Makeup: A Coveted Privilege
I was thirteen years old when I first began using makeup. The oldest of six girls, I was eager to exercise my newfound privilege, an outward sign of how grown up I’d become. I remember my mother giving me my Mary Kay supplies of blush, neutral eye shadow, mascara, base, and concealer. As she passed on these treasured items, she explained to me that makeup was meant to enhance my natural beauty and that it should always be used tastefully. I listened to my mother’s words, taking them to heart, and did my best to follow her advice.
Over the subsequent days, months, and years I continued to faithfully apply my makeup. First, I did it as a sort of right of passage. A way of outwardly showing that I was now a young woman. Yet almost imperceptibly that changed from simply wearing makeup out of the joy of “dressing up” to feeling compelled to wear it to hide the flaws I became increasingly aware of. Without even realizing it I became enslaved to my makeup–feeling that I had to wear it each day.
From Enhancement to Enslavement
To be clear, I do not in any way think that makeup is evil. Like many women, I enjoy the artistic aspect involved in applying makeup and that feeling of looking extra special. Like my mother told me all those years ago, I believe that makeup, much like fine clothes, is a way of enhancing our God-given beauty.
I also believe that makeup can be a tool for evangelization. What I mean is, our external appearance expresses who we are to others (our likes, personality, and even beliefs). This is why when I’m giving a religious talk, especially to young people, I always take great care in my physical appearance. Why? Because I know if I’m physically attractive to them they will be more receptive to my message. And maybe, just maybe, that will be the small window needed for God to work in their hearts; that in seeing the external beauty they’ll be drawn into eternal beauty.
But for me, makeup gradually wrapped invisible chains around me. Through it, I believed I was “making up” for the flaws in my own beauty; hiding my imperfections. I felt naked and horribly insecure without it. As if suddenly that absence of concealer and a quick brush of powder rendered me hideous.
During college, for example, I was part of a religious household that periodically chose to offer up acts of mortification for the betterment of our own and others’ souls. Occasionally, we would decide that our act of mortification would be a makeup free day or even week. And my friends, those days were absolutely torturous for me. To my insecure heart, it seemed everyone would comment on how tired I looked during those days. I felt dowdy and unattractive.
My Beauty Revelation
Sadly, I’ve carried these misconceptions of beauty throughout my young adulthood and early stages of motherhood. Earlier this year, there was a movement on Facebook where several of my friends and acquaintances posted makeup-free photos of themselves as a way of advocating for natural beauty. Yet though I applauded their efforts and marveled at their own beauty, I mentally thought to myself, “Oh, I could never do that.”
I wish I could tell you that there was some dramatic moment that woke me up to the falsehood of my beliefs. But the truth is, I don’t exactly know what changed. Looking back, it’s been a gradual process wrought on, I’m sure, by grace. One of my “aha!” moments occurred when my three-year-old daughter told me I needed to put on makeup so that we could go somewhere. Shocked, I realized I was teaching her that a woman needed to be “done up” in order to be publicly presentable.
Another factor (you moms out there can probably relate) was me hitting a wall where I was just too tired/overwhelmed to care. And as I got used to seeing myself makeup free, I became less and less insecure about the reflection I saw. In fact, this week for the first time that I can remember I looked at plain ol’ me–without any cosmetic enhancement–and truly felt beautiful. I can’t express to you what a freeing, grace-filled moment that was! So much so that I felt I had to write this post because I know I’m not the only woman out there struggling with this issue; that there are other women equally trapped by their need to wear makeup each day.
A Work in Progress
For me, it’s been and will continue to be a journey. I still have much to learn about true beauty and how I am called as a woman to reflect it to others. I feel blessed though, that God has brought me this far. And I’m committed to continuing the process, not only for myself but also for my own daughter who is looking to me as an example of feminine beauty.
So if you’re like me and feel that makeup has gradually enslaved you, I invite you to take heart and challenge you to break free. Start with baby steps, maybe going makeup free once a week. However you do it, I promise it will be so worth it as your sense of beauty is redefined and you personally discover how “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) you are.