The not-so-pretty truth about makeup.
By Olivia Levesque, Staff Writer
I realized my relationship with makeup was ending one evening last month as I sat at Calico Coffeehouse, spiraling over insecurities and the inescapable sentiment of not feeling comfortable in my own skin. “When the hell did I start wearing this much makeup? When the HELL did I feel like I needed to wear this much makeup?” Like any dysfunctional relationship, I became way too dependent on makeup to make me feel complete and confident. And like any shitty ex, makeup became manipulative, expensive, and hard to get rid of. I pondered away and started to grow bitter at makeup’s very existence and decided to research a little further into its history. So like Gwenyth Paltrow and Chris Martin, I decided to consciously uncouple and just breakup with makeup—all in hopes of finding that coverup-free confidence.
The history of makeup
When King Tut’s tomb was opened in 1922, an array of beauty cosmetics were found inside that were still fragrant and for the most part usable. Cosmetics were often found in pyramids, dating as far back as 10,000 B.C. Both Egyptian men and women used makeup; rouge and lip ointments were essentials, and henna was also used for purposes of adding a red tinge to finger nails. Women would trace the veins in their temples and breasts with blue paint and tipped their nipples with liquid gold. Eye shadow was important to both sexes at the time as well and was usually green in colour. Eyelash and brow enhancers consisting of carbon, black oxide, and other toxic substances were also worn to give that dark look that is often a staple in any ancient Egyptian recreation.
The natural look was in style in ancient Mediterranean cultures. However, as time continued into the 4th century B.C., Grecian women would paint their faces with white lead and used crushed mulberries for rouge. Fake eyebrows, often made of oxen hair, were quite fashionable and used often to get that on fleek look.
In the 17th century, men and women used makeup to limited degree; white lead was used as a base, and cheek and lip reddeners were sometimes used as well. Beauty patches were used to cover up smallpox scars or other spots, wounds, and blemishes. Usually pieces of velvet or silk cut into the shape of stars, moons, hearts, were frequently placed on the face and other parts of the body.
Conditions like tooth decay, skin conditions, and poisonings were often caused by the use of dangerous makeup. Lead, sulfur, mercury, and white lead were frequent ingredients found makeup in the 18th century. Beauty is pain?
Just as trends change modernly, makeup trends were also always varied century to century throughout history. Victorian culture in the 19th century denounced excessive makeup as the mark of “loose” women (aka whore-ish). This is a stereotype that still exists in modern fashion, sadly. Naïvely, most men believed their ladies wore no makeup. Lip and cheek rouge were considered scandalous, so instead of their use, it was that suggested women vigorously bite their lips and pinch their cheeks to get that desired flushed look. The 1920s and 30s saw the rise of several forms of modern base, powdery blushes, and the powder compact. Cosmetics at this point were huge and held a place in the economic market as a household item, much like today.
Is your relationship with makeup toxic?
So, even though things like sulphur, lead, and mercury are no longer used in makeup and other cosmetics, makeup today still holds many not-so-pretty chemicals and unethical means of production. Ultimately this unethical and chemical duo can harm you and the environment after extended use. With companies like Lush in existence (who have been fighting the good fight to enforce cruelty-free products and safe makeup production and consumption) a primary degree of awareness about the negative impacts of harmful cosmetics has been raised. Whether it is harmful to you, me, the environment, or animals, it is still harmful. In fact, more companies have gone cruelty-free and even vegan. Better yet, you might not even be aware of it in the midst of the crazy consumerism world, Bareminerals, Tarte, Urban Decay, and Too Faced are among the cruelty-free variety. As reported by the David Suzuki foundation, U.S. researchers report that one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors. Many products include plasticizers (chemicals that keep concrete soft), degreasers (used to get grime off auto parts), and surfactants (they reduce surface tension in water, like in paint and inks).
Why DO we wear makeup?
Toxins, expenses, damaging consequences… a few of the top runners on the list of reasons why we should not use makeup, and yet we still do. Why? Well, a number of personal variables come into play—public self-consciousness, public body-consciousness, social anxiety, and various body-image are all factors when it comes finding the answer as to why women choose to wear makeup. Not to mention social constructs and cosmetic marketing schemes that literally make us want to melt our faces off.
I asked a couple girls around campus what their thoughts on makeup were and here’s what they had to say:
“I don’t wear makeup. Not that I don’t like the way it looks on me but because I actually just don’t have the time for it most mornings. I do wear makeup for special occasions like prom or very… very… important first dates. I feel like lots of girls wear makeup to cover up the blemishes on their skin or because they feel like they have to. I’m actually 98% sure that wearing makeup every single day causes your skin to worsen because you’re not allowing your skin to breathe causing pimples, the other 2% is your period. The odd times I do wear makeup definitely makes me feel good about how I look, but the level of carefree and smudge-free comfort just isn’t the same.”
Rylan O’Connor, 1st year student
“I wear makeup every day. However, not in excess… a little bit of mascara, a sweep of bronzer and a little bit of blush on my cheeks is my day-to-day go to. I actually enjoy putting makeup on, and feel like I am decent at it. I wear makeup because I like it, and I wear it because it makes me feel good. On special occasions when I have an excuse to get dressed up, you better believe I’m sporting a smoky eye and of course fake lashes. Fake lashes give me life. Makeup is an art, and it’s fun to experiment once and awhile. But, don’t get me wrong, having a bare face also feels great, especially when rubbing my eyes.”
Madison C., 5th year senior
Now, I don’t mean to condemn make up in anyway, and really no one should. Realistically, if something makes you feel confident you should rock it. Recently in popular culture, makeup has become an art form. That contour doe, not everyone can do it. As well, the eyebrow game is a hard one to master. There’s new appreciation for makeup with an influx of makeup tutorial vloggers as well as product reviews. A lot of makeup wearers now simply aren’t embarrassed to admit that they do in fact wear makeup, and sometimes in an excessive way. Really, a healthy relationship with makeup should be balanced in the sense that you should feel confident always, with or without. It should also be fun, and be about YOU.