day than I wore to the fancy work party. And they look good in it.

(so intimidating! source)

I live in the same fast-paced New York world as my friends (although, granted, I don’t work on Wall Street), and yet, I just don’t feel inclined to get involved, makeup wise. But I don’t think this means that I have triumphed where they have failed, or that they have mastered an essential art while I have lagged tragically behind. I’m frustrated by the accounts I read by women who feel that they have to wear makeup. In a more reasonable world, no one would have to feel dependent on cosmetics. In a better world, we would be able to do what makes us feel happy and attractive, without it meaning much more than “different people make different decisions.” Faceful of artistically applied makeup? Faint lip gloss? Nothing at all? As far as decisions go, makeup should be a pretty small one, in my opinion. It probably shouldn’t occupy much mental space or provoke many conversations in the New York Times.

I am uncomfortable wearing makeup, so I don’t wear it. It’s very simple. Putting or not putting makeup on my face has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the habits I’ve learned over the years. But when I think about it, as I did upon reading the NYT debate, I find myself feeling lucky for my unusual upbringing, because ultimately, and now as a professional body image and beauty writer, I like having to face my own vulnerable, unimproved face. I think I’ve had to actively attempt to accept its imperfections in part because I know I won’t bother trying to disguise or distract from them.



About a year after the swanky party, when I married the same gentle, charming man, I hired a very cool makeup artist, who was a friend of a friend, for the wedding. Beforehand, she experimented with different looks and I squinted at myself in the mirror and tried to love it. Instead, I felt that same sinking disappointment I’d felt in the salon. Makeup didn’t have some magical ability to make me suddenly gorgeous in a way I’d never been before. It just exaggerated me. To my own eyes, it made me look like I was trying very hard to look beautiful, but not quite succeeding. Still, I was going to be wearing this colossal white gown that could stand up on its own and had bigger boobs than I did, and I figured I couldn’t stand under the chuppah with my hair freshly curled, in my new mother-in-law’s necklace, with my face as naked as an early-morning, sweat-suited jogger’s.

Or could I?

At the last moment, as the makeup artist hovered over me in the cramped dressing room below my wedding venue, I panicked. I felt like I was playing a role.

“Wait,” I said. “I don’t want it.”

“Excuse me?”

“I don’t want the makeup. I’m sorry!”

She smiled, amused. We compromised on some lip gloss and a tiny touch of mascara. And then everyone trickled out of the room, and I was alone for a moment, just before I had to make my massively-gowned way up the narrow stairs into the main room, where the music was already playing, and the chuppah awaited, and my handsome groom was standing in his new tuxedo, bare-faced himself. I gave myself a very serious, appraising look and was relieved to find that Going to Synagogue Barbie was nowhere to be found. A perfect bride with a perfect face was nowhere to be seen. Instead, here was a woman who had been a little homeschooled girl running around in the woods pretending to be a warrior princess with a spear she made out of a stick, who had never learned how to be properly sexy or care about cosmetics.


Writing in defense of makeup in the New York Times, Scott Barnes says: A woman applying makeup is sort of like a man donning armor to prepare himself for battle. Makeup gives you confidence. It helps you exude the best possible version of yourself.

The thing is, I don’t really want any armor. And strangely, I’m not even sure I want the best possible version of myself. Standing in the dressing room just before I got married, I realized that I wanted the version of myself I knew best. I just wanted to look like me.

*  *  *

Do you wear makeup? Why or why not?

Unroast: Today I love the way I look shaggy-haired.



Kate on January 22nd 2013 in beauty, being different, wedding

99 Responses to “is makeup good or bad for women’s self-esteem?”

  1. Suzie responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 9:38 am #

    I love makeup. I think it’s really fun. I genuinely love going through the process of deciding which things I’m going to wear every day. The only things I really wear because I feel like I “need them” (which is maybe sad to admit, but whatever) are foundation and concealer. I just have really shitty skin. I had full blown horror face acne for awhile and now I have scars on my face from it. It’s actually the thing I hate the most about myself. I don’t wear pancake foundation or anything though, because that doesn’t really cover them up (I mean , nothing does) but having something there makes me feel better. The rest of it though, I love and do just because I think it’s fun to do something different every day. I have a love affair with lipstick, I love throwing on bright red lipstick and just living in it. It’s fun and it just makes me happy but if I feel like it’s too high maintenance one day I just don’t do it.

  2. Amanda responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 9:39 am #

    I started out with makeup because I just loved it, from a young age. I wore it all the time. Eventually, my made up look became what people expected so when I went without, I’d get comments on how tired I looked or “are you sick?!”

    I have really bad allergies as well, so the days where I’m likely to go without makeup, are the days where my eyes are so itchy and puffy, with dark circles under them. Those are the days I feel I need makeup the most because people make comments!

    I actually worked at a day spa for about a year, and I work makeup religiously and STILL, I once got a comment from the manager about how I always “came in looking like Night of the Living Dead.”

    So, I have both internal pressure and external pressure to wear make up. I feel like people think I’m seriously SICK if I don’t! It baffles me that other people actually care how I look enough to comment on it. But they do, so I wear makeup whenever I can.

  3. Vicky responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 9:40 am #

    Gaaaaahhh Kate, I love how you write. Keep it coming!

    PS. I usually don’t wear any makeup. Sometimes I’ll wear some eyeliner because it makes me feel dramatic, but generally, I’m like you– I never learned how to do it, and I don’t care enough to put in the time every morning. Also, I want people that know me by MY face.

    Read you soon! :)

  4. Kate responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 9:42 am #

    I have to admit, I’m a little jealous of you. I wish I could enjoy makeup sometimes and experiment with it– it’d be like putting on an awesome outfit. But I can’t get in the habit or make it work, so I’ll just enjoy your artistry from a distance :-)

  5. Kate responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 9:43 am #

    This is so sweet! Thank you!

  6. Vicky responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 9:43 am #

    Correction, I want people TO know me by my face…

    (still, Suzie, I’m kind of jealous that you find it so fun! In a way I wish I did :) )

  7. Kate responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Lol! We just said the same thing

  8. Shannon R. responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 9:50 am #

    Lovely piece.
    I have to say, I love makeup, but I’m very careful about piling it on. If I look the least bit made up it comes off. I love buying and playing, but most days I barely have it on. I’ll put on a full face and scrub the whole thing off. I tend to feel sexier that way. Bare, rosy face. My lips (from having the crap scrubbed out of them) are flushed and plump. My eye makeup has that “I just had hot sex” look. I’m a theatre girl, so when I’m on stage is the only time I go full force.

  9. Shannon R. responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 9:55 am #

    PS: I think you’re gorgeous. :)

  10. Rachel responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 10:21 am #

    Ha, my story is basically yours exactly: My mom never wore it so it just never occurred to me. I used to joke that my high school drama director was the only man I’d ever put on makeup for. I felt vaguely superior about it until someone pointed out to me that I was lucky to have a nice complexion and not ‘need’ makeup, and since then I view it the same way you do.

    Although, I have also realized that my personal aesthetics tend to prefer people who are dressed-down, which means makeup-less. I prefer a scruffy guy in jeans and a t shirt to a clean shaven guy in a suit, and I tend to like the look of women in jeans and a hoodie and no makeup (which may be slightly narcissistic since that’s how I always dress). A friend of mine who’s a fancy corporate lawyer stayed with me for a week recently and quipped “I haven’t worn makeup all week since I’m in Brooklyn with the hippies!”, and I realized I had been thinking she looked particularly pretty all week. That doesn’t mean dressed-down and makeup-less people are objectively better looking, just that it’s the look I like. In general maybe everyone should spend less time judging what other people are wearing and doing.

  11. Jade @ Tasting Grace responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 10:34 am #

    I mostly work from home, so I have the pleasure of working in my PJs or working all dolled up and it would matter to no one but myself. I do generally wear makeup if I leave the house, but not always. And as I get older, I find myself turning to makeup more and more. I always thought I would age “gracefully” – whatever that means – but it turns out I do hold on to youth as much as I can (without surgery or crazy expensive creams). I use make up to accentuate the parts I like and to minimize blemishes. I do it so I feel sexier. But some days, I feel sexier without it. I suppose I view makeup much the same as I do fashion – I’ve been called a chameleon when it comes to my taste in clothes and it’s because I don’t stick to any particular genre. I morph, according to mood. Because I think ALL these things are just fun playthings to try on by whim and weather. I don’t want to be owned by these superficial things, and to me that’s truly the way to live the line “it doesn’t matter”: when you can wear a thing or not wear a thing, for no reason other than you like it and you feel good that way. You’re not making a statement; it just doesn’t matter.

    Not saying I don’t have my bad days, or days of low self-esteem. But I do generally try to remember that my self-esteem exists independently of what I wear, and what I wear and how I wear it is more a reflection of my self-esteem than the cause of it.

  12. Allyson responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 10:47 am #

    I usually wear makeup, though not a ton. I can’t stand the feeling of foundation covering my face and I have pretty good skin, so I typically just wear mascara and light lipstick. Sometimes I also wear a bit of blush, especially in the winter when my face hasn’t been seeing much sun. I work in a corporate setting, and I think I look and feel more powerful with a bit of makeup.

  13. Sari responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 10:50 am #

    Hardly ever wear it, but years in theatre gave me the skills to deal with it when necessary.

    When’s “necessary”? For me that tends to be the rare occasion that I am dressed up, wearing my contacts, and going somewhere where I’ll likely end up photographed… then it’s a bit of concealer, usually a bold eyeshadow, mascara, and something natural on my lips… probably just moisturizer/gloss. I rarely wear blush because my cheeks have a lot of pigment already. I usually go for bold eyes over bold lips because I like the shape of my eyes, and they’re usually hidden behind my thick glasses. And a simple wash of a bold color is pretty damn easy to do. ;-) I don’t ever wear foundation or any all-over face color, just some concealer to lighten under my eyes when I’m wearing contacts.

    This little bit, worn occasionally, I find fun. I definitely did not inherit my mom’s need to “put on her face” before leaving the house, which is always an ordeal… I luckily did inherit her nice skin, so I guess I’m also one of those lucky enough not to “need” makeup. I always found it a shame that she suffocates her face under layers of crap everyday. Oh well…

    If you actually wanted some aspect to play with, maybe get a few different slightly tinted lip moisturizers? Low-pressure, easy to switch up, and you’ll probably want to moisturize your lips ANYWAY at some point, right? I highly recommend these (colors are good, they feel great, and they taste amazing too): They may not be the cheapest, but a little goes a long way. Also available at Sephora. Sorely missed here in Israel. :(

  14. Jana Miller responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 10:55 am #

    My story sounds like yours. I never learned how to use it and at 48, I don’t like the feel of it. Somehow I missed out on that slumber party!!

    I occasionally used pressed powder to stop the shine, a little eye line below and some powders blush. For big occasions-some eye shadow in one color!

  15. berick responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 11:04 am #

    My wife didn’t wear any, and I loved it.

    Now that I’m single, I wish makeup were rare. I simply want to see the real person I’m meeting, to smell the real scent of skin. Sadly, I know that some of the women I meet, maybe many of them, are wearing more than they would usually, because of pressure to be “at their best” on a date.

    It isn’t easy for anyone to ignore the social pressure.

  16. D responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 11:08 am #

    This is an interesting topic, and one I’ve been thinking about a lot recently because I’ve been cleaning out my makeup drawer. I am actually going to post about this on my blog later this week!

    I’ve realized that I like to play with makeup, but I don’t wear it every day, or feel that it is ever completely necessary. I don’t have a lot of neutral colors in my arsenal, but I do have lots of bright and/or sparkly makeup. I try to only wear makeup that makes me happy, and I only wear it when I’m feeling it.

    My mom has worn a full face of makeup probably every day since I was born though, and I don’t see a problem with it. Personal choice. For me, I guess I like it as more of an art project.

  17. Sheryl responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 11:10 am #

    I go back and forth with makeup. I enjoy playing with it the stuff, particularly “natural” looking eyeshadow and mascara and just a tinted moisturizer, and often I go through months where I wear it every day. Then I stop for ages except for special occasions. I feel equally myself both ways.

    Whichever way I do it I find I get odd responses when I change. The same ex-boss has asked me if I was ill or upset when I didn’t wear it one day and at other times assumed there has been some sort of big special occasion when I did wear just a little bit during a no-makeup spell.

    Mostly with make up I find I like the feeling of taking time for myself and feeling happy with how I look. I don’t like wearing the stuff if I feel like I have to or people expect me too, though. I guess I’m kind of lucky that I’m equally comfortable with myself both ways for the most part.

  18. Melanie responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 11:16 am #

    Good gravy I love this post!! I do not wear make up on a regular basis, but I do wear it when I’m dressed up going someplace nice. I know how to put it on, and I have all the right brushes and tones for my skin.

    I have a lot of girlfriends who won’t leave the house without make up and I love them for it. But I have too much in my morning routine to do with OCD and anxiety stuff. I just don’t have the time to do my hair and make up every day, so that has made me okay with my natural, often blotchy, face.

    I know I look better with make up on. I know how to do it so that it evens my skin tone but looks quite natural. I also know how to do crazy drag queen eyes and cat mascara. I learned to do it by watching YouTube. Seriously, that’s how.

    Make up has never been imprortant to me and it never will be. I think it’s a very personal choice and everyone should respect whatever someone chooses as far as wearing or not wearing it, just like with every other personal choice. And I don’t care what anyone says, there totally IS pressure to have a made up face and perfectly styled hair every day. Especially in the office environment I work in.

  19. katilda responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 11:18 am #

    I love this. Because…you’re right, who cares! Women should wear makeup, or they shouldn’t, and that should be their individual choice and whatever and whatever! It doesn’t need to be a statement. And we DO take up an awful lot of ad space worrying about this. Is it really that important? Can’t everyone just quietly do what they do or don’t want without it becoming a THING? My makeup history: blue eyeshadow every day of junior high, no makeup at all in high school, and then in college I settled on a simple routine of killer mascara and…that’s it. Just the mascara. And the routine still stands today. I have my occasional “put red lipstick on!” occasion, but other than that…I keep it simple. And kudos to everyone else for doing whatever they want, whether that means a thick layer of foundation or nothing at all.

  20. Mindy responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 11:44 am #

    Mascara and chapstick… that’s pretty much all I wear. I agree with you… I just don’t feel like me with a lot of make-up, and it doesn’t transform me like it does other girls… I just feel silly.

  21. em responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 11:45 am #

    I started wearing makeup at age 11, quickly became very good at it, and wore it DAILY until I was 27 years old when, one day, I just decided to stop.

    It took about 48 hours before I no longer surprised myself in the mirror, and came to accept my eyes and eyebrows not looking so contoured and defined. It took about 7 days before I finally accepted the slightly blotchy (compared to makeup) canvas that is just my natural face skin.

    Since then (it has been about 10 years), every few years I have put on the full face of makeup. I don’t even like how it looks anymore, and I can’t stand how it feels. I love the thoughtless freedom of dropping tears of emotion over something beautiful/compassionate, hugging my face to someone’s shirt, and never surprising someone ELSE who sees me without my fake face on.

    I’m not anti-makeup. It’s pretty, and it is so much fun. I am just happier without it.

  22. Marie responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 11:48 am #

    I don’t wear makeup and this was initially because, like yours, my mom didn’t wear it and so I just didn’t know how. In high school, I decided I needed to start, so I threw on some blush, eye shadow, and lip gloss(yeah, that was my version of makeup). Some days I’d be running late and wouldn’t have time to put it on, and those days, I felt UGLY. Which seems absurd, considering that I barely even had anything on my face. Eventually, I decided that allowing the lack of some brushed-on color to affect my view of myself so much wasn’t a good thing. So, after about a year, I just stopped. And a decade later, I still don’t wear it. I attempted it for a wedding I went to recently, but it was so much trouble for the very small difference in my face and my husband can’t even tell the difference, so I think I’ll stick to au naturale!

  23. Autumnpsyche responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 11:48 am #

    My Mum was awesome at make-up when she used to wear it. I have memories of being in her room when she was getting ready to go clubbing and the epic make-up collection came out, I think she stopped going regularly when I was about 11 (she never really drank, just went out with her friends and danced).

    When I say awesome at make-up I’m talking David Bowie awesome. She had the kind of face it worked with (high arched brows being the key feature for that kind of thing). She also wore fabulous outfits that she made herself, and people asked where she got them so often that she had business cards made proclaiming herself a designer (she never got much work, though – people are a lot more willing to shop than they are to risk having something made for them). She’d lend me some sometimes and it was always her super shiny/glittery gel rather than her eyeliner.

    She never really wore it otherwise, and I seem to be the same. I went through a phase from about 16-18 of wearing it regularly, but as I was studying it could be big goth or glittery make-up rather than natural looking. Occasionally I’d find myself feeling uncomfortable going out without any on and every time that I realised this I’d immediately issue a make-up ban on myself for 1 week (and stick to it no matter what I was doing in that week), by the end of which I was used to my own face again.

    So, I’m really lucky in that area. I have a certain skill at make-up but I see it as getting dressed up for fun rather than just getting ready for the day. I’m also lucky in that where I work very few people wear it, and as those few who made themselves more every-day glamorous have left it seems like the newer people realise after a while that it’s not necessary and stop wearing it too.

    I have worked in a place where I’m the only woman not wearing make-up all the time and it did use to affect me, I felt less attractive. Value for sleepy time, and finding the application a chore in circumstances where I can’t do big fun make-up kept me from being seduced by the need to feel prettier.

  24. Jenn responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 11:52 am #

    Yes yes yes! I don’t wear make up daily. I used to wear more when I was in the professional world, but then I would only wear light mascara and maybe some eye shadow if I felt spicy. When I wear “a lot” nowadays, my husband says “Wow!” and other people notice and compliment my eyes. I only wear a lot when we’re going to take lots of pictures – my husband has a fancy-pants camera that catches every friggin’ detail, so next to the creamy skin of my babies, my skin was always ending up mottled. A light application of some foundation (or cover-up? I don’t know what it is; my sister told me to use it) and the photos for posterity instantly improve. I love that my make up philosophy means I don’t look sickly or depressed when I don’t wear any. It must be something about establishing a baseline for your appearance – if everyone expects you to look a certain way, and you suddenly look very different, I’d rather surprise people in a good way than a negative way. Just like many other things, make up is a tool that can be used correctly and beneficially or not. Even when there is a ton of pressure to look a certain way, it is up to the individual to decide whether or not they are going to cave to that pressure!

  25. Jenn responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 11:56 am #

    …and I used to dance and act as a kid, so make up was always viewed as a tool for when you needed to perform. I guess I still think of it that way today!

  26. Amy responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 11:59 am #

    When I was really little I used to put sidewalk chalk on my face because my mom wouldn’t let me play with makeup. I wasn’t allowed to wear any until I was 13. And even then there were rules about what I could and couldn’t wear. I wore a lot of neutrals.
    I went through a stage where I always wore makeup. Usually pretty heavy on the eye. LOTS of masacara and eyeliner and smoky shadow. Thankfully I got over that.
    These days I like to collect makeup. I like to think about all of the things I could do to my face with it. I hardly ever actually wear it though. And when I do it’s a little mascara, eyeliner and tinted lip balm.
    Whether or not I wear it isn’t a statement for me either. It really and truly is just up to my mood at that particular time. Sometimes I don’t care to wear any and sometimes I feel like rocking purple eyeliner. Just depends on the day.

  27. Rhiannon from After Plumcake responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 11:59 am #

    Look at Pat McGrath. Hands down the best, most respected makeup artist in the world, travels with bags and bags of it everywhere she goes and rarely wears a lick herself.

    I like makeup because it’s an art form and I’m good enough at it that I can change how I want my face to be interpreted by the world. It’s like knowing a form of sociological shorthand. I don’t feel like I need it to hide flaws, but I like being able to have control over my body, and that includes my face and how I present it to others.

  28. Janet T responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    I do wear makeup and have for years, but I still keep it very light. My aunt-in-law used to insist that I didn’t wear any foundation. My mother-in-law would just smile and say, she could tell I was because she couldn’t see my sprinkling of freckes across my nose! I love that she knew me so well. Mascara is a must- otherwise my eyes disappear. But I don’t use blush or lipstick or eyeshadow- my whole routine takes about 5 minutes or less.
    I have had my makeup “done” by professionals a few times and like your wedding day, I take it off within minutes because I don’t recognize myself in the mirror.
    It is a choice women should be able to make for themselves.
    My guilty pleasure are those pics of celebrities without makeup- the side by side pictures often look like two completely different people as though the celebrity side is a disguise.

  29. Call Me Jo responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    It was a widely known truth in my family that I was supposed to be a boy. Maybe that is why I was such a tomboy. However, my mother, having had a daughter, wanted me to act like one. I seriously failed at this. So she tried subtlety.
    At a very young age, I started receiving makeup. When my mom had makeup parties, she would invite me and one of my friends.
    To this day, I slightly resent this early indoctrination. I rarely leave the house without makeup and I am self-conscious when I do. I don’t wear a lot of it, but I feel vulnerable without it.

  30. Beatrice responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    After years and years of heavy concealer for my acne (my skin TOTALLY plays that game), I finally stopped using any. I wear powder with SPF on my nose, because SPF lotion on my nose = giant nose pimples, but that’s it. And because I still get that redness around my nostrils even though my skin is so much clearer than it used to be.

    About a year ago I started wearing eyeshadow and mascara daily, and now unfortunately I do think I look ill and tired without it. That was actually a huge barrier to me experimenting with eye makeup, because I knew women who wore tons on a daily basis and if you saw them without it they looked, well, ill and tired. I didn’t ever want to feel like I “had” to put on makeup because it had become part of how I look; but the tradeoff is that I like the way I look with it better. I’m still pulled both ways on this.

    I never learned to do makeup in any real way, certainly. A lot of experimentation, and I still can’t wear eyeliner (my eyes are small, and eyeliner makes them look smaller) or lipstick (can’t find a color that works despite YEARS of trying, and it always wears off in 30 minutes anyway). I have stopped caring about making eyeliner or lip color work, because I’m 36 and I am reaching a level of peace with my appearance that my 20s-self would never have believed.

  31. Jennifer responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    I love playing with makeup. Admittedly, I don’t do it as much as I used to (I am currently unemployed, so I can’t buy shiny tubes and compacts of things to play with so often any more, and I also don’t have a reason to get made up every day), but I love it when I get the chance or feel the urge to. I think part of it is because I majored in art in college, and I have always had an interest in fashion and style. I think of makeup as an extension of those interests. I don’t subscribe to any real “rules” (“blue-eyed people should wear ___ color eyeliner, but should avoid ___ colors at all costs!”), I wear whatever I feel like. I have a bright turquoise liquid eyeliner that I love, even though it feels over the top to me. I think that is WHY I love it.

    When I was younger, I did feel like I had to wear makeup all the time. I had bad acne from the time I hit puberty, but I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup until I was 15 or so. That was upsetting to me, I always thought I’d feel so much better if I was able to cover up a little. From the time I was allowed to start wearing it until somewhat recently, I wore makeup every time I left the house. Had to cover up those zits, you see. My skin is a little better now, and I’m finally able to go out in public without a full face of makeup. When I do wear makeup it feels more like a choice than a need, and that is a good feeling.

    So I think that makeup CAN be “good or bad”, but it doesn’t HAVE to be. It can be as much an extension of creativity as clothing or hairstyle choice, and I like using it for that.

  32. Lucy responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    Hi Kate,

    Thank you so much for writing this! I too don’t wear make up for the simple reason that I never learned how. My mom and sister both wear make up and bought me stuff throughout the years until they finally gave up.

    It wasn’t a big statement on my part. It just wasn’t important to me.

    I wish we were friends! I can relate to nearly every piece you write! :) Keep it coming.


  33. Kate responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    we can be internet friends!

  34. heather responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    I don’t wear makeup, only on special occasions… Like maybe three times a year, tops. I’m always surprised to learn that people wear it everyday and feel naked without it. I don’t even think about makeup, I don’t know why people even bother. This is my face! Boys don’t have to hide theirs.

  35. Rapunzel responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    Makeup is like body armor? This is supposed to be a GOOD thing? Why do women have to treat walking out their front doors like their heading into battle?

    I didn’t start wearing makeup until a few years ago (I’m 26). I had to teach myself. I suck at it, which is one reason why I rarely wear it now. If I don’t think that the makeup actually makes me look any better, why bother putting it on if it’ll only make me MORE self-conscious about my face?

  36. Also Kate responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    I missed out on that slumber party too, although I learned to apply stage makeup for ballet performances as a young girl, so at least I knew the application techniques (nothing else, though – I don’t know a damn thing about colors or shades or patterns or polka dots or… what do ladies actually draw on their faces? Stage makeup was red lipstick, dark eyeshadow, mascara, lots of blush).

    I don’t wear makeup now, except for maybe a little concealer if I’m self-conscious about a zit, and chapstick or lip gloss to keep my lips from getting chapped. If I wear mascara or eyeliner, I keep touching my eyes all day, because it feels so strange, which means I smear the makeup, get it in my eyes/on my hard contacts, which hurts, and generally just feel annoyed and itchy-eyed all day.

    I do, however, like asking friends to put a little makeup on me once in a blue moon -it makes me feel the way that really big earrings or a crazy top make me feel. Like I’m wearing a costume – not armor, but maybe someone else’s life story. Just for a little bit. And then I take it all off and it makes me appreciate the simplicity of my bare (and probably slightly-broken-out) face.

  37. San D responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    Over the years off and on, I have worn and not worn makeup. My mother grew up in the era where she got up an hour early so my father wouldn’t see her without it. I am very good at applying it, using all of my artist’s knowledge of using lights and darks, warms and cools, etc. I have rosacea, and am allergic to the sun, so for the longest time I would wear a foundation for protection if for nothing else. In the 60′s I would make sure when I did eyeliner, I would strategically place a dot in the middle of my lower under eye to make people look me in the eyes when I talked. But as the years progressed, I stopped wearing it even for protection, and like my visage au naturel. Makeup is a funny thing. When asked, I think men prefer women without, or maybe I should say “their” women, because again when asked who they think is beautiful, they inevitably pick someone who is heavily (but done very well) made up as someone they think looks like a natural beauty. Oh, and did I mention I have a sister, who is constantly touching UP her makeup when we go out, especially after dining in a restaurant, right at the table..oh my! I know given the chance she would tie me down to a chair and slather my face and lips and eyes…but she is a good friend to me and knows that I prefer not to.

  38. tanner responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    I adore makeup. My mother was a cosmetologist and though that was years before I was born it may have left its mark on me, so to speak. My mother handed me a blue tube of hot pink lipstick when I was four-years-old and I’ve never looked back! One of my favorite quotes is by Diane von Fursterberg: “Lipstick is to the face what punctuation is to a sentence.” I’m not into foundation because I don’t like the feeling of it, but eyes and lips are fully done every day no matter the occassion. I love it and don’t feel complete without especially my lipstick or gloss for the day. I love bright colors. I feel I look more like myself when I’m done.

  39. Kate responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    first of all, great name. Second of all, interesting about feeling like you look MORE like yourself with makeup. I’m intrigued!

  40. Kathy responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    I wear makeup, at least mascara, I have blonde eyebrows and blonde eyelashes and am very pale (which I do not mind being pale) but if I don’t at least were mascara everyone is asking me if I am sick.

  41. Jenn C responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    Hi Kate!

    I just found your blog a week ago, and have spent many an enjoyable hour reading my way through your archive. I’m really glad that you are bringing up all of these topics for discussion. You are a great writer!

    I love playing around with makeup, however, day to day I’m pretty low-key about using it. The only two things I use consistently are my eyebrow pencil and mascara–my left eyebrow has a patch were the hair is sparse, and it looks like I have lost a battle with my tweezers if I don’t fill them. I really like evenings when I get to dress up and put on more dramatic makeup. But I’m thankful that I don’t feel the need to wear it if I’m feeling lazy.

    I definitely agree with you that conversations about makeup shouldn’t dominate our discussions of gender politics. Although, I do think that the way that companies market makeup can be problematic, especially for younger women. On days that I’m feeling less secure about myself, keeping up with all of the perfectly airbrushed images of models everywhere is exhausting.

  42. Corinne responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Does cover up count as makeup?! I never know.

  43. Kate responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    @Jenn C

    And I absolutely agree. Makeup marketing IS problematic. I can’t even count how many commercials I see for “age defying” cosmetics that show 20-something stunning models up close with a voiceover geared towards–who?? 50 yr olds? Me? And of course, that’s far from the only issue. The idea of becoming empowered through “fixing” the way you look is very closely associated with cosmetic marketing.

  44. Kate responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    I say yes! Just because I have no idea how to use that either and it goes on the face :-)

  45. Kate responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    @Jenn C
    Maybe I should clarify: i don’t mean to imply with this piece that makeup should never be discussed as a political topic. I mean that the choice of women to wear it or not to wear it is the wrong focus. And should always be a personal, optional thing that doesn’t have to mean anything about feminism, oppression, or, you know, anything! I feel like I wasn’t clear about the fact that this doesn’t mean that all aspects of the cosmetics industry should go uncritiqued.

  46. lik_11 responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    Although my Mom wore barely any make-up (mascara and lipstick), I definitely went to that slumber party!!! I loved playing in make-up on the weekends with my friends, though in high school all I wore to school was glitter on my eyelids. By the time I got to college, I started collecting. Mainly- I love eyeshadows- pretty sure I have every color, and if I don’t- I can make it.
    My last year in college, a professor told us her toddler was a scientist: he was always experimenting with gravity by throwing things (what a healthy way to look at it, right?). She asked us what we experimented with everyday- what made us scientists? I thought about it- and quickly realized I experimented with color everyday through make-up. My eye make-up always matches my clothing… starting in college through now. She is the person who made me want to study cosmetics- I am now a cosmetic chemist. Although now I believe I should have pursued studying color, not cosmetics. But- I still experiment daily with my make-up… and have fun doing it.

  47. Corinne responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    Alright then. I wear make up. Only because I hate the blemishes I have from hair removal on my neck! Ha! Never thought I would publicly admit that.
    I too never learned what or how to apply the stuff. I now watch my niece at 17 put on makeup fluidly and sigh*.

    Kate, I wish I had more guts on my wedding day, my daughter is always like “mommy that doesn’t look like you”. Compliment? Not sure. She is too young to ask. I’m guessing she will tell me some preteen day that’s coming soon.

  48. Emmi responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    In high school I took stage makeup classes and became quite good at it, doing makeup for lots of school shows and beyond. In fact, I still harbor a secret desire to run away with a Cirque du Soleil traveling show and be a makeup artist. Because how awesome would running away with the circus be! I digress.

    I had a serious goth phase in late high school and college (so. much. eyeliner) that slowly petered out, and along with it went my heavy makeup use. I had my makeup professionally done for my wedding – it was what I considered a heavy application, but looked pretty natural – and that was fine. That was almost 4 years ago and it was the last time I’ve worn makeup, and I think I hadn’t worn it more than once or twice in the couple of years before that. I’ll probably get my makeup done for weddings in which I am in the wedding party over the next couple years (at least 1) and I’d probably get it done if I was having portrait photos taken, but I’m not interested in purchasing the many products and wasting my time fiddling with my face. I’m nearsighted and sensitive-skinned. I’m reasonably skilled, and I’ll do my girlfriends’ makeup if they ask, but I’ll leave my own face to the professionals when necessary – and it’s hardly necessary.

    My attitudes towards makeup have been shifting lately. When I encounter a woman with obvious makeup on, I feel a teensy exasperated. I think, what do you have to hide? I want to see YOU and not some socially acceptable mask that you’re too afraid to take off! Why does this person see fit to waste so much time trying to look differently? And once I have those thoughts, I let them pass along by, because it is not the hell my business what other women want to look like or how they pass their time. But I do have the thoughts, I don’t deny it.

    I have the same thoughts about high heels. Why wear something that is harming your anatomy, causing you pain and making you unsteady? I just can’t grok it. But I don’t need to – not my feet, not my business. I guess I just prefer a natural look. But when I see a made-up, high-heel-wearing lady, I feel a little sad for her – because if it was me in that state, I’d be miserable. I’m focused on letting these thoughts pass, and replacing my initial responses with practice. It’s a process, but I think it’s making me a better human.

  49. Erin H. responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    I wore makeup in high school, but by the time I started college, I was tired of messing with it. Many of the girls on my campus went to class in their pajamas with wet hair, and I followed suit. I’m not in any way a morning person, so the idea of rolling out of bed and out the door held a lot of appeal for me. I even had my (formerly shoulder length) hair cut super short to further streamline my mornings.

    I met my husband during my sophomore year, and several months after we started dating, he brought me to his family reunion. I had been warned about a particular great aunt that loved to lob verbal grenades at people under the guise of “just being honest”, so I was prepared to take her thinly veiled insults with a grain of salt and a gracious smile.

    Sure enough, at some point Future Hub went to find us something to drink, and I found myself standing alone and vulnerable to attack. Immediately a tiny, slightly stooped woman materialized before me. She squinted up at me through thick glasses, and after considering me for a moment, said the now famous words:

    “I’d think that a girl which such short hair would feel the need to put on a little makeup. Aren’t you afraid someone will mistake you for a boy?”

    And that is the story of how I met Aunt Rita.

    For the record, I wear light makeup to work most days, as I’m one of those people who looks perpetually fourteen, and I find I’m treated like more of a professional when I’ve got some on. I don’t dislike wearing it, and I skip it on days when I really don’t feel like fussing with it. I like the way it makes me look, but not so much that feel hideous without it.

  50. Emily responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    For me, makeup is a spell. It is what I put on when I want to impress new people with a polished version of myself. Since I don’t wear it all the time, I often get reactions from people like “wow, you like amazing today” but to me, that is just a success of the spell. It feels like the costume for a more confident person, who people pay more attention to. I think the suit analogy is fitting. But being that character isn’t everything. It’s fun to play dress up, but when it comes down to it, I want my friends to know the non-make-up-ed me. And the do. Still, it is nice to have the make-up spell when your going into a situation with unfriendlies or unknowns.

  51. Sarah S responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    @em: Right on! I was the makeup girl for many, many years as well (even when I stopped shaving my legs for awhile at a super crunchy liberal arts college). My transition “au naturale” was a little more gradual than yours, but with the same result. I still play with it on rare occasions, but usually I just feel better without it (ok, I do have a weakness for Baby Lips tinted lip balm).

  52. TropicalChrome responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    I wear makeup, and I don’t wear makeup. Sometimes I wear what I call “full face”, and sometimes I leave the house without any on at all. (Except moisturizer. But I don’t consider moisturizer make up – it’s so dry here it’s self-defense. It’s not tinted, just keeping my skin from drying out so much it hurts.)

    If you want to learn, it’s never too late. Like you, I was not brought up in the tradition. But that’s the key – you have to WANT to. And if you don’t, it’s ok. Makeup isn’t necessary.

    But it can be fun. I came back to makeup after pretty much giving it up for years because I realized I wanted to play around with how I presented myself to the world, and this was another tool (along with clothing, hair, etc.) to control my image. So when I do wear makeup, I look like how *I* want to look with it, not someone else’s idea.

  53. olivia responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    I think it’s a personal choice. I used to wear a full face of make up everyday ..but not I just wear mascara and eyeliner since I realised my skin is actually pretty good. I wear it because it makes me feel pretty. But in an ideal world (well mine) make up wouldn’t exist because appearance wouldn’t really matter.

  54. Lynellekw responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    I rarely wear makeup. If I’m feeling very organised then I like to wear mascara and lipgloss for work, but I’m rarely feeling that organised. I got good at doing makeup while I was doing short film acting – I learned to put on light, natural makeup that didn’t make me look like someone else in 5 minutes with my fingers while sat in the car (parked, of course). But I have an unnecessarily large makeup collection for someone who only wears it occasionally. It’s the pretty colours – I’m helpless against an attractive eyeshadow display.

  55. Aezy responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    As a university student I often trade make up in the mornings for breakfast or 10 more minutes of sleep! My mum has never really worn make up beyond lipstick and occasional mascara, while my sister can create the most amazing eye make up and eyebrows and I prefer bright red lips and maybe a hint of eye shadow for a night out (I have very pale skin and dark hair and I love the way I look with red lippy on).

    I’ve also gone through phases of coloured eyeliners and when I’m at music festivals or going to a fancy dress party I love cracking out the glitter all over my face.

    Basically while make up for me is part fun, part something to cover up my spotty, still teenagery skin, sometimes I simply cannot be bothered. I don’t really like the way I look without it because of my complexion but in the grand scheme of my life I have more important things to worry about in the mornings!

  56. Isabel responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    When I was 14 – 15 years old, I thought it was time for me to get my hands on some makeup to hide all the nasty pimples (funny, because I very rarely had more than a few, tiny pimples on my forehead, and that was even just occasionally) that were ruining my face. So I bought concealer, foundation, mascara, eye shadow, rouge, lip stick and gloss, and a bunch of face masks.

    The first day I wore makeup, I started feeling this itch on my face, and by the third day, that had blown out into the worst rash I’ve ever seen. Turns out I was allergic to makeup. I was very disappointed and tried every version of skin friendly makeup I could find, but nothing really seemed to be any good for my hypersensitive skin. So I gave up that project.

    I’m soon to be 21, and I now think that my allergy is a blessing. I didn’t see it when I was 14, but I probably looked like a clown with all that makeup on. Thanks to my allergy I have a clean, healthy skin and my boyfriend often compliments me on my rosy cheeks. To think that my natural blush should have been disguised by the industrial kind. I like the way I look without makeup, even when I have dark circles under my eyes and the occasional pimple. Like you, Kate, I don’t like my face with makeup on, and not just because of the allergy.

  57. SolariC responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    I don’t wear a lot of makeup, because my skin is oily and inclined to absorb any dirt that touches it (and in my acne-ridden opinion, foundation is just really expensive dirt). M skin still mocks me by breaking out, even though I’m 25 and should be over the teen hormones. Oh well. However, I do like to accent my features, so I’ll wear lipstick, blush and mascara for special occasions. I have fun picking the colors and enjoy the added drama.

    The one thing I refuse to do, though, is wear tons of eye make-up. My eyes are dark and rather deepset…injudiciously applied eyeliner and eye shadow really and truly make me look like I got punched in both eyes. If makeup is there to accent the features – some things just don’t work on me, so I avoid them.

    I guess, in short, that I wear makeup because I like my face and want to show it off subtly. Seems like a better attitude than hiding behind the makeup!

  58. Becky responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    This is a really interesting discussion! I love makeup, myself, I have loads of it and I love playing with it, I follow loads of makeup blogs, look out for new stuff, read reviews and tutorials, and I’ll never pass up the opportunity to give someone a “makeover”. I just find it really fun. It’s like art but for your face.

    I see women every day who wear it and those that don’t and they all look fine to me, but at the same time I feel better going out in public if I have some on. I don’t wear any around the house, and if I’m just popping out to do quick errands and not talk to anybody or if I’m out with my family doing outdoorsy stuff I’ll just wear a bit of powder for my shiny face, and maybe some concealer and mascara if I can be bothered. However, if I’m going to be meeting people and talking to people, I much prefer putting the whole lot on.

    I think it’s the same for me as it is for another commenter, I feel more like ME with makeup on. Or maybe it’s more the me I’d like to be. I feel more confident, smiley, and pretty. I’m fat and I still have acne even though I’m 24, plus because I’ve got red hair my eyelashes are so light my eyes just disappear, but with the makeup on you can hardly see the acne, and I don’t feel like the fat matters so much because I’ve got big blue eyes and I feel gorgeous. :)

  59. Kate responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    If it makes you appreciate your own gorgeousness, it’s a really good thing to do!!

  60. Lindsey responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    Can I make a confession? I’m one of those girls. The ones who look great without makeup.

    I’m not trying to be vain – it’s just the truth. I am lucky enough to have big, dark features and smooth, even skin. I have PILES of dark hair which translates into long, thick eyelashes and pitch black eyebrows that are relatively easy to manicure. Of course, the flip side is that I also have to shave my legs every day and wax my upper lip twice a month and occasionally pluck the stray hairs that form a unibrow. Oh, and also, my Italian heritage means I’m built like a brick shithouse and I can work out all day, but I’m always going to be sturdy. I’ll never be Nordic and willowy like so many blondes who “need” makeup in order to look good. So maybe I’m a little hairy and curvy, but I get the tradeoff of being “naturally pretty.” That doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t say anything about me. It says something about I look. The two are not the same.

    Here’s the thing: I wear makeup. Often. Occasionally, I’ll even wear a LOT of makeup. I wore false eyelashes on NYE even though they extended only a fraction of a centimeter longer than my own. I will draw a thick, black line on each of my upper eyelids on the occasional Saturday night. I recently discovered the best red lipstain in the entire world, and I wore it out to dinner one night last week. Just… you know. Because.

    My wearing makeup says not one thing about me as a person, just as your choice not to wear makeup is not a commentary on who you are. Some of the comments here are surprising to me – there are seriously people in this world who notice my lipstick and wonder what I’m “hiding?” Like, that is a thing that people do? I don’t understand why we jump to conclusions like this. There is something wrong with a society where we believe we have the right to judge strangers whose lives affect us in absolutely no way.

    I’m pretty. That’s a truth about me. I wear makeup. That’s another truth about me. But neither of those truths are THE truth about me. THE truth about me is a collection of all the little truths – the looks, the thoughts, the relationships, the hopes, the desires. It’s absurd that we’re even talking about making judgments on THE truth about people based on ONE truth about them.

  61. Kate responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 9:14 pm #

    I always like it when women comment here with stuff about how they know they’re pretty/beautiful/hot/gorgeous. GOOD!!! It shouldn’t have to be a confession! It’s awesome that you know that about yourself, and it’s awesome that you are.

    There are obviously people who are stunning. That happens. And I in no way wanted to suggest that I think that sucks– I just don’t want there to be enormous pressure on EVERYONE to look a certain way, with or without makeup.

  62. Lindsey responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    @Kate eesh, I hope it didn’t sound vain when I said that. That was really not my point. I am a million things and pretty happens to be one of them, but I don’t believe that I deserve any special rights just because of some twist of fate and genetics. I acknowledge that there are a few unfair advantages that I get in the world that maybe some other people don’t, but then, I give up advantages in a lot of other ways, too (see: having to work that x amount harder to convince people that I may be pretty but I am also kind of smart and generally nice…)

    I didn’t think your post suggested that there should be pressure on anyone to wear makeup or not – not in the slightest. I was more frustrated by some of the judgmental comments. I guess I felt like a lot of readers took this opportunity to express their frustration about not only makeup and maybe makeup culture but also People Who Wear Makeup, as if we’re all part of some secret society. We all come to makeup (or fashion or engineering or rocket science) from our own paths and my point was only that it’s sort of unfair for anyone to judge a stranger based on this ONE piece of information.

    Another secret of mine is that whatever sleepover party the girls were having where they learned how to play with makeup? Yeah, I wasn’t invited to that party. I had a zillion lovely friends all through school. I had (have!) a drop-dead gorgeous mother and four knockout aunts (two on each side), none of whom wear a stitch of makeup to this day. I have a beautiful sister and a heavenly host of cousins and extended relatives who wear varying degrees of makeup. And for all those women in my life… I sort of just discovered makeup on my own. I wore stage makeup in ballet recitals and school musicals and I browsed the aisles while waiting for prescriptions and played around at Nordstrom and one day I just bought something. And then I bought another thing. And then I read a few articles and watched YouTube tutorials when that started being a thing and then I just started… I don’t know, enjoying it?

    I guess the point is that I don’t think there’s any magical club with some sort of initiation ceremony. You just do it. Or you don’t. And it’s up to you. And it’s not really anyone else’s business.

    PS: you’re a wonderful writer. I love your work and I always want to say something and then I don’t because I have nothing substantial to add, and then the one time I do, I come off sounding like a self-absorbed bitch. So there’s that. And also, you’re ridiculously beautiful.

  63. Kate responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    Oh no!! I feel like we’re misunderstanding each other. You didn’t come off as vain AT ALL. You came off as confident and comfortable. And you should never ever have to apologize for that! Or add a disclaimer. Of course you’re more than pretty, but it is so damn hard for a woman to say “I am pretty” in this world. It seems a lot easier to say “I look terrible!! I’m a disaster!” than to say “I am beautiful and feel good!” I hate that. It’s crap. I love that you recognize your attractiveness. Enjoy it!

  64. Lindsey responded on 22 Jan 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    @Kate that’s certainly fair. And actually, your point is well-illustrated by the fact that I felt like I had to come back and clarify. I think maybe what you’re talking about and what I’m talking about go hand-in-hand, in a way: perhaps the reason we’re hesitant to say “hell yeah I look good” is because we’re pressured to downplay our own internal sense of self-worth while, at the same time, we’re expected to dress up so that others will see us as more worthwhile. It’s a strange paradox, for certain.

    Thanks for the dialogue – I really do appreciate it.

  65. Chris responded on 23 Jan 2013 at 12:44 am #

    I’m so glad you addressed this topic here, and shared your thoughts. It’s a topic particularly important to me, because of how often it is dismissed (not by you though, thank you!) as “shallow,” or “frivolous” or some other word that implies we should have better things to think about, or do, and all that makeup represents is a waste of time.

    I never wore much makeup until a very difficult period in my life, when makeup (first researching it, sometimes purchasing it, finally experimenting with different ways of wearing it) became a distraction and outlet for me to feel (more) positive about my outward appearance, one of the only areas left at that point that I somewhat felt secure in, even if I was not feeling positive or secure about other aspects of my life.

    That was 2 years ago, and as the small interest/distraction grew into a real, deeply loved hobby that I invested both time and money (after careful research of course) into, I questioned myself many times for having such a “shallow” hobby or interest, or how I could claim to believe in certain “feminist” ideals or have certain ideas about “beauty,” while still having such a love for makeup. But I learned a few things along the way that surprised me:

    1. For me, the regular use of makeup made me love my bare face even more. Learning about makeup also taught me how to take better care of my picky, sensitive skin, and on the 1 or 2 days a week I go bare-faced, I enjoy seeing my features without enhancement just as much as I enjoy seeing them with. The different faces just feel like different sides of me, as natural as how I behave differently in different environments. Only once have I gotten the “are you sick??” comment when bare-faced, and I simply answered “nope, just not wearing eye makeup.” It didn’t bother me for the reasons explained above.

    2. I was never one for art, painting, drawing, I am good at none of it. But experimenting with makeup — colors, techniques, what goes together, what doesn’t — is the first time I’ve found a creative outlet I genuinely enjoy. Even better if something looks bad, I can just wash it right off.

    As a relatively serious, goal-oriented person I’m (still!) often hesitant to reveal my hobby to new friends/acquaintances or let them see my (after 2 years, rather large) makeup collection, in fear that snap judgments about me being “shallow” or “materialistic” or “vain” will be made, but at the end of the day wearing and experimenting with makeup brought me joy in a really bad time, has made me appreciate my own “beauty” more, with or without, and still makes me happy every morning (a difficult task, trust me). So for me personally, makeup has been a wonderful thing but I wish it wasn’t so often presented as either NECESSARY FOR EVERY WOMAN or on the opposite end of the spectrum GIVING INTO THE PATRIARCHAL STANDARDS when for some women like myself it has been neither of those things, but so much more. And for other women, it is a non-issue!

    P.S. I love the dialogue you created with this post! The comments were fascinating to read.

  66. Jo responded on 23 Jan 2013 at 2:00 am #

    Makeup to me is something I use daily and takes 5 mins. As I bridesmaid at a wedding I had mine done and I did not recognise myself and felt strange looking into the mirror and seeing a Katy Perry like reflection. I have my wedding coming up and am feeling slightly wary as a friend is doing my makeup without a trial and I am hoping I look like a nicer version of myself not some alien! I think it is something fun to do and have gone to work forgetting to do it and I work with a group of blokes and none of them notice!

  67. Steff responded on 23 Jan 2013 at 8:12 am #

    I’m solidly in the light daily makeup camp, except for when I can’t be bothered. It does make me feel more ready to tackle the day, though I wonder if this self-esteem boost is more the effect of taking 15 quiet minutes for a ritual centered on myself each morning. If I devoted those minutes to exercise or meditation, I suspect I’d get a similar boost!

  68. Amanda responded on 23 Jan 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    I don’t like wearing makeup, but sometimes I have to. I am a pianist, and consequently spend a lot of time onstage with very made up people. But I have figured out what I can get away with – no foundations, no blusher, etc.

    My day-to-day make up case has three things in it – a good mascara, a kohl stick and a red lipstick. I probably wear makeup on the street (as opposed to on the stage) about once a month. I made a decision a long time ago that the times when I wear makeup need to be about enhancing what I already have, not trying to cover up my concerns about other people’s judgement. I have a good set of lips – why not make them pop?! I have beautiful coloured eyes – why not create a little frame around them?!

    My skin is amazing – thank you genes! I am 37 and in the last few years have stopped toning, etc… I use a good cleanser and put some sunscreen on. Did I say I have amazing skin?! I have the most perfectly high sun kissed cheekbones. Why would I want to cover any of that up with foundation?! I’ve never worn it, and I never will. I really feel that foundation is the worst product that women feel they must use. It clogs the skin and leaves women looking flat faced. So you’ve got a zit – big deal! It’ll go after a few days, and you know what? No one cares. No one actually cares. We are all just believing the hype, believing that people have so little to do that they have the time to worry about a single zit on another person’s face. Please. Put the foundation down and step away. Nobody cares!

  69. Michele responded on 23 Jan 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    Hi Kate: Love your post, as usual. This is very timely for me because last night I saw an ad on tv for Avon which actually made me cringe! I was really upset. It showed a dressed up, pretty woman with makeup (so far, so good) and then the “voice” says something along lines that she knows what men want and that is why she is selling Avon. OMG. I am not sure why that upset me so much but it did. Most of my friends wear makeup to make themselves feel good not to be attractive to their spouse. My husband has never even seem me with makeup–it would not even recognize me with it :) Sorry for the rant, still suffering from the flu and not myself yettttt

  70. BJ responded on 23 Jan 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    In day-to-day life, I don’t. It’s a pain in the ass and absurd; I don’t do business face-to-face. I like putting it on when I’m going out to Da Club because I go *waaaay* over the top when I do, but that’s an occasional thing.

    I dislike being made to feel like makeup is mandatory. It reinforces the idea that physical comliness is one more thing I have to try and be competent at. I’m 5’8″ tall and weigh north of 500 lbs. Physical comliness is a battle I lose by default. Putting makeup and dressing in business clothes makes me feel like I’m rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic . . . erm, no pun intended.

  71. Eliana responded on 24 Jan 2013 at 7:21 am #

    I never learned what or how to apply the stuff. I now watch my niece at 18 put on makeup fluidly and sigh*.

  72. Lauren responded on 24 Jan 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    I used to have terrible skin. I started wearing make-up in high school (my mother encouraged this) and I relied on it. I couldn’t go anywhere without a mask of caked-on make-up. Somewhere in my 20s I dated a fairly blatantly-honest guy who was, frankly, also kind of an asshole, and he told me that I wore too much make-up. It took a while to digest, but then I realized that maybe he was right. So, I stopped wearing make-up… and then my skin magically cleared up. I still get the occasional pimple, but I no longer have full-blown acne (which I think was partially caused by make-up on my sensitive skin). I tend to only wear mascara and lip-gloss these days (and on occasion I will wear subtle eye make-up). Honestly, if I do wear full make-up, I don’t feel like myself; I feel like I’m coated in disgusting goo. It actually gives me anxiety to be too done up. So, I don’t blame you at all for forgoing make-up at your wedding… I imagine I will probably do the same when the time comes.

  73. Mary responded on 24 Jan 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    I am a very regular makeup wearer, but it is usually limited to four things:
    - foundation
    - brow pencil
    - eyeshadow
    - mascara
    Sometimes I decide to give eyeliner a go, and it’s usually liquid (pencil just blinks off and creates a mirror line on my upper lid – gross).
    On days when I can’t be bothered with the full face, I d carry a bright red lipstick with me, and often swipe it on later in the day. Nice!
    I don’t think of makeup as a victory over the real me, or a mask that hides my natural beauty. I think I wear it more for other people (clients, parties) than for myself.
    Does it make sense that I feel distracting when I’m not wearing makeup?

  74. bethagrace responded on 24 Jan 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    Now that I’m out of college, my skin is the worst it’s ever been, so I wear some concealer and powder to cover things, and I put on a little eyeliner just because I like it.

    I’ve always been frustrated by the credit make-up-less people get for being confident and whatnot. Of course they’re confident, because they just naturally look nice. If I had clear skin, I wouldn’t wear makeup either.

    However, since I *don’t* have clear skin, why do I have to not put on make-up and not look as nice as them?

    Make-up is an equalizer that allows us to all look pretty together.

  75. odina responded on 24 Jan 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    I think it’s all about expectation management.

    I only ever wear makeup when i’m all dress up and going “out” – not to work or just generally, and my friends all say “oh but that’s because you don’t need it”.

    But I think that they wouldn’t need it either if they stopped wearing it – it’s just that when you wear it all the time, you (and everyone else) gets used to how you look, and so will notice when you look different.

    Also, I think that there may be a link between not wearing make up and having nice skin – as in, the make up you use to cover your bad skin, is causing the bad skin…. catch 22. Yikes!

  76. Kate responded on 25 Jan 2013 at 8:31 am #

    Interesting perspective!! Makeup as the great equalizer…
    My skin has never been that great, honestly. But, like I said in the piece, wearing makeup just feels awkward for me. I sort of wish it felt effective, because maybe I’d feel less self-conscious when my skin is especially bad. But putting stuff on a breakout makes me think about it more, and worry I’m irritating it.

  77. Meg responded on 25 Jan 2013 at 11:06 am #

    I don’t generally wear any on the weekends. When it’s a work day that I need to look more conventionally “business-polished” for (I am sometimes client-facing), I do. It’s just another part of business-dressing-up to me — I mean, I’m not wearing the boring pants and conservative black cardigan for my health, either — and helps me look a bit more my age and separate me from the student population (I work in a university, am in my 30s, but look about 23). I also play along during my 8-5 by not talking loudly about condoms and not dropping the F-bomb, too, so it’s hard for me to see the makeup issue as more important than the other ways I’m toning down and work-ifying my personality/looks.

    I also put some makeup on when I go out for drinks somewhere, which happens about twice a month, if that. Then it’s pretty much limited to under-eye concealer, lash tint, and some fun garish lip stain. I like bright colors. I’m like one of those birds who’s drawn to bright and shiny things.

    As far as Emmi’s comment about heels being harmful to the anatomy and “when I see a made-up, high-heel-wearing lady, I feel a little sad for her – because if it was me in that state, I’d be miserable,” don’t feel sad for me…I am not a creature to be pitied. :) I have a few pairs of heeled boots and shoes that are way more comfortable than a lot of the flats I own. They also really help with balance when I’m salsa dancing — I have a totally huge ass and the slight pitch forward offers some counterbalance that prevents backward falls during extended spins. So, yeah, in those cases, heels are totally saving me from having a bruised-up butt.

  78. Melissa responded on 25 Jan 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    I wore makeup in 7th grade, just like all the other girls. I didn’t like it though. I didn’t like the way it felt on my face and when I started breaking out incessantly I quit wearing it. My mom would make me put some on for dances but I would put my foot down at foundation or lipstick. I still can’t stand the stuff. While it is still rare that I wear it, my makeup usage has gone up as I get older. If we go out with friends I typically put on eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, and a touch of liquid blush. I actually had to watch a youtube video a year ago to figure out how to put on eyeliner! My eyes don’t quite pop like they did when I was young so I like to add something to them but you’ll never see me with makeup on unless we’re going to a nicer dinner than normal or its an event like a wedding. It just isn’t my thing!

  79. Maggie responded on 26 Jan 2013 at 1:08 am #

    I’m a stay at home mom to 3 and 4 1/2 year old. My world is potty training and pre-school drop off. I wear make up every single day: powder, blush, mascara and lip gloss. It takes 2 minutes to apply but makes me feel like I’m still the suits and heels career woman I was pre-kids. The majority of my mom friends wear no make up at all and look like they just rolled out of bed or wear gym clothes daily even though most don’t work out. Even though none of our kids are babies anymore they live in frumpville. I protest frumpville! I can’t go through life looking like I don’t care about myself.

  80. Tiana Galloway responded on 26 Jan 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    I do not consider myself frumpy. My husband loves that he can kiss me and bite my cheek without messing up my lipstick or getting a mouthful of it. I don’t fault ppl for feeling like they need/want to decorate themselves. I wish they wouldn’t fault me for not.

  81. Emmie responded on 27 Jan 2013 at 10:37 am #

    I rarely wear make up but I have a passion for lipstick. I think it’s pretty and I love my lips so highlighting them is fun. I love the fun of make up and have played with it in some way since I was quite young from having the barbie head with the full palette to eating popsicles to stain my lips when my mom wouldn’t buy me tinted lip balms. I was even a Mary Kay representative for about a year and a half in my mid 20s and my face was an advertisement for the products.

    At 38 I still have mild “teenaged” acne and yet I never wear foundation. It’s not statement thing I just can’t be bothered and it’s hard to find a proper skin tone match anyway. I used to own an amazing array of cosmetics that I wore only a few times a year so I got rid of everything but a mascara want and a couple of lipsticks. I dress up and go out a few times a month to clubs and/or parties and I am as likely as not to have a bare face, no one seems to notice either way.

  82. Melinda responded on 27 Jan 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    Kate, I love you…for real. ;) Thanks so much for this post.

    I believe that makeup is what a person makes of it. It’s all about personal choice and individual self-expression. Makeup, in my view, is not some evil tool of the patriarchy. It can be fun to play with.

    Some people can be very judgmental about what other women do, and makeup is no exception. I grew up being judged very harshly by my peers and some relatives because I was a makeup-loving teen. One cousin, in particular, tried to make me feel bad and would call me “fake” because I liked makeup. I remember one of her friends saying in a very snarky way that my cousin was naturally pretty and that’s why she didn’t need the help of makeup…unlike me. Poor, ugly, insecure me. *sarcasm*

    My cousin grew up constantly being told how beautiful she was and what a pretty face she had. She developed a narcissistic streak because of that. I never received compliments about my looks. Plus, we’re of mixed race so she has this deep golden-brown complexion and I’m more on the pale side. We’re like night and day in many ways. I didn’t even wear as much makeup as people thought. I loved lipstick/gloss, especially reds and hot pinks. But that was about it. I also wasn’t blessed with smooth clear skin in my teens so I had to distract people from my acne-scarred face and other imperfections.

    Now at 29, I feel comfortable whether I have makeup on or whether I’m simply “chillin with no makeup on” as the song goes. My skin has cleared up, although I still have red spots sometimes during my period. I wear mascara and gloss on a daily basis. I don’t wear blush because I have naturally pink cheeks, but I still think it looks beautiful on other women. I’ve never worn foundation in my life. Concealer is a must.

    Essentially, I believe it depends on the woman. Makeup is neither “good” nor “bad”. It can be used to downplay features you feel self-conscious about and play up the ones you like. It adds color and sparkle. I don’t judge other women for their makeup, or lack thereof. I don’t think anyone should have to apologize for liking makeup, just as women who prefer the bare-faced look don’t want to be judged either.

    I wear mascara because it opens up my small eyes and makes them look bigger, sexier. I wear a clear plumping lip gloss because I like how it makes my lips fuller (and I love the wet-lipped porn star look, I will admit). If I knew how to enhance my cheekbones, I would most likely do it.

    I don’t think that every action a woman takes needs to be viewed as some type of feminist statement. Wear makeup if you like it, for whatever reason. Or don’t wear it at all, if you don’t want to. It all comes down to individual choice and personal comfort. Just like wearing high heels…I can’t wear 4-inch “fuck me” pumps anymore because of problems with my right foot, but I still think they look hot on other women. I try not to judge the way other people carry themselves or what they like to wear, as long as they are clean and presentable.

    Anyway, there’s my two cents.

  83. Kate responded on 27 Jan 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    I like your two cents!

  84. Emma responded on 27 Jan 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    “I like having to face my own vulnerable, unimproved face.”

    I’m exactly like you, in that my mother never wore makeup, so I never learned. When people talk about it, I just say, “I’m too lazy for makeup”

    My face breaks out in hives fairly often, and completely unpredictably – so I could check the mirror and see nothing abnormal about my skin right before going somewhere, and then an hour later I might see my reflection and notice a giant red bump just above my lip. I’m certain they look like pimples or even like Herpes when they’re near my lips… but I am so uncomfortable in foundation (had to wear it in a few high school musicals) that it’s just not worth covering it up.

    Once every couple of months, on a whim, I’ll put some eyeliner on before I go somewhere – sometimes I feel 10x sexier, sometimes I feel like an alien with unnatural eyes (on those days I wash it off before leaving). On the nights I wear eyeliner, I have to constantly remind myself not to rub my eyes – I am very impressed that many women can wear full makeup everyday without smudging the hell out of it.

    What I’m trying to say is, some days I hate my skin, some days I like my skin. Sometimes I hate my features, sometimes I like them. Sometimes I like my features, but I also like the difference a small amount of makeup can do.

    Reading this article made me feel guilty for all those silent moments of pride when I noticed a girl wearing tons of foundation – I always thought, “my skin is so much nicer than hers, and I’m not faking anything.”
    It’s so unfair to judge someone for having good or bad skin, or for wearing makeup or not wearing makeup. I can’t believe I did that.

  85. kat responded on 28 Jan 2013 at 9:32 am #

    I don’t really wear make up to special occasions – but, and maybe some people have already touched on this in the comments – what actually really overwhelms me about make up is that
    A) I want to buy products that aren’t tested on animals (which are precious few and far between within my budget)
    B) i’d like to buy products that are fairly natural and not full of strange chemicals that aren’t that great for my skin anyway.
    Once I start thinking about it – or over-thinking it really- it’s often just easier not to wear it!

  86. kat responded on 28 Jan 2013 at 9:33 am #

    oh wait that should say *except* to special occasions

  87. Melissa responded on 28 Jan 2013 at 9:58 am #

    I love makeup and always have. I apply makeup everyday and have for 30 years. It makes me feel better about the day when I feel I look my best. I do not feel oppressed by society and forced to paint and costume myself to “fit in”. My habits are completely self imposed. My husband does not seem to notice if I do not have it on, and if I say “wait a minute, I have to put some makeup on before we go”, he will just look at me with confusion as to why the whole process would be necessary. His lack of interest in whether or not I apply makeup is noted and appreciated. But again, I do it for myself. I feel more confident and optimistic if when I glance in the mirror, my eyes pop and my smile shines a bit. My best girlfriend does not bother with makeup unless she is going to a special event and I admire her lack of interest. She is an attractive woman without it because she is funny, kind, and time with her is enriching. Isn’t that what makes us attractive and sexy anyway? I believe I have those qualities also, I just choose to do it with a little mascara and lipstick. I believe the choice to wear or not to wear makeup is something special that we enjoy as women. No political statement here…we can take it or leave it and that is something to be celebrated.

  88. Gabs responded on 30 Jan 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    I swear, sometimes it feels like a topic that gets discussed privately between my friends and I will somehow become the focus of national discourse before one can say “lickety-split”!

    Make-up actually became a point of contention between my best friend and I a few years ago. She began experimenting with it and utilizing it more frequently, and I have never touched the stuff. She explained that it helped her to feel better about herself. I explained that it made me feel worse. She couldn’t understand my point of view and I couldn’t understand hers.

    To me, wearing make-up has always felt like an exercise in progressively admitting defeat. It’s exactly as you stated in your article – it makes me feel as if I’m trying, and failing. The act of putting make-up on me is long and ardous because I always end up crying all of it off because the longer I have to stare at my face and try to pick out the areas that need cosmetic improvement, the more I see. Therefore the less confident I feel. (And then I give it all up for lost, decide I’m “too fat” for make-up to do much good anyway, and by then, I’m usually heinously tardy for whatever event I was trying to make it to in the first place, so I just end up with a sad and frustrated evening)

    And so, when she first started using it, I couldn’t grasp that it was a positive thing for her. I thought it was rather a misstep for the process of developing self-esteem. It seemed almost desperate, kind of a “fake it until you make it” thing. But it made her happy and it was clear it was going to go away so we tried to deal with the conflict as best we could.

    Years and years later, it’s still not a completely healed area in our friendship, but we are trying. She’s been getting me to understand the artistry of it (she’s gotten into the really elaborate nail art of late) and I can understand deriving a sense of pride and achievement from something artistic and creative that you’ve done for yourself, and the thrill that getting to customize it every day and adapt it to your particular situation must be. (It’s almost like I have to think of it as just etch-a-sketch tattooing to be able to really get it – I hate makeup but I love my tattoos and piercings. I literally cried for four hours when my industrial piercing healed over). And as for her,… well, I don’t know. I guess I would have to let her speak for herself (I plan on linking her to this article as soon as I’m done).

    I think it, like so many other topics in feminism lately, represents the idea that no clear maxim is going to work anymore for what’s good and what’s bad. We’re such a huge population spread across such a diverse and complicated system that it’s never going to be feasible again to make rules for the whole.

    To me, I think feminism is never going to be about what’s bad for women anymore, so much as it’s going to be about getting people to assert themselves outside of their gender. Wearing makeup is bad, not because I’m a girl, but because I’m me and my experiences and outlook as a person shape me to think about it that way.

    Wearing make-up is not bad, for my friend, not because she’s a girl, but because she is who she is.

    (Sorry for the comment to be so long – like I said though, it’s just a topic that’s been kind of percolating for a little while through my group of friends).

  89. Gabs responded on 30 Jan 2013 at 8:26 pm #

    *clear it wasn’t going to go away

  90. Sel responded on 30 Jan 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    I don’t wear makeup. Like you, I never learned how to put makeup on, and when I tried, I felt…fake. Over the years, my inability to use makeup has pretty much remained. When I remember, I’ll outline my eyes for work or going out. When I remember. And can find the eyeliner pencil. And have a mirror.

    I think the eyeliner makes me look better, but most of the time I don’t really mind not looking “better”. Certainly not for guys. Maybe for other women in the office, most of whom are impeccably groomed.

    However, I have friends who feel naked without makeup. They can’t walk out the door unmade-up without feeling a deep and lasting cloud of ugliness over them.

    I find that when I put makeup on (any more than eyeliner and lipgloss), I feel like I’m faking it, pretending to be something I’m not. I don’t even look ‘real’ in the mirror, I look fake.

    Over the years (I have 36 of them under my belt and am working on #37), I’ve realised there’s no right or wrong answer to whether wearing makeup is good or bad for someone’s self-esteem. I have friends who feel like a fright if they don’t put makeup on; I feel like a fright when I do.

    Ideally, as people-who-are-women we’d get our self-esteem from non-beauty-related things – our minds and personalities, our skills and talents, our position in the universe and our simple state of being – that we *are* and that this is enough.

    In the meantime, I think that some women will find it helpful to wear makeup, and others will find it helpful to not wear makeup, and there is no ‘right’ choice for the whole or even small subgroups, there is only ‘right’ for the individual woman herself.

  91. C responded on 18 Feb 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    I know this post is old, but I just *had* to say something.
    I am no stranger to makeup. I was a competition dancer for several years and caked my face with stage makeup several weekends every season. But it was so copious in quantity that I would look in the mirror and, like you, not even recognize the girl staring back at me. And I didn’t really like her.
    I don’t wear makeup not because I am confident in my beauty. I am constantly sleep deprived. Sometimes I see myself in the mirror and embrace the fact that this is definitely not my day. I don’t wear makeup so that when I look in the mirror and I know that today *is* my day, that it is all due to me. Me and my face. When someone tells me I’m beautiful, that will all be me. When someone decides to love me, that will all be me. And every time I decide to love myself, that is all me.

  92. Sarah G responded on 05 Mar 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    I really love makeup. Yes, I sometimes feel like I have to wear it and I definitely have felt like it’s a protective armor I can hide behind. But I also really enjoy makeup. . .I enjoy shopping for it and reading about it, applying it when I have nowhere to go to try a new look and when I have some big event, I just think it’s fun.

  93. Ziba responded on 09 Apr 2013 at 9:41 am #

    It just boils down to how makeup makes you feel. It’s not inherently good or bad. If it make you feel pretty, then great! If not, then you don’t have to wear at all. And it’s all good ;)

    For me, I’ve always kept my makeup really basic and minimal even throughout high school and college. It’s only now that I’m 27 that I’ve really started to enjoy playing around with makeup and getting creative with it. There is definitely an artistic and creative side to makeup.

  94. Cat responded on 23 Apr 2013 at 11:36 pm #

    I generally don’t wear makeup, both because I’m lazy and because most of the time I feel like I look really good without it. Sometime I wear it because it brings up the same sort of feelings as playing dress-up as a child, it’s a really fun sort of play where you can experiment with being different aspects of yourself, this is me as a princess or a mermaid or a space alien or a seductress from an old movie, but that’s mostly just for fun at home. And experimenting with nail polish is fun even if it turns out poorly half the time. And sometimes I wear it because I feel awful and need to feel a little fancy, like I’ve spent some time on something for myself in a way that’s visible. Sometimes a little lipstick can make you feel extra pretty on a crappy day (or cover up some of the damage from chewing on your lips on a really stressful one).

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  97. BeautyBeast responded on 25 Oct 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    “Do you wear makeup? Why or why not?”

    I wear makeup. Reason is the same i wear nice looking clothes instead of just anything.

  98. Lori responded on 23 Dec 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    I am 51 and I still wear makeup. I wear it all everyday. I wear foundation, loose powder, concealer, blush, eyeliner, eyeshadow, mascara and lipgloss. I don’t apply it like a clown or to look whorish. I look nice and I feel better about myself, more confident and it’s fun! I have been reading some forums lately about women wearing makeup and so many women stopped wearing makeup. I can’t understand why.

  99. Lina responded on 12 May 2014 at 1:11 am #

    I wear makeup because I have acne and acne scarring. It’s terrible. However, if you asked me if I wear a lot or a minimal amount, I wouldn’t know how to respond exactly. It’s different for everyone. I wear:
    -lipgloss or lipstick, if I feel extra fruity that day

    To some, this is a heavy load to wear. To others, this is average or minimal. So. There’s my comment :)