• Fri, Jul 20 2012

Don’t Tell Your Daughters, But Eventually We All Need Makeup

girls and makeupMy 3-year-old daughter has reached the age of wanting to dabble in beauty products, which means most of the time she just wants to smear red lipstick all over her face like Diane Ladd in Wild At Heart. But when she’s not demolishing my lipstick, she’s become fascinated in the meaning of makeup. As in, Why does Mommy wear makeup? What is makeup for? And most importantly, Can I wear makeup too, please?

I fumbled with her line of questioning, mostly because I’m not a daily makeup wearer. I only started wearing makeup more regularly in the past few years since turning 41, when my anxiety-provoking, unchartered vanity issues have turned into daily battles. I spend each morning deciding whether I should rock giant sunglasses or wipe Bobbi Brown’s oil-free tinted moisturizer on my flawed face. Then dab with concealer. Then the bronzer. The mascara.

So I answered her in a basic, third-wave feminist response: 1) It feels good to look pretty and it’s okay to wear makeup to look and feel pretty. 2) You don’t need makeup to look and feel pretty because you’re beautiful just the way you are. 3) Being kind and smart is more important than looking pretty.

Yet, what I really wanted to say is, “Mommy is wearing makeup because Mommy has age spots and one day you’re going to want to disguise your skin as well.” And more, that the aging process is a normal part of our vain existence that we’ll forever have to wrestle with. Because at some point in the far-away future, you’re going to spread cover-up on your face just like I do.

Too much for a 3-year-old? Maybe not.

It’s not as if my daughter isn’t going to run into our cultural obsession with beauty at some point. This fixation is so deeply ingrained that a study last fall found that we not only judge women who don’t wear makeup, but we find them incompetent and less trustworthy without it. Another report pointed in the same direction: according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Renfrew Center Foundation, half of the women questioned said they liked themselves better with makeup.

But I don’t have to quote a study to tell you what you already know: makeup, for most of us, is an obligation. Bare face to work? Never. Not unless you want people asking you why you “look so tired,” or if you’re “feeling stressed.” For those of us who refuse to regard makeup as 24/7 crucial, there’s still a conflicting need to run to the drugstore for the newest brand of anti-wrinkle cream. (Those BB products — one serum to perfect your face!)

Then, as Ashley Judd wisely pointed out last spring in the Daily Beast, we spin the cycle of maliciously judging each other’s looks. We slam those who opt for enhancements, pulls and tucks. We slam those who have possibly used enhancements, pulls and tucks.

Of course, I’ll soften my the-world-is-a-cruel-place theory by mentioning those who break rank. Like Hillary Clinton, for instance, who unveiled her decidedly un-made up face in China and India last May. Hillary could care less what you think about her “bare” face — because Hillary is busy saving the world as Secretary of State. The rules are different for her than for us mere mortals. As in, take your double standards and shove it.

Even with my callus explanation, I’ll make sure my daughter knows there’s not one prescription for makeup. That society is going to toss a nuclear bomb of beauty expectations at her for two unavoidable reasons: our faces change and cosmetic companies have products to sell. Either way, I’ll tell her, when you look in the mirror— with or without makeup — you should love what you see. (Just like I do when I look at you.)

(Photo: NatUlrich/Shutterstock)

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  • NotThumper

    Another article with a somewhat misleading title.

    I always thought the trick to wearing make-up was to make it look like you weren’t wearing any at all, has this changed? I know that when I worked I’d go to work (in an office…GASP!) without make-up on all the time. Mainly because I hate the way foundation of any kind feels on my face. I’m also not a fan of sticky lip glosses or lipsticks that I have to worry about getting on my teeth.

    Even now when I actually do wear any it is only mascara and a tiny bit of eyeliner. I don’t have the best skin in the world anymore but why should I be uncomfortable just so someone else thinks I am trustworthy? (Seriously, stupidest study done EVER)

  • LiteBrite

    As I get older, I find that I wear less and less makeup. I do have my staples – mascara, a little blush, and lip gloss – but everything else is dependent on my mood. I actually think I look better with less makeup, more natural.

    I’ve never judged a woman not wearing makeup as being incompetent or untrustworthy (at least not that I’m aware of); I just assume she doesn’t give a rat’s ass about makeup.

  • ThisChick

    LOL at “Not unless you want people asking you why you “look so tired.” I work in a corporate office & I have most definitely heard this one when I come in with no mascara.

    Makes me want to say, “Uhhh… yeah. I have 2 kids under 5 yrs old & some mornings are crazy & I don’t make it out the door on schedule. But THANKS so much for pointing it out to everyone within earshot that I was running late!”

  • cristin parker

    I’m 34 years old and have never worn make up regularly, even when I was a teenager. Never was interested in it. The only thing I do to my face to this day is wash it, pat it dry and apply moisturizing sun block to it.

  • Natalie

    I’m all for the natural makeup look like the ladies above, but I love to throw in a wild red lip for some drama. Check out my post on the best red lipstick if you’re looking for a great color.

  • anon

    Why not learn skin care? You know, things you’ve read about in beauty magazines for years- retinoids, peptides, sunscreen, peels, etc. If your skin is bad, you should do something about it, not cover it up.