Make-Up: Beauty Essential or Social Norm?

The other day, I was looking in the mirror (Husband thinks I’m vain. He’s probably right) and assessing my facial features. I’d just taken my make-up off using one of those cloths that are pre-impregnated with cleanser and I was a little bit shocked by the amount of product that was left on the cloth after. I don’t think I wear a huge amount, in comparison to a lot of other women I see, and on lazy days I forego it altogether. Not because I’m so flawless that I can go without, simply because I often can’t be bothered.

It got me to thinking about what make-up actually does. I wear foundation to even my skin-tone, mascara to enhance my eyes and a bit of bronzer on my cheeks for colour and definition. If I’m on a rare night out, I’ll go a bit heavier on the eyes with some eye shadow and eye liner, but still nothing too drastic. But the destination for my ever-roaming train of thought was this:

Does make-up genuinely enhance our features or is it just social programming that makes us think that it does?

Why do I think that my eyelashes look better with black paint on them? Why do we believe that an even skin tone is better than a natural one? Why are shiny lips so coveted?

So, I thought I’d do a comparison:

make up comparison

I definitely look more tired in the photo without glasses and make up and possibly slightly older. The make up in the photos is fairly subtle and to be fair, both were taken on days when my rosacea was very mild, so on a bad day the foundation does a lot to cover that up, although I’m still in search of the perfect product to help me in that area. I’ve been swimming today and this is what my cheeks look like after a session in the pool:

I suppose what I’m trying to get at is this: I don’t know if make-up really makes me look better or if my idea of ‘better’ is just a socially accepted norm of women sporting painted faces.

We don’t expect men to wear make up and they aren’t considered less beautiful if their eyes and cheeks aren’t defined with cosmetics (although I did recently have a rather candid conversation with my Husband about how I don’t find Jason Momoa in the least bit attractive, but I think he’s a lot better looking in costume as Khal Drogo, who wears eyeliner!).

Historically speaking, make-up was a sign of wealth and status in many cultures; women and men painted their faces white to signify that they didn’t do manual labour or work on the land and therefore weren’t coloured by the sun, and the trend obviously continued in a watered-down fashion, which is my point about social programming. Female faces now look naked to us when not made-up.

So, what do you think? Better with or without? I challenge you to post a with and without photo of your own and try to make a measured decision about whether make up makes you look better and why. I’d be genuinely interested to hear everyone’s thoughts and if you’re male I’d be especially interested to hear what you think on this topic.

25 thoughts on “Make-Up: Beauty Essential or Social Norm?

  1. Considering that your skin has too little sebum over night, it becomes more prone to dryness, itching, and irritation. To address this problem, you need to effectively moisturize your skin at night using night creams or masks that contain hydrating ingredients like aloe vera, mushrooms, or hyaluronic acid.

  2. The with picture – but not because of the make up! I just prefer your hair down, the face is lovely either way! I posted a without picture a while a go, I don’t really do make up at all. Did in my youth – a lot (old goth you see!) but these days – I just can’t be arsed to be fair!

  3. I have some basic makeup but rarely wear it. I wear it for nights out, but only because I feel I should, I don’t really think it suits me. I think you look good either way, so if I was you I wouldn’t bother, saves time and money 😉

  4. I’m actually not that good at putting make up on so I rarely wear much but I always have foundation on when I leave the house. My ten year old has recently discovered make up and she has more than Boots make up counter has already – she watches Youtube videos on how to put it on and practices all the time – no that shes allowed to wear it outside the house bless her!

  5. Better with. Not that you’re not lovely without, it’s just a different look. A friend once told me I have a face that suits make-up, it enhances what I have. She didn’t mean it badly. She was being objective, and said that make-up didn’t suit her face. She was totally right. I think most blondes with fair skin look better with make-up, something about defining the features. I know I tend to look washed out without it, and my eyes just seem to disappear. That said, I don’t wear any most days at home, as I hate the 3 day sludge of mascara that never seems to shift. Also I wear bold glasses, which I think means I can get away without eye make-up on an average day. If I’m wearing lenses though, definitely full-on eye make-up otherwise I feel naked!

  6. I’ve found this post & comments really interesting. I hardly ever wear make up, i never have all that much & i’m not at all worried about it. It is a very cultural thing isn’t it. I have never known my mum wear makeup either. I def don’t feel like as women we need to ‘make an effort’, except if you are talking about job interviews or a highly customer facing job & even then. I feel i look attractive without any make up and my confidence depends more on my mood. I can be very confident without make up. If i wear it, i wear a little cover up or foundation under my eyes and on my nose which is a bit blackheady, and i wear benetint (liquid lip & cheek tint) on my cheeks. I occasionally put brown mascara on my eyelashes although i don’t really like eye makeup as i feel i am too pale for it, & as not used to it i usually smudge it everywhere. I think i look nice with pink cheeks: hence the benetint, but this can be acheived by alcohol or running about 🙂 i associate makeup with getting dressed up for special occasions & fancy dress & think that in these cases put as much on as you like, men as well as women. On tv men wear loads of makeup….

  7. I’ve been thinking about this very thing lately! I wear make up on most days, it only takes me a minute to apply the basics, foundation, mascara, eye liner. My hair doesn’t require much time – I have a wash and wear style. But I agree that make up is tedious. When I don’t wear make up though, I often get asked if I’m tired. TBH, I am often tired but with make up, at least I don’t get asked if I am.

  8. I used to take HOURS to get ready to go anywhere, even just to go to work. Now I take every day as it comes, I’d love to be able to make a proper effort but it just doesn’t happen usually. I’m lucky to curl my lashes and swish a bit of eyeliner on. When I go out completely barefaced I HAVE to wear my glasses as disguise 😉 I may join in if I’m feeling brave!

  9. I have to admit wear it even if I pop to the local shop – but then I am the woman who won’t go to a blogging event with out my glasses – that have clear glass in – my safety blanket! There’s probs some deep insecurity shizzle going on with me!

  10. I rarely wear it too as when I do wear it makes me feel like I’ve made an effort.I do think make-up is marketed to make you feel better against other women rather than to attract, male or female.There was a bloggers challenge a few years ago to post a photo of yourself ‘au natural’.I don’t think it’s essential to be honest but I do like to indulge as it feels part of the routine of going out.

  11. I mostly just wear eyeliner, maybe a little eyeshadow on a night out! But I cannot go out without my black eyeliner, once a goth, always a goth….

  12. I think you are possibly asking the wrong girl – I don’t wear make-up much – at all, in fact, I am not even sure I know how to apply things like blusher and mascara. I only own two lipsticks as well…I do think that some women probably feel that they aren’t fully dressed without it on, but I am not on of them. Otherwise, I have spent my whole adult life permanently naked. Ooh – what a horrible thought…

  13. I wouldn’t leave the house without it – but only really do my eyes. I have found people treat me differently without it and I definitely would be less confident – not that I’m truly confident with it! I think you’re right on both counts – that we look better and society expects it and, honestly, I think you look happier wearing it. Bearing in mind you live in Essex, where it’s virtually the law to be made up to the nines, you seem to have struck a lovely balance!

  14. I definitely look better with, without I look shocking. I have really teenage skin (read: oily & spotty) that needs covering up. On a normal day I just wear concealer & foundation but I really enjoy the act of putting on eye make-up and lipstick too.

  15. I very rarely wear make-up, purely because I don’t go anywhere to wear it! If I’m just around the house with the children, or popping into town, I don’t really see much point. I do think I look better with it and I used to wear it a lot when I was younger. Right now however, people can see me as they find me.

  16. I only wear make up when I am going out somewhere a bit special, every other time people get to look at my bad complexion & dark circles. I have eczema so wearing it every day is not an option for me, plus it is such a hassle

  17. I can go days without make-up, because I fairly don’t have the time to stand in front of the mirror while stopping Amy from painting the walls, but I do always wear make up when I go out. Not to the local shops or the bin, but if I meet up with friends or see someone for business. I still don’t do the whole shebang though. For me it’s some foundation and mascara, maybe some blusher, but everything else just overwhelms me. I do love watching make-up videos on YouTube, because I like the creative side of it, but I’m useless at applying it and find myself looking like I’ve got war paint on, if I try something new.

  18. It’s personal isn’t it, I think I look 100% better with make up, my friends comment that I look ill without because I am so pale skinned. Although I don’t wear a lot, usually foundation, mascara and eyeliner for general day to day.

  19. I wear make-up every day – foundation, mascara, eyeliner. I feel it makes me look better which gives me more confidence. It’s also my mask – I feel too exposed and vulnerable without it.

  20. I only wear mascara and lippy these days and I am finding that as I get older bright lipsticks make me look older. I feel better with make up on but I don;t think I look better if that makes sense x

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