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The "power" of makeup is a double-edged sword

Oct. 18, 2017
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Makeup (n): substances and products comprised of chemical compounds that are used to enhance your features and appearance. It’s something that has become part of our society and culture and has been used for centuries, dating all the way back to Ancient Egypt. Over the years, cosmetic products and how we apply them have been continually refined and formalised—even to this day.   

With the existing and common correlation between femininity and beauty, women are often generally associated with makeup, and proficiency in its use is perceived as “part of being a woman”—hence why men often look down upon makeup, seeing it as something too “feminine” for their nature. And, because of the unrelenting relationship between beauty and makeup, people using cosmetics (especially women) are perceived, and portrayed, as conceited people.

But in the modern century, our conception of cosmetics is steadily shifting. The application of makeup, once regarded as a “girly” totem of self-absorption, now is seen as a badge of confidence and even a form of art. That last one actually isn’t too far off: just like painting, you are applying abstract colours into a canvas which is, in this case, your face; similarly to drawing, you are shading in features to help them stand out and create depth in your work, particularly when partaking in techniques known to the makeup world as contouring and highlighting; and, as with sculpting, special-effects makeup artists even build and sculpt different and unique shapes with latex for your face to create illusions and creative looks. 

via: Jaclyn Hill

In recent years, innovative beauty Youtubers like Michelle Phan, Zoella and Pixiwoo have inspired and empowered their viewers with their creative content, encouraging others to pursue a similar fate and accumulating a large network of successful online beauty bloggers and enthusiasts. Thus, with the beauty industry becoming more and more popular, these vloggers are transforming a simple hobby into an actual career. And because of these amazingly talented makeup-lovers, careers in beauty—such as hairstyling and makeup artistry—are being taken more seriously. Beauty gurus are making their own contributions to the industry, from collaborating with other brands to create makeup products to starting their own makeup lines, and in doing so they are shifting the concept of cosmetics from a leisure activity of sorts to a legitimate business venture.

The power of makeup redefines the purpose of cosmetics. As women, it helps us embrace our femininity, encourages us to question what it is to be a woman, feeds our desire to look like art and to look different. Not only this, but because of its revolutionary redefinition, it has become inclusive of all genders, with more and more men using makeup and pursuing careers in beauty—including popular figures like Wayne Goss and Kim Kardashian’s personal makeup artist MakeupByMario. On top of this, famous Youtubers and Instagram models like Manny M.U.A, Jeffrey Star and Nikita Dragun have become modern role models, influencing the beauty industry as much as they do the LGBTQ community. Now that we live in a post-feminist society, this extremely popular trend is one of the elements that plays an important role in intersectional feminism, and that’s why it’s an important trend that people need to consider.

via: StyleNine

Despite the significant message behind this trend and its importance to today’s generation, I think the power of makeup has two sides. It’s an empowering trend that spreads positivity and love, and supports one of the concepts of feminism; however, embracing this idea could also lead to a form of self-obsession with our appearance. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being a little vain, going the extra mile and putting yourself first, but too much self-obsession may lead to arrogance. Here I would like to use Jaclyn Hill as an example. She is one of those Youtubers who turned their video creations into a career—and since then, I feel, she’s fallen into the trap which most beauty Youtubers must face down: getting lost in their newfound fame and fortune.

This isn’t just the only flaw of this growing movement. Some of you may have noticed that beauty gurus on Instagram and Youtube almost always apply their makeup with similar products in the same way. Following a trend jump-started by the influential Kim Kardashian, for example, contouring is now considered an essential part in a makeup routine: in almost every makeup video I watch, I see beauty figures applying lines on their shadowed features and blending them out. But the ubiquity of this trend has consequences. First and foremost, it codifies our standard of beauty as having defined cheekbones, a sharp jawline and a small forehead. As someone who has none of these and instead struggles with chubby cheeks and a rather large temple, contouring was an issue for me. And lip trends create a similar problem—between the infamous “Kylie Jenner Lip challenge” and the current over-lining trend, having big lips has also become a beauty template to be considered “perfect”. 

As these trends show, the media and society as a whole play a substantial role in dictating the “proper” way of applying makeup. If you like doing your makeup in accordance with the pattern seen throughout the beauty world, you’re free to do—but remember: makeup is a form of art. When I’m surfing videos to watch online, I sometimes come across “Makeup dos and don’ts”, and it drives me crazy: like any other form of art, makeup should be a discipline that exists free of judgment. I believe there is no right or wrong way to apply makeup, because everyone has a unique aesthetic and differing skills. 

via: StyleCaster

In brief: the power of makeup is the revolutionary trend that has changed the way we see ourselves and others in terms of looks. Between videos like Em Ford’s “YOU LOOK DISGUSTING” and NikkieTutorial’s “The power of makeup”, it’s easy to see how big of an impact cosmetics can have—and how much they can change us as people. In this new world of makeup exploration, it’s okay to put layer upon layer of eyeshadows, lipsticks and highlight, but we are also encouraged to embrace our natural features. This new status quo is one in which anyone, regardless of age, gender, race or religion, is also allowed to be beautiful and apply cosmetics. However, the power of makeup is a revolutionary trend that overfeeds confidence and can, at times, bring out the arrogance in us. It has created expectations of what “beautiful makeup” is supposed to look like and has told us the “proper” way to apply it. 

Still, the power of makeup has done a lot to democratize beauty. In a few short years, this trend has transformed the beauty industry from women trying to look “as attractive as possible” to an open space of freedom and expression for everybody. This trend may have started from a couple videos online, but it has grown to change society and influence an future generation. 



cover photo courtesy of PALIQU