Makeup. Who wears it? For what reason? And, more importantly, why do you care?

Conversations arose last week on this topic.

I’m one of several college mentors in an all-female program meant to guide and uplift girls at a local high school.

During the last forum, the topic of regular makeup use came up, which inevitably led to the  “love yourself and your natural beauty” conversation.

I listened observationally as a number of mentors shunned the use of makeup at such a “young age,” as if you can’t love your natural beauty if you wear makeup, as if the use of makeup is solely synonymous with a desire to hide and as if makeup is not its own artform

The mentors were unknowingly encouraging judgment and ignorance.

It’s true that many women do believe rejecting makeup is a part of “loving yourself,” and their reasoning is logical. You shouldn’t be ashamed of who you are “physically.”

However, isn’t it counterintuitive to preach that “beauty is on the inside” at the same time?

A person can love their natural beauty and also love makeup. PSA: the two are not mutually exclusive.

In this case, we should spend more time appreciating inner beauty, rather than focusing on whether someone wants to decorate their skin or conceal blemishes.

I’ve had acne and facial scars for most of my teen life. In high school especially, makeup provided a way for me to forget about it. The key is to understand the fine line between appreciating makeup and feeling restrained by it.

When it comes down to it, a lot of people who are confident in who they are just want to look better on some days … crazy, right? It’s the same way you wake up and do your hair or put on jewelry.

On a contrasting note, it’s easy for a girl who’s had clear skin all of her life to want to separate herself by making it known that she doesn’t need to put anything on her face. Many times, the constant reminders with hashtags like #nomakeup are less about loving yourself and more about trying to set yourself apart from the next woman.

While it’s important to appreciate natural beauty, it’s not a crime to accentuate your beauty either; women of all ages all over the world have been doing it for centuries. Makeup’s use expands across cultures- from accentuating beauty, to self-expression or simply having fun.

Treating your face as an artistic canvas is not new, either.

In ancient Rome, women strived for long eyelashes that were voluptuous and thick, and darkened their lashes using kohl, as did ancient Egyptian men and women. Sometimes the effort is to attract, while at other times it’s about personal style.

In the 1960’s, fashion followed the bold long eyelashes, heavy eyeliner and pale lips that were part of the Mod trend influenced by models such as Twiggy and Edie Sedgwick. Makeup statements can be solely about fashion aesthetic, but also portraying self-expression.

Red lipstick gained popularity in America during World War II as a symbol of American pride and strength. Author of “Compact and Cosmetics,” Madeleine Marsh explained that many red lipsticks were given names like “‘Fighting Red!’ ‘Patriot Red!’ and ‘Grenadier Red!’” to encourage women to “look your best and do your best.”

In the Igbo culture of southern Nigeria, women practiced a feminine art form known as “Uli” painting.  Women used their skin as “portable canvases” and used body painting and designs to “represent things of physical importance” and “beautify the female body as beauty was equated with morality.”

Of course there were cultures and time periods that fully rejected all aspects of makeup, such as the Victorian Era when Queen Victoria condemned made-up faces as “vulgar.” Her reasoning had much to do with religious clergymen associating “painted ladies” with prostitutes from the Bible.

Today, many people are learning to appreciate the multifaceted value, creative aspects and self-expression that makeup allows. “Youtubers” create countless makeup tutorial videos for nearly every type of look,and girls strive to have their makeup #onfleek.

Whether someone is using makeup as a tool to conceal, create, express or all three, it’s that individual’s prerogative and doesn’t concern anyone else.

Going back to what my mentoring peers mentioned, by all means celebrate your God-given natural beauty as well as the natural beauty of others. Additionally, next time someone condemns the use of makeup, give them a quick history lesson on beauty and self-expression, reapply your lipstick and get the hell on with your day.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Gromovataya’s Pixabay account.

Racquel Royer is a freshman journalism major and may be reached at

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