Fashion + Body Image

The impact makeup may be having on our self-image

Worth over a staggering $500m, the beauty industry is taking the world by storm. With makeup tutorials stacking up billions of views on YouTube every year, it’s no surprise that the industry continues to soar. But is the beauty industry, in particular makeup, changing our concept of beauty?

With filtered images of flawless skin and sculptured advertised everywhere we go, it’s understandable why someone without the “perfect” skin and chiselled cheekbones may not feel beautiful. As a young woman who has grown up surrounded by the phenomenon of makeup, I have experienced both the positive and negative. In this article, I will discuss my own journey with makeup and how I believe it may be impacting younger people.

My journey with makeup

Growing up, I was always fascinated with makeup and having watched my mum in the mirror, I always perceived it to be extremely glamorous. The first time I began wearing makeup, I was about 12. During this time, I had just started puberty so being able to wear makeup and feel better about myself was a comforting feeling. However, this comforting feeling soon became a necessity as I began to feel uncomfortable in my own skin.

Throughout my teenage years, I suffered from hormonal breakouts. I began noticing changes in my body that I wasn’t used to. As a self-conscious teenager, who was obsessed with trying to fit in, I soon started to rely on makeup every single day. I liked how makeup made me feel, it gave me confidence when I wasn’t feeling great. As for a girl who had just discovered the fascination with boys, I also couldn’t hide that I liked the extra attention I got.

Before long, I began to recognise myself more with makeup on than I did without. I had become so dependent on foundation that when I took it off, I felt like an entirely different person that couldn’t do the same things I could without it. The idea of leaving my house without makeup when I had acne breakouts was hell, and I would hide my face with hoodies if I ever had to. But this wasn’t helping my skin, the build-up of layering makeup was making my skin worse so I would end up wearing more makeup to cover it and so on and so forth. I felt like I was trapped in a vicious circle, and I became incredibly self-conscious.

I hated how I felt, but equally, I hated how I looked without makeup also. I didn’t know what to do. After confiding in my mum, she decided we should go and speak to a dermatologist to see if there is anything that would help my skin. The dermatologist was incredibly understanding and recommended a skin routine; however, she did also say that I needed to let my skin breathe. Initially, I was apprehensive to the idea, but I wanted to break the cycle once and for good.

After a few weeks of using my skin routine and letting my face breathe, my skin began to improve. I started to become comfortable in my skin again and makeup no longer felt like a chore. My self-confidence grew, and I no longer felt reliant on foundation to make me feel good about myself.
Since then, my passion for makeup has grown over the years, and I now love to express myself with bright eyeshadows, vivid lips and a sharp winged liner. However, as I have developed, the love I have for myself has undoubtedly grown too. I have learnt that how I look doesn’t define me, and it is what I offer the world that makes me a better person. Thankfully, I don’t depend on makeup anymore, and I am the same person with or without it. I am happy with my relationship with makeup. Still, in today’s world, I can’t help but wonder the impact makeup is having on young teenage girls.

The effects of social media

In society, it seems that media’s perception of beauty in women is the flawless, slim Instagram models we see online. Although I believe a woman should express themselves, however, they want, and beauty is whatever we define it to be, I question whether the pressure on this predominant idea of beauty is making young people who do not look like this feel inadequate. It seems that photographs of both men and women with makeup and filters are praised more on social media than those without based on the number of likes they receive.

When comparing how I felt as a teenager to the portrayal of makeup nowadays, I am thankful that I grew up when I did. I say this because I already felt so much pressure to fit in at that time. If I had been exposed to social media back then I can’t begin to imagine the damaging effects this may have had on my own self-image. Having access to videos that show the ‘power of makeup’ would have felt like a blessing to me at a young age when I felt so many insecurities about how I look.

Additionally, seeing the dramatic transformations makeup can create makes me reflect the time I did not recognise myself without makeup. Although I was able to cover my spots and make my eyelashes a lot clumpier, my face didn’t actually change that much. However, today with the aid of filters, face tune, and better make up techniques, you can totally transform yourself into another person. Truth be told, I love watching a transformation and if that’s how someone wants to express themselves then who I am to judge? But I can’t begin to imagine the pressure some of these adaptations may be having on younger generations and how they look at themselves.

To me, makeup is a part of self-expression and if you choose to wear it then flaunt it however you please. The problem I begin to have with makeup is when it makes me people feel unhappy with the face they were born with. We as humans are all beautiful, and I think there needs to be more coverage on journeys to self-love. Accepting ourselves for who we are and loving our imperfections with or without makeup is a lesson we need to be teaching younger people. Finally, I believe topics like body dysmorphia and mental health need to be spoken about more rather than the bombardment of ways to improve yourself that we so often see.

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