The Power of Makeup

Makeup empowers, but does not define

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Amodhya Samarakoon

Junior Heba Sandozi models for a #powerofmakeup picture, where half of her face has makeup and the other half is completely bare. “There’s this strange, but really cool phenomenon where wearing makeup can make you feel more confident,” Sandozi said.

Amodhya Samarakoon, Heath & Wellness Editor

As people get older, they tend to develop a morning routine: hit snooze three times, finally wake up, get ready, and eat breakfast. Sometime during that regimen, they may stand in front of their mirror and coat their lashes in mascara, flick their eyeliner, or dab on under eye concealer: the use of cosmetics presents itself in many individuals’ daily routines.

Although society has become more open to the use of makeup by all genders, women are still the main consumers of cosmetics. Makeup, especially now, plays a huge role in many women’s lives: the age at which girls are beginning to wear makeup has dropped to around 11 years old, according to an article by Glamour Magazine. The following for YouTube beauty gurus – who give fashion, health advice and often create makeup tutorials – has increased by over 50% since 2014, according to a study on YouTube’s beauty ecosystem by Pixability.

Along with this rise in views and subscribers in the online beauty community, young gurus such as Bethany Mota have surpassed slightly older YouTubers such as Michelle Phan in their following. Much of Mota’s content consists of simple everyday and no-makeup makeup tutorials – directed towards girls in middle and high school. These so called no-makeup tutorials and “how to take the perfect selfie” videos go through full makeup routines meant to create a natural look along with lighting tips to ensure one’s selfies look flawless. Older YouTubers, such as Phan or Nikkie from NikkieTutorials, post content requiring more technique for intricate, high-fashion looks which highlight the level of artistry makeup can achieve.

“People say ‘Why do you wear makeup? You don’t need to play into society’s lameness.’ … But, society hasn’t stopped saying ‘You need to look pretty,’ that’s still a standard,”

— Tessa Rauch

All of this points to the development of increased insecurities regarding the use of cosmetics among women and young girls.

“[Many views towards makeup] are just based on the way women are treated as a whole. Women have to be everything: successful women can’t only be successful at what they do, they have to be successful at what they don’t do,” junior Heba Sandozi said.

Women are often expected to look good, but bare faces still draw criticism from society. Yet, they’re also discouraged from wearing makeup as if it is something shameful, resulting in a confusing cycle where nothing passes societies harsh critiques.

“People say ‘Why do you wear makeup? You don’t need to play into society’s lameness.’ … But, society hasn’t stopped saying ‘You need to look pretty,’ that’s still a standard,” senior Tessa Rauch said. “So people are told to look pretty but also told not to wear makeup … and then that traps people.”

On the other hand, a large group of people who consider makeup an enjoyable art form and spend time honing their skills have experienced an under appreciation for the skills behind extreme and editorial looks over the past year, mirroring the shift in the beauty world of YouTube.

“[Makeup trends] speak to the way that makeup is now being perceived … before it would be that girls who weren’t wearing makeup were [shamed]. But now it’s kind of turning the tide into a way that’s still negatively impacting women … [as if] girls are hiding something, and frankly, I just don’t think that’s the case,” Sandozi said.

Campaigns such as the #nomakeup tag surfaced last year in order to combat societal pressure to wear makeup, as Sandozi mentioned. The powerful message which the no makeup hashtag promotes, hangs off of Instagram and Twitter captions in the form of hashtags and dominates people’s feeds every day. The hashtag, originally created to raise money and support for cancer and research, left science in the dust a long time ago and now serve to illustrate positive and negative views about makeup and women.

The hashtag is accompanied by a photo of someone, usually a woman, without makeup. These photos range from clearly bare faced, to possibly photoshopped, to just a little chapstick and mascara.

“When I see selfies that are supposed to be natural but are extremely edited it makes me question the realness of the people posting them. I say, if you’re going to do it, own it. Have the balls to put yourself out there but don’t get caught in between realistic and idealistic,” freshman Camilla Myers said.

In 2014 a large number of selfies with this hashtag were posted on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for an unknown reason; Cancer Research UK then requested that messages encouraging donations be included in the captions, and eventually raised near 2 million euros, according to The Guardian.

Over the past year, donations have dwindled and bare faced selfies continue to pop up on social media feeds. However, it’s not to say that this trend has lost all meaning.

“I do believe that the #nomakeupmonday trend is creating a small positive effect on some women but I don’t think that it should be forced upon women either,” Myers said.

Revealing one’s bare face to the internet sends a powerful message about oneself – that they aren’t afraid to show their real skin. However, it can also pressure those who don’t feel as comfortable without makeup or people who feel secure about their relationship with cosmetics to participate.

“Personally, I wouldn’t participate in the trend: not because I’m ashamed about what I look like but rather because I see no need to prove my genuineness to other people,” Myers said.

While this trend encourages self acceptance, it may have reverse effects on people who wear makeup.

“The way the [#nomakeup] trend negatively impacts makeup users is because more people are saying ‘look at how nice this girl [looks] because she’s not wearing makeup as opposed to this [other] girl who wears more makeup,’” Sandozi said.

“For a lot of women, makeup is the equivalent to a superhero’s cape: a woman’s strength is not defined by what she is wearing on her body or on her face … Makeup doesn’t define anyone,” ”

— Camilla Myers

However, times continue to change. Recently, subtle self acceptance activism has served to encourage people of all genders to show their makeup-less faces while also educating people about the power of makeup and the skills it takes to excel at it.

Makeup trends which highlight the technique behind its application and brilliance of the final result have surfaced. Examples include #thepowerofmakeup – where people leave half their face bare and transform the other with a full makeup look – and clown face makeup – where one uses various colors of concealer, foundation, and blush to create a clownish look and then, through much blending, transforms it into a flawless makeup look.

“There’s this strange, but really cool phenomenon where wearing makeup can make you feel more confident,” Sandozi said.

However, others think that the #thepowerofmakeup trend has a negative impact on women: “[It] conveys the view that makeup is part of a societal system that places significant weight on a woman’s appearance and promotes a specific and high-bar beauty standard,” junior Coleman Thompson.

A bottle of foundation, a mascara wand, or a tube of lipstick all have the ability to empower those who choose to use it and can create intricate, beautiful designs. However, neither wearing it or choosing not to are by any means necessary to achieve beauty or acceptance.

“For a lot of women, makeup is the equivalent to a superhero’s cape: a woman’s strength is not defined by what she is wearing on her body or on her face … Makeup doesn’t define anyone,” Myers said.