Confession of a Hypocrite: I Still Wear Makeup


(This post is in response to my last post, “Why I ditched Shampoo.”)

Becoming a mother has made me more aware of many of the things I do.

One of the ways motherhood has done this is by encouraging me to narrate what I do. (All the books tell me I should narrate what I do to help my baby acquire language, and to do it in the third person since pronouns can be confusing for tiny brains. You know me: I do what the books tell me to do.)

So as I go about my daily business, I hear myself saying things like:

“Mummy’s gonna put a new shirt on you.”

“Let’s go to the potty.”

“Mummy’s just gonna put you down so she can wash her hands.”

I had to pause the other day, however, when I heard myself say, “Mummy  just wants to put some makeup on.”


I hate that I wear makeup.

I don’t wear much any and I don’t wear it often – only when I go out, and normally only a bit of concealer, sometimes a little eyeliner. I only go all out with the mascara, blush, and eye shadow for weddings and Christmas dinners.

But still. I own it, and Lydia has to see me apply it, and I don’t know how I’d justify its use if she ever asked me about it.

Makeup is problematic for me on a number of levels.

1. Putting on makeup in front of my daughter sends a confusing message.

I don’t want her to think we need to fix our faces – that our faces aren’t good enough just the way they are. I want her to know that her face is perfectly gorgeous just the way it is. But how to I communicate that if I think I need makeup? Why do I need it but she doesn’t? Just because she’s a kid? Is there a point in time at which your face becomes not good enough and in need of artificial improvement? If so, when is it?

2. Most cosmetics contain harmful ingredients, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxics, endocrine disruptors, plasticizers, degreasers and surfactants.

eyeshadow compact

Using cosmetics therefore puts my health at risk, as well as my daughter’s, who first grew inside my body and now feeds from my body.

3. Makeup is generally heavily packaged.

There is twice as much plastic as product in a typical eye shadow or pressed powder compact. After the product is used, the container gets chucked, to sit in a landfill for a few millennia. If I avoid shampoo in order to minimize plastic waste, it would make sense to stay away from all other cosmetics as well.

4. The whole cosmetic industry is based on selling the idea that we’re not beautiful enough the way we are.

I hate to give even a dime to these manipulative, multi-billion dollar corporations.

* * *

I’ll probably never completely forsake makeup, though. The truth of the matter is, I want to be pretty by the world’s standards, now matter how unrealistic and unimportant those standards are. I know that I am fiercely beloved by the Creator of the Universe, but dang it, I want my fellow humans to think I’m attractive.

You can bet I’m wearing makeup in any picture I post on this blog. I justify it by saying, nobody wants to look at an ugly face on their computer screen. I want you guys to think I’m attractive, trendy and cool, so that you’ll like me and keep reading my blog. I guess I assume you’re all as superficial as I am. (If I’m being honest here).

I’m glad that I’ve managed to keep my makeup use to a minimum, but ideally, I wouldn’t even have any in the house.

How about you? How do you feel about makeup use?

(Whenever I can, I try to explore ways that I’m a hypocrite.)
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  1. Mmkay, I just left a comment on the no-shampoo one, but now I need to put one here too. Because I have a lot of thoughts about make-up and you’re making me think them again…

    I think a lot of girls/women get used to the way their face looks WITH makeup. So used to it, that they can’t see themselves without it. They think “I’m ugly without make up!” but really they’re just different without it. Once you get accustomed to your hair or face one way, it’s hard to change out of that. Have you ever put your hair up without a mirror and asked someone if it looks okay? They say yes, but the first chance you get you check it yourself and you’re horrified? This happens to me a lot, and I really don’t think my friend tricking me. They just see a hair style that looks OK but you have an idea of what *your* hair should look like and if it doesn’t lay just so, it doesn’t look good- To you. That’s the thing.

    Of course, self-confidence is really important, but knowing that just because you don’t meet *your* (super-duper high) standards, doesn’t mean everyone in the world gags when they see you. Or even thinks anything at all. I’ve known a few girls where the first time I saw them without makeup I was surprised at how pretty and fresh they looked. Sometimes a good wash and a little natural moisturizer (I like coconut or olive oil) is all one really needs to look their best.

    I grew up never wearing makeup, then, sometime around 17 a friend gave me a “make over” with gobs and gobs of makeup. (It was probably the average amount most girls wear.) I felt like a clown, even though she probably did a really good job. I just wasn’t used to my face with makeup. Now that you mention it, I think it might be because my mom never wore/wears it. I wonder if she had, would I feel the need to wear it too?

    Then again, I feel really under-made-up when I go out without earrings…so maybe everyone has a weakness somewhere.
    Christiana recently posted..A newsy update and some pregnancy photosMy Profile

    • Love these thoughts, Christiana! You’re so right when you say that usually you are the only person who thinks anything of it when you’re not made up.

    • Yes! I never wear make-up but can’t go anywhere without earrings and usually a necklace. I’m sure other people don’t notice, but to me, without the jewelry, I look ugly and plain.

    • I agree with you. I have been both positions, so I have some experience with what you have said. I never wore makeup until my freshman year in high school. In the beginning, I wore very little (tinted chapstick and eye liner), because it looked so gosh darn tacky to wear any more (I thought). Everyone commented though, both that I looked great and that I looked terrible. My new face unnerved them a little bit, either way.

      Over the next few years in high school, and the first few years of college, I wore more makeup. I should be clear, I’ve never worn as much makeup as many women do. I dabbled a bit in foundations and powders, but never found the right tint (yellow skin) and it always made me break out. So it never went beyond dabbling. But I wore varying levels of eyeliners, mascaras, lipsticks, coverups and eyeshadows. People were used to seeing my makeup face, and so was I. I felt pretty.

      At some point, I can’t remember why at the moment, I began to wear it less and less. On the days I didn’t wear it, people always commented or asked if I was feeling sick. I’d say no, just a no makeup day. They would insist, no you don’t look well so you should take your temp, etc. It didn’t motivate me to wear makeup again though, and I wore it less and less frequently until I just stopped wearing it completely. During this bare-faced time, I met the friend who would become my future husband (tho I didn’t know he was yet).

      Then I moved to Paraguay for a year or so and hardly ever touched the stuff, even on special occasions. It’s just too hot and sweaty and disgusting there, and my acne couldn’t afford the risk. When I came back, people I knew before were already used to no makeup’ed me, and people I met there never saw me with makeup anyway. I began dating my husband when I got back, still bare faced. I did wear makeup on my wedding day, and I remember seeing my face and feeling like it was a mistake…too heavy, too tacky; made me look kind of old (I hadn’t figured out yet that lipstick isn’t always flattering).

      Now, years later I’m in my high 30’s and really seeing myself start to age. I don’t mind the way I look, per se…but it more clearly looks like I could use a little color (I still have yellow skin, but it’s no longer as glowy). I wear makeup now when I teach a lesson at church, have a job interview, major occasions and when we have family photos. I have added peachy blush and eliminated lipstick entirely. Every time I am made up, my friends are aghast and kind of freak out…”You’re…you’re…you’re so PRETTY!” They kind of embarrass me with the talking and the staring and make me wish I hadn’t done it.

      Basically, people will be shocked either way but they’ll get used to your face in whatever way you choose to give it to them. They will love you no matter what.

    • Just wanted to say I love your thoughts Christina! And thank you for this kind of discussion, Kathleen!

  2. I’ve definitely cut back the last few years for a couple reasons – I’ve never found a makeup (foundation that is) that doesn’t wreck havoc on my face if I wear too often, so I don’t go all out more than once or twice a month. I also hate that it covers up my freckles, which I love.

    I don’t mind putting on a little to go out – it’s usually around the eyes, a little blush if I haven’t seen the sun for a while and maybe something on my lips. I feel fine without, but I have a very basic, simple routine with my eyemake up that I feels makes me look nice and can help me feel a little more confident. If/when I have a girl I’ll probably keep this same routine since it’s not an everyday thing but rather for certain occasions and now I place more emphasis on my preventative “beauty” routines and while I’ll sometimes do it because I have a date night with the hubs or for family gatherings I only put on makeup when I want to (I rarely wear it for work in fact) and not as a regular “can’t leave the house without it) kind of thing. It falls into the same category of why I’ll stop our whole day (when I’m home with Henry) and take a shower and change my clothes – sometimes I find starting over, fresh and feel good can really turn a day around.
    Molly Makes Do recently posted..Loves Songs for the UnromanticMy Profile

    • I love that you love your freckles, Molly! Why cover them up? I agree that freshening up with a shower and nice clothes, even when you’re staying home with the munchkin, can make you feel so much better.

  3. Christina says

    Dave often asks me why I wear makeup or tells me that I don’t need it, but I always have the same reply: 90% of the time he whistles at me or tells me I’m hot or I look beautiful is when I’ve taken the time to choose a nice outfit and do my hair/makeup.
    I feel 10x more confident going out when I feel good about myself. I know I don’t NEED it, but I get way less “you look so tired” comments when I have makeup on.
    I’m also trying to get myself more healthy, trying to go organic, etc., but makeup/hair products (including shampoo and hairspray) are things I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give up. I just love having nice smelling hair and looking good too much.

    • It’s interesting that you’ve had that experience, Christina since mine has been the opposite: Ben tends to tell me I’m beautiful at the most random times, when I’m wearing stupid clothes and my hair is all wonky, but remain annoyingly silent when I’ve actually put some effort into my appearance. It used to frustrate me that he didn’t notice when I’d done myself up and would compliment me when I felt dumpy, but now I’m glad that he seems to like me better au naturel. It puts less pressure on me to look all perfect according to societal standards.

  4. I have a 2yr old boy and have found myself trying to explain what I am doing a I put on mascara, lip gloss, etc. through explaining it to him I realized its an artistc way that I can express myself, yes, culturally the expectation that I must look better than my ‘natural face’ can muster is oppressive, but I can also be thankful that I have access to this creative outlet.

    • I sometimes think of makeup this way, too. Although I wonder if you would ever let your son express himself in the same “artistic” way? (lol). It strikes me as interesting that it’s such a gendered form of artistic expression . . . (PS: love your name!)

  5. I absolutely always wear makeup. I hate that fact, but I hate looking ugly even more. I’m not one of those girls who looks pretty and fresh without makeup, honestly. Even before I was married I wore makeup on a daily basis and wouldn’t have considered quitting, but now I don’t feel like I have a choice, as I’m pretty sure my husband wouldn’t be as in to me if I didn’t wear it (I’m being brutally honest here). (Also, I hate it when girls use looking good for their husbands as an excuse to spend excessive money on clothes, dress indecently, go tanning, wear tons of makeup, or whatever, but there I go using that very excuse. It’s a dilemma.)

    Also, interesting thoughts on what wearing makeup says to daughters. I’m curious, did your mom wear makeup when you were younger? My little sisters who are 9 and 12 have always been really pumped about the idea of makeup, for whatever reason. If they can, they like to watch me put it on, and they’ll sneak a little if they think they can get away with it. The 12-year-old is dying to be allowed to wear makeup. I’ve always tried hard to hide my own makeup use from them, and discourage them from wanting to wear it when they get older. Unfortunately, like you were getting at, it doesn’t hold much water to tell my sisters they are beautiful and their faces are perfect just the way they are when I obviously don’t believe that about myself. I know that sends a mixed message to them, and I’m not proud of that. (Maybe what I really need to say to them to make it clear is, I have acne, YOU DON’T.)

    Anyways, thanks for prodding at the status quo! I am pretty sure I’ll always be a makeup wearer, but maybe soon I’ll at least be no ‘poo. :)

    • My mom never, ever wore makeup. As a Mennonite, makeup is a general no-no, and my dad is vehemently opposed to its use. (As a teenager, I had to hide it). I’m sure this has influenced my feelings about it.

      “I hate that fact, but I hate looking ugly even more.” Ha ha! Thanks for your honesty, Emily.

  6. My make up habits are very similar to yours.
    I think you can view make-up used as you do more as an accessory, like a necklace. If you’re going out somewhere for a nice meal, you might put on a bit more jewellery. This isn’t to say you aren’t beautiful without, it’s just nice to add something more to differentiate between everyday and special days.
    Similarly, you wouldn’t usually go to a wedding in jeans and a t-shirt, you dress up a bit. Sure, you do it because that’s the expectation but it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with how you usually look, just different occasions call for different things.
    If you wore a lot everyday then I think it would be sending out a much stronger ‘natural is ugly or wrong’ message. But as it is, I think just see it and explain it as an addition like jewellery or smarter clothes for special occasions.

    • Great thoughts, KT! I’d never thought of it quite like that, but I think I agree: if you wore it every day you’d send a much different message from only wearing it on special occasions.

  7. Wearing makeup despite how you limit its use on your children is a parent’s prerogative. Although children may question it, they are not in the right to make those decisions for themselves. Thanks for sharing this.

  8. This is so interesting, Kathleen, and I have to say I’m surprised that you wear it! But I love KT’s comment that you can just think of it as an accessory – that seems to be a great approach.

    I haven’t worn makeup in about five years, with the exception of our wedding day. I had always been on again-off again with wearing it, and when I first met my husband I hadn’t been wearing it for a few months. Then I thought, hey, I like this guy, I should try to look good for him – and the very first time I wore it he said how much better he liked me without it. I thought maybe he was just saying that, but no – he hates makeup and thinks it must be terrible for women’s skin. So I quit wearing makeup for good and it’s been so freeing! Every once in a while I think that maybe I should put some on, mostly if I’m feeling a bit intimidated or something by other women my age, but I’m too lazy :) Plus I look back at my wedding pictures, and while I wasn’t wearing a ton of makeup, it was so different from my usual that both my husband and I feel a little, I don’t know, remorseful almost? that I was wearing it on that day.

    As for Miriam, she loooves watching me paint my toenails and I have only barely been able to keep from doing hers (at my husband’s strong request!). I’m sure if I wore makeup she would be all about it. But at the same time, my mom never left the house without makeup on and here I am, years without it, so that can’t be the only factor! But like you said, I think I can send a much stronger message about being beautiful and strong the way she is, since I don’t use it.
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  9. I love this series. Me too, me too!


  10. This is a subject very close to my heart! I REALLY wish I didn’t wear any make up at all, and I only wear a smidge of it nowadays, but still. My biggest hang up is mascara. I have quite fair eyelashes and without it I look quite severe behind my glasses. With mascara I look friendlier somehow, which sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? :) I once thought about having my lashes dyed, (how vain am I?) but it can cause blindness apparently…definitely not worth the risk! It bothers me that I put loads of chemicals on my face, yet I keep doing it. Bah humbug. I know God has made me this way and He says His creation is “very good”. Why can’t I accept that? Great post…thanks. xxx
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  11. This is such a difficult topic for women who are trying to be both environmentally and health conscious. I know so many young women who buy organic, go vegetarian, and yet love to dress up and wear bright red lipstick and eyeliner.

    I have that same mildly used bag of goodies that I justify as only being used for certain occassions. Any time I think I need to look impressive I at least put mascara on because I have very blonde eyelashes :( And I love what KT said also, as sometimes makeup seems to be the only socially acceptable way to go!

    I have however, thought about investigating some organic or homemade options for make up. While this might not address the confidence issue it would alleviate some of the earth-killing guilt!

    I also wanted to comment on your comment about boys wearing makeup as a form of self-expression– Great point! no wonder we see so many young adult men getting tattoos. Although I would say our culture is becoming increasingly more accepting of that behavior for both transgender men and for men who are just a little self-conscious about their skin…

  12. I have never felt guilty wearing makeup. I’ve loved mascara and eyeliner since I was thirteen and although I don’t wear it everyday, I wish I did – just too lazy sometimes.
    If you feel guilty about it, it will impress your daughter in such a way. If you don’t always wear it, it does demonstrate that you don’t feel hopeless without it, right?
    You should live as you like, but for me, makeup is all pleasure -till I have to take it off :(

    I’ve been eco-friendly for most of my many decades, because it’s in my nature, not because it’s trendy. I get moreso all the time. But as long as they sell it, I’ll be buying and wearing simple eye makeup. Cheers

  13. This post really intrigued me, I personally believe that makeup shouldn’t be worn to cover up your natural beauty but to enhance it… I don’t have beautiful perfect skin! But I make sure I use makeup that won’t wreck my skin either and now adays they do have organic makeup you can wear if you want to stray away from chemicals… I’m all about eating healthy and loving myself and being confident. Makeup really helps me be more confident. I still do think I am beautiful at the end of the day without it despite my flaws.. And I’m working on improving my skin naturally!! I don’t use any chemical washes / masks / lotions on my skin at all. I just do what makes me comfortable. I love to try out new makeup products like blushes and eyeliners, foundations and powders.. It’s fun to me. And its something I like to do. If your comfortable wearing makeup and feel good wearing It then wear it! If I ever have a daughter one day I’ll tell her the same.. I’m not encouraging young girls to feel like they need makeup or their ugly or something so stupid that media states now a days… Just be yourself. Do what makes you happy :)

  14. I don’t wear makeup most of the time. I believe it most be bad for the skin to have lots of ingredients on it we know next to nothing about. Plus, my skin tends to be quite easily bothered (probably because of those ingredients), I wouldn’t be able to wear it daily.

    When I do wear some, it’s usually eyeliner, concealer and lip balm. And no my skin is not flawless and I’m no model, but it’s enough for me to feel pretty on a date with my husband. I’d also dress up more, wear some jewellery and so on. I treat makeup the same way.

    It sounds contradictory because I haven’t got the greatest confidence – I think a lot of it is from my mom not feeling pretty and trying so hard to look good. But I feel, in a way, that accepting the way I look is a way to rebel against that. And in turn that gives me a bit of power to think that I look ok without it.

    I haven’t totally given makeup up, probably never will but I prefer to treat it as something to be used as little as possible. I think it’s healthier for me this way, on every level of my being.

  15. Adrienne says

    Fascinating topic, and one I’ve wrestled with myself. My mom wears makeup rarely, even less than you do, but definitely for special occasions, family portraits, that sort of thing. I was intrigued as a child and begged to wear makeup; my mom said I could have a Mary Kay makeup party when I turned 16… but by the time I was 16 I didn’t care at all.

    I off and on dabbled for a few years, never feeling confident that I knew what I was doing. But I’d usually put on mascara and maybe eye shadow and/or liner as well as lip gloss for job interviews, figuring that I wasn’t dramatically altering my appearance but demonstrating my attention to detail.

    I’ve actually gotten more into it in the last few months and I’m having fun with it. I’m primarily using products (there are other, perhaps even more eco-friendly lines, but I wanted something I could get at my local grocery store). I’m confident in my appearance with and without makeup – it’s fun to wear it, but I don’t need it to look good or to feel confident. I think of it as an accessory, as a way to highlight features and express my personality… when I feel like it, not because of societal pressure to present myself in a certain way.

    I’ll also point out that many, many other cultures use paint to modify their appearance, not to mention that traditions of tattooing, piercing, and other types of body modification are ancient, ancient practices. I suspect our culture is odd not because people change their appearances but because we (some of us, anyway) judge those practices to be shallow, misguided, and all about external pressures and body shaming. I agree with you wholeheartedly that the cosmetic industry sends awful messages with advertising and that many people buy into them. But the practice of changing one’s appearance through applying makeup has roots that go back much further than our modern culture, and I don’t think it’s inherently bad/wrong/shallow/what have you.

  16. Hi, love the interesting and honest post :)

    I am almost makeup free. I don’t wear anything on a daily basis except a smidge of sunscreen/moisturizer. But I will still put on foundation, lipstick and mascara for a special occasion. I feel very hypocritical about that because what’s the point of eschewing makeup at home if I’m not going to be brave enough to go to a wedding, or even out to dinner, without it? I would love to be the kind of person who is confident enough to go nude faced *everywhere*.

    The other aspect of this is that many jobs have an unwritten requirement for women to be made up. It would be interesting to get a few well-presented, well qualified women and have them attend, say, a total of 100 job interview with makeup and 100 without (but still in smart clothes, hair done, etc). I’d be prepared to bet that there is massive discrimination against the woman who dares to show up with her natural face.

    Of course, many women will say that they use makeup because it’s fun, or they enjoy it as another way to express their personality, or it’s just for them, nobody else. But how many men feel this way? To the woman who posted that she likes to look pretty for a date, with her husband: does your husband also put on a bit of makeup to look nice for you? If not, why not? I think that whenever there is an activity that most women do but most men don’t do (apart from actual biological functions, such as breastfeeding babies), then it stands to reason that something more is going on. And that something more isn’t good for women.

  17. I don’t wear makeup at all but I feel this exact same way about shaving my legs in front of my daughter! I hate that I do it…but at this point in life I’m not confident enough to go without shaving at least semi-regularly. We live in a very warm climate so shorts and dresses are a must for 9 months out of the year and I am, shall we say, quite hairy :) Maybe one day I’ll get up the gumption to forgo shaving!
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  18. Funny you’d say that because I grew up in a family of Woman who wore makeup religiously. My nana would not allow anyone to see her until she put her makeup on in the mornings and at the end of the day when she took it off at night. My mom would also put her makeup on early in the morning right after she got up. And she always encouraged my older sister to put on makeup before leaving the house. I on the other hand didn’t agree with their concept on makeup. I would refuse to put it on before leaving the house even despite my mothers tantrums. I’d agree only on special occasions like family photos and weddings. To this day I don’t wear makeup on a daily basis I don’t wear it for church, for parties, or for family reunions. Though there are those special occasions when my husband takes me out dancing and I’ll put some on for fun. My point is your daughter probably understands a lot more than you think she does, if you want to solidify that then you should let her know that you don’t want to put it on because you need it, but because it is fun to wear sometimes.

  19. Hi there! Just stumbled upon your blog last week and it has inspired me in so many ways. Anyway, saw that you mentioned you’re still using generic makeup (as am I) and just heard about a new line being sold at Target called S.W. Basics. It looks really cool and I listened to the owner on the Well / Aware podcast. Anyhow, not sure if you’re wanting to venture into natural makeup, but it is the most budget-friendly, earth-friendly, people-friendly product I’ve come across so far. It also has great reviews. Light and peace!

    *I am not being paid to advertise for them, just one natural-life seeker to another :)

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