Unpackaging Makeup

Give makeup her full story.

Glamour by Luisa Callegari, 2015


Makeup should not be solely seen as a mask, a burden, or some means of adherence to harmful beauty standards.


On the other hand, to those who righteously pipe, “I’m not wearing makeup for the approval of men; this lipstick (or eyeliner or lashes) are for me, and me only!” Congratulations. This is good (it actually is), but it is important to take into account the multidimensionality of makeup.


Makeup, the word itself, is misleading. It bears the narrative of wearing cosmetics in order to masquerade as a “made up” identity that one can remove at the end of the day. To even say the words, “This morning I am putting on makeup before work,” suggests that before work, the person will put on cosmetics, as a part of their overall attire. The why that follows is what provides the most divergence in regard to the multidimensionality that surrounds makeup.


Most people, even makeup wearers, shine a light on makeup as a dichotomy of either wearing it for themselves or wearing it for others, and this is where the fault lies. The concept of wearing makeup is no dichotomy; it bears multiplicity. At certain ages, the more that young people grow, they notice that the people around them happen to be wearing makeup. In comparison, when the workplace is entered, one can count on the fact that just about every woman (and others who wear cosmetics) who has access to makeup is wearing makeup.


People wear makeup for plenty reasons. Whether it is simply a cosmetic practice or not, those who chime in with their hegemonic, “I wear makeup for myself,” must take into account, that makeup is most commonly used as a means to navigate the professional world in a ‘presentably acceptable’ way. To proclaim, as a whole, that people wear makeup in order to simply please themselves is an erasure of those who wear makeup in the workplace in order to gain access as to what they want, whether it is partaking in sex work, everyday fast food work, or even attempting to land a job in an interview. In other words, young people are made to feel like they have to look a certain way in regard to environments in which they cannot simply pull an Alicia Keys and be natural, such as the workplace, a party, or even school. If this reasoning does not seem credible, simply consider the amount of times you have heard young men complain on the subject of them being unable to fix their faces for different environments, but rather live with what they have, because women have makeup, and they have nothing.


Now, the aforementioned is not to disregard the young people who wear makeup for them or for the sake of art. In fact, the aforementioned is to further qualify the notion that if you wear cosmetics simply for yourself, or for art, then this is a privilege in which you must acknowledge. It is important to take into account the fact that there are real, valid, people that prefer to wear makeup everyday during their jobs or varied environments so they are treated the same as other well groomed, functioning people. Additionally, there are real, valid, people that wear makeup to attract the desires of others. In fact, there are plenty of other reasons, not previously listed, for the use of cosmetics.


At the end of the day, it is important to know that you probably find it so hard to only choose between people only wearing makeup for themselves and people wearing makeup to attract others for a reason. There is multiplicity and there are complications, and it is not your fault; it, like many other commonplace things, is a product, of society.


Makeup by Luisa Callegari, 2016


AJ Addae is a 17 year-old writer based in Texas. She has recently released her first book, a reflection on her experiences as a woman of Color.

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Luisa Callegari is a Brazilian artist creating work commenting on standards for girls and women, including appearance and interests, in contemporary society. 

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