Beauty or beast; how does makeup define us as women?

Written By Kaisha Jantsch, For The Globe

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I rarely wear makeup. Most days, I like myself and the way I look naturally, so I choose not to wear it. However, on days when I feel less positive about my appearance, I bust out my brushes and blush, pull out my palettes and I play.

It is on these days that my female co-workers tell me I look pretty.

It is on these days, and only these days, they say, “You look so nice,” adding, “with makeup on,” assuring me that my beauty, and the beauty of all women, lies in what we can manufacture. But, of course, it doesn’t. 

I am beautiful whether I wear makeup or not. So are you. And our pocketbooks and bodies are actually a lot better off without makeup on.

According to a 2017 article in Forbes, the beauty industry is a $445 billion giant, which, according to a 2018 study by Reuters, will be a $805.61 billion giant by 2023, and women are responsible for the makeup bubble boom.

A 2017 article in People magazine reported that, on average, women spend about $43 each time they purchase cosmetics and that a typical woman spends approximately $15,000 on cosmetics in her lifetime. Of that, she spends $3,370 on mascara alone. However, Sissi Johnson, the author of a 2017 article in the Huffington Post, suggested that beauty supply spending is much higher than that.

Taking into account skincare products, she wrote in a survey of more than 3,000 U.S. women aged 16 to 75, women use, on average, 16 different beauty products on their faces daily, and that a woman’s ‘face’ costs about $8 each day. That is, women apply about $8 worth of skin and beauty products to their faces every morning, with some applying about $11 worth of those products, adding up to about $300,000 in a lifetime. That’s the cost of a healthy mortgage, an ivy league education or 40 family trips to Disney World. That’s a lot of money—money saved by women who choose not to wear makeup daily. And that’s not the only thing they save.

They also save time. A nice chunk of it.

According to a 2014 article in Women’s Health magazine, “Women spend an average of 55 minutes every day primping”—meaning each day, women spend as long as a Tuesday night episode of The Bachelor, putting on makeup and styling their hair. Over the course of a year, that daily almost-hour adds up to 335 full hours, or 14 whole days. So, women who wear makeup regularly literally lose half of a month each year of sleep, of exercise, of time with their friends and family, of furthering their education, of cooking family dinners, of helping their kids with homework, and of pursing their career goals. What’s worse is that they risk their health to lose all of that.

A 2016 investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) linked mercury poisoning to some skin products. According to the investigation, a significant number of skin creams commonly found in the beauty aisles of drug and cosmetic stores contain mercury, and applying those mercury-laden creams to the face and skin puts users at risk. Furthermore, two 2012 studies by the FDA revealed that large amounts of lead are present in almost all lipsticks, including those by L’Oreal, Revlon, Avon, Covergirl, Dior and M.A.C. According to Eluxe Magazine and the David Suzuki Foundation, other chemicals are common in makeups, creams, and powders as well. These include coal tar (a suspected carcinogen) and dibutyl phthalate (a suspected endocrine/hormone disruptor).

Thus, taking a few days away from makeup each week, or choosing to wear it rarely or not at all, is healthy, and being healthy is beautiful.

To be clear, there is nothing iniquitous about wearing makeup every day. While it is more costly and may expose the body to toxins, it isn’t inappropriate for women to enjoy makeup or prefer themselves with makeup on. But there’s also nothing wrong with not wearing makeup. In fact, its beneficial.

So, women, stop judging your fellow females’ appearances. Our missing makeup is saving our health and bank accounts. And isn’t that a thing of beauty?

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