Hello my lovelies,
I wanted to have a coffee chat with you today about something that has been running around my head for a while. So, grab a coffee and join me.
Makeup is often referred to, indirectly, as lying or hiding something and that couldn’t be further than the truth. However, you can see this belief in many occasions like for example when bloggers post apology videos they tend to be either makeup free or wearing very light amounts. We can only assume that, that is an attempt to appear more truthful and I don’t blame them, this is likely what their PR teams advised them because of the general idea of makeup hiding something or of appearing more vulnurable without it.
But makeup is not an untruthful action or an attempt to hide something. Makeup is a form of self-expression and there is a lot of evidence for that. Many anthropologists and psychologists argue that the persistence of face and body decoration through human history, and therefore by extend the use of cosmetics, has come from their ability to give us a sense of identity and individuality.  The fact that this is a widespread, culture and time free phenomenon gives humanity a sense of unity. The use of cosmetics, enhancement or improvement of one’s appearance is a source of expression and an act of caring to one’s appearance and perception of themselves. Perception, not necessarily by others but by one’s self as well! It is very human after all to always strive to be the best we can be and to feel and look good.
Sure, your foundation hides your uneven skin tone and your concealer hides the spots you might have today or the fact that you didn’t sleep very well last night. Makeup, or cosmetics in general, do improve us physically but isn’t the entire point of life to strive to improve yourself? When you stop an annoying habit, loose weight or learn a new skill, is that lying or hiding something? Wearing clothes is that hiding something? Then why is it that this form of improvement and self-expression is so negative?
Let’s have a look at the picture above. You don’t know or even seen this person before but could you describe a few things about her personality?
If everyone on earth died and you were alone would you still wear makeup?
Perhaps it all started from the fact that many believe that women wear makeup in order to appeal to men. While the human visual system is sensitive to contrast rather than overall luminance and naturally, the female skin has a lighter colour than males, except around the eyes and lips  means that actually it is natural to enhance those characteristics and therefore, attract males through wearing makeup. The concept of attractiveness and beauty is biologically based.  Not to mention that there is a lot of evidence that men are sexually attracted to cosmetics such as red lipsticks.  However, there is also evidence that wearing makeup makes you look more professional and well put together as well as more individual.
Attracting our other half is only a small part of the story and it also feels a little outdated. Not everything we do in life is about appealing sexually to others. Many of us wear makeup even after we find our other half and even when we are alone, because makeup gives us the opportunity to express how we feel that day and maybe also improve some, what we perceive as, physical flaws. Whether they are actually physical flaws or not is actually irrelevant, for whatever reason we perceive them that way (story for another post) and it is a very human behaviour to want to improve them.
Here’s my favourite example of a use of cosmetics for individuality:
Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin who served in the British Army in 1945 wrote:
“It was shortly after the B. R. C. S teams arrived, thought it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don’t know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of a genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for those internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. Do you see what I mean? At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.” [1, 4]
So, is it really such a crime to want to improve yourself and express your individuality? Wear that red lipstick and be proud!
Please let me know what you think in the comments below.
Lots of love,
Bonds of Beauty
- B. Adams Jr., N. Ambady, K. Nakayama and S. Shimojo, The science of social vision, Oxford University Press, 2011.
- Gonin L. C. M. W., Report on the liberation of Belsen, Imperial War Museum, Department of Documents, File 85/38/1, 1945.
Other posts of interest:
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