What Make-Up Means to Me


The most effective way my male flatmates try to wind me up is by saying that women wear make-up for men’s pleasure. It never fails to provoke an explosive reaction, usually resulting in me throwing a teenage strop and locking myself in my room.

For me at least, wearing make-up for a guy is always secondary to wearing make-up for myself. Maybe I’ll apply it a bit more carefully before a date but my daily make-up routine is something I do for me. It’s a therapeutic part of my day where I take some time out to make myself feel confident and comfortable. And that’s not to say I don’t feel confident barefaced but applying my go-to make-up always makes me feel ready to take on the day.

It’s a ten-minute ritual that I really enjoy. I’ll make a cup of tea, listen to my current playlist (I’m having an Amy Winehouse moment which usually results in a karaoke session too), and just take my time applying my favourite products and mentally prepare myself for the day. Make-up is my comfort blanket, it makes me feel more like myself. And I love donning a bold lip for a day and winged eyeliner the next, it’s a form of personal expression in the same way fashion is.

My first memories of make-up will always go back to my grandmother. As a child, my sister and I would always look forward to the moment after Sunday lunch when Grandma would let us go upstairs and explore her endless drawers of mystical beauty products. We’d sit at her dressing table from the 70s and apply orange lipstick paired with blue eyeshadow like it was going out of style. Note to self: it will never be in style. It was at a young age that I realised the transformative nature of cosmetics, almost as if it let you pursue different personas. When I was five years old, make-up made me feel like a sophisticated and glamorous woman – an aspiration that was high up on the list at that age!

Image Credit: Lydia Rose Hawken
Image Credit: Lydia Rose Hawken

Nowadays, I wear make-up for me – not to pretend to be something I’m not. I guess what I’m trying to say is that nothing irritates me more than when someone undermines my intelligence or thinks any less of me just because I own a ridiculous number of nail polishes. My love of all things beauty related is just as much a part of me as my love of literature! And if wearing a bold lip makes me feel trendy and confident then I’m sure as hell going to do it. As long as I know that it’s for me, then there’s no point caring what any-one else thinks. Make-up gives me the same confidence you’d get from wearing a LBD.

Sometimes it’s hard being a woman in the 21st century; our looks are all too often dissected in our personal lives, our working lives, and relentlessly in the media. Wearing make-up doesn’t necessarily mean we’re adhering to society’s horrendously thwarted ideals of beauty, it means we’re just trying to get through the day and remain happy and confident in ourselves. In some instances, my make-up can be a suit of armour… but I don’t feel obliged to wear it daily.

I’m in awe of this Buzzfeed journalist who went barefaced for a week as part of a social experiment and learnt that the only person it affected was herself. I thought a lot about this issue when this article was published back in October of last year. I happily spent days at university, chilling with friends and not applying an ounce of concealer to my complexion. Sometimes it’s nice to let my skin breathe. But when I thought about going without make-up for a week, my gut reaction was that I didn’t want to. And that isn’t because I’m scared of what people will think, it’s because I love wearing make-up too much. I love taking that time out of my day to concentrate on something other than my uni reading or whether I’ve done enough preparation for my seminar. My daily make-up routine gives me some much needed headspace.

I wear make-up because I want to and because I love it, not because I feel like I have to in order to impress a guy or look like someone I’m not. Being interested in make-up is just the same as being interested in a sport or any other hobby and I’m fed up with being labelled superficial for it. I know I’m not any of those things. Writing this post has been extremely therapeutic and after I hit publish I’m going to swoon over the latest Essie nail polish collection in peace! And if people are going to judge nonetheless then why not leave them to it.


Third Year English Literature Student. Deputy Lifestyle Editor of The Wessex Scene. Lipstick hoarder and literature enthusiast.

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