Cosmetic aficionado explains the power of makeup

Sophia Ho

A sweep of blush, a dab of foundation, several coats of mascara. Line and fill eyebrows, cover dark circles, use primer. Pat on eyeshadow, flick liner into a cat eye, line lips, pucker for a matching shade of lipstick. Cover with gloss for a satin finish, leave as is for matte. Repeat as necessary until desired effect is achieved.

This is my everyday routine. Including more than 10 products of different brands, usage and size, my “school makeup” is by far my most simple look, achievable in about 15 to 20 minutes. My face for a night out, my summer look and my weekend routine all take far longer. I’m a VIB (very important beauty insider) member at Sephora (meaning I have spent more than $400 at Sephora in under one calendar year), and I have more than 600 points stored up at Ulta. I’m sure if drugstores with good makeup sections had rewards programs, I’d have hundreds of points there as well.

I have sparse eyebrows, colorless lips, short lashes and have struggled with severe acne (which is genetic — thanks, mom and dad) my whole life. Up until this year, I had braces, and I’ve been wearing glasses since fourth grade, although I switched to contacts once high school began. I started wearing makeup in eighth grade, experimenting with mascara and clear lipgloss, maybe a tinted moisturizer. Immediately, I fell in love.

Makeup allowed my insecure middle-school self to have more control over her appearance than ever before. Even though I look back at photos of me wearing makeup in the early days and cringe at my unblended shadow or uneven liner, I always smile when I remember how happy those things made me, even if I wasn’t very good at them yet.

Because of my love for makeup and everything it brings, I get pretty angry when people bash makeup or, even worse, put down those who wear it.

There’s a meme on the Internet featuring photos of girls before and after makeup that guys post with the caption: “this is why you take her swimming on the first date lol.” The joke’s on them. Waterproof mascara and eyeliner? Totally a thing. There’s also waterproof foundation, lipstick and concealer. Essentially, if it’s a makeup product, there’s a waterproof version. Swimming isn’t going to show you someone’s makeupless face if they don’t want you to see it.

What’s more, shouldn’t a first date be about getting to know someone and figuring out how their personality meshes with yours, not about shallowly judging someone solely based on physical appearance? Not only is this joke offensive and superficial, but it’s also misogynistic, implying that the only thing men care about in women is their looks.

Another “funny” thing that guys love to do is post before and after photos of girls and caption it: “This is why I have trust issues” or “Talk about false advertising.” The idea that makeup is a lie, “false advertising,” as many people (almost always male) put it, implies that women are a commodity — a product to be owned and bought and sold. You can’t advertise something that wasn’t for sale in the first place. I belong to myself, and no one else. Makeup or not, that is something that will never change. Personally, I don’t think that I should be blamed for a guy being stupid enough to actually believe I have purple eyelids. Honestly, the fact that you really thought that I had natural fire-truck-engine red lips concerns me a lot more than your so-called “trust issues.”

Besides, do you really think that I wear makeup for someone who can’t tell the difference between the eyeshadows Half Baked and Toasted, or the slight color variation in Ruby Woo and MAC Red?

Those who tell me I spend too much money, time or effort on my makeup are always the ones to ask me if I am sick on the rare days I am without it. Society judges women based on appearance nonstop and then turns around and shames them for trying to conform to beauty ideals. When people (again, almost always men) claim colored eyeshadow, cat eyeliner, contour and other things are far too much and that they like a girl with a natural makeup, they usually proceed to show me an example photo of a beauty guru who is wearing probably no less than 17 products, likely around $300 worth of makeup.

Makeup builds me up and allows me to present myself to the world as the truest expression of who I am. Most people don’t understand the value, the difference and the importance makeup has on my self confidence, but most people haven’t had to live with over five years of someone looking at my acne instead of my eyes when I speak to them. Makeup isn’t a way for me to hide or conceal who I am — it’s a way for me to truly be myself in a way no other medium affords me. I don’t wear makeup because I don’t love myself (and I remember how it feels not to love myself, to avoid mirrors because I would only hate what I saw, to hide behind bangs and books, to cry because all I wanted was to feel pretty for once in my life). I wear makeup because I do love myself, because I am worth time and effort and the joy that comes with seeing my face in the mirror. I’ve even grown comfortable with my face without makeup — that is to say, I’m not ashamed anymore. My face is a blank canvas. With my makeup, no flaw is permanent.

I look better with makeup on. This isn’t self depreciating of me to say, nor would I take any offense if someone told me this to my face — it’s a fact. And honestly, I’m not spending hundreds of dollars a year to look the same.

Want to tell me my cat eye looks fantastic? Go right ahead; you’ll probably make my day. But telling me that YOU prefer women without makeup, that YOU think my makeup is too much, that YOU think that less is more, is not only unwelcome, it’s disrespectful. I’m not looking for your approval. Don’t like makeup? Don’t wear it.

I’m not writing this column to bash those who don’t wear makeup. Makeup, before anything else, is a choice, and if it’s not something that’s for you, that’s totally fine. Prefer a fresh face to a full coverage foundation? Good for you! Not being interested or comfortable wearing makeup isn’t the problem. The problem begins when others think that just because they don’t wear or like makeup, no one else is allowed to, and shame those who do. I don’t try to force makeup on anyone who isn’t interested. Afford me the same respect.