Let’s talk about the “makeup tax”

It’s been around for a very long while, but only recently have we given it a name: The makeup tax. This concept refers to the idea that women feel a direct and indirect pressure to look a certain way on the job — and it’s time we took a hard look at that pressure.

This week, Olga Khazan of The Atlantic took on the topic of “makeup tax,” pointing out in her article such sad-but-true issues as that for some women, “showing up at the office or a bar without at least a swipe of blush and some mascara results in a day spent being asked if we have the flu.” She goes on to point out that there’s no real male equivalent for the phenomenon, saying that the closest analogy would be showing up to an important meeting with a stain on your shirt.

So, why are women who don’t wear makeup in the office effectively punished? Well, there are many reasons — societal, self-inflicted, cultural, the list goes on.

On the societal front, women are constantly bombarded with the idea that they should try their best to look perfect. “Flawless,” if you will. We seldom see celebs without makeup (and it’s always a big to-do when we do) and even the “real female characters” of television and movies (the doctors of Grey’s Anatomy for instance) always look done. Even women portrayed as “natural” in the media are more often than not wearing lip gloss, at the least.

Then there’s the pressure women put on themselves as they internalize the “best face forward, best foot forward” ideal that equates a lack of makeup with a lack of motivation. In fact, the pressure is enough that women are likely to spend as much as two weeks per year applying makeup and $15,000 purchasing beauty products over their lifetime. One 2012 study by Harris Interactive and the Renfrew Center Foundation found that 44% of women feel unattractive without makeup on.

It’s all a bit depressing, we know. But when we discuss the “makeup tax,” we need to realize that solving it doesn’t mean creating a world where no woman ever has to wear makeup again. It’s about creating an environment where we celebrate women for wearing makeup because it really brightens their day as much as we celebrate women who go without.

Women of the latter group, you are not alone! In fact, there’s an entire movement committed to leaving makeup behind. Take the 30DaysNoMakeup initiative, an arm of the growing #NoMakeMovement that, “is not a makeup-bashing, anti-cosmetics movement.” It’s about offering women the freedom to think of makeup as a day-to-day choice — like buying or bringing your lunch — and not as a routine that they are beholden to.

In the end, only one question matters: Does makeup free you or frustrate you? Follow your feelings on that and leave the so-called “makeup tax” and all its pressures in the dust.

Why every day is a #nomakeup day for me

A makeup artist’s fully-rad video response to “makeup-shaming”

[Image via Shutterstock]