I can’t remember the last time I wore makeup.
Months ago, maybe? It was probably a few days before spring break. I may have dusted on some powdered foundation, blush and mascara before heading out to the last in-person class I would attend for some time.
While I’ve never been a huge makeup person, given that I’ve never had the skill or the patience for it, I wear it occasionally, usually when going to class and hanging out somewhere with friends. And in all honesty, I most often wear it when I feel that my skin looks bad, whether that’s due to acne or something else.
However, ever since quarantine began, I haven’t even spared my makeup bag a glance. I’ve been keeping up with a basic routine involving moisturizer and toner, but nothing fancy.
And I’m not the only one. Women in quarantine everywhere are going online to express the sense of freedom they’ve gained since going bare-faced while stuck inside. After the pandemic is over, I think women everywhere should consider dropping the makeup routines altogether.
In an article on Refinery29, five women spoke about how self-isolation has allowed them to feel more confident in their makeup-free appearances.
“During this pandemic, I realized there were more things to worry about than covering my imperfections and learned to embrace them,” Ely Cuberos said in her interview with the website.
Kelsey Stewart, a writer from The Zoe Report, expressed similar attitudes in her article titled “Going Makeup-Free During Quarantine Decreased My Acne — & Increased My Confidence.”
“After years of having anxiety showing my true complexion to the world, quarantine has been a huge wake-up call for me,” Stewart wrote. “I'm aware this might come off as cheesy, but I've come to the realization that I'm just as beautiful without makeup as I am with it — and that goes for everyone.”
This isn’t to say makeup can’t be an expression of artistry. I’ve personally known many women who find the act of applying makeup enjoyable and even relaxing, and people of all genders who enjoy the art of makeup should feel free and comfortable in expressing themselves however they’d like.
However, it’s difficult to deny the disturbing presumptions that underlie the entire concept of a makeup industry. After all, it relies on insecurity in one’s appearance in order to sell products, which is troubling in and of itself. And while it’s true that people of all genders use makeup, the industry has taken a particular interest in targeting women over the years, and according to data compiled at Social Standards, women make up 77% of those who consume cosmetics.
Most makeup advertisements are targeted towards women, with many of these ads containing dangerous messaging. In one L’Oréal advertisement for an anti-aging cream, the company showcases a product meant to help cover up effects of aging on the skin, such as wrinkles. The ad includes quotes such as: “Life is about being bold, brave and beautiful” and “Because we are all worth it.”
Not only is the product designed to “cover up” the inevitable, natural aging process, but the advertisement also posits that beauty is a significant part of life’s meaning. This sort of advertising, along with other ads that present beauty as being deeply important to a woman’s happiness, is dangerous to women’s self-esteem.
Makeup can be an empowering and fun exercise, and there are a number of different reasons to wear it. It can be important to culture and can also be used by people who have suffered from injuries such as burns.
However, the makeup industry’s reliance on the insecurities of women to make a profit is disturbing, and I challenge women everywhere, including myself, to consider how we participate in an industry that reinforces impossible beauty standards.
Molly Hayes (she/her) is a rising junior studying English. She plans to earn a Master of Library Science.