Makeup is a complicated cultural phenomenon: a safety blanket, a mask, the gauze on a wound, a watercolor painting- it is all of these things.
When I was on my silent retreat, I went 12 days without a bit of makeup. I will be honest: this was probably the first time that has ever happened in my adult life- besides the last two weeks which have been makeup free for me (more about that later).
One thing that both horrified and fascinated me was the fact that I never got used to my own face while I was there. It just didn’t look like me (or at least not a version I liked). Of course, besides the occasional glance in the mirror, this was not a major topic on my mind; Most of my thinking was consumed by avoiding the part of my body that felt like it was on fire for the last twenty minutes as I tried not to move.
Even before my retreat, however, I had become somewhat intrigued by the inordinate role that makeup played in my daily life. I am not obsessive. I usually put on four products (mascara, eyeshadow, concealer and blush), and I don’t wear a lot of it. My routine is usually once a day. It takes about five to ten minutes.
However, I rarely leave home without at least concealer and a little blush. If I did it would feel very strange, and in general, I am very uncomfortable with certain features of my face, namely my uneven complexion and the dark rings around my eyes (hence the concealer and blush).
As a person who tries to be mindful of my thinking and habits, I had to wonder: why does this mean so much to me? Is beauty that important? What would happen if I didn’t wear it?
I have been thinking about beauty standards lately (see the post Why You’re So Pretty Sucks: Being Mindful of Dangerous Beauty Standards) and wondering: what unacknowledged forces are at work here, and how do they affect people- myself included?
In response to my questions, I decided to post a survey online to my Twitter and Facebook feed about women’s personal makeup routines (or lack thereof) and their feelings on why they use it (if they do). There were nineteen survey respondents, a fairly small sample size. I did, however, have a range of feelings and experiences represented, which I felt was helpful for exploring different angles on the topic. I was also able to see some patterns and some differences that were interesting.