I waste a lot of time watching YouTube. I’m not proud of it, but it is a fact. Much of this time is devoted to watching beauty “gurus.” I’m not sure why as I rarely wear makeup. It never looks quite right on my face probably because of my poor application skills. Nonetheless, I enjoy watching the almost magical transformations demonstrated by these experts. Although, to be honest, it has left me wondering why we feel the need to cover our faces with products containing ingredients that sound like they belong in an industrial manufacturing plant. This is not an indictment of the cosmetic industry or those who enjoy makeup; I just get stuck on the “why” of it all.
These makeup gurus are all pretty whether they’re wearing makeup or not and, to be fair, many of them don’t wear “full on face” in their everyday lives. Still, why is there this sense that women need to cover up at all? Most men don’t wear cosmetics – they look like what they look like. They get up, shave (maybe), wash their face and that’s it. Take it or leave it. How refreshing it would be if that philosophy was more acceptable for women. It seems to me; however, that we are generally held to a different standard and expected to put our best made up face forward, especially as we head off into the work environment, corporate or otherwise. Just because we have the tools available to enhance our appearance, must we use them in order to prosper or get ahead in life? Perhaps that depends on the job, circumstances, culture, or our level of confidence in bucking the system.
Who or what is to blame for this notion that we should cover up rather than meet the world bare-faced? Advertising? Vanity? Dating? Peer pressure? Hollywood? Did it become more of a preoccupation with the advent of motion pictures? Perhaps it was the increasing exposure to beautiful film stars on the silver screen that catapulted us into a world of cosmetic obsession. Or perhaps that is just an over-simplified way of thinking; I’m obviously no expert on the history of the cosmetic industry or what cosmetics mean to different cultures. I can only speak from what I observe here. I do believe, like many others, that today’s modern media plays a definite roll in our obsessive quest for perfection. Despite the fact that our idea of perfection is warped as it is usually based upon the countless Photoshopped celebrity images we are bombarded with daily. As if we can ever obtain the hair, skin, or body of someone who’s been not only technologically altered but probably surgically enhanced.
To some degree, I think celebrities play a conscious role in selling this skewed perception of perfection. I’m thinking particularly of those who advertise drug store brand products and then claim these products are responsible for their glowing skin or shiny hair (extensions/weave/whatever). That is such a load of bunk. I’m fairly certain Jennifer Aniston does not rely solely on Aveeno for her miraculously healthy, smooth skin nor can I ever imagine JLo trusting her tresses to a do-it-yourself L’Oreal hair dye (L’Oreal – a major animal testing company by the way). I’d be very surprised if Pink’s flawless appearance on the red carpet is due to her makeup artist whipping out the Cover Girl cosmetics. (Is Pink still vegan/vegetarian? Just wondering as Cover Girl is owned by Proctor & Gamble, another company still conducting animal testing)
Despite the recent release of Cindy Crawford’s non-Photoshopped picture, I don’t believe Meaningful Beauty products are entirely responsible for her flawless skin nor do I believe it’s responsible for the youthful complexion of her celebrity friends who appear in the advert. Debra Messing touts the miraculous powers of Meaningful Beauty while a before and after photo is flashed across the screen. In the before photo, the lighting is bad, she appears makeup free, and her hair is not styled. In the after photo, the lighting has mysteriously improved, she has some makeup on, and her hair is back to its full glory. Do they (the ever present “they”) think we don’t notice these things? If the average person does experience improvements while using this product, they are still not going to be on the same level as these people claim. In my mind, this equates to false advertising. Celebrities who use these products also have access to the latest and greatest cosmetic surgeries and dermatological procedures available – they are not relying solely on some fruit serum system to maintain their youthful looks. That is fine, it’s their face and their money, but please don’t tell me your youthful glow and wrinkle-free face is a result of various lotions and potions because that is a lie. I realize that most of us probably don’t believe the hype, but all beauty product results should still be represented accurately and truthfully regardless of who’s endorsing them.
I understand the desire to purchase the latest anti-aging miracle creams and to cover up imperfections. I understand the self-consciousness that comes with aging and facial flaws. I have a wonky eyelid, cavernous pores, and dark circles to name a few. While I would enjoy being skilled enough to hide some of these flaws on occasion, I usually prefer a minimal or no makeup look. Unfortunately, throughout the years, leaning towards the bare-faced look has left me open for some unpleasant and hurtful comments. I still remember the time a long-term college boyfriend put his arm around me and said, “You really are homely aren’t you?” Yeah…those aren’t words that you remember forever. Thankfully, I found someone who accepts me, wonky eyelid, cavernous pores, homeliness and all!
On the whole, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with makeup. It can be a useful tool. It can help us feel better about ourselves by enhancing our best features and camouflaging those we are not so thrilled about. However, cosmetics cannot be the only thing from which we derive our confidence as they are a temporary solution. We should not feel obligated to wear makeup just to progress at work or to please someone else. We should not strive to attain the unattainable then beat ourselves up when we cannot reach unrealistic goals. None of us can compete with the airbrushed, Photoshopped models and actresses in magazine ads. It’s not real!
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all have the confidence to eschew these stupid ideals that are sold to us every single day in one form or another? How freeing it would be to say, “Here’s my face! I have pores! I have lines! I have dark circles! Enjoy it, deal with it, or piss off!”