The Magic of Makeup

Most women start our days the same way: by unleashing our creative, idealistic sides of our personalities and creating that picture perfect mask that portrays how we want the world to see us.

Ah, makeup. The answer to every woman’s prayer that she could have a thicker lash line, or plumper lips, or lighter under-eye circles. We often complain about it — “Oh god, I HATE putting eyeliner on! I can never get both sides even!” — but let’s face it, at the end of the day, there’s no hesitation about whether or not we want to wear it because underneath all of the frustration lies a bumped up self-image.

We start our process with the drastic stuff — foundation, or tinted moisturizer or BB cream. Something to conceal all of the little red bumps, or rosacea, or blackheads which tend to creep up at the most inconvenient of times. Perhaps you have a big presentation at work, or your friend Steph is setting you up with her gorgeous friend, John. Whatever the occasion, you can be sure that your skin will retaliate, attempting to eliminate any chance you have of impressing anyone. Until that wonderful first layer of makeup is applied.

After the base layer comes the concealer. Ah, the miracle of concealer, whiting out any flaws which the BB cream might have missed. Under-eye circles? I don’t think so! A particularly red zit smack-dab in the middle of your chin? Not a chance. No blemish stands a chance against this magic stick of wonder, and after it is applied, you suddenly feel fresh, young, and beautiful. Magic, I tell you, magic.

After this you may decide to focus on your eyes. You get out that nice cream shadow that you got at Ulta and dab your finger in it, glazing just the lid of your eye — too much more and it’ll look like you’re planning on working for some dollar bills after your meeting/date.

Now, you haven’t been washing your face before bed the past couple of nights, and you see now that your mascara has retaliated by thinning out your lashes a bit. Well, it’s troublesome, but nothing that a nice liquid liner can’t cure. You pull on the corner of your eye to make your top lid into one, easy, solid line and go to town.

Let’s not forget the mascara. Your eyelashes are an inconveniently light color — the ends are practically invisible if you don’t coat them in something dark. And who wants to spend time with a short-lashed freak? Not you, that’s for sure. You pull out your magic wand and sweep out from the roots, feeling that you may actually have a shot at blending into society as a moderately-pretty girl, now.

Now you stand back and look at yourself in the mirror. You look much better, but you realize that you’ve forgotten the blush — you look like death without blush. You pick out that lightest shade of pink, grab your brush and sweep just the faintest hint of rose across your cheeks. Wow, so much better.

As you examine yourself, you feel proud at the makeup artist you have become over the course of your life. If someone took a before and after photo, they would think makeup-less you was a corpse in comparison. You notice that zit still shows through, that your under-eye circles haven’t completely vanished, and that your eyeliner is applied a little too thinly, but oh well. You can only do so much, right? So off you go into the world, having turned nothing into something, wearing a mask you can be somewhat proud of.

All that work, all that careful consideration and application, and still at the end of the day, it isn’t enough to make us truly happy with our appearances. Why? Women do tend to develop some kind of OCD about makeup — a desperate need to know exactly, EXACTLY how their faces look during every second of every day.

I have a theory that we are so obsessed with those little details that most people won’t even notice because we think that it’s those little details that will make the difference between getting that big promotion or spending another two years in that cubicle, between finding love on that first date or realizing you don’t really have much in common. We think that the gold glitter eye shadow that captures the golden flecks in our eyes will make that man fall in love with us. But can those golden flecks really be the difference between a dud and a dream? Surely our boss won’t think less of us if we have a zit on our forehead. Zits go away, our dedicated work ethic doesn’t.

Of course appearance matters — people judge other people on the way they decide to present themselves to society — but striving for absolutely perfection, never being satisfied with the way that we look, never thinking we are good enough…well that seems like a bad way to approach life.

So I have a challenge for you. Go out sometime without makeup. It doesn’t even have to be without it entirely, but maybe skip the eye shadow and liner. Don’t worry about the blush. Maybe be daring and only apply your concealer one day. It’s difficult to do at first, but after you’ve gotten used to accepting that it’s you that matters, not your makeup, you might realize that there are better things to focus on before a presentation or a date. You might start to accept that perfection is ridiculous, and there are different types of perfection. That people will respect you more for your self-confidence than for your flawless makeup application. Some of you may already do this every day, and if you do, I applaud you. You are truly an inspiring woman. But to those of you who know what I mean, who find themselves obsessed with those little details, just give it a shot. You never know what could happen.

Kate Bowden is an idealistic pessimist with her own way of doing things.  She does NOT like long walks on the beach, and much prefers playing Trivial Pursuit with her best friend to any party out there.  At a loss for what to major in, she is a college student who has dreams of being a writer, or an actress, or a musician, or a dancer and is filled with dread at the idea of having a get a practical degree.  She lives inside books and the television, and never fails to catch a pop culture reference.  For more by Kate, visit her blog.

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