What I've Learned About Beauty: The Perspective of a Makeup Artist
Makeup is transformative, which is why I love it so much. I have been a makeup artist and beauty consultant for nearly the last 10 years. The reason I find makeup artistry so inspiring, is for the look of muted pride in a woman's face when I've created a look that makes her know her beauty. For a few clients, that pride was felt for the very first time, and our sessions would end with hugs and sometimes tears.
When a new client sat in my chair, she was vulnerable, but not just because of our proximity. As I would start each session by removing their existing makeup to create a clean base, every swipe of the cotton pad was coupled with a reason for the visit-- a special event, new job, new romance, or, more often than not, an emotional rut. There is nothing like a new lipstick to soften the blow of bad news, right?
But these women, all beautiful in their own rite, lamented similar insecurities over their appearance. I began to wonder how so many women, of all ages, shapes, statuses, and ethnicities, could possibly all feel the same way. What they shared with me was valuable, though disheartening. There is a formula women learn about "beauty" and it is being passed down through generations. I hope by bringing attention to these themes, we can use our awareness to reverse them.
WE LEARN ABOUT MAKEUP FROM OUR MATERNAL GUARDIANS
The women we spent the most time with as children, whether our moms, grandmothers, aunts, or other influential females have the biggest impact on what we view as beautiful, right down to our makeup routines. Whether drugstore blue eyeliner or glossy Chanel mascara, their approach to makeup frames our paradigm. I learned how to apply makeup from my gorgeous mama, who was also a makeup artist in her early 20s. She worked for Clinique in the late 80s and 90s (dream job!) and her approach to makeup was always to highlight, never to cover. I've taken that approach too, and it has never failed me.
In the worst case scenario, what is familiar to us can keep us from finding the makeup and skincare ritual that works best for us personally, and with the mass availability to great products, this is unjust (dramatic, but true). Countless women I counseled were told they couldn't wear brown eyeliner, or that a bar of soap is the best cleanser to wash off the day, but these "tips" they received were limiting, and gave them fear about breaking their routines. Sometimes, if it's good enough for our beauty mentors, it's good enough for us, right? Not always.
WE GAIN INSECURITIES [MOSTLY] FROM OTHER WOMEN
Whether we have experienced direct bullying, become discouraged by unhealthy representations of "beauty" in our culture, or if we lack affirmation from our families and communities, we gradually form insecurities-- no surprise there. Cattiness, jealousy, crass comments, and so-called alpha females we see in media can weave deep wounds that can be hard to shake, even as an adult. But, we shouldn't let the "norm" we see represented as beautiful lower our self-worth and shy us away from enhancing our personal best features with natural makeup, quality skincare, and stylish clothing we feel beautiful in.
WE ALL HAVE BEAUTIFUL FEATURES THAT SET US APART
I truly believe you can put almost any woman in front of me and I will find her beauty, not solely based on her appearance, but by her state of being. Whether we boast a contagious smile, serene eyes, warmth, intelligence, and on and on, we are all beauties. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but what makes us beautiful is our confidence that comes from embracing our uniqueness, and from cultivating our belief in our innate feminine genius. Using makeup to enhance our best features is like shining a light them.
MAKEUP IS AN ENHANCER, NOT A MASK
Though I deeply appreciate the art of makeup, there has been a surge in the beauty community promoting what is normally considered as theatrical or editorial makeup, which includes techniques that appear to alter the dimensions and features of our faces, or those that are made for flash photography. My beauty philosophy, in part, is that no one should ever say to you, "your makeup looks amazing" before they say, "you look amazing." Rather than spending precious time contouring, spend time hunting down products that will enhance your best features and diffuse the imperfections.
WE DON'T NEED PERMISSION
So many women feel they need permission to wear a certain shade of lipstick, switch their signature cheek color, or to step outside of their comfort zones, with cosmetics or otherwise. Much of what I did as a makeup artist was to give women a safe space to try a new shade of lipstick, or a new trio of eyeshadows, and decide for themselves if it suited them. Frequently I heard from clients that they feared they couldn't pull off a certain color of makeup, mostly from what they had been told by magazines or even close friends. If you want to be the lady with signature violet eyeliner, be that lady, I say.
WE ARE QUICK TO CRITICIZE
If you hear anything from this post, hear this. We all have flaws and that is a fact. My clients regularly complained of scars, pigmentation, acne, small lips, big lips, bold brows, thin brows, fair skin, dark skin, drooping eyelids, large pores, etc. Sometimes it can be cathartic to join a conversation of what we dislike about ourselves with other women, but it is damaging. So much of our character stems from what we do with adversity, suffering, and personal flaws. If we learn to embrace our whole self, flaws included, we are unstoppable.