Beauty Level-Up #11: When People Harsh the Make-Up Mellow

While it’s true that much of mainstream Western society enforces beauty norms, including the wearing of makeup, there is a backlash against wearing visible cosmetics (and I do mean that — wear only “natural” shades well-blended into your skin and no one will say anything).

Women and people seen as women often find it hard catch a break from the body-policing that permeates so much of society. Dare to affix bold colors to your face and people may take your look as an invitation to tell you about their feelings.

Someone saying to a full face of makeup that
Warning: This gif is only the first of many.

And make no mistake: This is about their feelings and has nothing to do with the made-up person’s choice of facial attire.

Make-Up Is Killing You Softly

A lot of people seem to think that makeup is going to kill you. Various past scandals have not helped that reputation, of course, but there’s something about cosmetics that really makes people angry beyond legitimate issues with makeup from the past. Take, for example, radioactive ingredients in cosmetics. They were most certainly a thing, once upon a time. Yet somehow, people wearing watches (which also used to utilize radioactive materials) aren’t subjected to the same level of public scoldings as people who wear makeup are. Even more curiously, the women who made those watches eventually died due to their labor, not because of their lipstick. Maybe, just maybe, people have a problem with things traditionally considered “feminine” rather than all potentially poisonous things.

Sexist biases and double-standards aside, there is also the issue of people simply not understanding how the world works. If you want to see just how little people understand about the concepts of toxicity, chemicals, and poisons, go no further than people whose preferred avenue of pearl-clutching is about cosmetics.

That low toxicity rating came by way of EWS’s Skin Deep, which is, ahem, overzealous about its ratings.

While the Internet has made it very easy for strangers to barge into femme lives to fear-monger on such matters, it has also made it easier for everyone to find better information. I may be no scientist, but I try to rely on someone who is for my understanding on matters of chemistry and biology, like the good folks over at The Beauty Brains, rather than freak out about the Scary Ingredient Flavor of the Week.

Everything is toxic at the right level. The dose, rather than some inherent property of a particular substance, makes the poison.

Heina wearing dark purple lipstick and making a weird face
In case there was any doubt: I do not wear makeup to cater to the hetero male gaze (or anything but my own purposes).

I Don’t Find That Attractive

There are people who wear makeup to make themselves look more normatively attractive or think that they aren’t fit for viewing by society without a full face on. The beauty norms that lead them to do so are worth tackling and dismantling, certainly. What isn’t true is that all people who wear makeup do it to look more conventionally attractive.

Furthermore, it’s highly unlikely that a made-up person has chosen every aspect of their look specifically with any person in mind. Sure, I sometimes goth it up when I know I’m going to see my partner or wear a certain lip shade to convey a certain mood or pick a look that works well for the format on which I will be seen. I do sometimes wear makeup to be seen; sometimes, it’s so that I will be seen less.

a face with only traces of makeup, someone is saying

What I don’t ever do is wear it to please every person or even most people.

You’re So Much Prettier Without It

This is the even more evil cousin of the “You look bad and you should feel bad”-type comment. If someone has never bothered to tell me that I look beautiful when I’m not wearing makeup, but they go out of their way to tell me that I’m “beautiful as I am” or “look better without it” when I do, then they are using a “compliment” to criticize me. Weaponized “compliments” are not genuine compliments; they are an excuse to be a jerk about someone else’s choices. A barb dressed up in civil language is still a barb.

And really, how many people realize how much skill, time, and make-up goes into the “natural” look?

someone saying to a face of light makeup that


If I Don’t Like It, No One Can

This is the sentiment at the heart of every snide dig at someone’s makeup. The person making the comment thinks that their opinion is not only relevant to the other person’s face, but also that their opinion is so important that it ought to be use to wrest the other person’s choices from them.


It's okay to not like things but don't be a dick about it

General anti-troll strategies and confidence-raising always helps to deal with obtrusive people, of course. And gifs made from fun videos.

the white girl from The Princess & The Frog fixing her makeup, caption

Always gifs.

Got beauty questions? Drop me a line via the method of your choice: Twitter / Tumblr [anon enabled] / Facebook/ (anonymous) / email

Beauty Level-Up #11: When People Harsh the Make-Up Mellow

13 thoughts on “Beauty Level-Up #11: When People Harsh the Make-Up Mellow

  1. 2

    I was talking with a couple of full-grown west coast living humans once and neither of them had heard the phrase “harsh my mellow” before. One of them thought I was saying “Don’t parch my melon.” O_o

    That’s an interesting series of gifs there. I actually like the natural darkness around that lady’s eyes in the middle one, but the evening out effect of makeup looks pretty coo in the last. If’n’ I was her, I’d use more eye shadow to bring back that element of what looks pretty before stuff goes on.

    I haven’t had occasion to use makeup in foeva, but it looks fun. My dude doesn’t use it much either, but when he does, likes the look Robert Smith had in the video for Hanging Garden. Hard to find a good image of it or the video at the moment… Anyhow, here’s a crappy one.

  2. 3

    My kids commented your purple lipstick with “she looks like a vampire” and “she looks like a hip-hop dancer” 😉
    Oh yes, the “are you sick” comments.
    I remember one day when I took the little one to daycare and just brished hair and teeth because I had the morning off and planned to take a shower upon getting home. No use putting on make up for the 30 minutes it takes me to drop the kids off, right?
    One of the teachers asked me if I was sick. She was really sweet and obviously concerned, but all that had happened was that I hadn’t put on make up…

  3. 4

    Also, the “natural face” fetish: Basically, what it means is “look like the societal beauty standard but DON’T remind us that women don’t actually look like that and that you spent 20 minutes at least in achieving this. ”
    A more obvious make up does not allow for that little mind game.

  4. 5

    OK, so makeup advice? Whate nail polish colour can a white-het-male put on, to look funky/crazy rather than fem/queer (nothing wrong with that, just not me)? I’m thinking about light blue / yellow (not many interesting colours in-store, but have some ideas)

    1. 5.1

      I’d say mid-toned-to-dark blue or green. Deeper yellow, too, like mustard. The drugstore brands with the most color variety I’ve found are the cheapie ones like Wet’n’Wild and Sinful Colors.

    2. xyz

      Essie has some great colors in all parts of the rainbow. Also, the more masculine guys I know who do their nails, sometimes don’t paint every nail but will do 1 on each hand.

  5. 7

    @4, Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk- says

    Also, the “natural face” fetish: Basically, what it means is “look like the societal beauty standard but DON’T remind us that women don’t actually look like that and that you spent 20 minutes at least in achieving this. ”
    A more obvious make up does not allow for that little mind game.

    I’ve seen similar characterizations elsewhere, but I’m not sure I understand. Do you think the people who have that preference actually know that “women don’t actually look like that and that [it takes] 20 minutes at least in achieving”? I doubt they do.

    It took me quite a while to realize that a lot of people who I thought weren’t wearing makeup actually were. I really thought all makeup would always be obvious from whatever distance I was viewing from. I don’t even think I had imagined that there were skin colored products for one’s forehead and cheeks, I thought only eyebrows, eyes, and lips had makeup for them.

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