This is a relatively new development for me. For years, I pretty much only wore makeup for special occasions. I didn’t have anything against it — in fact, I usually thought I looked better with it than without it — but I either didn’t think about it, or I couldn’t be bothered. But in the last couple of years, since fashion and style have become more important to me and since I’ve started being more conscious about using my appearance to express myself, I’ve started wearing makeup every day. I don’t spend huge amounts of time slathering it on or anything: I’ve found my own “five-minute face” routine (a two-minute face, really, consisting entirely of tinted lip balm and eyeliner blended into a bit of shadow). But unless the kitchen is on fire or something, I pretty much never leave the house without makeup.
Again: This is relatively new for me. When I’m doing my two-minute face, I often have little conversations with myself about why this is. And the conclusion I’ve come to is that I just don’t feel like myself without my makeup.
But I realize that this is a little odd. There’s something odd in feeling less like myself when my face has no alterations, and more like myself when I’ve put goo on my eyes and lips. (Especially since, for decades, I felt like myself just fine without the stuff.) So I’ve been thinking about this question: Why do I feel more like myself with makeup?
A lot of it, honestly, is a self-defining circle. Part of who I am these days is someone who cares about fashion and style. Fashion and style are pretty much my main hobbies right now, one of my main forms of art and self-expression. And for women, makeup is a big part of a stylish, put-together look. (The kinds of looks I’m interested in, anyway.) If I have a carefully thought-out look, with clothes and shoes and jewelry, it just doesn’t look finished without makeup. So I feel more like myself with makeup, because I feel more like a person who cares about fashion and style — and caring about fashion and style typically means wearing makeup.
There’s another part to it, though.
I like my lips, but their color is fairly neutral, and it’s very close to the color of my skin. I like my eyes, I think they’re beautiful, but they’re a little small, and the lashes are a little thin. Without some color on my lips, my face looks a little colorless. Without a little emphasis from eyeliner and shadow, my eyes tend to disappear into my face.
And I don’t think of myself as a colorless person. I don’t think of myself as someone whose eyes are hard to catch.
So makeup makes me feel more like myself. Makeup makes me feel like someone who’s colorful. Makeup makes me feel like someone who wants to make eye contact. Makeup makes me feel like someone who’s happy to be seen.
For me, makeup isn’t about covering myself up. It’s about bringing myself out.
I think it’s a mistake to think that “unconscious” or “unintentional” necessarily means “authentic.” Human beings are conscious creatures: it’s part of our nature to reflect, to be self-aware, to think about what we do. I choose my words carefully, so I can most authentically say what I mean. I choose my clothing carefully, so my appearance most authentically reflects how I feel about myself and my place in the world. I choose my actions carefully, so I can be my most authentic self.
And for me, makeup is part of that.