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I’m an avid makeup wearer and I will give you some advice on what to say when boys ask why I wear makeup.
While my makeup use tends to be fairly minimal – my go-to makeup look is usually just mascara, eyeliner, and bb cream, with maybe some lipstick if I’m in the mood – I also love seeing the creative and glam looks that other people create with makeup.
At the same time, I am pretty comfortable wearing no makeup for days at a time, and I have no qualms about going out in public makeup-free.
However, every so often, I’ll get a guy who can’t help but ask me – ‘Why do you wear makeup?’
Or even worse, they tell me that they ‘prefer the natural look’.
I think we’ve all seen the jokes online of men commenting on makeup transformations that ‘this is why you take a woman swimming on the first date’ – implying that women who wear makeup are essentially catfishing their dates and creating a false sense of themselves.
But in case anyone is wondering, this article provides some insight into some of the reasons why people choose to wear makeup and what to say when boys ask why I wear makeup.
Confidence And Psychology
One of the main reasons why I choose to wear makeup is confidence.
Many other women point to the significant boost in confidence that they get when they wear makeup, much like how dressing up a little bit can make us feel better about ourselves.
Wearing makeup can also make women more sociable and view themselves in a more attractive light, studies show.
The confidence boost that some women get when they wear makeup isn’t necessarily about covering insecurities, but for many people, it’s more complex than that.
These reported feelings of confidence from makeup aren’t just anecdotal – many researchers have conducted studies that support these claims.
The phenomenon of feeling more confident when using makeup has been dubbed ‘the lipstick effect (*not to be confused with the term of the same name that applies to consumer behavior in economic boom-bust cycles).
Even if this confidence boost might represent a sort of ‘placebo effect’, it is still a powerful tool for women to feel more comfortable in public, romantic, or professional encounters.
It’s important to note that women aren’t necessarily hiding what they look like without makeup – in fact, many makeup wearers or social media MUAs often show before and after photos, demonstrating that many people aren’t trying to hold secrets regarding their beauty transformations.
If you’re going to an event like a party or a wedding, or simply going out for dinner with friends, many women find the ritual of getting dressed up and putting makeup on to be a fun part of that experience.
Overall, there’s a strong body of evidence that many women feel confident or a boost in the mood when they wear makeup, and it’s unfair to shame someone for that.
Part Of a Routine
Another psychological element of wearing makeup is the importance of routine.
Starting your day with a simple and straightforward routine is part of getting in the mood to face the world – shower, brush teeth, get dressed, and put on makeup.
Of course, the ‘makeup routine’ varies immensely for everyone – some people are used to wearing a full face of makeup with foundation and a smoky eye, while others just wear a more ‘minimalist’ look for their daily routine.
The COVID pandemic and the switch towards working from home for many people has brought more attention to the fact that putting makeup on is an important part of keeping a routine.
As Time contributor Leah Chernikoff aptly noted, wearing makeup during quarantine shows that it’s not so much about vanity anymore, but it gives people a sense of control over something during a period where everything else feels to be out of our control.
Continuing to put on makeup as if you’re going to work (even if you’re not on Zoom!) can help create a sense of normalcy and keep you in a bit of a routine during uncertain times.
Even if nobody sees you, wearing makeup can make you feel more ready to tackle the day, give you some motivation, and as mentioned above boost your confidence.
This demonstrates that wearing makeup is much more complex than attractiveness, narcissism, or trying to look good for someone else – makeup use has been found to be an important element of our psychology.
Art, Self-Expression, And Fun
The ever-growing online beauty community is a great example of the ways that makeup is a fantastic way for creative people to express themselves.
While wearing makeup for many people is limited to some eyeliner and a bit of lipstick, there is a huge community of artistic individuals who use makeup to create incredible looks.
The explosion of beauty influencers on social media has led to a growing number of talented and artistic individuals who use their face as a canvas and create art with makeup.
Makeup is being used in the artistic social media scene from creating glam looks to colorful artistic expression, to full-blown body art illusions.
This expressiveness and dynamicity in the makeup world is representative of the broad range of ways that people can use makeup and have fun.
While social norms are certainly powerful, the variety and creativity in the beauty community is representative of how people are being encouraged to express themselves and enjoy using makeup as a way to do this.
Many colorful eyeshadow palettes or unique lipstick colors have become increasingly popular over the last few years, demonstrating the ways that artistic beauty influencers have given people confidence and interest in having fun with color in makeup.
While neutrals and some basic makeup strategies will never go out of style, the popularity of colorful makeup trends reflects the growing interest in using makeup as a mechanism for artistic expression and fun.
FYI – Boys Can Wear Makeup Too
Self-expression, confidence, and artistic creativity aren’t gender-specific.
Men wearing makeup is becoming more mainstream in recent years.
While there is certainly still a lot of stigma surrounding the idea of men wearing makeup, the growing male beauty industry and many trendsetting individuals are breaking down gender barriers and showing men that it’s okay to use makeup if they wish to do so.
For example, high profile makeup companies have started using men in their advertisements and marketing campaigns, demonstrating the start of a cultural shift towards normalizing guys wearing makeup.
Some notable examples of male makeup wearers include K-Pop stars, YouTube, and Instagram influencers like James Charles, Bretman Rock, and Manny MUA, as well as some of the original trendsetters in the 1970s and 1980s like Prince and David Bowie.
While many popular examples of men wearing makeup include members of the LBGTQ+ community or people who identify as non-binary, heterosexual men and the open use of makeup products is not quite as common – although this is also becoming increasingly normalized.
Mainstream men’s magazines like GQ, Men’s Health, and Esquire have all published articles related to promoting male grooming and makeup products, highlighting the increasing normalization of the male beauty industry.
Further, many male-specific beauty products are marketed to men – such as a plethora of skincare products, concealer, and bronzer.
Essentially, these developments challenge the notion that it’s only the most artistic or flamboyant men who wear makeup.
Whether a guy wants to wear a bit of concealer to hide dark circles under his eyes, a little mascara for fun, or if he wants to wear a full face of makeup to express himself creatively and feel confident.
A quick look at various media sources (social media, mainstream magazines, etc) demonstrates that it’s becoming increasingly common for men to use makeup.
The growth of a men’s skincare and beauty industry challenges the notion that women wear makeup for men, as it isn’t just women wearing makeup anymore.
Societal Expectations: Social Media, Marketing, And Peer Pressure
Now that we’ve covered some of the positive reasons for wearing makeup, it’s time to address the elephant in the room – societal expectations.
Of course, not all women use makeup as a result of societal expectations.
Many women dispute the notion that they’re ‘dressing up for someone’, and steadfastly argue that they wear makeup for their reasons – which is great!
However, it would be disingenuous and a bit naïve to assume that there are no pressures for women to use makeup in an attempt to look more attractive and conform to societal norms of beauty.
Social Media Stars And Beauty Trends
Popular online personalities that are involved in the beauty industry can influence their audiences (many of which include young women) to feel that it’s necessary to spend money on eyeshadow palettes and the newest lipstick shade to keep up with some of the most popular beauty trends.
These trends are socially constructed and then popularized by internet personalities who have huge audiences, and they can significantly affect what we consider to be attractive or beautiful.
One notable example of a makeup trend gone wild through social media is the popularity of contouring, which was made increasingly mainstream by Kim Kardashian in the 2010s.
The social construction of beauty trends is indicated by the fact that these trends are constantly in flux – whether it is the shape of eyebrows, the size of our lips, or the amount of shiny highlighter on our cheekbones.
Social Media And Our Perception Of Other ‘Normal’ People
It’s important to point out that it’s not just celebrities or social media influencers with massive follower counts that create pressure on others to follow trends.
Even just following your own friends’ social media profiles can affect an individual’s self-esteem and create a sense that everyone online always looks attractive, and makeup is a large part of how people present themselves.
Some studies show how makeup is an integral element of creating a façade on social media of effortless beauty, and it’s not only celebrities that try to project an image of perfection online.
Essentially, the use of makeup can help gain positive attention regarding someone’s attractiveness and can facilitate issues with self-esteem.
Part of the problem is also that certain communities are still grossly underrepresented in the beauty industry, as many products are created for certain groups of people (i.e.
white or light-skinned women).
While others (i.e.
women of color) have historically had a much harder time finding makeup products that are appropriate for their skin tone – even though people of color are certainly part of the makeup market, too.
This is certainly changing, as many vocal beauty influencers have been pushing makeup brands to expand their product options and some brands like Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty have changed the standard for color representation.
However, a continued lack of available products still creates a sense of ‘otherness’ and can isolate people who feel like they can’t make fit in with some of the popular beauty trends.
What Is ‘Natural’, Anyway?
I mentioned at the beginning of the article how boys will often comment that they prefer women without makeup and ‘the natural look’ – but what do they think natural looks like?
Interestingly, it seems that men often think women aren’t wearing makeup when they are using subtle products and makeup techniques.
As a result, the notion of what a ‘natural’ woman looks like has been immensely skewed by effective and delicate uses of makeup products to brighten the skin, hide bags under the eyes, and cover redness.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with creating a natural-esque makeup look, but the fact that many people are not able to understand that it isn’t truly representative of the way women look can create unrealistic expectations for ‘natural’ beauty.
As a response to the increasing pressure to fit beauty standards on social media, some movements have popped up that challenge the ‘fakeness’ of social media presence and promote natural beauty.
For example, there are trends such as makeup-free selfies with captions emphasizing the importance of loving and accepting your authentic self – even though some of these pictures are still subtly edited and the posters are still actually using beauty products.
While I’ve already mentioned how the psychological elements of wearing makeup can include feeling confident and enjoying a routine, there are some negative psychological dynamics – such as persuasion and peer pressure – that drive some people to feel that it’s necessary to wear makeup.
Although there are many positive reasons why we might choose to wear makeup (several of which this article has already outlined), it’s important to note that the powerful forces of societal expectations can create pressure on some people – particularly women and girls in the context of makeup, to alter their appearance and fit a certain beauty standard.
Work And Professionalism
Some women are heavily pressured to wear makeup to work, and the social norms of the workplace also dictate the style of the makeup considered professional (neutral colors, semi-natural looking – that sort of thing).
For example, the airline industry is well known for its beauty standards and makeup expectations of its flight attendants.
Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways even have a specific color palette that they require their flight attendants to use when applying makeup, to ensure that their makeup matches their uniforms and that they look professional.
Even if someone doesn’t necessarily want to wear makeup to work, there are pressures from managers and societal norms alike to come to work looking put together and dressed up.
Some women have reported their experiences in the retail and restaurant industries, where managers pressured them to feel that they have to wear makeup while on the job through the use of ‘vague and passive-aggressive’ comments.
There is also research that shows a woman must wear makeup to job interviews to be taken seriously for a position.
In addition to professionalism, some studies indicate that a woman wearing makeup can be perceived to be more likable, competent, and even trustworthy.
Even if someone wants to challenge the norms of the workplace and go makeup-free, these are some of the work environments where that type of behavior is frowned upon.
Essentially, it’s not just social norms of wanting to look beautiful that pressure women to wear makeup – many work environments expect women to look a certain way.
It’s For Me
Bottom line – I wear makeup for me and not for anyone else.
Whether it’s because putting on makeup gives me a confidence boost, because it makes me feel more professional at work, or just because I have fun doing it, it’s my choice.
I am not always up-to-date on most of the beauty trends on social media, and a lot of the makeup advertisements or marketing campaigns are white noise to me.
However, I respect and admire the creative and artistic expression in the growing beauty community, even if producing colorful makeup looks or full glam makeovers aren’t things that I want to do.
Further, in my personal experience, I haven’t been expected or pressured to wear makeup at work based on the nature of some of my jobs (it’s hard to make someone wear makeup when they work from home!)
As a result, my makeup use is for me and it’s something that is often part of my daily routine and general confidence.
Of course, it’s important to note that everyone’s experiences are different – and I definitely can’t be certain that the influence of socialization and broader norms haven’t affected my perception of makeup use.
There are many pressures – from peers, from social media, from advertisements, from broader social norms – to fit a certain beauty standard, and it can affect women to consciously or (perhaps more importantly) subconsciously feel that it’s necessary to wear makeup.
While there is a valid argument that mainstream beauty standards and societal expectations put immense pressure on people to look a certain way, and that makeup is one of the mechanisms through which people can try to reach these standards, that doesn’t mean that everyone is wearing makeup as a result of these pressures.
In many ways, though, wearing makeup doesn’t necessarily need to be a loaded and complex decision that demonstrates everything from pride, to insecurity, to confidence, or anything more convoluted than just wearing makeup.
Wearing (or not wearing) makeup shouldn’t be a statement!
It’s unfair to judge someone for wearing makeup, just like how it’s inappropriate to judge someone for not wearing makeup.
Some may wear makeup because they find it fun and it gives them the confidence to paint a full glam makeover, others may only wear makeup because it’s the expectation when they go outside or to work, and others may never wear makeup and have no interest in doing so.
So on the question of what to say when boys ask why I wear makeup – be honest!
It’s important to have these multifaceted conversations about our personal choices, our confidence, or the pressures we feel as women in society.
If you have anything you’d like to add to this discussion or want to give us your answer to what you would say if someone asked you why you wear makeup, let us know in the comments below.