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Makeup or Mask?

By , 17, Contributor Originally Published: August 31, 2007 Revised: September 11, 2012

In the seventh grade, I began to notice something: fuller lashes, lined lids and glossed lips. The painted faces of my peers started popping up in middle school. Who were these girls my age who were wearing makeup? I had dabbled in makeup at slumber parties, but it was never anything I took seriously. To me, wearing makeup on a daily basis practically certified you as a grown woman.

Many of us start wearing makeup simply because everyone else does. It makes us feel older. We want to feel mature, but have to play by the rules. But many girls, including myself, find this maturity in makeup.

A Woman Possessed

Testing the water, I started with lip gloss. I didn’t want to cannonball straight into womanhood. I wanted to slink in unnoticed, giving me time to practice and perfect the art of makeup. I didn’t want to seem like an imposter—a little girl in her mommy’s makeup. Then I went from just lip gloss to lip gloss and eye shadow. Eye shadow seemed so fun and colorful, and it was easy to add eyeliner and mascara from there. Foundation was my last step. It was through this gradual process that I waded into womanhood…in my world at least.

In truth, I waded more into a crazy fake and clownish appearance. I remember clearly the moment I realized things had gone too far. A younger girl walked into school one day with really heavy makeup. I noticed the line of foundation that ran along her jaw line, showing just how thickly it was applied. On my way to the bathroom with my girlfriends, I chuckled internally at her. She was clearly a beginner.

In the bathroom, I looked at myself in the mirror and realized how ridiculous I looked, too. There was black goo in the corners of my eyes. My lids were shaded as if a four-year-old armed with a crayon had applied my eye shadow. Who has purple lids?!

Makeup had become a mask that I hid behind, because I was terrified to reveal my real face. I thought that with makeup I would be beautiful, or, at least, not as ugly. I felt trapped because I believed that if I stopped wearing makeup everyone would think I was hideous. I had become a woman alright—a woman possessed.

Some of my sensible friends told me that I didn’t need makeup to be beautiful, that I am naturally beautiful. And naturally, I didn’t believe them. I couldn’t see the truth: None of us “needed” all the makeup we wore. We were fresh-faced young women who probably gave ourselves more zits trying to cover up the few ones we had.

I was determined to feel better about myself.

Makeup had become a mask that I hid behind, because I was terrified to reveal my real face.

Natural Beauty

I began forcing myself to wear less and less makeup every day. Makeup was a hassle and I was never very good at applying it anyway, I reasoned. However, the one thing I got stuck on was eyeliner. I could not give it up. I was convinced that without lined eyes, I looked terrible. (Eyeliner really just made me look like a raccoon by midday.) Eventually I got over it, but even today I will catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and think, Gosh, my eyes could use some definition.

With a lot of effort, I started to appreciate my natural beauty. It wasn’t easy. I would stare at myself in the mirror; I would tell myself, I am beautiful, even when I didn’t believe it. I made myself pick some things that I liked about my appearance, and eventually, I started to feel better about it. I gradually stopped wearing makeup, even eyeliner. And I saved a lot of time and energy that I used to spend buying, applying and rechecking my makeup.

Comfortable with My Appearance

Now, as I prepare for college and the “real” world, I don’t wear any makeup. I don’t care what other people think, because I am comfortable with myself and my appearance. I know I don’t need makeup to be beautiful. As I look around my school or the mall, I see flocks of girls wearing lots of makeup, and I just want to shake them and make them realize how beautiful they are without it.

We live in a world where the media hits us over the head with acne commercials and the latest no-clump mascara. It’s no wonder we have such a hard time believing we are beautiful. All these products lie in wait for us in the stores, suggesting that without them we are nothing short of gross.

There is something beautiful about every single one of us, and it breaks my heart to see girls—and even fully grown women— dissatisfied with their appearance.

Makeup: Not a Bad Thing

Makeup is OK. I’m not suggesting that we stop using it all together. It can be fun—experimenting with different shades to bring out the color in your eyes or seeing how you would look with different products. But sometimes we get carried away, and makeup becomes a means of hiding one’s self. Makeup should not replace your self-confidence and warp your perception of beauty, especially your perception of yourself.

Kristina Romines is a 17-year-old contributor who lives in Virginia.

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