Trollish men love to share memes of women with and without makeup, saying “This is why your first date should always be swimming.” The implication being that we, as women, are somehow duping them by wearing makeup. Our makeup is some sort of colorful, dick-tricking peacock plumage, which we wear exclusively to imitate conventional attractiveness for the sake of the opposite sex. And, once we douse ourselves in a healthy amount of water, our faces are supposedly “exposed.”
I’m tempted to point out that any man who assumes a cat-eye is natural could probably also be sold on a great swamp land “investment,” but that’s really not the root of the problem. Guys (and the public in general) often believe that makeup is worn for their benefit. Because makeup is something we use to decorate our facade, it must be a means of procuring self-affirming compliments from other people — otherwise, what’s the point?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
1. I enjoy the ritual.
It’s difficult to deny that makeup application itself is fun. The same part of my brain that engages when I’m sketching or doing a DIY project is equally tickled when I have a kabuki brush in hand. There’s something infinitely satisfying about creating a sharp cat-eye or a cut crease. It is a feeling which I can only compare to peeling dried Elmer’s glue off of your fingertips. (You were a kid once, so I’m confident you understand what I’m talking about.) During my cosmetic ritual, it isn’t about the product — it’s about the process. It’s about the act of pampering myself, toiling away in powders and pigments.
2. There’s always more to learn about the application process.
For the most part, my beauty history has been entirely trial and error. I began wearing makeup in middle school, and I tended to err on the side of “more is more.” There was no such thing as a “dusting” of blush — I preferred a “sandstorm.” For a period of time, I actually carried a tube of silver lip gloss with me wherever I went, proudly painting my pout until it resembled a piece of chrome.
As I got older, I learned to refine my technique, and started to appreciate how makeup could enhance my features rather than obscuring them entirely. I ultimately did away with the metallic lip gloss, not because of any disparaging comments (though you better believe there were some), but because my aesthetic tastes had changed. Plus, I realized that making out is much more difficult when your mouth looks like CeeLo at the Met Gala:
Learning how to do makeup well is a lesson that is never over. I may have been wearing makeup since I was thirteen, but I guarantee that I had no idea what a primer was until I was well into college. And, I’m sure it goes without saying that many of us altered our beauty routines thanks to the proliferation of YouTube tutorials. With makeup, there’s always a new technique to try and a new trend to tackle, so the process never gets boring. How women shape their brows now is entirely different from how women shaped their brows several years ago. Even basic tubes of lipstick have taken a backseat to matte liquid lipsticks (which will almost assuredly be overthrown by lip gloss one of these days, much to the delight of my inner 13-year-old).
There’s so much makeup out there to play with — so why not just cut everybody some slack and let them explore?
3. It makes me feel expensive.
If you don’t appreciate a bougie moment now and again, you’re lying.
In a world where many of us are dealing with the looming cloud of student loan debt, exorbitant rents and the general expenses associated with simply staying alive, it’s kind of nice to still have an outlet that allows you to feel luxe — even if you’re only feeling luxe in the comfort of your tiny studio apartment.
“But if you’re so pressed for money, shouldn’t you stop buying cosmetics?” some might ask. This kind of question has persisted ever since Sex and the City asserted that Carrie Bradshaw couldn’t afford the things she needed because of her expensive shoe obsession, and frankly, it’s pretty misguided. Some of the best makeup on the market is far from expensive, and purchasing it has very little effect on my ability to pay rent. (Though, to be fair, the people who pose this question are the same ones who think avocado toast is bankrupting millennials, or whatever.)
If a single $15 lipstick is going to make me feel like a million bucks, I consider that a worthwhile investment.
4. I have a zit.
But really, though.
Sometimes, if I have a blemish, I become obsessed with it every time I look in the mirror. I can’t focus on anything else. Wearing makeup is simply a way to reassure myself that, no, everybody is NOT staring at the pus-filled monstrosity on my chin.
(This is yet another reason why I feel like men wearing makeup shouldn’t be stigmatized, because everybody deserves the illusion of clear skin, dammit!)
5. It helps me appreciate my features.
I dislike a whole laundry list of things about my appearance. Even though my self-confidence has grown exponentially from where it was when I was a teenager, I still have a ways to go before I am truly at peace with the way I look.
That said, makeup helps. It really does. I don’t feel like I’m hiding behind a “mask,” or any of that nonsense that shallow men often shill out in defense of their anti-makeup opinions. When I wear makeup, I feel like I’m learning to appreciate my face for what it is.
I’m filling in my eyebrows because they are one of my most distinctive features. I’m putting on green primer because my incredibly pale skin has red undertones, and no amount of sunlight is going to change that. I’m applying a dark lipstick because dark lipstick looks kickass on pretty much everybody. I’m not changing the way I look — I’m celebrating it. Even if I’m wearing layers of layers of heavy makeup, I’m still celebrating my face.
And I’m not terribly concerned what you think about it.