It’s Not Political, It’s Laziness

So this afternoon I came across an article in The Guardian about rejecting beauty regimes and it kicked into gear thoughts that I’ve been having on make-up. I don’t wear make-up, but neither do I feel like I reject it, hence the title of this article. For some women, not wearing make-up is a rejection of the connotations, and a political statement. For me, not wearing make-up is, basically, an act of laziness.

I do feel the need for a few disclaimers and points of context before I carry on, because hopefully it can add a little clarity to what follows.

First off: I’ve never had acne. I don’t have a scarred face. I had what I would call “typical” skin as a teenager. Spots in their various forms were a pain in the ass, but never bad enough that I even had to consider going to my doctor. As an adult, I’ve still had issues, but again, nothing close to being bad enough to warrant seeing a doctor. I don’t have any other facial skin conditions, either.

So, to context. Having already written about Scotland, I doubt it will come as a great surprise that I am Scottish, and as such am pale and freckled (well, apart from my nose – I have a cold and look like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer). Or, as is often said here: peelie-wally. Onwards, then?

I was going to go in a different direction to this, but having mentioned being peelie-wally, it’s possibly worth running with that for a moment. During schooldays, one of my girlfriends and I would often go into the city and well, shop. She was far more into make-up than I was and I certainly learned a thing or two from her. One of the moments that never failed to raise a laugh on our trips was when we looked at the make-up counters. A foundation to match our skin was like a bad joke. Even the 01 Fair tones were a considerable shade darker than we were (my friend, especially). It was one of the first things outside of my upbringing to make me question make-up. Why was I looking for something to match the colour I already was? My skin wasn’t like jeans; my skin tone wasn’t going to run when I got in the shower and let the water get too hot.

With foundation and similar products, I know it can afford an opportunity to “cover up” for some, and I can certainly appreciate the desire. At school, I rarely wielded foundation, despite having “reason” to. Whenever I did use a little, it felt like a mask. The sparing touches felt like something to hide behind. In the end ““ without getting into other issues – I was at a point where I simply didn’t care about my skin and make-up became something to use as a defence, not an enhancement or statement. The other additions of a little eyeliner and mascara were used more frequently, but again, it was the feeling of a mask, of something to hide behind.

How I spent my spare time as a teen played, I think, an important role in how I view make-up, too. I used to be up at the stables pretty much every weekend, if not in the evenings, too, if I hadn’t been called in to do a shift at the local kennels. I was used to being sweaty and dirty. And I came to appreciate just being clean once I had made it home and into the shower. It’s a feeling I still love, and so, in a way, make-up felt not dissimilar to the dirt and muck of the stables and kennels.

There is another influence, the most important one, that I need to mention: my mother. My Mum didn’t ever really wear make-up. I remember sitting on my parents’ bed watching her get ready for the big work events and dinners she would go to every few months. It was the only occasion outside of weddings and funerals that I saw my Mum delve into her small supply of make-up. Even then, she used to look in the bag, rootle around, and usually resort to putting a delicate colour on her lips. It was that she felt she had to put on “something”. She was always beautifully put together for work and daily life (if a little, uh, wind-swept, depending on whether or not she was running late). Her hair was washed and neat, her choice of professional clothing clean and uncreased. But she never wore make-up. She has, for as long I remember, worn a dab of lavender oil. But that’s it.

The vibe I always got from my mother, was that she simply didn’t see the need to wear make-up. It’s the lesson I learned, for sure. She was a professional. She was handling difficult situations all the time. She at no point in her daily life needed make-up. Lip balm, sure. But she didn’t need anything else. And her worth as a person and professional was about more than whether or not she donned war paint. My mother never spoke ill of people who did wear make-up, however. She simply didn’t see the need for herself to wear it. She also had other priorities, both in terms of time and money. The other reason that I have been painfully aware of, is that my mother has suffered horribly for many, many years with dermatitis. And she wasn’t about to put something on her skin unnecessarily. I haven’t, thank goodness, suffered with my skin to the degree she has but I am very aware that as result of seeing her go through what she has, that I want to be kind to my skin.

For me, being kind to my skin is one of the primary reasons I don’t use make-up. I have seen my mother suffer and feel not using make-up is one of the small kindnesses I can show towards myself. I do paint my nails and certainly there are some delightfully toxic chemicals involved in that process but from what I’m aware, the application of polish to my nails doesn’t affect my body. My skin is a living part of me, in a way that my nails aren’t.

It also, to an extent leads into the idea that if a person chooses not to use make-up, that they choose not to care for their skin. Skin care is something I’m very much aware of, though I do take a very simple approach to it. There are occasions like just now, where the weather is particularly warm and bright, and sun screen becomes one of the means by which I take care of my skin. It’s also a point that was driven home by my uncle’s diagnosis of malignant melanoma. And so, skin care is also not a point driven by “beauty” either, necessarily. For me, it isn’t a case of wanting to control how my skin ages, for instance, but a part of caring for my body as a whole.

On the note of sun screen, I would hazard a guess that fake tan comes under make-up. It’s something that I don’t use either, primarily because I see it as unnecessary for me. I don’t tan naturally – I go pink and burn, if not protected – and don’t see the need to fake the effect. I do appreciate that some people feel it gives them a “healthy glow” but it’s not how I define healthy for myself.

When I consider where my influences lie, I become aware, too, of who I may be influencing. Whether by intention or not, my actions have an impact on our son. Juniper Junior is almost five and so his awareness of the world is increasing every day. He is becoming more aware of appearance and only a couple of days ago, said to his Grandma, “My mummy looking very pretty today.” I have more than just a hunch as to where the concept of pretty comes from. Almost every day, whenever we’re about to go out, I ask Mr. Juniper, “Do I look pretty?” and every day hear, “Yes.” Mr. Juniper’s exasperation at answering may be a sign I have asked once too often. This could easily lead into an article of its own, so I will try to keep it short. I’m left trying to reconcile how I behave and how our son perceives prettiness and beauty. Prettiness is not the be all and end all but I am aware of the gladness I feel that Juniper Junior is growing up with pretty being a person as they are. Especially as I don’t want him to grow up with the idea that beauty is intrinsically linked to something that is not the person themself. It is an instance of wanting Juniper Junior to take after his father. Mr. Juniper has never insisted I wear make-up. He’s never shown disdain at my bare face. He has never suggested that I would be better if modified. In a way, it goes back to the influence my mother has had on me and how I perceived her growing up. Yes, she was pretty when she went to an “event” but she looked pretty the rest of the time, too.

In the article I mentioned earlier, the writer also makes a point of rejecting make-up to equate to accepting being “unpretty.” I find this a little confusing. In choosing not to use make-up, I have not chosen to see my beauty as inherently linked to a product. My beauty is me. It isn’t something I apply to myself. Choosing not to use make-up does not render me unpretty. And I resent the idea that choosing not to use make-up means I may consider myself not to be beautiful  or that others may consider me not to be beautiful. Again, it’s a moment where I think of Juniper Junior. I don’t want him to think that going without make-up means going without belief of beauty. I want him to see that a person’s beauty is more than whether or not they wear make-up.

There is also the point where my choices on make-up lead me back to what I consider to be my own laziness. My feelings about myself aside, I find, like my mother, I have other things to do with my time. I can’t say my activities are better or more meaningful than applying make-up but that they are different. They are how I would rather choose to spend five minutes or fifty. I can certainly spend an hour of an evening doing my nails if I choose, but that’s the point I hope has become clear: it is my choice. Some people might spend that hour experimenting with make-up. It is not an attempt to pass judgment or undermine others when I say I have other things to do with my time, but it can at times feel like it is perceived that way. It is simply that we all do different things with our time and make-up doesn’t occupy mine.

In a nutshell, I guess I’m trying to say that for me, choosing not to wear make-up is a personal choice but like many choices – taking my husband’s last name, for instance – I find it difficult when my choice is judged and assumptions made on how I arrived at that choice and how I perceive others as a result. It is a personal choice, and in that is the most important part: it is my own. My choice is not up for dissection by others and neither is it to be presumed a statement unless I choose it to be. It is my choice: nothing more, nothing less.

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Juniper

Rarely to be found without herbal tea nearby. Team Unicorn. Often in pyjamas. Also: TEAM KATNISS!

26 thoughts on “It’s Not Political, It’s Laziness”

  1. One of the reasons I never got into wearing makeup is that I’m very short sighted, and it’s really hard to apply decent eye makeup when your face has to be about 2″ from the bathroom mirror, plus you are wearing heavy glasses over it anyway. Yeah, one could wear contacts, but what if you like your glasses and don’t want to?

    Politically, I’m very glad that it’s not seen as obligatory these days, because there were times when people used to act as though you weren’t being properly professional if you didn’t turn up to the office with a layer of slap on. And even in my current line of work (social work), I’ve seen women judged as ‘taking good care of themselves’ because they were wearing makeup.

  2. “It also, to an extent leads into the idea that if a person chooses not to use make-up, that they choose not to care for their skin.”

    This. So much.  I care about my skin…that’s why I eat right and drink a lot of water, and I use sunscreen it so I don’t turn into a tomato (because I have an outdoor job, and my dad had skin cancer).  I think it also should be said that women can wear makeup and have it not be a capitulation to social expectations, too.  I’m of the opinion that people should just do what they want with their own bodies.

    That said, I can’t wear makeup.  I go for a facial once a month mostly because it’s relaxing and keeps my mild spots at bay, but other than that I’m just pretty lazy and plain (pale and freckled, unite!)

    Also, my mom is a beautician, so there’s that. She has more half-bottles of products under her sink than Carter’s got liver pills.  I’ve never seen her without a full face of makeup, and I just do not have the energy for that rigmarole every morning.  I like to splash water on my face throughout the day too, and I can’t imagine not being able to do that.

  3. I’ve never heard comments about someone going barefaced being a political statement.  The men I know are pretty vociferous about their preference for no makeup.  And it’s not because they’re glad to see women choosing to rebel against the beauty standard.  They articulate it as, ‘I want the woman I wake up with in the morning to look like the one I went to bed with.’   They’re not saying, the beauty standard is flawed, they want to know if women conform or not without feeling tricked.

    1. Most men, however, have no idea what “no makeup” really looks like. Most men seem to think the no-makeup, natural look is what is actually a result of concealer, tinted moisturizer, a little powder, maybe some blush, mascara, soft eyeliner, and lip gloss.

  4. I love makeup – bright lipsticks, hella eyeliner, glitter- these things fit with who I physically am. One of my favorite quotes ever is by Charmes Torres: ” My heels and make-up and long hair is going to be and will be part of the revolution. with cleavage and all. get used to it.”, which I think wraps up my own personal position on how I feel about makeup. To me the makeup debate of whether or not it’s feminist is minor- its good to talk about it, like you are here, but to see people fight or pull a ” you wear makeup, tool of patriarchy” “you don’t wear makeup real feminist” is always insanely depressing to me. There are so much bigger things that need to be talked about. Makeup is a personal choice and at the end of the day, it ain’t my business whether or not a woman chooses to wear makeup, for whatever reason.

  5. I hear you on the ‘fair’ skin tones not being fair enough…! I wear makeup for ‘going out’ or if I know I have something important at work, but otherwise I can’t be arsed. I like the effect it can have but I don’t need or want to feel ‘looked-at’ all the time.

  6. Nearly every woman I know (including my mother) wears full makeup on a daily basis, save for one of my sisters who wears only mascara, I think. I don’t wear any makeup unless I’m going to an event like a family gathering. It’s not that I don’t “need” it–I do. I have adult acne and blue under-eye circles. I have depression and it’s a side effect, I guess, that I don’t want to make up my face–I largely don’t care how the world sees me. I also feel “ugly” so I should look that way.

  7. I’m really into make up, actually, which is funny because politically I’m pretty passionate about saying and believing that women don’t have to cater to what society tells them they should look like. But I love make up, and I really enjoy fun clothes and shoes, and I like to play with my hair, etc. etc. I don’t think that’s necessarily an underminery stance, though I do think some of my preferences are likely rooted in what media has conditioned me to think is “acceptable” and “attractive.” But, whatever. I don’t claim that my enjoyment of make up and stuff is itself a “feminist choice,” though I do think I’m allowed to do what I want, but I think I can be a feminist whose choices are not uniformly in support of the cause. I just don’t really think that what I do with my particular, non-famous face is the battle ground on which I have to choose to take a stand. I feel fine about that.

    1. Personally, I think the choice to wear makeup because you want to wear it is both a feminist and a political one! Because 1) you’re treating it as worthwhile and valuable, and it’s something that often gets devalued because it’s a “girl thing,” and 2) since women are told you “have” to wear it and you “can’t be seen without it,” doing it for you is an incredibly powerful thing!

      I think that we all navigate gender norms in our own way, and it doesn’t undermine our feminism by choosing to accept a certain norm or another. What we want it to be is a real choice!

  8. I don’t particlularly see the point of make-up from day to day. For some reason, I associate makeup with Dressing Up so for big nights on the town, or presumably the next time i go on a date, I will probably don eyeliner, eyeshadow, and perhaps if its a big deal some lipstick.
    My big insecurity and beauty regime is hair removal (or in the case of my upper lip, hair bleach). Probably just as toxic as foundation or fake tan and yet it something that I find I will not give up, even as I questions more and more where my beauty standards come from and what they should mean to me. Does anyone else find this? I have pale skin and thick dark hair (a blessing on my head and absolutely no where else). So while I find it easy to leave the house for weeks on end without make up on, I refuse to bare stubbly legs or my “moustache”. Am I alone in this?

    (I apologise if this is too far off topic)

    1. While I do where minimal make-up most days, I am totally with you on the hair removal. I would say the biggest insecurity I have is my body hair. My brothers were total assholes to me as a child and added “hairy” to the beginning or end of every single nickname they gave me growing up, so my unease goes waaaaay back. I have pale skin, too, and while my hair is light, it is copious, and I am on a constant mission to get rid of it. I would say it is almost a compulsion. I was my arms, legs, eyebrows, lip, the whole shebang, and have just started laser hair removal on my bikini line. It’s strange, because my husband could not possibly care less whether my legs are shaved and wouldn’t notice facial hair removal or the lack thereof, but every time i notice a stray hair I inevitably hear my brothers taunts in my head. Dicks. Thanks for the lifelong bullshit.

  9. Make up for me is almost synonymous to going out and when it happens, I only use mascara or lipstick (never both). Like your mother, my mother has never used (much) make up and with age her skin is getting more sensitive, and therefore she’s using less of it.

    I only once have been told that I should hide my freckles, which I was so surprised by because they are one of my best features in my opinion. Yes, my lashes would be more visible with mascara on, but why would I put mascara on when I putter around the house the entire day? To recognize myself in the mirror? So yes, I’m lazy and not interested enough in ‘war paint’ (I hate when people call it that).

    1. NEVER HIDE THE FRECKLES!! It boggles my mind when people advise covering freckles. They are so cute! My eyelashes aren’t super light, but they are different colors, so a swipe of mascara makes a difference, but it isn’t one I do very often because I rub my eyes too much and end up looking like a raccoon. However, when I was in college, I nannied for an aesthetitcian, and she used to dye my eyelashes black, and holy moly, was it amazing. I cannot fathom paying for it regularly, but it was awesome while I was getting it for free.

  10. I’ve gotten so lazy about make-up. Mostly because I’ve found exactly one foundation that isn’t too dark for my pale and freckled face, which has now been discontinued. *grumble*

    In school, though, I wore this special-ordered foundation intended for theatrical use. It matched decently, and was thick enough to cover my freckles. But I’ve since decided that people shouldn’t have to cover their freckles in order to feel pretty. So these days it’s all about sunscreen.

    1. I hear you there. After many camp-related sunburns, I finally learned that the Texas sun hates me from about March-October, so I sunscreen up accordingly (much like Barney’s suit up, but only awesome because it prevents me from looking like a tomato during the following week).

  11. In a choice between doing my makeup and getting a few more minutes of sleep, sleep always wins. That’s me talking a sleep-deprived grad student. I’m also super pale and freckly, so sunscreen is a larger part of my morning ritual, though I occasionally wear blue eyeliner because it makes me happy. I was glad to finally realize that I wasn’t going to find a foundation in my shade and could just focus on the few bits of makeup application that I rarely have time for anyway.

     

    1. I am also a sleep-deprived grad student, and completely concur. My mornings have been shaved down to 20 minutes and a long commute, during which I typically nap. In the summers, I apply some sunscreen to my face, as the sun here is stronger than where I used to live. I should probably try some under-eye concealer, haha…

      I do really enjoy makeup, to be honest, mostly as an art (I used to do my own for major dance competitions, and it was time-consuming but fun). Now I like a light touch, but typically don’t have the time (and tend to rub my eyes a lot!). I also get hair all over my face from the wind here, so lip gloss is typically out.

      I think what I use most is probably nail polish, as while it may take an hour to do them nicely, they last for quite a while!

  12. I so resonate with this article. Even though I enjoy wearing makeup these days (I don’t get out of the house very much because I work from home, so most trips outside are special to me!), I didn’t really start until I was 21 or 22. I just never felt the need.

    Like you, though, I’m extremely fair-skinned and was blessed with a clear complexion, even as an adolescent.

    I don’t really have a problem with people who wear makeup, but I think it’s important that people who don’t really have a reason to wear it (scarring, for example) see it as an artist’s brush rather than a shield.

    YAY FOR HAVING CHOICES!

  13. Day to day, I rarely wear make up and even when I do get dressed up or go to an interview, the most I’ll do is some eyeshadow and lipstick. On Monday, I went to a job fair and I read that you should dress as if it was an interview. I ended up wiping off most of my lipstick as I didn’t really need it.

    The only kind of make up I adore is stage make up or make up connected to costumes for cosplay or Live Action Role Play or the theater. Then I adore how I can use make up to transform my face. Every Halloween, I always make myself up to look like a red fox as its simple and always gets a double-take as its just my face that’s different. I love how make up can transform, but daily I don’t need to transform just feel nice.

  14. I feel like my choice not wear make-up is both because of laziness and because of politics.

    My story is similar to yours. I never used make-up as a kid or teen. When I got older I felt pressure to do it, from friends and older family members. But I chose not to. Exactly because I’m too lazy. Why should I have to wake up an hour earlier than a man just to do my make-up? I already have to shave my legs, pits, remove facial hair, and (at least when my hair was longer) spend hours doing that. I got trapped into doing those things. Now I could never go too long without shaving my legs because I hate the feel of it. I got addicted to it. Somehow I escaped make-up early on, and I made the conscious choice not to add it to my already large list of lady-chores. At least daily I don’t wear make-up.

  15. I own makeup, I s’pose, but I only ever wear it for really special occasions.  I think I’m going on almost a year without wearing any…

    I feel like I just look kinda weird when I wear it.  My skin isn’t bad, but it’s far from perfect.  I always have a handful of pimples floating around my chin and hairline, and usually have noticeable bags under my eyes.  But…meh.  I don’t really care enough to wake up even ten minutes earlier.  Also, wearing makeup means washing my face more, which sucks up even more time out of my day.  Pass.

    I think, when I was in 5th or 6th grade, I told my mom only prostitutes wore makeup.  What a little shit I was.

  16. This is exactly how I feel. I’ve never worn makeup, but certainly not as any kind of statement. I actually really like seeing what people do with it, but it’s not something I’m personally interested in (and trying to keep my nails looking decent just stresses me out; I haven’t painted them in forever). I’m lazy; I’d rather sleep for 10 more minutes than bother with makeup in the morning.

  17. Thank you for this article. I’m similar to you; one big difference is that my mom did disparage people who wore makeup. I have tried hard to excise this idea from my mind.

    I have worn makeup a couple times, but I always felt like it was like mud on my face. Or, as you mention, a mask. There didn’t seem to be any point to wearing it. Not to say that there is no point to it, or that all people who do want to cover themselves up (because that’s not true!), but for me, personally, makeup was just something I didn’t care to spend my time on.

    I suppose it’s political in the sense that I dare to, not accept myself as “unpretty,” but rather regard my makeupless face as pretty, and to challenge the idea that I need to practice femininity by wearing it (lest I be a “bad woman”!) I dare to be confident in my appearance and my self without it.

    But that, of course, flies in the face of the article you quote, because that one seems to buy into the “women wearing makeup = pretty” (but not too much or in the wrong way, of course), while “women not wearing makeup = not pretty.” I think we should just be able to express ourselves as we choose!

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