December 30, 2011

What Makeup Means To Me

The lovely Dain from the Ars Aromatica blog recently wrote on what makeup is to her. That was definitely a very well-written and thought-proving post. It lead to a private conversation between us, even more interesting that we have different views on the topic, and so it got me thinking a little bit more and I decided it would be nice to end this year sharing my view with you all.

Unlike Dain, who owns a very well edited makeup collection with a small amount of things she knows work perfectly for her, I own a lot of makeup. There are several reasons for this. First of all, I love products. I rarely talk about my job on here but I’m a Product Manager (not in the cosmetics industry, mind you!). Conceiving products, looking at what exists, comparing, fine-tuning ingredients list... that’s a part of my job I enjoy a lot, and I realize I love doing the same thing with makeup. New products keep me excited because they mean new concept, new formulation, new colors... the getting them, testing them and reviewing them is probably half of the makeup excitement for me.
I must say, though, that I part very easily with anything that doesn’t look good on me or doesn’t meet my expectations. But since more than often, I do like what I get (I always buy with the intention of wearing and so never purposedly get something I know won’t work for me), my collection has expanded quite a bit over the years. That’s ok, it’s my hobby, it’s where my “fun” money goes, I’m happy with that situation. When I notice that I have too much to remember what I own, I go through everything and get rid of what I never use. It’s not that I don’t like the stuff, it’s just I have other stuff I like more.

But for me, there’s more to makeup than the product aspect.
If you think of it, there are very few things in life that we can do the way we want, or that are virtually free of consequences. Of course, I know my life is easy compared to the life of people who don’t know what they’re going to eat today - let’s compare what is comparable. We might only have “first world problems”, there are a lot of things to swallow in this life. I often feel that the system in which we live wants us all to be square and to fit in. Get up on time, do your job, here’s what you should eat or not, wear or not, look like or not... It takes a lot of strenght to resist that all. It would take even more strength to try and change that. I don’t know if I have that kind of strenght. But with makeup, I have a little space that belongs to me, in which I can be creative and different, and it’s free of consequences because it washes off.
I’ve gone through many things looking like the perfectly square thing I was expected to be, but wearing an accent nailpolish on one finger, or a fuchsia lipstick, I knew that I was still myself inside of that polished image. It was like a breathe of fresh air and freedom inside of the system.

I know it sounds like it’s just an image thing - that’s a topic on which Dain and I disagreed. I think image is important. Not because of others or because of all the power image has been given in this society. But because I think that someone’s image is a projection of their identity. (even when you don't care about your image, that says something about your identity).
Identity is a complex thing, it’s full of paradoxes and weirdness. A life isn’t enough to understand who your self really is, and I think it’s an illusion to believe that you can, at any point in your life, be fully understood by anybody else.
But the image, the image is more simple. It can’t reflect, let alone explain a whole complex identity. But it can project a little part of it. And if you want to, it will show the world a little bit of who you are (they might not understand it, but that’s another story). And I find that this is very easy to do with makeup.

I can wear a red lipstick today just because I feel like I need color in my life, and that just says a little something of my mood for the day.
I can wear the same lipstick tomorrow and pair it with black winged liner, because I feel pin-upish for the day, and that’s another little something said about my self.
And I can wear it again as my war paint if feel I need extra strength on a very tough day. People won’t know, but I will, and that’s all what matters.

I could also write on how makeup is a great confidence booster. In some ways it is, and weirdly makeup helped me learn more about my features and what I liked in me, so now I feel perfectly confident without makeup on. But I don’t see completely makeup as something to rely on to prettify an imperfect face. I can actually chose to try a makeup look that I know won’t do anything for me - just because I like the look of it, or the image it projects. Or more generally, just because I want to try something new without having to deal with any consequence. The worse that can happen is me having to remove it and to do it again.

A recreation of a Brody Dalle makeup tutorial by Pixiwoo.
Not what suits me the best, but interesting to try for the sake of it.

I don’t hide behind makeup - maybe some people do, but that’s not what I’m looking for. And so, even though I know what works for me and what I prefer in terms of textures, colors and finishes, I am still free to decide to go another way and I enjoy that sometimes.

That freedom makeup gives me, it can give everybody. Women, men, young, old, with any kind of body shape, any kind of budget. Makeup is virtually accessible to anybody, so why not enjoy it?

I thought it was interesting to write about this to end the year. Of course, feel free to comment.
Thanks a lot to everyone who’s been reading this, and reading my blog in general - this is very much appreciated.
I wish you all a happy start of 2012.


  1. This is a really interesting and thought provoking post! I wear makeup for several reasons. First and foremost because I enjoy it! Like you I love the thrill of buying something new, trying it out, comparing it to what was already out there. I love taking the time out of my morning to spend just on myself applying it. I think it started getting really obsessive a couple of years a go though. I look young for my age without my slap (I'm now 24 but I was 21/22 when this started) and got a lot of abuse at work (along the lines of 'shouldn't you be in school love?', 'are you sure you're old enough to work here?'). So bizarrely I started applying my slap with a grouting trowel in an attempt to look older. It worked! Now I don't feel like me without it! x

  2. Thank you for such a thorough and thoughtful response. Makeup (and image in general) is so much what you make of it, there's so much room for interpretation, and I like how you do things, Mariella. I also enjoy how makeup is the freedom to do things your way, among all the social mores more strict and confining.

    Happy New Year's!

  3. I just stumbled into your site via blog links from Midnight Violets. After reading your thoughts on makeup, I felt compelled to leave a comment. In many ways, I completely agree with you regarding the freedom and sense of empowerment that makeup gives us. For me, I think makeup not only allows you to show creativity, it is also a great medium to learn and improve about one's self. For instance, once I started learning about makeup application via youtube, I began learning more about the shape of my face and other pertinent info regarding contouring, shin types, etc... In a weird way, makeup has allowed me to appreciate myself more and be more accepting of what I actually have and not whine about what I lack. I love your commentary and it has been a pleasure reading it. I wish to see more of your posts in 2012 and looking forward to them =)

  4. Thanks ladies for your very interesting comments! Keep them coming!

  5. What a great post. I just happened on you blog-- I've never read it before but I like what I see. I am glad you talked about image being important. I agree with that. I can hear all my non-makeuppie friends quietly booing... I think a lot of people might find the attention I pay to my appearance to be superficial, but it is-- you put it so perfectly-- a way to find freedom, to express my identity, and to change and shape my identity in a low stakes way. I just had a terrible break up and out of pain, I started blogging about beauty. It's saving me. I love posting, I love reviewing products, and I love getting to be playful and passionate even through this unhappy period. It gives me hope. I know that seems like an awful lot to ascribe to a tube of lipstick... but there it is. Me. Superficial or not, it works for me. Glad to know it works for you too.


I love getting comments, thanks for sharing your thoughts!