Beauty Regimens as Self-Care
I love putting on makeup. It might not be a daily thing for me but it’s a very sacred ritual. I like that I can paint my face in a way that accentuates what I want, whenever I want, to achieve the purpose I want, and wash it all off and just be me again.
As women, we’re told that we are only useful and valuable if we are in service to others. If we want to do something for ourselves, like wear makeup, we are viewed as selfish. If we don’t wear makeup we don’t care about ourselves. If we do wear makeup we’re narcissists. By that logic, anything that we do for ourselves is self-indulgent and unnecessary.
Because makeup, and most skincare isn’t required to keep us alive it’s seen as frivolous, but it’s not. Our beauty routines are a means of self-preservation and stability. They help us feel like ourselves and that we can always return to stability if we are knocked off course.
Our beauty routines are where we can be totally in control and make our own rules. If we want to enhance thick, dark brows we can. If we want winged liner so sharp that our faces are basically bleeding, we can do that. If we want to pile on three different face masks, or soak in a lavender filled tub, we can do it all.
My makeup routine is a time for me to be creative and express myself. If I‘m feeling flirty? Pink cheeks and fluttery lashes. Girly? Pink lips. Sexy? Smokey eye or dark lipstick. Confident? Red lips all the way. Makeup helps me to exaggerate these feelings or emulate them until I genuinely feel them. Putting on makeup isn’t only about the products. It’s about putting on a persona of who I want to be.
Makeup allows you to feel beautiful when you may not fully believe it yet. When I first started experimenting with makeup I didn’t have the highest self-esteem. I was wearing makeup as a way to make myself feel prettier and more capable. With a little foundation here and a lot of eyeliner there, I came to know and love my features and skin, flaws and all. Makeup lets you fake it until you make it because if you repeatedly see beauty when you look in the mirror you will eventually see yourself as beautiful.
Obviously, you will likely see yourself as more beautiful with makeup on and that’s okay. Products are supposed to make you feel happier about yourself and more attractive. It’s literally why makeup became a thing in the first place and I’m here to tell you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Beauty isn’t a façade we use to lie to and hide from the world. The way you look is a crucial part of your identity so anything that you do to look after or enhance your appearance is a form of self-care. The appearance of beauty is intricately woven into the way we view ourselves and how others view us so attempting to put the best possible version of yourself out there is a means of protecting your identity.
Speaking of protecting your identity, it can be argued that beauty routines are even more important to those of us that don’t align with the mainstream standard of beauty. I have dark skin and hair that’s more like a cotton ball than a ringlet. Women and girls like me can’t help but see that we are not what some would call “classically beautiful.” We are told that straighter hair, smaller noses and laid edges will make us more beautiful. And if we really want to jump up a level on the arbitrary beauty meter we should go ahead and bleach our skin because “light is right.” These messages wear on us over the years and can very easily make us think we aren’t beautiful.
For those of us that fall outside of the mainstream Eurocentric standard of beauty, everything from meticulous skin and hair care to precise makeup application are a middle finger to anyone whose standard of beauty doesn't include women that look like us. If you want to wear a big, curly/kinky afro, enough highlighter to be seen from space, or the boldest lipstick you can find, do it. Take a few moments each day to do at least one beauty ritual. It’s not self-indulgent, it’s self-caring. We don’t need their approval. We have our own.