Makeup, the Villain or the Superhero?

People have many different reasons for wearing makeup, and sometimes those reasons change as they get older. Sometimes they even choose to stop wearing makeup. But, is makeup a crutch or an artistic expression?


Christopher Appleton

Many women change the way they appear using makeup. The results may come out beautiful, but sometimes there’s a price to pay. One great cost could be healthy, un-aged skin.

 “When I was younger, I started to wear makeup because I was self-conscious of my appearance,” said Brianna Stewart, student at Round Lake High School. “I thought I was ugly in middle school, so I began to wear it to hide how I looked. Not only that, but an addiction to it began to form. I couldn’t take a step out of my house without something covering my blemishes and freckles. I was only 12 when I started digging through my mom’s makeup bag to find something to use. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup yet, so before I spoke to my parents, I would run to the bathroom at my house to wash the makeup off so they didn’t yell at me.” Now Stewart doesn’t even wear makeup anymore. The most she applies every once in a while is a light coat of mascara and some eyebrow coloring. She has learned not to use makeup as a crutch anymore, and to express herself and her imperfections. “Not everyone is perfect, and now I understand that,” Stewart said.

This anonymous student’s experience is not that unusual. In 2012, a study by the Harris Poll, conducted for the Renfrew Center Foundation, which researches eating disorders, showed that 44 percent of women feel unattractive without any makeup. And even though it’s been nearly five years since the study was conducted, it doesn’t seem like a lot of women and girls are becoming more comfortable in their own skin the way the anonymous RLHS student eventually became. In fact, with YouTube makeup artists going viral and the existence of “clown contouring,” makeup application is definitely commonplace and celebrated. And now, even men are bending toward the trend. From Jeffree Star, makeup artist and fashion designer, to Johnny Depp, an American actor, many men are wearing makeup to alter their appearances, just like women. Now only that, but Mac and Maybelline, million-dollar makeup companies, are hiring male makeup models, shaping the modern makeup industry.

It’s no secret why makeup is so popular. It’s a wonderful thing to feel confident and secure in your own skin. But what if you can’t possibly feel confident and secure without it? What if you are one of those 44 percent who must put on a full face just to go out and run an errand for your mom?  Many women, including high school students, battle with their appearances, and make up addiction is real. In addition to struggling to go bare faced, wearing makeup can cause acne, clogged pores, and skin damage, leading to premature aging. Is makeup as harmless as it seems? Or should more women feel empowered and embrace the many make-up free movements spreading across the country?

Makeup is Art

RLHS Sophomore Ashley Kamin sees makeup application as an art. “I feel that makeup is both good and bad because it helps people feel more confident, but it hides what’s real,” said Kamin. “I wear makeup because I personally enjoy applying it. It’s art.” She started painting her face when she was in sixth grade because it made her feel older and more mature. “Now I wear it because I like it,” she said. She also stated that she could go without it because she doesn’t need it and it takes up significant time to apply it and to wash it off. Kaitlyn Elizabeth, another sophomore at RLHS wears makeup daily and, much like Kamin, feels that makeup is a form of expression and creativity. “I wear makeup because it’s fun to put on and it’s relaxing,” said Elizabeth. “It’s like my own form of therapy.” She said that she began to wear it because she saw video tutorials online and it seemed fun, not to mention her mother wore makeup too, which she says probably influenced her to wear it. “I wouldn’t ever consider never wearing makeup again because it’s fun to do; it’s like my hobby. If I learned new negative effects of makeup, I wouldn’t discontinue using it because it’s my outlet, but I’d definitely find a way to work around them,” Elizabeth said. Elizabeth knows that there are negative effects of wearing makeup, but only without proper precautions and care taking of the skin. She also knows that sleeping with it on can cause acne, which she learned at age 13, so she washes the makeup off her face every night and uses other products to take care of her skin.

Professional makeup artist Molly Krause has owned a bridal beauty salon called Simply Perfect Makeup and has been doing makeup professionally for seven years. “I am excited that the new trend in makeup is towards self-expression as opposed to ‘fixing’ what is wrong,” Krause said. “I’m also very excited about the resurgence of men using makeup. There is a long historical record of men using makeup, and I’m looking forward to watching the trend evolve.” She feels like makeup is a powerful thing for many people because it can be used to hide, to enhance, or to express.

 Krause noted makeup can cause harm if people do not keep its limitations in mind and do not exercise proper hygiene. “Makeup can cover color issues, but not texture issues,” she said. And, sometimes, makeup can create a vicious cycle. Leaving makeup on at night can cause premature wrinkles, and no makeup can cover wrinkled skin.

“Not taking off your makeup every night can lead to many skin issues, including clogged pores and blemishes,” Krause said. “I always encourage all my clients to remove everything thoroughly, and never sleep in their makeup. Regular exfoliating and skin treatments help keep your skin happy and ready for whatever makeup you want to wear.”

 A Vicious Cycle

 While some people like Kamin and Elizabeth wear makeup as a means of artistic expression, there are many who wear makeup to cover up skin imperfections. The irony of this is that makeup can often make skin worse. Certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon, Dr. Dennis Gross of New York is the creator of the Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, an award-winning company that sells things from cruelty-free skin moisturizers to vegan face masks. Like makeup artist Krause, he says it’s possible to cover up imperfections without making them worse if people practice proper hygiene.

“One of the biggest mistakes women make is going to sleep with their makeup on,” Gross said during an interview with Debbie Vason, author from “LovetoKnow, Beauty and Fashion,” in “Dr. Dennis Gross, Dermatologist.” “Doing so can block pores, leaving oil trapped inside.” Leaving oil trapped in the skin will cause bacteria to build up, leading to the skin to break out in pimples. “If you don’t remove makeup before bed, it could clog pores and oil glands. When the makeup becomes impacted in pores, it can make them appear larger which is a part of aging.” Once collagen(the things that makes skin stretchy) levels decline, the pore can’t snap back as easily when it was enlarged. “It is best to break this habit sooner rather than later,” Gross said.

Additionally, leaving makeup on the face could lead to inflammation, which can cause the good things in the skin to break down, so the skin loses its elasticity. “If your skin is maintained properly, its natural healing powers will be maximized, and it will stay in better condition for a longer period of time,” Gross said.

Many people feel that if they choose makeup with natural minerals, they won’t have as many struggles with their skin breaking out. But don’t let the ‘natural’ part fool you because there are many minerals that are bad for the skin. Not all minerals are skin-friendly. Copper-peptides are a new form of anti-aging ingredients that build collagen and are in lots of cosmetic products. However, copper alone or unbound is one of the worst minerals for the skin. Copper, like iron, can generate free radicals, which break down the collagen in the skin, and create wrinkles when left unbound. It can be harmful if not used in the proper form. Minerals can be helpful only if they are used properly, but the users must understand the complexity of chemistry and that minerals can cause problems if they aren’t bound.

The Psychology of Makeup

Not only does makeup alter the appearances of people, but it can also change the way people think. Makeup can make people proud of their appearances and make them feel more confident in themselves, but what happens when the makeup is washed off? Will their pride and confidence also be washed away and reapplied the following morning? According to that previously-mentioned study from the Renfrew Center Foundation,  16 percent of women who refused to leave their houses without makeup did so because they felt unattractive, 14 percent of them were self-conscious, and 14 percent of them felt as if they were naked or like they were missing something. Only 3 percent of the women surveyed felt prettier without the makeup. Self-consciousness can lead to the loss of confidence and many other things like anxiety, stress, depression, and many other disorders tied to depression.

But it gets even trickier. According to a February article on Teen Vogue’s online magazine, several teens use makeup application as a way to overcome their diagnoses with depression and anxiety. Journalist Gray Chapman writes, “As it turns out beauty routines can bestow some pretty powerful cognitive benefits on the brain—especially if you commonly catch yourself stuck in negative thought patterns, like over analyzing situations, blaming yourself for things beyond your control, or generally feeling pessimistic.” Gray interviewed psychotherapist Mike Dow, PsyD, author of Healing the Broken Brain, who said that many cognitive behavioral therapy patients are taught to do something either productive or enjoyable when they find themselves getting stuck in negative thought processes.           

All in all, makeup can play a huge part in a person’s life, from making them feel better to making them feel worse. It can ‘beautify’ a person, or it can age their skin. Just remember to avoid premature aging and acne, wash your face often(and moisturize! Eek!) and don’t ever sleep in a full face, or even just a little mascara. You should also pay attention to the ingredients in makeup and make sure to research those ingredients because advertisements and titles can lie.

If you are curious about trying to embrace a more natural face, you can always look into various movements springing up across the country. Beauty consultant and author of The Recipe for Radiance and The Radiant Bride, Alexis Wolfer has started Makeup Free Monday, where she encourages women to start out the week comfortable in their own skin and completely makeup free. Fresh Face Forward is a year-long campaign that leads up to National No Makeup Day that encourages everyone to go without makeup April 25(so mark it in your calendar for next year!) in order to fight unfair beauty standards perpetuated by the media. There are also several Instagram accounts dedicated to showing side-by-side images of people in make and without makeup, again proving that it’s okay either way. And, with some proper skin care, it totally is.