why do you wear makeup?
September 27, 2006 10:49 AM   Subscribe

why do you wear makeup?

I read an interesting article about mac, the cosmetics company, the other day. my face is your canvas someone was quoted saying. that got me thinking. why is it, I wonder, that women and certain others wear make-up? what does it do to them?

I am a sucker for all things natural and to me imperfection is individuality. I like to observe those little vertical lines we all have on our lower lips. when I look at someone and notice their make-up first, I feel prevented from seeing who the person in question actually is. they seem hidden to me like the wood canvas beyond dear mona lisa. that is why glossy magazines like FHM with their perfect retouching jobs do nothing for me.

now I fancy myself a fairly insightful chap. I can understand what makes bill o'reilly think he's on bin laden's birthday list and I get why old men feel compelled to drive hummers. having stood in front of the camera multiple times myself, I know why you would want to wear makeup on tv. but I just don't get what exactly it is that compelles people to wear makeup. it's the motivation that I am inquiring about.

so what does it do to you? do you feel less presentable, clean, fashionable or neat when not wearing makeup? do you consider it a luxury or necessity? is it something entirely different? would you equate it to spoiling yourself? is it more about how you see yourself or you think you are seen?
posted by krautland to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (94 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Uh, they look better? 99% of females look better with makeup on. Of course there have been many times where I thought someone wasn't wearing makeup and they just looked that good. That is when makeup is doing the job right.
posted by geoff. at 10:52 AM on September 27, 2006 [4 favorites]

geoff. is exactly right. Exactly.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:54 AM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Uh, they look better? 99% of females look better with makeup on.

eye of the beholder...
posted by krautland at 10:55 AM on September 27, 2006

Show me a picture of a woman (you don't know) who you think is attractive who you think isn't wearing makeup, krautland. Because I bet.... she is!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:57 AM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

I wear makeup when other people make me because they think it makes everyone look better. Generally, I think those people are on drugs, but there you have it.

Also, I'm totally cute and I almost never wear makeup. So there.
posted by dame at 10:59 AM on September 27, 2006 [3 favorites]

Also, a picture isn't a fair comparison. People look better in pictures with makeup--it's the same as TV.
posted by dame at 11:01 AM on September 27, 2006

For myself it's to cover/lessen the redness in my skin.

Facial skin just looks better when it's an even tone. As for the rest of it, mascara accents and "brings out" the eyes. And after you've done both of the above, lips need some color to keep them from looking completely washed out.

I'm not a fanatic about it and I don't 'pile it on', but I do know that I look better and feel better about myself when I'm wearing my make-up.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 11:02 AM on September 27, 2006

Two major aspects to the why:

- Aesthetic utility: makeup provides more consistent complection and coloration. It allows for subtle (and less subtle) deviations from natural color and shading, and for the tweaking/reshaping of perceived facial lines. It can mitigate perceived imperfections in one's face.

- Social norms: makeup is heavily marketed as a normal, expected, required aspect of womanhood. Girls grow up knowing that their friends and mothers and favorite stars wear makeup. They wear makeup because they growing up feeling they ought to, or because their parents/siblings/friends actively teach them to.

As I guy, I don't care much for makeup at a personal level. I dig idiosyncracies and tiny details and the natural wonder of a person's face. I've known a lot of girls who Look Like They're Wearing Makeup, and it's always struck me as unattractive. If girls are wearing makeup so well that I can't tell they have makeup on? Cool. If they're wearing it to explicit effect—fashion statement, not compulsive/defensive/selfdoubting cover-up—that's cool too.

But that's my specific take on it, and the key to this question is that there are a whole lot of different takes, and a whole lot of different motivations.
posted by cortex at 11:04 AM on September 27, 2006

I only wear a little eye makeup - and I do it because when I don't people say things like, "Oh, you look tired!"

Without it, I suppose I do, a bit.
posted by routergirl at 11:05 AM on September 27, 2006

I wear foundation because hides the very pale, nearly vanished pink remnants of teenage acne. A decade after the last of the zits died, the discoloration is almost gone. I wear it less and less often as a result. Probably less than half the time.

I wear lipstick because I like the way it looks with my glasses, and I think the colors I choose make me look like a bolder, more powerful woman. I enjoy projecting that message.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:05 AM on September 27, 2006

I used to not wear make up all the time, and looked freakin' awesome. [IMHO, it's completely a cultural thing whether a person (not just women!) look better with or without the paint.] Then I moved to NYC, where people (or at least the people I work with) consider not wearing makeup about the most crunch-granola thing in the world to do. So, to avoid professional hassle, I slap some tinted moisturizer and a bit of eye make up on, with a little touch of lipstick. Bare minimum. Thing is, now that I'm used to it 1.) it feels nice - tinted moisturizer is moist! and 2.) it's become so much of part of the daily ritual it's like brushing teeth or something... I kind of feel undone without a little touch of something.
posted by DenOfSizer at 11:09 AM on September 27, 2006

Mod note: a few comments removed. the question is "why do you wear makeup?" the flag queue is open for business for other concerns, as is metatalk
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:10 AM on September 27, 2006

I wear it like part of my outfit, to convey a look. Today, I'm casual, so I'm not wearing any. At the wedding I attended this weekend, I wanted to look "sweet," so I went with subtle eyes and pink cheeks. This weekend I may want to be "trampy," so I'll pull out the red lipstick or the the dark eyeliner (but never both at the same time).

It's probably the former theatre geek in me.
posted by jrossi4r at 11:13 AM on September 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

Then I moved to NYC, where people (or at least the people I work with) consider not wearing makeup about the most crunch-granola thing in the world to do.

I'm sure this is true- NYC tends to be a more "formal" city when it comes to appearance, clothes, etc.

To answer the question, I wear makeup because it makes me look better (more rested, more healthy, especially during those pale winter months). Looking good = feeling good. Looks matter.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:13 AM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Because I feel more attractive? Secondarily, my sorority chapter has an unwritten rule that if we're going to wear our letters to class we should have our makeup and hair done.

Though, as far as general wearage of makeup, I've been wearing it less often because my boyfriend insists that I look great either way, so why bother with the effort?
posted by Amanda B at 11:17 AM on September 27, 2006

Best answer: * I like my eyes and I like it when they're more noticeable.
* It's fun playing around with colors and shading and such.
* It can make me look more dressed up when I'm wearing semi-casual clothes.
* It can make me look pulled together when wearing formal clothes.
* It makes me feel pretty.

I agree that heavy make-up can look awful, but I also, from personal experience, think that guys don't realize that more subtle make-up is actually make-up as opposed to "natural beauty." This theory may stem from a boyfriend who convinced me to stop wearing make-up because "natural beauty was better" and then dumped for a woman who caked it on, however.
posted by occhiblu at 11:20 AM on September 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

Also, when I realized that I felt weird leaving the house without make-up on, I stopped wearing it for a year because I didn't like that feeling. Since then, I tend to wear it when going out with friends but not when, for example, I'm just running errands.
posted by occhiblu at 11:21 AM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

I only wear make-up occasionally, but
1. Applying make-up is a fun, creative activity. Sometimes I put on make-up just out of boredom.
2. It serves the function of an accessory. An elegant dress and no make-up look weird just as wearing old sneakers with the dress would.
3. I'm a grad student in AI, make-up makes me feel less nerdy.
4. I don't like those red spots on my cheeks.
posted by snownoid at 11:22 AM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

I once went to a Marykay cosmetics presentation where the saleslady was going on and on about how wearing makeup was *good* for your skin as it "protected" it from the harsh environment and we ladies had better wear makeup or suffer the consequences! Needless to say, I did not buy anything from her. However, I do love makeup and wear it every day though most people I know consider me to be a girl who doesn't wear makeup. It's all about subtlety.

I wear a very light foundation every day. It also contains an SPF of 15 and I tell myself that that's the real reason I wear it (just like the Marykay lady!) but I also like the fact that it evens out my skin tone. I'm extremely fair and tend toward pinky-ruddiness and I like the very slight balancing that it gives me.

I wear mascara as well since I have light eyelashes and think I look a bit more awake and alive with some definition around my eyes.

Lipstick comes and goes with me. I put it on when I really want to look done up and it does bring a nice color to my otherwise washed-out complexion.

And since I come off as much younger than I actually am (maybe it's just that I act immature!) sometimes a little makeup actually helps people take me seriously.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:24 AM on September 27, 2006

why is it, I wonder, that women and certain others wear make-up?

"Certain others" means men, yes? Not all women wear makeup, so the question phrased like that reads a bit funny.

Story: Once I was in a play that had a bunch of guys in the cast, and very few women. I was cast in a small scene as a hooker. During rehearsals, all the guys pretty much ignored me; they weren't mean or rude or anything, but nobody made any effort to be friends or chat. Then came the dress rehearsal, and there I was . . . . dressed up! Nothing very suggestive, you understand; the outfit wasn't revealing or anything like that, but there I was with a dress on and made up to the nines, and suddenly all these guys were sitting around my chair wanting to talk to me. I thought to myself, geez, Mom was right: the boys WILL notice me when I dress more like a girl! The clothes, the makeup, they work.
posted by JanetLand at 11:24 AM on September 27, 2006

I second geoff. Almost every woman I've known (lived in San Francisco and New York) wears makeup.

I think the problem is that people reading/writing in this thread have two very different conceptions of makeup.

One is, like routergirl points out, a touch-up, a way of evening out the face, of gently highlighting. It is really hard to tell in such cases whether someone is wearing makeup or not which means - more women are wearing makeup than you think!

The second is I think some conception of makeup from the movies or cartoons - huge deep red pouty lips, gigantic dark lashes etc. And, no, nobody finds heavily caked on makeup attractive.

I bet this confusion is why jessamyn has had to delete some comments.
posted by vacapinta at 11:27 AM on September 27, 2006

I rarely wear makeup. The times when I do wear it are usually events (weddings, big parties, fancy dinners) where I feel like my makeup is part of my outfit. I wouldn't go to a wedding in my sneakers and jeans, likewise i wouldn't go without putting some makeup on.

For me it's the same cultural expectation as a dress code.

FWIW I live in Manhattan and have had several visitors from other major world cities comment on how casual it is.
posted by gaspode at 11:29 AM on September 27, 2006

The last 12 years I've had horrible skin, with a 5 year reprieve while I was on the pill - thank you medication intolerances that make it impossible to use anything non-topical. When I wear full makeup, which is for occasions only, it is to cover the ravages of crappy genetics.

But I wear eye-related cosmetics for fun. I just plain like colors, and for formal events, I have definitely blown money at the MAC counter for new shadows while reusing a dress. A few years back, when she turned 50, my I got my mother to convert to MAC for evenings and formal events.

Hm. On preview, what jrossi4r says, too. I definitely wore different stuff when I went to a strange formal in LA than I have at a friend's wedding - and yes, it's for 'a look'. What I wore for a job interview was also 'a look' - it was the 'I'm not fussy but I'm precise' look. Lots of one's job is a role, and roles have particular costumes.

Some people just recognize it and can have more fun with it then.
posted by cobaltnine at 11:29 AM on September 27, 2006

The eyelashes on my right eye are blonde, and on my left eye are brown. While it's kind of a cool thing to have, it makes me look weird from afar. One eye looks bigger and higher than the other. So, mascara most of the time. When I don't wear it, people definitely notice or look at me funny. The other makeup if for dressing up/feeling pretty. Plus a lot of nice makeup (like Dior and Lancome lipstick) smells good too.
posted by rmless at 11:31 AM on September 27, 2006

Best answer: the colors! it's like...bright pink or green eyeshadow makes me giddy the way new sneakers do. and i've never subscribed to the "oh no, i can't leave the house without 'putting my face on'" sort of make up philosophy--bleh--but that said, it can be so fun when you see in the mirror your entire appearance change, your eyes pop, your smile brighten, your cheekbones look dramatic, etc. and it washes off! endless possibilities, and can be relatively cheap too.

choice is fun. being locked into the feeling i MUST wear makeup to be presentable? no thanks.

(and up until like, a year ago, i was as au naturale as they get. so...)
posted by ifjuly at 11:34 AM on September 27, 2006 [3 favorites]

Here is a hypothesis I have as to why people wear certain types of makeup. I am going to link a few pieces of information in this response

-Men are frequently attracted to younger women. Some suggest evolutionary reasons for this (younger age = lower likelihood of gene abnormalities, which is better for having healthy offspring).
-Younger individuals are more likely to blush (most people blush, but skin is thinner in younger individuals, you can detect coloration).
-Most individuals want to be perceived as attractive, and more specifically to attract a partner. For females, there is a need to project youth/younger individuals blush - so applying red color to the cheeks can help with this.
posted by Wolfster at 11:34 AM on September 27, 2006

Following on what Wolfster said...makeup simulates the rosy lips and cheeks of childhood---not to mention the dark fringe of lashes.

Most adult men also return daily to a pre-pubescent state. It's called shaving.
posted by DawnSimulator at 11:38 AM on September 27, 2006 [5 favorites]

99% of females look better with makeup on.

Actually the correct statistic is "99% of men are idiots."

I don't wear makeup anymore, but I started wearing it in the 9th grade because I thought that if I did, the cool girls would like me. It didn't work, of course, but I got used to how I looked wearing it and so I continued to wear it until about my mid-30s. Then I realized it was stupid (I look like what I look like), expensive, and time-consuming. Until men start wearing makeup and shaving their legs and plucking their eyebrows, I'm not gonna bother either.
posted by scratch at 11:38 AM on September 27, 2006 [6 favorites]

The theory I have heard about the origin of makeup is that it is supposed to simulate female sexual arousal, e.g., flushed cheeks, reddened lips, dilated eyes. Men are supposed to have hard-wired visual cues that attract them to sexually available (and ready) women.

As makeup use became the norm, "no makeup" tended to send exactly the opposite message, i.e., "I'm not available, so don't bother." Women without makeup were in a sense invisible (to men, anyway) and learned more or less through self defense to reach for the lipstick and mascara.

An argument also can be made that in Western society at least we tend to associate "femininity" with artifice and "masculinity" with naturalness. Take a look, for example, at ads for skin care products aimed at women and at men. Even when it's the same art director and photographer (even the same photograph!), the image of the woman's face will be more smoothly airbrushed, whereas the man's face will be left with more tiny blemishes, bumps and lines.
posted by La Cieca at 11:40 AM on September 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

- To look girly and pretty
- It's fun to try new colours and application techniques
- To even out skin tone and cover blemishes/acne scars/dark undereye circles
- To match with my outfit
- When I go clubbing, it's pretty much the norm

FWIW, I don't wear makeup very often because I'd rather use the extra 10-20 minutes in the morning to sleep or eat. But occasionally I use it when I go out.
posted by catburger at 11:44 AM on September 27, 2006

If we didn't have beards and stubble to contend with, more men would wear facial makeup socially, I think. Makeup, in its full bore magical/theatrical/religious origins, was largely a male province, and to the extent modern men plop on camoflage colors, black anti-glare under eye stripes, and protective zinc oxide noses, those traditions survive in the modern world. But outside screen and stage acting, the modern man is heavily conditioned to shave and maybe put a bit of lotion on his face, and hit the streets, and so 90% of us do. 10% play with our facial hair, and maybe, as we get older, hair coloring/replacement, but the hit to masculinity of a guy wearing detectable cosmetic makeup is huge across most modern cultures.

So much so, that men with facial disfigurement are frequently skittish about using concealer and appliances to improve their appearance, which I find sad, somehow. Not that they should have to, but that they should be subtly censured, if they choose to do so and are "discovered."
posted by paulsc at 11:45 AM on September 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

Because I have sensitive eyes and skin, I only wear makeup when I am in a situation where appearances really matter. Since I work mostly from home, I only wear makeup to professional meetings where you want to convey a certain polished quality, or events like weddings. Or if it's something romantic, when you want to look your best.

Same goes for high heels. I view them as an only occasionally necessary evil.

I read somewhere that men view women who wear noticable lipstick as being more professional than women who don't. Not sure how true that study was, but it convinced me to buckle down once in a while and wear makeup.
posted by np312 at 11:48 AM on September 27, 2006

I wear sunscreen every day along with some sort of Chapstick (or other similar item) with an SPF. I know you asked "why do you wear makeup, but the reasons I *don't* wear makeup are:
- I am fortunate to have the sort of face that has characteristics that makeup provides - rosy cheeks, slightly darker eyelids, big lashes, flushed lips.
- The few times I tried makeup it diminished the "glow" of my skin. I know many products reproduce that, but it's nice to have that sort of energy in your skin without some sort of refracting compound.
- I work in a profession where my makeup would almost certainly end up smeared (marine biologist), and anything that's "waterproof" is too sticky or dry.
- My husband doesn't like me in makeup either.
posted by nekton at 11:50 AM on September 27, 2006

Oh, one more thing. There have been a couple of occasions when I (a guy) have worn makeup -- in both cases times when I was looking haggard and tired and I had to attend a public event where I'd be meeting people and networking. I think I got away with it, but unless it's done very expertly makeup on men is going to end up looking like Quentin Crisp.
posted by La Cieca at 12:00 PM on September 27, 2006

Best answer: hotness.

make-up, high heels, push-ups and french nails.

what I don't get is how its gotten to the point where wanting hotness is shallow. what's that about?

like beauty isn't a virtue same as courage, strength, cunning, and bow hunting skills.

love me for my mind. please.
posted by ewkpates at 12:08 PM on September 27, 2006 [3 favorites]

TPS has a point, being that a truly good makeup job belies it's presence.

Still, if I have a friend or co worker who regularly wears makeup, and I see them on a day that they do not have it on, I go out of my way to tell them how good they look.

Although, I love the line, "Today was a total waste of makeup!"
posted by Danf at 12:10 PM on September 27, 2006

After reading this I feel a bit better about my acne scars and uneven skin tone! I'm so glad that other people suffer from it too (and yes I knew before that people did, but it's always nice to see people voluntarily admit to it in a public forum...makes me feel a little less ugly).

And that's why I wear make up. To feel less ugly. "Society" tells us that clear, smooth skin is pretty and that acne and acne scars and ruddiness and what not are not.

So I use foundation to cover the redness and scars (to limited effect). I use eyeshadow/eyeliner and mascara because I like how it makes my eyes look. I don't use lipstick or lipgloss because I don't really care how my lips look and anything I put on would come off on my straw/cup anyway.

I don't cake it on, and when I do it right (rarely) you can't even tell I'm wearing the foundation.

And, as to those "others," a lot of men (even, *gasp* straight ones) wear foundation (or coverup/concealer) for the reasons I mention above.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:16 PM on September 27, 2006

Response by poster:
a clarification before jess starts pulling her hair out:

what I am curious about is emotions.
I don't mean to advocate for or against the use of make-up per se, I am merely curious as to how other people see and feel about it, namely those using it.

routergirl mentioned people commented on her looking tired when she doesn't, DenOfSizer feels 'undone without a little touch of something' and Amanda B and occhiblu 'feel more attractive.' it's actually finding out whether it's a me vs. they thing that interests me. "the colors! it's like...bright pink or green eyeshadow makes me giddy the way new sneakers do" ... that's a translation I totally understand and a translation is what I sought.

"Certain others" means men, yes? Not all women wear makeup, so the question phrased like that reads a bit funny.
this is actually a phrasing I struggled with. I remembered cops pulling over a group of transvestites in front of my then house a year ago and them loudly objecting to being called men. the intention was not to offend...
posted by krautland at 12:36 PM on September 27, 2006

Best answer: Some people think it makes them more attractive, and either feeling more attractive gives them more self-confidence or they like feeling as though others are attracted to them. But I would imagine that most people who wear makeup do it because their peers do, and it's a social cue of sorts. If everyone you knew wore red shirts every day, and every advertisement and TV show featured attractive people in red shirts, it probably wouldn't take you long to stop wearing your yellow shirt and get some more red ones. People are social creatures, and external signals like makeup help us understand where people fit in the social hierarchy and create commonalities between people.

There are clearly people who view it as just a preference: you either wear lipstick or you don't, depending on which makes you feel better walking around in the world. But a lot of women on both sides of the debate make value judgements about other women based on whether or not they wear makeup. Wearers accuse non-wearers of being dirty hippies who don't care about their looks at all. Non-wearers say that wearers are shallow and vain and anti-feminist because they objectify women by focusing on physical appearance. This is actually a big divide among some women.

I think that at its core, a lot of women don't feel like they have an unfettered choice about whether to wear makeup, because we as a society have so tied choices we make about our physical appearances to assumptions about what sort of person you are. If you wear a tie-dyed t-shirt, we make assumptions about your politics, your peer group, your taste in music, etc. If you wear chapstick and sunscreen and no other cosmetics, we make assumptions about your self-image and your lifestyle. And if you wear false eyelashes and red lipstick every day, we make assumptions about your sexuality, your personality, and your values. I think that a lot of women would change their makeup wearing habits (some would wear less or none, some might wear more) if we could decouple that choice from the assumptions about who a person is. But given that human beings are social creatures with a natural inclination to categorize and organize other people in order to understand the world, I don't see that happening any time soon.

I don't wear makeup unless I'm going somewhere where I'm likely to be photographed (because I look ghostly pale and beady eyed in pictures without it). It's just too much of a hassle, and I always end up sweating or rubbing it off or otherwise ruining it, which makes me look less attractive than I would without it. Plus, I'd have to wake up earlier to have time to put it on. So I don't wear it. I don't consider it a political issue or a statement about my self-image. It's purely practical for me.
posted by decathecting at 12:38 PM on September 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

I wear makeup to work when I remember because I once read that women who wear makeup are more likely to succeed in business. It's stupid, but I bet it's true. I find myself taking the women who look more polished and pulled together more seriously than those who look like they're running Saturday errands.

And that's it - I wear minimal makeup, just enough to look polished. I like wearing a little powder because it helps my face to look less shiny and feel less oily. I like to wear lipstick or gloss because it makes my lips feel less dry. I don't really like wearing eye makeup, but it looks so good that I do anyway.
posted by tastybrains at 12:44 PM on September 27, 2006

it's actually finding out whether it's a me vs. they thing that interests me.

I'm not understanding this. I didn't mean that I feel more attractive than other people, just that I feel more attractive than myself-without-makeup.
posted by occhiblu at 12:44 PM on September 27, 2006

Response by poster: occhiblu: whether you think about yourself, how you look, how you feel, or whether you think about how others will see you, perceive you ...
posted by krautland at 12:48 PM on September 27, 2006

I never felt at all comfortable with the feminine--so entering puberty with a mom who easily spent at least an hour putting on her face before going to the grocery store was a tumultuous experience. I wasn't happy with how I looked and I was deeply afraid to try to change how I looked. I was shy and a bookworm--trying to buy into the girly seemed pointless. I chose not to wear makeup.

Twenty odd years later, I'm so much more comfortable with who I am that I now have curiousity about the trappings of beauty, including make-up. This weekend, I squared my shoulders and sidled up to the Prescriptives counter at Macy's. "Hi, I have a really basic question," I said, "Obviously I'm not a big makeup wearer, but I'm curious about lipstick but don't know how to pick one."

The clerk was really nice and pointed me to a sheer lipcolor that darkens my naturally pale and thin lips just enough. Also, it has a hint of a citrus flavor which is kind of nice.

Makeup is--unfortunately--frequently a very difficult territory for women. I'll probably deal with it slowly, retreating and advancing, as I learn what I'm comfortable with.
posted by gsh at 12:49 PM on September 27, 2006

I don't wear it anymore. It itches. I used to love putting makeup on, it made me feel like a woman, and when I used 3 shades of blusher, I felt like I was really in the know.

Now, I object to products designed to cover my face - what, is my face and skin unacceptable? Plus it itches and rubs off and gets in my eyes. And I'm no beauty - I think make up might even look desperate - on my face.
posted by b33j at 12:50 PM on September 27, 2006

What gaspode said goes for me too:
The times when I do wear it are usually events (weddings, big parties, fancy dinners) where I feel like my makeup is part of my outfit.

I consider it a form of drag. It's fun, it makes me look cuter, but I wouldn't do it every day. N.B., I live in Seattle, which is a pretty casual city, and work in software engineering, which is a pretty casual profession.
posted by matildaben at 12:56 PM on September 27, 2006

I like what occhiblu said. I wear make up to play up my eyes, which I've been told are my best feature. Wearing eyeliner and eyeshadow that make my eyes sparkle makes me feel prettier. And that makes me feel more confident, and confidence is good.
posted by echo0720 at 12:57 PM on September 27, 2006

I wear makeup because like what lots of other people have said, it makes me feel more attractive/put-together/prepared. Even without its obvious, intended effect (making people look better, if they do it right), for me, I find a lot of what I get out of it has to do with the process. That MAC canvas quote really struck me because that's exactly how I feel about it, what with all the little brushes and different colors and whatnot- you get to create a look or try and evoke a feeling, on your face. Which in turn, depending on what you're going for, might elicit the desired attitude. I wear lots of makeup out to events, parties, or whatever, and even on a day to day basis I usually don't go without, but no matter what in particular I've done, I feel reassured that I am going through my day looking at the very least presentable.

For a lot of people though (myself included) I think it also has a lot to do with insecurity. In my experience, although rationally I realize that almost none of my day-to-day activities hinge on my appearance, I still feel a lot more confident during the day if I think that I look OK. At the moment I've actually stopped doing all makeup altogether (something I do once or twice each year, for a few weeks) and it's always jarring how anonymous it makes me feel to go out without wearing any. I mean, I wasn't doing hugely dramatic, attention getting makeup in the first place, but without it I feel much less noticeable.
posted by Oobidaius at 1:05 PM on September 27, 2006

I wear makeup to work when I remember because I once read that women who wear makeup are more likely to succeed in business. It's stupid, but I bet it's true. I find myself taking the women who look more polished and pulled together more seriously than those who look like they're running Saturday errands.

That is my reason, too. I only wear mascara, because it makes my eyes stand out more and I look more alert and awake. I can't be bothered with foundation or lipstick or any of the rest of it, however - it's just too much work.

I read somewhere that the type of make-up you wear reveals how you want others to think of you. Women who highlight their eyes want others to notice their intelligence, and women who wear lipstick want others to notice their sexuality. For women who wear both, it's whatever is more noticeable that counts (in other words, heavily made up eyes & light lipstick = intelligence, bold lipstick & light eyes = sexuality). Obviously not a theory to be taken seriously, but I do think about it when I see extreme examples...
posted by widdershins at 1:06 PM on September 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

occhiblu: whether you think about yourself, how you look, how you feel, or whether you think about how others will see you, perceive you ...

Ah. I'm not sure there's much of a split there, though, really. I mean, unless you're wearing it only because other people expect you to. I like looking pretty, and take measures to do so to please myself, but I certainly can't say I'd do exactly the same if there were absolutely no one around to see me. (And given that I work from home and live by myself, I actually can state that pretty authoritatively.)
posted by occhiblu at 1:08 PM on September 27, 2006

"99% of females look better with makeup on."

"Actually the correct statistic is "99% of men are idiots."

Nah, it's that 99% of females think they look better with makeup on. "and the girls walk by all dressed up for each other...".
posted by Manjusri at 1:09 PM on September 27, 2006

I should have clarified that the theory I mentioned above is about what women want others to think of them, not what is necessarily true!
posted by widdershins at 1:09 PM on September 27, 2006

As a man who has worn makeup for theatre and for occasional personal use, I always feel strangely powerful wearing it. The power to so easily and artfully change your appearance is a psychological wonder (which is why so many women feel so confident behind a mask of horribly applied makeup).

I used to use a touch of foundation as a blemish cover, and it was a big help to my confidence. What I have since realized though, is that even a touch of makeup is WAY more conspicuous on men than it is on women. People's eyes are so attuned to men's skin appearing a certain way that even a little well-blended foundation still changes the texture and opacity of the skin and seems pretty noticeable.

Occasional public wearing of eye and lip makeup are really great for reinforcing one's "I don't give a shit what you think" attitude, and can look really hot. And now more than ever, anything you do to openly flout expectations of masculinity/femininity is a political statement, intentional or otherwise, and brings with it the corresponding feelings.

I think that for men, exploring makeup is a great experiment in crossing over into an unknown version of yourself. During my years in theatre, I have seen so many straight guys really blown away by the sight of themself in full makeup. It is a shot of flexibility to your self-image, a sort of physical demonstration of what is supposed to be (in men) a completely internalized process.
posted by hermitosis at 1:16 PM on September 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I feel that ask.metafilter could benefit from a basic women's studies course right now.

Why do (women)* wear makeup? Here's a well-known book you might want to check out!

Basically, women and men are both expected to conform to a set of beauty standards. Women's standards tend to involve more obfuscation and manipulation of their actual physical bodies (men aren't asked to wear binding clothing, shoes that change the shape of their feet or their ability to walk, or to cover their faces with, well, makeup). YOu can judge for yourself why women's beauty standards are so specific and manipulating - but I think it's pretty well established that our society values men more than women.

We're all post-third-wave grown ups here, so I think we get that a person can understand that their are social pressures to conform to a look, and still participate in that look, but it doesn't take away the basis for that look.

*because I think it's fair to say that most people who wear makeup are women, and men who wear makeup are dealing with a very different set of social pressures than women who wear makeup ie: Men are not supposed to wear makeup and women are.
posted by serazin at 1:27 PM on September 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

Going off what serazin said, I think it's also interesting that women really can't just choose not to participate. If you're wearing makeup, for whatever reason, you're reinforcing the idea that women wear makeup. If you're not wearing makeup, the deviation from the norm becomes a sort of political statement, even if you're not intending it as one.

So to some extent, women are pretty much in a double-bind, in that not even not wearing makeup gets you out of the makeup-wearing culture. To some extent, it's just easier to wear it.
posted by occhiblu at 1:46 PM on September 27, 2006 [4 favorites]

What serazin said; every woman's relationship to the beauty standard is different.

I personally only wear makeup on special occasions, because I think a fancy dress looks dumb without any makeup, or for fun. I don't usually for reasons that are part ideology (I don't see why I should have to), but mostly can be ascribed to laziness, cheapness and the fact that I'm a grad student.

On preview: occhilblu, that's kind of exaggerating the matter. I dress fairly preppily, and I don't think anyone's ever looked at me and thought "there's a girl who's protesting the beauty standard." I guess some people would see it that way, but ultimately, you have to pick your battles.
posted by SoftRain at 2:11 PM on September 27, 2006

I wear makeup daily, but after playing around with lots of funky, noticeable makeup through college/grad school I now usually go with a pretty light touch -- so much so that I've been told many times by friends or acquaintances that they almost never noticed that I do wear makeup, probably because I almost exclusively wear neutrals or peachy-pink tones that match my skin. (I remember when DaShiv was at my apartment last year and we were about to go to a meetup -- I said, "hang on a sec, let me freshen up my makeup," to which he replied, "wait, you're wearing makeup right now?")

Why do I wear it? Well, I am quite fair, with a very pale (but somewhat blotchy and uneven) skintone, light eyelashes, light lips, and almost no natural flush to my cheeks -- in other words, my features (except for my eyes) tend to disappear without a little makeup. (Also, in high school and college, I battled acne a lot and so got in the habit of wearing a lot of concealer and base -- and believe me, if I didn't wear a little eyeliner, blush, and lipstick on top of that, I'd look like a ghost.) But again, with the kind of makeup I wear, you'd probably never know I'm wearing it, except for maybe noticing a little mascara or lipstick.

But yeah, it can be a double-bind: wearing makeup may get criticized for not being natural, and not wearing makeup may prompt assumptions about one's state of sleep deprivation or personal politics. Woo-hoo!
posted by scody at 2:23 PM on September 27, 2006

eye of the beholder...

Sure. But most guys (and most women too) would say women look better with makeup. Sometimes you don't need an objective reason, the fact that something's pleasing to a majority is enough.

Also, not to be insulting, but the things you said in your question about your preferences just kind of ring false to me, like you're trying too hard to make your preferences fit what you think they SHOULD be. If it were really your preference, I don't think you'd be so judgmental about it.

Also, as for the "not wearing makeup is a poltical statement" ... there are plenty of cases where I don't wear makeup and I think the message is not so much "I am protesting this standard" as "I was too lazy to put on makeup today"
posted by dagnyscott at 2:23 PM on September 27, 2006

and believe me, if I didn't wear a little eyeliner, blush, and lipstick on top of that, I'd look like a ghost

And this is a good case of the pressure of a normalized aesthetic. I find faces consistently fascinating. I don't think I'd have a problem with ghostly, but I don't know how representative a sample I am in that respect—whatever marketing forces exist for the cosmetics world, there's also the natural idea that approaching a definable and regular standard of appearance is valued for the sake of inclusiveness.
posted by cortex at 2:30 PM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

I wear makeup because I have very bad skin and it covers the blemishes/redness and evens out the tone. But I don't wear it all the time. I hardly ever wear it at work because I don't work in a job where I have to meet the public.

The only time I wear eye makeup is if I'm going out somewhere. And the only time I wear heavy eye makeup is for big occasions, such as Vegas weddings.
posted by essexjan at 2:37 PM on September 27, 2006

This is a fascinating thread. I've only ever dated one woman who wore makeup regularly and never really thought about it too much. There seems to be a lot more to it than I would have guessed. I wonder what percentage of woman do wear makeup everyday?
posted by octothorpe at 2:39 PM on September 27, 2006

I"m naturally blonde, so I figure, why not take advantage and create the whole package? I also wear heels frequently because I'm five feet tall and being three or four inches taller actually helps me out in the workplace - believe it or not, people actually take me more seriously when I'm wearing the tall shoes. Make up is fun, for another thing - I enjoy wearing sparkly eyeshadow and I love my eyes, so making them stand out in my face makes me feel confident. I"m also in a profession where a "professional" image is needed - and most people perceive that to include some amount of makeup for women. I look less tired (and typically I am very tired), and sometimes I think it makes me look more aggressive, or more like I should command one's attention.

Also, taking time to put on my makeup in the morning gives me a chance to concentrate. Weirdly, if I *don't* take the time to put on my make up, I feel rushed and scattered throughout the day. It's all in what you get used to.
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:47 PM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Weirdly, if I *don't* take the time to put on my make up, I feel rushed and scattered throughout the day. It's all in what you get used to.

This is a good point. For many of us, it's just part of the morning ritual -- take a shower, have some coffee, put on the makeup while listening to the radio. It's the same for guys who shave in the morning, no?
posted by scody at 2:56 PM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think this is a silly question but the answers have proven to be more interesting than I anticipated.

For the record, I wear makeup because I absolutely think makeup makes me(and most women) more attractive. I wear makeup because it makes me not want to die every time I look in the mirror. I wear makeup because I was conditioned as a young child to do so. I wear makeup because it is fun to play with. I wear makeup because I know people are judging me without it on. I wear makeup because I like to, and it should never be questioned what a woman does that helps her to feel sexy.
posted by meeshelle39 at 2:58 PM on September 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

Some additional thoughts: I never put on the small amount of makeup I usually wear if I'm by myself (i.e. at home) and think there is no chance of seeing anyone. Chance encounters with postal workers or people in the hallway of my building when i take out the garbage are bearable. However, almost without fail I will put on *some* makeup as soon as I'm ready to leave the house.

What I find odd is that so many women don't wear makeup at all most of the time but then wear it on "special occasions." I see a woman every day at work makeup-less and then she shows up at the holiday party in full drag and I think that's a little strange.

I've also found that as i get older and lose that youthful glow (sigh), I do need a little more color on my face.

Also, i like the creative aspect of wearing makeup - mixing up colors, trying new techniques, learning the best way to apply false eyelashes.

In some respects it's also part of a morning ritual - preparation for the day ahead. It's a part of a process that I enact every morning that tells me I am ready to go out in the world. Watch? Check. Cell phone? Check. Cat fed? Check. Lipstick on straight? Check. Okay.......now go to work.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:58 PM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

No one has mentioned that wearing make-up tends to attribute toward women an older, more sophisticated and stylish look, which is the main reason I (as well as my friends) started wearing it daily when we entered high school. And through college, it was especially important to look older, so that our fake IDs were more convincing!

if i didn't wear make-up, i'd be mistaken for someone 10-years-younger. which is okay until you hit like 28. after that it's just annoying.
posted by naxosaxur at 3:29 PM on September 27, 2006

I have a soft, high voice. If you only heard my voice, you'd think I was about fourteen or fifteen. In addition, I look more like I'm in my late teens than my early twenties.

If I want to be taken seriously, wearing (subtle) makeup makes me look a little older and more polished and professional. It also makes me feel like I fit in more, age-wise, when I go out at night.

It's fairly embarrassing to get second-class treatment at places just because I look too young to be anything but a student. Or because I look too young, period. If anything, I should wear makeup more often, as I really do think it makes a difference.
posted by anjamu at 4:02 PM on September 27, 2006

Perhaps now is a good time to point out that throughout history and across cultures, men have worn cosmetics (on a regular basis, not just in a theatrical context) and women have been excoriated for it (until quite recently.) Beauty lies, yo...
posted by DenOfSizer at 4:09 PM on September 27, 2006

Best answer: I find it somewhat sad that men rarely get to experience anything close to the transformative powers of makeup, hair and clothing that are available to women on a daily basis. Makeup is one way that we can visually express not just who we are, but who we choose to be at that moment.

Most days I choose to be my introverted, practical, slightly nerdy, mostly invisible self. On those days, my makeup is purely functional and takes about 30 seconds to throw on in the morning, just enough to keep me from looking like I just rolled out of bed. Slap, dash, done.

Other days, when I'm getting ready for a show with my rock band, I choose to be a different version of me - brasher, braver, more outgoing, and yes, sexier. Applying more and darker makeup is part of that transformative process and is critical to my mental preparation for the show. I would feel equally uncomfortable on stage with my everyday makeup as I would at work with my stage makeup.

And the transformation works. I respond to people, and people respond to me, in an entirely different way when I'm prepared to rock than when I'm prepared for the office. Regardless of the cause - whether it's because of how I look, how I feel, how I act, or how others are responding to any of those things - there is a perceptible difference in our interactions. Obviously I can't say the makeup is solely responsible for that, but it is a part of the whole, the mask that completes the costume.
posted by platinum at 4:29 PM on September 27, 2006 [5 favorites]

I can count on my right hand how many times I have worn make-up in the last 10 years, and here's why:

1. I feel like I'm playing dress up when I put it on. No matter how subtle, or how blended, or whatever- I always feel like a 5-year trying to look like mommy. And I'm 27! I feel the same way when I put on earrings. These reactions might be because I have had the great fortune of non-acne prone skin, dark eyelashes, etc, but I think they stem more from a desire to not want to mislead anyone. It's like, here I am. This is me, and why should I change that?

2. There are very few affordable make-ups out there that are not tested on animals or do not contain gross-malose chemicals that aren't any good for you.

3. I'm afraid that once I began using it, I wouldn't be able to stop. I don't want to have to lather a bunch of stuff- whether clean or full of chemicals- on my face to feel normal or to feel like I look presentable. That terrifies me!

4. In some ways, *not* wearing make-up makes me stand out. I'll go out with friends and be the only one without make-up on....I probably get some attention based on that alone.

5. It might be true that in very corporate settings the whole "women who wear make-up get taken more seriously" thing happens, but not wearing make up has not impeded my career one bit.

6. Lastly, I have only ever dated one guy who wished I wore make-up. We were in a bar one night, and he looked around and said, "You know, if you wore make-up and dressed up a bit, you'd be prettier than any other woman here." I think that says it all right there!!!
posted by iurodivii at 4:52 PM on September 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

(ps. that was Mrs. iurodivii replying above)
posted by iurodivii at 5:33 PM on September 27, 2006

I don't often wear make up that much, but when I do it's most often when I'm sleep deprived. I have thin skin underneath my eyes so if I'm dehydrated or tired I have huge dark circles that make me look like I've got two black eyes. I'm really pale to boot so it make the circles look even worse.
posted by Attackpanda at 6:02 PM on September 27, 2006

I usually dont wear make up. I think too much make up is sign of insecurity. but then again i judge people sometimes. no no i dont.
make up is like too much jewelry
posted by octomato at 6:13 PM on September 27, 2006

I wear makeup for the following reasons (in no particular order):
1. I can hide flaws. The flaws have been different things at different points in time, anything from facial scars to pimples to red puffy allergy eyes. I feel self-conscious enough as is sometimes, I want to control what I can.
2. It's what it takes to look like a professional woman in the society in which I live (big city Brazil).
3. I used to wear it to look pretty for boys, now I wear it to look pretty for myself. It's a self-pride thing for me; the same reason I've given up t-shirts and shorts.
4. It is fun to play artist.
5. I have a big very blue eyes and honestly it's fun to call attention to them and get lots of compliments about them. (Oh, I'm so shallow! But honest!)
6. For my hubby, both so he will find me more attractive and be proud of other people finding me attractive. (Periodically, I ask him if my current makeup look is working for me)
Truth be told, I currently don't wear a ton of makeup. Mostly I do my eyes and then add a little color to the rest of my face to balance it out. That'll probably change in a couple of years- it seems to go in phases. But at this point, I'm so used to makeup I will probably never go for an extended period of time without any. (Yes, I bring lipgloss on camping trips! See? Shallow!)
posted by wallaby at 6:32 PM on September 27, 2006

I don't wear makeup. I can't stand the feeling of it on my skin-it's disgusting. And I feel that it's a false representation of oneself (but that's just my opinion). And I'm told that I'm hella-cute. So I go without. I do wax my eyebrows, though, because if I didn't...well, they would be really out of control.
posted by bolognius maximus at 7:07 PM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The most recent "Boston Legal" featured a character who used makeup in much the same way a number of people here do—he was incredibly shy, and dressing in drag and acting like a powerful, salacious woman was the only way he could find to express himself. He even thought more clearly when wearing the makeup.

So there's a data point.

Now here's my m.o. when it comes to makeup:

I wear makeup every day, almost without fail. If I'm leaving the apartment, I'm going to be wearing makeup of some sort. Most of the time you can't tell exactly how much makeup I'm wearing, though. I wear lotion, foundation, powder, and clear lip gloss on a daily basis, and make sure my eyebrows are plucked as well. I'm pretty damn good at it, 'cause I've been wearing makeup since I was 13 years old.

Back then, other kids thought I was ugly and awkward—and the yearbook photo proved that I did, that year. Makeup (and plucking my brows) helped me look okay, and I saw a noticeable improvement in my social life after that. Yeah, I was wearing too much black eye pencil and dark red lipstick—but it was worthwhile.

A couple years later, I started to grow into my face a bit more and look more presentable—but makeup remained an important part of my life.

During high school, if my parents dragged me out of bed on the weekend to go get lunch at a restaurant (a rare and exciting occurrence), I'd refuse to go if I couldn't take the hour to put on makeup first. It wasn't something I could actually talk about, though—just a deeply ingrained need.

My senior year of high school, I finally wrote about my need to wear makeup in a paper for my A.P. lit class. It was a real stretch for me to be candid about my "makeup habit"—I was waking up every morning at 6:45, an hour-and-a-half early, just to make sure I got my shower and did my hair the way I wanted it and did my makeup...but it wasn't anything I allowed myself to talk about or think about very deeply.

During my sophomore year of college, I stopped wearing much makeup. My boyfriend told me repeatedly how good I looked without it, and it also became too much work to keep it up—so I just didn't wear it most of the time. At this point, I started to grow out the horrible anime bangs I'd cultivated since I was a junior in high school (to hide my sloping forehead, as I saw it), so the appearance points gained from that move, so to speak, kind of worked to cancel out the appearance points lost by not wearing makeup.

I was also terribly depressed that year, though. After I pulled back out of the depression, I realized that not wearing makeup was part of the problem. I never felt confident without it—and that meant my confidence really took a hit that year. I decided to recommit to maintaining my appearance. That meant wearing makeup and doing my hair every day, even if that meant I had to get up two hours early; working to lose weight; and getting dressed for the day, rather than rolling out of bed and going to class or work in sweats and t-shirts.

So that's what I've done since then. It's been about two years now, and things are going well. Here's the thing: it's true what people have been saying. People do see you as more professional when you look put together, whether they consciously realize you're wearing makeup or not. They're more likely to treat you with respect, to listen to your ideas, and to take you more seriously when you look like you know what you're doing. Dressing/looking as well or better than your supervisors is an excellent way to move up in the world.

And yeah, I just feel a lot better to be wearing the makeup I do. I don't cover my naturally rosy cheeks much at all, but I do cover my forehead, which has some light acne scarring (and continued blotchiness), as well as my chin, upper lip, nose, the area around my nose, the circles under my eyes, and any acne that pops up. I find that my upper lip looks less prominent when it's lightened by makeup, and that my forehead looks stronger when I cover it in a uniform tint. My eyes naturally have dark circles under them—have since I was about 8 years old—and I look a lot more awake when I cover those up. My lips look fuller when I simply put some clear gloss on them—and they're already pretty damn full. In general, the makeup just works to accentuate the good things about my face and hide the daily blemishes and imperfections—and it's a lot harder to get a sunburn when you're wearing makeup, too.

The downsides are thus: It takes me 2+ hours to get ready in the morning now, with a new haircut and the same makeup routine. I've been late for things when I didn't get up in time to get the makeup in order. From time to time, the makeup acts as a vector for bacteria, resulting in a breakout when I've continued using it past a certain amount of time. And finally, the cute freckles I once had have faded, since my face never gets much sun (SPF 17 sunscreen in my current makeup).

But it's worth it.
posted by limeonaire at 7:08 PM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

There was a study recently about the correlation between attractiveness and estrogen-related physical cues (clear skin, defined cheekbones, full lips, etc.). That is, the level of estrogen in a woman's body - particularly during puberty - has a dramatic affect on her developing more feminine physical qualities. Men rated the most attractive woman, and those were the women with the highest estrogen levels.

Without make-up, it was very easy to relate attractiveness to any given woman's level of estrogen. With make-up, the ability of a man to pick women with higher estrogen levels disappeared because make-up plays up feminine physical qualities.
posted by lunalaguna at 7:33 PM on September 27, 2006

Response by poster: The most recent "Boston Legal"

I saw that!
boston legal also had an incredibly self-referential episode beginning this week, which I loved to no end. (cue the music!) this very episode you are writing about had a part in this question being here today and I am about to rip it off mercilessly for my next campaign.

limeonaire (and all others, if you like), would is be fair to say that wearing makeup does to you the same as having gone to the gym the previous evening and feeling it the following morning? you know, that good burn that makes you think you're not all flubber? the way you described it made me feel it made you first and foremost more confident, though I realize that's only one purpose.

(did I mention how much I did this thread? the hive mind rocks.)
posted by krautland at 9:23 PM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: damn my spelling, where's the edit function. I dig this thread, not did and would it be fair, not is
posted by krautland at 9:26 PM on September 27, 2006

"99% of females look better with makeup on."

To me that translates to "99% of women are unattractive," and I think 'It's too bad you think so.'

For "romantic" purposes I'd rather meet a woman when she's not wearing makeup and is casually dressed so I'm not totally shocked when I see her in the morning. I don't want it to be all about her eyeliner and bustier.
posted by davy at 9:39 PM on September 27, 2006

For what it's worth, I find my wearing of make-up or not is, for me, a pretty good coalmine canary for a whole slew of other factors that add up to how well I'm doing, overall.

Let me explain: I work at home, and I don't need to wear make-up to impress colleagues. That said, I find on the days I wear make-up, fix my hair, and put on a nice outfit instead of sweatpants and a grubby tank top, I just... feel better. I'm more productive, more energetic, more confident. The days I don't wear make-up are generally the same ones where I feel pretty low and don't get much done. I don't think it's the make-up itself, though, so much as the ritual of preparing myself for my day; I think a guy could say the same thing about days when he does or doesn't shave or brush his hair or whatever.

It's an internal signal, though. It really isn't about what other people think of me, and I can say this with confidence because I do wear make-up even when I have no plans to leave my house that day. It's a bit of a psychological boost, and subtly changes my interactions with people I don't even see (ex. on IM, or on the phone.)

Other concerns: When I was younger, I very much had to wear make-up to work in my office because it aged me a little, and when you're 22 and you look 14, you'll take any little edge you can in your efforts to get taken more seriously. Now that life has me a little more worn around the edges, I use make-up to recapture the bright eyes and rosy cheeks I used to have naturally. That said, on most days, I'd be very surprised if your average guy on the street could really tell I was wearing any make-up at all, excepting maybe lip gloss. I don't look like a fashion model, I just look subtly healthier.
posted by Andrhia at 1:03 AM on September 28, 2006

I stopped wearing makeup a few years ago when I found out my boyfriend couldn't tell the difference between when I was wearing makeup and when I wasn't wearing any. I figured, why bother?

The ironic thing is that I had always worn makeup because I had bad skin and wanted to cover it up. Once I stopped wearing makeup, my skin got a lot healthier (no more acne, etc.). So there was no longer anything to cover up.

And now that I'm in my 30s, I find that not wearing makeup makes me look a lot younger, which is nice.
posted by clarissajoy at 5:50 AM on September 28, 2006

I wear makeup partly because of the dark circles under my eyes: the skin is very thin and I look like I've got two black eyes. People have asked me if I got punched in the face. Since I haven't been punched in the face, I like to avoid those questions by wearing at least some concealer. I also have psoriasis, so I feel better when that's covered up too.

On the other hand, I love to play with it. All the colors and different looks I can make are so fun. My bf tells me I look better without makeup because my freckles get covered up. I love my freckles & look for makeup that doesn't hide them, so I think he just doesn't like to wait for me to get ready.

I think where I live has a little to do with the amount of time I'll spend getting ready. I went to college in a medium sized, kinda sketchy city, where if I went to the store in my sweats & no makeup, I didn't stand out at all. A couple months ago I moved to an affluent suburb of Boston, so I like to look like I belong here. Kind of like dressing for the position you want at work, I guess.

Ultimatly, I wear makeup for the same reason I color my hair: I think it makes me look nice, it's fun to experiment, and it's easy to change when I get bored.
posted by good for you! at 6:02 AM on September 28, 2006

I think it's also interesting that women really can't just choose not to participate. If you're wearing makeup, for whatever reason, you're reinforcing the idea that women wear makeup. If you're not wearing makeup, the deviation from the norm becomes a sort of political statement, even if you're not intending it as one.

I quit wearing makeup about 20 years ago, and I've never run across anybody who interpreted that as any kind of statement, political or otherwise. Or if they did they didn't say anything to me about it -- no one has ever asked me why I'm not wearing any, and no one has ever suggested I should wear any. I would think that if the pressure to wear makeup was that strong and prevalent, I'd have heard something by now.
posted by JanetLand at 8:03 AM on September 28, 2006

Oddly enough, as one poster above noted, as a younger woman, I wore makeup to look older and more sophisticated. As I age, I now wear makeup to look younger (and still, hopefully, somewhat sophisticated). And there you have it.
posted by Lynsey at 10:15 AM on September 28, 2006

i wear makeup (pink eyeshadow and lipstick) because I find the burst of color to be fun. I get very bored with my face so I like to paint it up. I've always used makeup in a completely obvious way too, i really hate "natural" makeup on me as I feel it missed the point.
posted by mrs.pants at 11:51 AM on September 28, 2006

What snickerdoodle said: it's fun. I'm not under any pressure to ever wear makeup, but I like to do so on occasion. Really, one of the great things about being a girl is being able to change one's persona at will. I love being able to be the grubby, filthy landscaper in work clothes or the over the top, overdressed, made up party girl. Plus everything in between.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:05 PM on September 28, 2006

For the record, I wear makeup because I absolutely think makeup makes me(and most women) more attractive. I wear makeup because it makes me not want to die every time I look in the mirror. I wear makeup because I was conditioned as a young child to do so. I wear makeup because it is fun to play with. I wear makeup because I know people are judging me without it on. I wear makeup because I like to, and it should never be questioned what a woman does that helps her to feel sexy.
In a (oversized and slightly italiced) nutshell.
posted by hugsnkisses at 2:48 PM on September 28, 2006

I don't wear makeup at all-- once or twice a year I might bother with some mascara, because my eyelashes are quite fair.

I don't wear it because I don't believe in it, mostly. Because it's compulsory. Because as a woman I've been, like all other women, under scrutiny my whole life, and it's tiring. Because people can say "women look better" with makeup, but nobody questions what "better" means in this context, or why they feel that way ("evolutionary psychology" doesn't count, as it's intellectually bankrupt). Because of notions floating around that women who wear lipstick appear more "professional". I resent all that. I don't wear makeup because I don't want to submit to socially codified ideas about what it means to be a woman.

Also, I don't give a rat's ass, and I can't be bothered. I'm also quickly going grey, and I don't dye may hair, either. What for?

And this "help women feel sexy" thing... the last thing I want to feel is "sexy", if by that you mean feeling good about conforming to social requirements about who is and who is not allowed to be sexual.

Erm... the question seems to have hit a nerve for me. Just to be clear: I intend no judgement or condemnation towards the women here who see makeup as play and a way of creative expression. I have friends who see it that way too. I speak only for myself.
posted by jokeefe at 4:38 PM on September 28, 2006 [3 favorites]

krautland: Yes, it was a wonderful episode. All of those self-referential touches amused me (and my boyfriend) immensely. (We watch the show together every Tuesday.)

And yeah, the makeup does kind of what you describe. It makes me feel put together and confident—I know I don't have to worry about how I look when I've controlled it with makeup and hairspray. And since appearance is really all that I've ever worried about—I know I'm intelligent and witty and confident otherwise—I just don't worry once it's done.

And as others have mentioned, and I neglected to mention, it's also a morning routine kind of thing—meaning that going through the shower-makeup-hair routine is kind of a reset button for the psyche. I have the same kinds of trains of thought during this process that some people have when they're in the bathroom—only I get a full hour or so to indulge my powers of insight. I listen to music while I do my makeup, and the two things combine to get me ready to go out and face the world.
posted by limeonaire at 5:45 PM on September 28, 2006

Response by poster: it should never be questioned what a woman does that helps her to feel sexy.

I felt like pointing out that I couldn't disagree more with this statement. I find that interesting, if not downright fascinating and questions that carry the slightest chance of providing such rare insights should (if not must) be asked. judging is another question.

if it weren't for curiosity, I might as well be dead.

thank you, everyone.
posted by krautland at 10:38 PM on September 28, 2006

Mod note: a few comments removed, what I said still stands
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:51 AM on September 29, 2006

Mind you I wore makeup to clubs a few times when I was in my early 20s, kind of a gothic faggot look, and the chicks just dug it. (Gay men usually didn't, that being the mid-1980s when mustached-&-buff was de rigeur.) And I wanted it to be damn obvious I was a male in makeup and that I was not trying to pass as a woman. But there's no way I'd've done it every day, especially in my usual daily life, even if I could guarantee I'd never get fagbashed, because it was just too damn much trouble. It wasn't that i thought it made me look better, just different -- like playing dress-up. (And frankly I'd've gone out in full drag or in a monkey suit if that'd made scoring hot young chicks so easy.)
posted by davy at 4:10 PM on September 29, 2006

-My best friend refuses to wear makeup, even on special occasions, because she thinks that if people see her looking better one day, they will expect her to look that way all the time, and she can't live up to that. I suspect that she makes up for the "psychological pampering aspect" of makeup with her compulsive use of lush face cleansers and perfumes and all the rest of it.
There might be something to this, because the energy she would put into her makeup ritual, she instead puts into her beauty and health regime, and this includes taking good care of her skin & eating lots of fruit & veg. In this way, she avoids the Dorian Gray complex that makeup wearers like myself can tend to build up... i.e., I take less care of my skin from the inside, because I know I can just apply luminizers etc. to make me appear like I am well-rested and hydrated!

-I, on the other hand, do put on makeup--for my own benefits. I do this to a fault, in that I tend to wear makeup when I am going to be at home all day studying in my pyjamas, because the way you look in the mirror can really perk up your mood, or make you feel more tired, depending. Conversely I tend to be quite blase about putting it on for the outside world... Occasionally I will, but most of the time, I don't like to because I start to get a complex about "what if my mascara is smudged?" and "does my foundation look really caked on in the sun?" and stuff like that. I also don't want it to be obvious that I put makeup on, in case it looks bad in a certain light - because makeup applied wrong makes you look worse, and it is a bad reflection on you if you "tried and failed", so to speak. So ultimately I prefer to go au naturale in public.
posted by mjao at 9:15 AM on October 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think it's great fun to make myself up as a tiger, zombie, cardassian, etc. for Halloween, but I just don't see the point of regular makeup. I don't understand needing it to make you feel powerful or attractive. Didn't even wear the stuff at my fairly traditional wedding.
posted by obol at 10:36 AM on October 4, 2006

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