Denise Li, Opinions

Stop Kicking Up a Fuss About Makeup Already – Denise Li

Loving how you look naturally is well and good, but so is using makeup, argues Denise Li.

So, the other day, Deborah and I, along with our other halves, got into a rather heated discussion about makeup.

Deborah and I started talking about makeup (I can’t remember the context exactly) and Simon (Debs’ husband) chimed in with, “I think women don’t need makeup. Just look at Jennifer Lawrence!”

Alain readily agreed.

I was absolutely incredulous.

“Wait, so you think Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t wear makeup?” I exclaimed. “Have you ever seen her on the red carpet?”

“She wasn’t wearing makeup in The Hunger Games,” said Simon.

Silly boys, of course J-Law is wearing makeup.

Silly boys. You can’t get that fresh, dewy glow playing a character running around a tropical rainforest trying not to get killed without makeup.

“That’s ridiculous, guys. Of course she was wearing makeup in The Hunger Games movies. You can’t not wear makeup if you’re going to be appearing in a movie. Erm, newsflash! Even male actors use makeup when they appear onscreen.”

“Point is,” Alain added, “Women shouldn’t wear too much makeup, and let their natural beauty shine through.”

Ah, and the penny drops.

Of course, I knew exactly where this conversation was going, and it sure as hell wasn’t about the finer points of filmmaking.

See, I think two things are going on here.

1. Men are fooling themselves about “natural beauty”.

2. Women always feel the need to defend themselves about their use of makeup.

Now, I’m not saying that point number 1 necessarily causes point 2 to happen all the time. Some campaigns for “natural beauty” – some of them spearheaded by beauty brands to further their own marketing agenda – in the media are also adding to the fray. This whole “natural beauty” thing does nothing but make women feel guilty about their use of makeup; like we are somehow betraying ourselves and the rest of the world by masking how we truly look.

Well, everyone, just take a damn chill pill already.

Me, barefaced

Me, barefaced

Just because I use makeup doesn’t mean that I hate how I look barefaced. I wear makeup because it makes me look and feel good. Do I think I look better with makeup than without? Absolutely. All the people who are banging on about “natural beauty” should ask themselves if they are happy to wear a sack around all day: That’s as natural as it gets, isn’t it?

Most women wear makeup for the same reason everyone buys and wears clothes that flatter them: It just makes them feel better. And no one seems to have an issue with that!

Now don’t get me wrong; I am most definitely not demonising women who choose not to wear makeup at all. Kudos to you. When I first started out in the magazine industry, I hardly wore makeup. Most days, if I know I don’t have meetings, I’d opt to go to the office barefaced.

I am deeply aware that I am defined more than by my looks, but I still love makeup.

Are there superficial reasons that I wear makeup? I’d be lying if said there weren’t. I like how my skin glows when I wear BB cream. I like how I look less tired when I take the effort to apply eyeshadow and liner. I like how just blending a little foundation in the right areas magically make my face look more lifted.

And yes, I do work in a superficial industry where looks matter, and it’s just easier to be taken seriously and get things done if I make the effort to look more polished.

But part of the reason why I wear makeup is because it allows me to express how I feel about myself on the outside: I wear bold lip colours because to me, it says, “Here’s a person who’s confident, strong, and not afraid to make a statement.”

My favourite makeup look

My signature makeup look. Tell me honestly: Do I look better like this or with nothing on my face at all?

We all carefully curate how we look to the world, and makeup is just but one aspect of that.

I think people need to stop thinking of women using makeup as a deliberate act of deception. Most of the time, it’s less about concealment than it is enhancement.

And I certainly don’t think it problematic or hypocritical to say, “I like the face God gave me, but I also love Nars’ amazing spring/summer 2014 collection.”

So guys, you need to stop guilt-tripping women for using makeup and girls, where makeup is concerned, just do whatever the hell you want with it: Wear a little of it, a lot of it, or none at all. It’s really your prerogative, and you don’t have to justify your decision to anyone. At the end of the day, we’re all grown up and confident enough to acknowledge that it doesn’t change a thing about who we are inside.


About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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