I don’t really put on makeup. Neither do most of my friends. Well, certainly not everyday. In fact, when I moved to Delhi (I was in Bangalore earlier), I was quite surprised to find that so many girls here do use makeup on such a regular basis! This has been almost a culture shock even though I’m living in the same country. ;)
So for me, why I don’t put on makeup seems like a strange question to ask. A more natural question would probably be, why does anyone use makeup? Not that I have anything against makeup- I think it’s amazing that people have been grooming themselves in various ways for so many centuries now and that seems to define the idea of beauty for them.
If you look at the bright face-painting cultures of many tribes, or the very Indian idea of tattooing one’s name onto one’s arm, or even putting a black kajal mark on faces of babies to protect them from “buri nazar” or the evil eye!, all this is very much related to the idea of makeup for me, because it is all done in an attempt to look impressive, to protect oneself, or to stand out in a crowd...
Also, the very idea of what will make one stand out in a crowd has constantly changed- be it either with time, or depending on where in the world you live in, what culture you are from, or just depending on fashions.
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From the Victorian period till the early 1920s, for example, “painting one’s face” like we do today with our whole army of foundations, concealers, mascara, eyeliner, rouge, eyeshadow and lipstick, was considered so appalling that girls were told off for ruining their “natural look” if they put on makeup. Beauty lay in the minimal and in keeping it simple, and this was only some 100 years ago (which is a really short period of time if you consider that humans have been around for some 200,000 years and the earth itself has existed 4.543 billion years!)
But by the late 1920s and early 30s, putting on makeup, or like they said, painting one’s face, had become an act of rebellion against what was considered the norm for female beauty. So in a society which thought beauty lay in not wearing makeup, it was by wearing makeup that one could actually stand out in a crowd.
As fashions change, our idea of what is beautiful also changes. Of course, it also depends from person to person, but the larger ideal of what the society at a particular given time and place considers beautiful, plays a role too. Today, most people would probably not consider covering their faces with a mixture of white lead and vinegar beautiful (which by the way, is also poisonous, so don’t try it). But during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, such makeup was quite the rage - because the highest ideal of female beauty in the English society then was having a pale complexion, which looked as if one’s skin had been untouched by the sun. This was considered a mark of nobility because only rich, genteel women could afford to stay at home and not work in the sun, others had to toil hard in the world outside.
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Come the 1960s however and sporting a sun tan became the popular beauty statement, thanks to the invention of sunscreen, and also because it hinted that one could afford a life of leisure of lying on the beach in the Italian and French rivieras… ;)
So what constitutes awesome makeup in 2016 where I live? And what should constitute awesome makeup in 2016 where I live? It is a question that we all, as individuals, can have different personal responses to. This is also what different designers, makeup artists, stylists, and fashion people seek to respond to.
In 2016, we are living in a world that turns to “the local” and the comparatively neglected cultures for inspiration, while also turning more and more “global” by staying connected through the internet. So what should beauty mean in 2016 becomes a really interesting question to ask.
In a society that is increasingly obsessed with beauty brands and looking “happy”, “satisfied” and “groomed”, but also a society that is increasingly interacting and presenting itself through technology - say, via Photoshop or Instagram or Snapchat, what is the best way to stand out in a crowd?
For that is why we talk of makeup or beauty - we want to be noticed and we want to be different. When thanks to the internet now, we are bombarded with tons of images every single day, every single moment,
how can we create an image of ourselves which is worth noticing?
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It is in this context that my answer is wearing no makeup. When most images we come across reek of perfection, it is only the imperfect which can begin to catch our eye. Or else, everything is boring and there is not much new about it.
And of course, this is contextual, like the very idea of beauty is. In Bangalore, where the people in the circles I moved in really did not wear makeup, I would go carefully through makeup tutorials to learn how to put on my concealer without looking like a nightmare and how to apply my lipstick so that it stayed on for hours. Because looking different from people around me made all the difference.
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Now in Delhi, where mostly everyone steps out only after carefully applying makeup, not wearing makeup seems like a more appropriate expression of myself when I do want to stand out. :p I think we all should experiment with defining beauty for ourselves and our contexts, just because it is such a personal thing. But hey, that’s why I no longer wear makeup. ;)