I’m three years old and standing on my toes to reach the counter. I find my aunt’s bag carelessly left open next to the sink, and soon I have crimson lipstick smeared around my mouth. I toddle out of the bathroom, and my mom and her friends pause their conversation. My face is turned up to theirs, displaying a messier reflection of the red mouths that they’ve become so adept at putting on.
When talking about makeup, terms like “self-expression” and “confidence” are tossed around a lot. The concept of “your skin, but better,” “your lips, but better,” “you, but better.” Makeup makes me feel better, it’s true. But did I learn to see my beauty in makeup, or did I first learn that my face wasn’t pretty enough without it?
Advertising and media around us influence us as soon as we’re exposed, teaching us that being pretty comes with a price tag. It is in the makeup industry’s interest to create and nurture self-esteem issues. Will the customer buy the product? How will the makeup industry convince customers they should buy products to define their cheekbones, to fill out their eyebrows – and a new one I read in a Refinery29 article – to shape their ears? I think they do it by convincing their consumers that they need “improvements.” It starts with adolescents who just want to feel good about themselves. Soon enough, the makeup industry gets them hooked, constantly reminded that makeup makes them look good, while the insidious message that they don’t look good without it sinks in.
I like makeup. I like the compliments that I get when I wear it, and I like the security it gives me. I like makeup, but I don’t like the days when I take the makeup off and wish my face looked the way it did with the makeup still on. I’m working on that, and I think realizing why I feel that insecurity has helped me fight against it.
Be critical of that 30 second lipstick advertisement Youtube keeps showing you. Be critical of the selfie editing app you find your sibling using. Be critical of everything that tells you you’re not good enough on your own. Make yourself feel good and wear however much makeup you want to, but don’t ever believe you’re not enough without it. Self-criticism is everywhere around you, but it doesn’t have to be in your mirror.