Friday, 24 January 2014

A lick of paint

Why so much make-up? Why the unquest-ioned norm that a woman needs to be plastered with the stuff in order to look good? Why the constant assumption that a woman's natural face is so ugly, unsightly, off-putting that it needs a thick coating of expensive pastes and powders to be presentable?

A strategic dab of make-up here and there can be beneficial. A smear of lipstick. A smudge of mascara. But piling it on with a trowel until it becomes a kind of obliterating mask - what's the point?

When I see photos of celebs, they're always thick with make-up. To see them au naturelle would apparently be unthinkable, shocking, repulsive. Who would want to contemplate such a dreadful sight?

Yet to my mind, on the odd occasion when they're seen without their cosmetic veneer, they usually look much more real, much more interesting. Lady Gaga, for instance. Or Julia Roberts. Or Halle Berry.

Employers often expect women to wear make-up. Supposedly they look more professional, more trustworthy, more reassuring. A natural-looking woman would apparently frighten off the customers with some sort of unwholesome aura.

Personally I tend to see an employee in thick make-up as less trustworthy, not more. I associate a slick, glossy appearance, be it make-up, a flashy suit or a fancy hairdo, with phoneyness and sharp practice. Perverse maybe, but I'm sure I'm not the only one.

There was a brief feminist fashion in the seventies for going without make-up, or at least wearing the bare minimum. Unfortunately it didn't last, undermined by the combined pressures of advertising, gender stereotypes and self-aversion.

One thing's for sure - the cosmetics business is laughing all the way to the bank.

26 comments:

susie said...

I remember the girls in my high school wearing gobs of makeup in the eighties. Some of the girls at the local high school do the same. But when I spent a year in Australia, the girls wore no makeup.

When I see a woman with a ton of makeup, I tend to wonder how long she spent on herself. Kind of like buff guys at the gym.

Makeup ages women of a certain age...but I definitely need my tinted lip balm. And tinted moisturizer with SPF. And.... Ha

Nick said...

Susie: I wonder if the lack of make-up in Australia has something to do with the fact that everyone is slapping on sunscreen umpteen times a day, so make-up would rapidly be ruined.

Well, nothing wrong with lip balm or moisturiser. I use moisturiser myself, also high-SPF sunscreen as it's the only thing that stops skin inflammation on my forehead!

Bijoux said...

It is an art to make it look natural.

Nick said...

Bijoux: But why put on make-up that looks natural? Why not just be natural? Unless there's something obviously embarrassing like a birthmark.

Bijoux said...

Most people don't have 'perfect' complexions. For example, I have redness around my nose. Using a makeup that's my skin color on that area covers up the redness. It takes 15 seconds to apply. Why would I not do it?

Just an example of how most women use make up. We aren't trying to look like a fake Hollywood type. We just want to enhance our appearance in a natural looking way.

Helen Devries said...

My husband has an aversion to make up...his Saturday job as a boy was in Joe Lyons and he still remembers what a pain it was to get the lipstick stains off the cups.

I too am wary of the 'groomed' dolls: I want information, not image.

My father's phrase still sums up the excessive use of make up for me
Puts it on with a trowel, takes it off with a chipping hammer...

Nick said...

Bijoux: That's perfectly sensible, and not what I would call over-use of make-up. Covering up the odd flaw is very different from a full-scale make-up job.

Helen: I do think the odd dab of make-up can be useful, I just wonder about the wholesale slathering-on of make-up for no good reason except to achieve some kind of "perfect" face.

Wisewebwoman said...

"Covering up the odd flaw is very different from a full-scale make-up job."

You nailed it there Nick, did you see it?

Most women, subjected to the constant barrage of perfect photo-shopped bodies on all the media view themselves as very flawed indeed.

XO
WWW

Cheerful Monk said...

I haven't used any makeup in years, and there were long periods even back then when I didn't use it. I still remember driving my landlady crazy after I got out of college because I didn't even use lipstick.

Nick said...

www: Well, I did say the ODD flaw! I'm aware though that most women see any number of flaws in their body, as you say because of the relentless barrage of supposedly "perfect" bodies. But why are women so easily influenced by what they know very well are heavily airbrushed, photoshopped, carefully photographed images?

Nick said...

Jean: Good for you! Not even any lipstick? Horror of horrors! Sacre bleu!

kylie said...

whose expectations are you referring to, nick?

Nick said...

Kylie: Expectations about what? Acres of make-up? Well, the cosmetics business, the modelling business, the media, other women, sometimes men. Do you feel any pressure yourself to wear lots of make-up?

Rummuser said...

You will find this fascinating!
http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Dressed-Paula-Marantz-Cohen-ebook/dp/B00HSSA3AE

Nick said...

Ramana: Interesting. The summary asks "Are we really nothing more than slaves to our appearances?" Of course not, but a person's appearance is very important for many reasons, especially since we're all more influenced by first impressions than we care to admit.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

There are a million products on the market which make fortunes because women have been brainwashed into feeling inadequate in their natural bodies. I'm with you, Nick. Less is more.

Nick said...

Heart: Less is more indeed. The fact that so many women find their natural bodies so unattractive is a shocking indictment of the way they're brought up.

Secret Agent Woman said...

The most fair position would be for no make-up at all - because why do we accept that women have flaws and men don't? That said, I don't have that hard-line a position because I have to live in this culture. So I wear a little sometimes. Never anything particularly noticeable.

Cheerful Monk said...

You're assuming only women use makeup. Not so: http://www.wikihow.com/Apply-Makeup-as-a-Man

Nick said...

Agent: I don't know about no make-up, as some people do have unattractive features they'd rather cover up. But certainly the bare minimum and not the cosmetic overkill that's expected in so many situations.

Jean: Oh, I didn't assume that at all, but I've never seen a man's face plastered with make-up on the scale that's so common with women!

Secret Agent Woman said...

But why? I've seen plenty of men who would definitely look better with unattractive features covered up, but we don't expect it of them.

Nick said...

Agent: You're right, a strategic dab of make-up could be a big improvement in some cases!

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Most of the time I don't wear any make-up at all. To be honest, I can't be bothered and OH doesn't care for it anyway! When I go out, I do the lick of mascara and lipstick, and maybe a little light foundation, but the mask? Good grief, no!

I regard it as unnatural, and I'm with you: it feels as if I'm putting a false face on. I know two women, though, who have very bad scars from acne and they do plaster it on. I guess it makes them feel better, but to me, they don't really look any different made-up than not.

Nick said...

Jay: Absolutely, thick make-up seems like a false face, an attempt to be something you're not. But I can understand someone wanting to hide bad scars, especially for work purposes when first impressions unfortunately do count.

Sol said...

Hey Nick. I like this post. You see young girls who completely change their faces, strange eye brows and they look like they have bathed in gravy browning.

I have discolouration on my face a small amount of acne scarring and unfortunately very dark staining under the eyes. (this is hereditary). Professionally I will wear make up every day to work. none at the weekend. I am currently in a temp job in a marketing advertising agency. Appearance is everything there.

Years ago, I worked for a company where you were given money for tights/stockings, tokens for manicures and hair dressers and make up.

Your image is their image in some places.

I am sure my friend from school, her mum worked for M&S and I am sure they were given tokens for a hair dressers also.

Nick said...

Sol: Again, that makes sense to use make-up to cover the acne scars and eye staining. That company that subsidised tights, manicures, hairdos and make-up was very generous!