Like many women, I have a somewhat complicated relationship with makeup. Applying cosmetics and experimenting with new products, shades, and styles is an opportunity to express myself creatively, and wearing it makes me feel good about myself. But once I start to peel back the label on the norm, so-to-speak, I remember what a problematic concept makeup is.
At a certain age, women are expected to cover their flaws. We’re taught to wear makeup; just enough, but not too much. Too little and you look tired and lazy – too much and you’re “fake.” Some men complain of “false advertisement” when a woman wears so much makeup that her appearance is significantly altered, but the same men expect women to naturally look like living, breathing, Barbie dolls. Beauty is a multi-billion dollar business in the U.S., and the industry is so lucrative because many of us feel that our beauty is our worth.
In America, and presumably much of the world, women who occupy professional roles are not necessarily required to wear makeup, but it’s certainly expected of them. It’s been proven that women who are more “well-groomed” make more money, and American women will spend an average of $15,000 on makeup in their lifetime. For many, earning more means needing to spend more, and also requires the unpaid labor necessary to apply makeup and style one’s hair. The expensive and time-consuming truth that most professional women in the U.S. need to wear makeup to get ahead is both troubling and has consequences that extend far beyond the superficial.
After finishing grad school this May I’ve spent time traveling and hanging out, because school was exhausting and I needed some time to relax. During this time I decided to wear makeup less often in order to give my skin a break, but also in an effort to learn to love my own face again – imperfections and all. So since I’ve had to start wearing makeup again for job interviews (after a long and wonderful break), I’ve had a difficult time feeling like being “well-groomed” isn’t an unfair waste of my time and resources. Why does my boyfriend get to just brush his teeth and leave for work, while I have to spend 30-60 minutes putting different things on my face to cover blemishes and make sure my hair is neat and tidy? That may not sound like too big of a deal to some, but when you take into account the amount of money those products cost and the fact that over the course of a year that means approximately 7800 – 15,600 minutes spent getting ready (based on a 5 day work week over 52 weeks) that’s pretty damn frustrating.
I’d like to hear from women working in a variety of industries. Do you feel that you’re required to wear makeup? If you don’t wear makeup, do you think it has negatively impacted your career? And if you do wear makeup, what do you think would happen if you went without? Let me know in the comment section below. ❤