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.