Wearing makeup; it’s a frivolous choice, purely skin deep and not particularly important in our lives, right? Wrong.
Research suggests that women experience huge emotional and psychological benefits when wearing makeup. In fact, of the 48% of women that prefer to wear makeup, the clear majority do so because it makes them feel positive and strong.
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As the founder of beauty brand Studio10, which aims to redefine beauty for women as they age, and redefine ageing, I’ve experienced huge anecdotal evidence supporting the idea that makeup is more than skin deep – it’s an intrinsic part of our emotional well-being and self-esteem.
To understand our deep psychological attachment to cosmetics we need to understand its history to our identity. Anthropomorphic evidence suggests that we’ve been using makeup to define our sense of self for over 30,000 years.
As long as there’ve been humans, there’ve been women seeking to play, transform and evolve with some form of makeup.
Whilst naysayers often suggest that the beauty industry created our need for makeup by making us feel less attractive, in fact, it was our need to control our appearance that created an industry to meet it; a critical factor in understanding the link between makeup and psychological wellbeing.
For many women, that translates into a preference for wearing makeup daily. Author Kristina Adams has always liked wearing makeup, saying she ‘wears it for herself, feeling more comfortable with a little mascara and concealer’.
This enjoyment became more necessary when after years of having flawless skin, she recently developed a skin complaint, leaving her feeling far less self-confident. Rather than use medications with awful side effects, Kristina now finds that she prefers the protection makeup affords her, not from others judgement, but her own discomfort.
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Holly Sturgeon of Holly’s Beauty Box shared her emotional story of makeup and its enormous impact on her self-esteem:
“I grew up as an overweight child and our family was poor, with no money for luxuries like beauty or fashion. Being a bit geeky, I was bullied. I spent my life cowering away and as a result became anxious, depressed and low in self-esteem. I never socialised and always wondered what I could do to 'change' my look.
“One Christmas, I was given a palette from Argos (you know the ones with the 30 shades of every colour eyeshadow, blushers and lipstick and an eyeliner). I started out with bright blue eyeshadow and stripes of blusher which resulted in me being taunted further.
“I didn't care though. I got up in the morning and I put my face on - good or bad - and felt like no-one could touch me. I was equipped with the same tools my peers were, they weren't any better than me and I was their equal.
“I eventually started socialising, and even went on a stage and sang in front of more than 800 people (WINNING the competition!!!). I'd have never done that if makeup wasn't my mask. If I didn't feel like a warrior who could take on the world.
“Now, I'm a full-time beauty and plus size fashion blogger of five years. Makeup has given me the confidence to work with some of the biggest names in the world and without it, I'd still be the lost girl in a world of low self-esteem and fear”.
She’s not alone. In a recent Renfrew study, 44% of women said not wearing makeup made them feel less positive and confident in themselves.
Further, it shows that “consumer satisfaction is greatest when the cosmetic brands help to strengthen positive emotions through the perception of ‘caring for oneself’ and removing feelings of worry and guilt about not taking care of one’s appearance”.
In other words, makeup is what we use to feel good, not because we feel bad and ALL the women I spoke to for this piece confirmed that – married, single, young or old. Makeup is about a personal attachment and support for our wellbeing, not to make someone else approve of us.
I’ve seen grieving women use their war paint when they’re ready to return to the world once more – providing them the strength they need to move forward.
Belittling women for something we’ve done since we evolved beyond the caves is simply an attempt to denigrate our fundamental human desires – and is entirely pointless.
Makeup is many things – creative, armour, freedom, fun, supportive. But the facts show that makeup is part of our emotional makeup, and a necessary part of many of us feeling well and able to meet the challenges of our demanding lives head on - so very much more than just skin deep.
Makeup is my foundation (pun intended). It’s how I create my identity ready to face the world. If I’m not wearing it, that’s when you should worry about my mental health.
(Piece was originally written by Grace Fodor for Really Ree).