I saw a friend’s post on Facebook the other day detailing an encounter in which she received an unexpected compliment. What struck me was that she found the compliment unexpected because it occurred on the first day in years that she had gone out 100% makeup free. And this is a young, beautiful woman with a reasonably healthy self-esteem I’m talking about. Why is it surprising that someone might notice that?
It hit me how often I’ve heard that type of story. How many friends have I heard return a compliment with a skeptical “I don’t even have on my makeup”? How often have I heard them tell me they could go out only after they “put [their] face on”? Even worse, I’ve seen multiple encounters where a woman was asked if she was feeling unwell, only to reply apologetically, “I haven’t had a chance to put on my makeup yet.”
Why is it so difficult in our society for a woman to feel beautiful without makeup? Not even beautiful, but simply complete?
Think about it. It’s obvious why we put on makeup for dates; we want to look more attractive. But why do we wear it to work, or school, or down the street to the grocery store? Our goal is not usually to look extra attractive in those scenarios. Most people will answer that you still want to look your best, or that it looks more polished, professional, or put together. So why is makeup the expected solution? Why does it so often feel like we haven’t done enough to face the world by simply putting on clean clothes and brushing our hair, when all we’re doing is running a few quick errands? I don’t judge any of the men in those places as less professional or less than their best because their acne scars are visible or their eyelashes are stubby. And yet, often, women are.
Somewhere along the way, this thing that was meant to enhance our natural beauty and give us confidence has become a standard of beauty and taken away our confidence to go without it.
Now, I’m not knocking makeup. It can be fun, it can be a form of expression, it can be a confidence boost, and it can enhance one’s natural beauty. I have friends for whom it is their art. They take pride in how sharp the wingtip of their eyeliner is, how well they can contour, or how many shades of eyeshadow they can blend into the perfect palette, and they should, because not everyone can do it. But they do it for the fun, for the challenge, and they have no compulsion to do all that every time they leave the house.
No, makeup itself is not the problem. The problem is a society in which women are made to feel unworthy or incomplete for not using it. We are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” by a God whose “works are wonderful” (Psalm 139:14), so how dare anyone make us doubt the faces we were born with? Maybe you’ll get more compliments with makeup, but it shouldn’t be surprising that someone might find something pleasant in your appearance without it.
I guess what I’m saying after all this is that maybe we should be more encouraging to one another, so that on those days we do go out without makeup we can do so with the confidence that we are still worthy of complimenting.