About relating confidence and body image to makeup

Whether they actually use it or not, everyone seems to have an opinion about makeup. Sure, people have preferences, but some also project those on others. It seems like you can never wear the right amount of makeup, ever. If you like to put on a full face, people might call you out for wearing too much. “You’d look so much better natural” or “You can’t even tell what you really look like without makeup” are comments to be expected, but if you like to wear little to no makeup, it’s comments like “you’d look so much prettier with makeup” that make you question your appearance.

Why does it seem like we need makeup to define what suits us and what doesn’t? And is there such thing as the right amount of makeup?

Image by Bryan Schneider via Pexels

Makeup brushes and utensils

Image by Anderson Guerra via Pexels

Wearing makeup is not a modern-day phenomenon

Through history, people have been wearing makeup even earlier than you might even think. When you think of Cleopatra, the iconic Egyptian pharaoh, you might notice that she is always portrayed wearing a lot of makeup, eyeliner in particular. This means that even in 6,000 BC, both women and men were using makeup to alter their appearance as part of their culture.

Ancient picture of queen Cleopatra

Queen Cleopatra | Eslam17 [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

In fact, wearing less makeup became fashionable again with the Ancient Greek and Romans, proclaiming a more natural look. Even in medieval times, changing your face too much was declared a sin by the church, leading people to use natural remedies for a plain look.

Then again, in the 16th century, women seemed to wear a lot more makeup again. The invention of Venetian ceruse, led many to accentuate their faces strongly again, with blush being in fashion. Queen Victoria seemed to dislike this trend though and wearing makeup was not socially acceptable again, which, looking back, probably saved a lot of women from the toxic impact of the Venetian foundation.

Instead, more natural methods were used to fit the beauty standard, and makeup was considered an attribute for prostitutes until the early 20th century when it also became a symbol for female empowerment. This changed with the rise of Hollywood makeup, making female actresses endorsing affordable makeup reachable for all women. However, using makeup was still a delicate matter – with makeup being still rather controversial. After the 1950s though, wearing more cosmetics to endorse your face seemed more and more acceptable.

Makeup artist

Image by Kamboopics via Pexels

Beauty standard today

So after all this back and forth between natural and more extreme makeup, where do we stand today?

As previously mentioned, wearing more or less makeup seems to constantly go in and out of style. And even today, there seem to be phases where more makeup is more acceptable or not, but overall, everyone seems to be wearing as much or little as they want these days.

Social media platforms such as Youtube, Instagram etc. have enabled access to many makeup tips for everyone with an internet connection. This shows that you don’t need to be a professional artist to practice and play with makeup, bringing many opportunities for those who enjoy painting their faces. Everyone has the opportunity to make an account and put pictures or even tutorials online.

More so, this can even be a financial source for some, as many beauty brands have recognized the value of influencers in terms of marketing. Sending free products for influencers to try out and discount codes for their followers is a common form of advertising nowadays.

Through these multiple channels and individuals practicing makeup on the internet, there are many different directions and forms of makeup as well. People who prefer more extreme makeup over natural makeup might only follow the influencers with that kind of content and vice versa.

Makeup is seen as a form of art, enabling people to be creative with all kind of products on the market and create new and innovative looks everyday.

How much is too much?

Makeup utensils

Image by Anete Lusina via Pexels

Even though there are so many different forms of makeup today, there is still a lot of criticism surrounding it. Girls are often told to wear less makeup and be as “natural” as possible, because boys will prefer them that way, as proven by many magazine articles aimed at young girls and women. And a lot of times guys will say they prefer the “natural look”, without realizing that such a look actually requires many hours to look “natural”.

Also, when people are wearing a lot of makeup, they are often labeled as “insecure”, perhaps because some might think they might not like their natural appearance. In reality though, there’s a lot more to it. Sure, there might be instances where this is true, but in general, makeup makes us feel good about ourselves. There is something about changing your look however you want, feeling beautiful and empowered.

Not only women are part of this phenomenon, a lot of men are picking up the brushes as well. So, in relation to the brief introduction about the history of makeup, today people start to no longer follow a certain beauty standard – they are discovering in what ways makeup works for them and are breaking (gender) stereotypes.

There is no such thing as too much or too little makeup – everyone is trying to figure out which look suits them the best, while simultaneously stepping out of their comfort zones if they like to.

Do you think there is something as too little or too much makeup?