“I just don’t need makeup,” they’ll say, pointing their un-powdered noses up in the air.
“Well, I don’t either, but I know how to have fun with it,” they reply, batting their perfectly mascara-coated eyelashes.
How many times have you heard some variant of this conversation, how many times have you felt the tension between the two, the makeup lovers versus the makeup defectors?
For me, this dialogue is as unproductive as it is sad. There is a sense of a need for validation from both ends, a blatant want for approval.
I play on both teams. I’ll go a week wearing nothing but the occasional swipe of mascara, and then the next week I’m dolled up every day. To me, talking to the women on both sides of the extreme helped me see just how deep this divide runs.
“I always get told I don’t need it, but I love it!” my sister, Kayla, told me. She’s 32, and as my older sister, was given the responsibility of teaching me how to wear makeup.
I look to Kayla for a fun example of how to do your face. She experiments with different colors of eye shadows, wearing bright blues and greens, and—here’s the kicker—actually pulling them off. Kayla has great skin, and often gets told by women that they would never wear makeup if they looked like that without it. This brings about a very basic description of the uses of makeup—being used solely to enhance, or even to better, your appearance.
However, what about that whole notion of makeup being a sort of art form? Used to have fun, play with colors, see your face as a canvas?
“I play with makeup because I find it artistically rewarding to know my face better and improve on how I wear makeup just for the fun of it,” 22-year-old Erin Murray told me. Erin has a long history with makeup, including being a professional makeup artist for a period of time.
Erin is in direct contrast with my friend Jacqueline, who told me she doesn’t remember the last time she wore makeup. “I choose not to wear makeup because I am comfortable in my own skin,” the 21-year-old says, pointing to the notion of a more “natural” approach to beauty.
So, what’s the deal? Is one better than the other? Are you more “naturally” beautiful if you don’t wear makeup? Are you ugly if you like to get dolled up? HELL NAH.
“I think that makeup is just as individual as clothing or interests,” Erin said. “Makeup is a creative and feminine outlet for a lot of women who just enjoy that beauty process and they find it fun. It’s the same as people having different styles of clothing.” And to that, I say HELL YEAH.
Both ends of the spectrum—makeup lovers and makeup avoiders—and everywhere in between, are full of beautiful, lovely, awesome women (and men) who just want to live.
While I will say that the use of the term “natural beauty” has definitely been in decline recently due to more body-positive, love-yourself campaigns, it is still a relevant term. To me, there are some women that I’ll see out on the street, not wearing a trace of makeup, and I’ll want to take their picture I think they’re so beautiful. Some women are naturally gorgeous, but I’ll tell you something else: Beauty is relative. I personally think Alexa Vega is the most stunning woman on the planet, but someone else might think Taylor Swift would take the crown. You can’t rank beauty. Everyone has their own perceptions of what constitutes beauty, and makeup is just one outlet used to express, enhance, or play with one’s own natural attributes.
So, whether you regularly wear makeup or stay completely away from it, you’re neither better nor worse, than anyone else. Being able to wear makeup doesn’t mean you “need” it, and not wearing makeup doesn’t necessarily mean you’re about to be put on the cover of People’s “Most Beautiful,” issue either. There is no direct correlation, and there shouldn’t be.
So, go buy that eyeshadow palette you’ve been wanting. Play with the colors, have fun. Or don’t: Roll out of bed and channel your inner Beyoncé. It doesn’t matter. You are more than your makeup habits, and you are more than your appearance. More importantly, you are more than how you choose to present your outer self to the world.