Ever since I finally got my skin clear, I have worn little-to-no makeup most days. I had always thought, back when I had skin issues, that if I ever did clear them up, I would drop makeup immediately, and that's exactly what happened; and it's no surprise, because I was never into it. In high school, when my girlfriends were experimenting with heavy eye shadows, I tried a few times to 'do myself up' and always thought I looked weird. In college, my friends would spend hours getting ready for parties, and I would hang out with them and chat — but doing my own hair and makeup bored me to tears, so I would just slap on some mascara and lip balm on the way out the door.
Now I live in Oregon, where it's almost a shock to see a woman wearing makeup, and it's made me realize that in different places in America (and around the world) makeup plays different roles. During my recent time traveling throughout Mexico, I noticed that it's mostly white-collar women who wear makeup there, whereas the women cooking and serving my gorditas or helping me in stores were barefaced. Women in the U.K. are often noted for almost globally eschewing makeup, whereas in Spain, great makeup is a must. In the U.S., professional women oftentimes wear less makeup than a woman working in food service or a retail job does. So, wearing makeup signifies something — but what that is depends on the culture.
Brinton Parker, a college senior in California, noticed that friends and others in her social circle judged women by how much makeup they wore; women wearing too much and too little were both disparaged, and Parker wondered if this judgment translated into the way the woman in question was treated. So she did an experiment: she went to a three-day-a-week class and wore no makeup one day, a moderate amount the next, and did it up, Kardashian-style, on the final class day. Parker points out in her original article that she's heard more than one guy mention that they like girls who don't wear makeup, like Kim Kardashian. Of course, what most guys don't realize is that Kardashian (and plenty of other celebs too) spends hours on her makeup, and some non-celeb women do too — just to look "natural."
And it also means that many people (men and women) think that the default, natural look is one that involves lots of prep time, plenty of not-always-cheap makeup, and an unerring hand. It certainly sets an unrealistic standard of what "natural" is, whether you like makeup or not. And all those no-makeup selfies shot with great Instagram filters in perfect light do nothing to simplify the issue.
"A lot of guys don’t understand that women’s natural faces don’t look like the ones they put forth every day," Parker told Yahoo Shine. "Guys don’t realize that Kim Kardashian spends an hour contouring her face before she goes to the grocery store. The reason that I started the social experiment is because I heard disparaging remarks between too much makeup and not enough makeup."
But back to Parker's experiment: She noticed she got more reactions from men than women, and she did get a reaction for each of her "faces." Makeup-less, she was asked if she was OK and told she looked tired. The middle day she was complimented, and the final day, when she was really done up, people asked her if she was ready to party. You can see pictures of the three looks here, as well as the full responses from her peers.
Personally, I'm going to continue with my minimal-makeup ways, because that's what works for me. Every few days I go nuts with the mascara wand, and sometimes it's great to have a little color on the lips, but that's about as far as I'm going to go. Fortunately I don't have a job that sets any kind of standard for what I look like or what I put on my face, though that's a reality for some. But it does bother me that it may be seen as "unprofessional" for me to go barefaced, and to know that other people might judge me, whether I'm wearing makeup or not. It seems like one of those "can't win" situations, so I'm just gonna do me.
Do you judge women for the makeup they wear (or don't)?
Related on MNN:
- 7 things you can make instead of buying
- 5 beauty products that cold turn deadly
- How long does makeup last?
The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of MNN.com. While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.