"watching a woman do her makeup is watching her command power"
Babetown is a seasonal newsletter "with opinions, and jokes, and stories, and songs, and horoscopes" and more. I was honored to be their first guest contributor, writing about one of my favorite hobbies: makeup.
Babetown's archive can be found here.
akeup is a big part of my day. Not because I spend a lot of time doing it, but because I know the effects of it. I know that if I go to work wearing makeup, my coworkers will perceive me as more competent. I know that my grandma says I look much better with makeup, which is a compliment – but one that hurts and sticks with me. I also know that makeup makes me feel good. In the words of renowned makeup artist Bobbi Brown, makeup lets us “transform ourselves, not only how we are perceived, but how we feel.” To me, watching a woman do her makeup is watching her command power. With every bounce of her beauty blender, she is expressing her identity and taking control of how she wants to be viewed.
Naturally, getting to that level of power and skill doesn’t come without hard work. Deprived of older sisters or a mother who cared about makeup, I had to figure my shit out myself. This took a long time, and resulted in a lot of bad looks. While the kids of today have the privilege of being taught how to do their makeup by any number of beautiful vloggers, middle school me wasn’t so lucky. Going on the internet to find a makeup tutorial in the 2000’s that wasn’t about scribbling on unflattering black eyeliner or dyeing neon cheetah prints into my hair was incredibly hard. Plus – the production quality of these videos was always pretty bad.
As I entered high school I toned it down a bit, and teachers were no longer asking me if my look was “part of a dress up day or something?” Being obsessed with black liner turned into being obsessed with sticky lip glosses which I insisted on buying, tube after tube, even though I never wore them because my hair always got caught on my lips when I used them. I turned to cute pink blushes, cheap nail polishes, and started a decade long battle to find the right shade of foundation and concealer. So, I was improving a little – I had my go to look, which was much more natural and simple - but I definitely didn’t give any thought to skincare beyond toothpaste as zit cream and scratching my face apart with apricot face scrub (you know the one). Every now and then I would use Proactiv religiously for two weeks and then get lazy, stop using it, and complain that it didn’t work. Throughout high school, I continued to slowly build my routine.
It wasn’t until college that makeup and beauty became a true hobby. The internet started to become full of YouTube makeup channels, beauty blogs and Tumblrs, makeup subscription boxes, and Buzzfeed articles. A community started online that I could check in with from time to time, learning how to contour or do my eyebrows. The best part? Makeup always made me feel good, probably satisfying some deep, narcissistic, creative need. I started getting Birchbox and was excited each month to see what new products I could try out that I otherwise would never have bought. Makeup started to take up a lot of counter space.
I studied abroad in England, where makeup is pretty expensive, yet London girls seem to wear much more of it, and in shades and tones I’ve never seen in an American beauty aisle. It was fun to notice the differences between our beauty routines, and I think I’m pretty good at telling a British girl from an American just by their makeup now (British girls love nude lips and tanning their faces with tawny foundations, American girls love the ‘no-makeup-makeup’ look). I went to Paris and ransacked French pharmacies with a shopping list straight from goop.com, and spent an unnecessary amount of money for Evian water in a spray can marketed as a face mist. Even with all of these developments, my beauty game was still trying too hard, not completely there yet.
Now, 10 years out of my middle school makeup beginnings and one year out of
college, I finally have my shit mostly together. While I’m definitely not going to become a makeup blogger and have my own ghost-written memoir, I’ve been known to send essay-length texts when asked “what do you think about Glossier?” I recently added up the cost of the vast array of products I might use on my face in a day (skincare included), and it was well in the hundreds. I’ve stopped buying the cheap stuff just because it’s cheap, I use a minimum of two face oils a day, and I use the same zit cream as Kylie Jenner. Things have definitely changed.
As I’ve gotten more advanced with my makeup and beauty routine, I’ve realized why I like it so much.
Makeup makes me feel good. Sure, sometimes I wake up feeling confident and fly on my own with a bare face, but some days I need makeup to make me feel like I can take on the world. Acne scars, be gone! Today is my day.
Makeup helps you learn about yourself – how to make your exterior match how you feel inside, how you are being presented to the world, and it teaches you to embrace your so-called flaws. I have a lot of moles on my face – and I love them. While moles are frequently photoshopped away before hitting an ad campaign (just ask Jennifer Lawrence or Gigi Hadid), I purposefully make the choice to wear makeup that won’t cover them up or hide them away – they’re what make my face my face!
Makeup has allowed me to change my narrative of myself. Growing up, most of the comments I heard about my body were negative. While I can’t change my body overnight, I can make sure my face looks great in minutes.
Makeup is also a performance – an expression of my inner feelings, my personality, my identity for the day. If actors can don makeup and become a character, why not me? Going out on a weekend to a bar or club brings out a smoke eye and perfectly highlighted cheekbones. A day at work has minimal makeup – save for a sharp liquid eyeliner point. Of course, the irony is that when you wear makeup, you are the one person who sees it the least – thank god for the beauty of the selfie, but that’s for another day.
Beauty routines don’t just make me feel better emotionally – dry body brushing and facial massage have been a huge step in my routine, and make me feel physically great. Stressed out? Got a headache? Anxiety? Doing a dry oil lymph drainage facial massage (am I Gwyneth Paltrow yet?) can help immensely.
Despite my financial irresponsibleness – “did I really just impulse buy ALL of this?”– makeup and beauty are probably not going to stop being interesting to me for quite some time. I’m not sure if I’ll ever find the end of my beauty routine. Every time I think I’ve got it down, I find something else to try and get excited about. Makeup should make you feel good, and I’ll keep wearing it until it doesn’t.