- Comment Policy
- Contact Us
By Jordan Prochnow
Makeup can be a double-edged sword for me. With it, I feel great; without it, I feel self-conscious. Makeup makes being a teenager in high school difficult because there is enormous pressure to wear it all the time. Recently, I decided to change my relationship to makeup for myself.
I first started wearing makeup in sixth grade. I don’t remember needing it then, but I’ll admit that I have become dependent on it during high school. I squirm if my mom tells me not to wear makeup on vacation. I feel the need to spend my money on the newest lip color, even if I have four others in nearly identical shades. When I see a girl with impeccable eyeliner, I feel an itch to go home and do the same thing. This dependency on makeup can be a problem, and I can pinpoint why.
I have a history of feeling uncomfortable with the way I look. It took me a long time to feel good about myself, to be able to tell myself that I look good no matter what I’m wearing. Sure, on a lazy Saturday at home, I could go without it, since I probably would not be taking lots of pictures or meeting important people, but as soon as I entered the public eye, I felt the overwhelming need to meet expectations and look a certain way.
I normally spend around an hour on my hair, makeup, and getting dressed in the morning. I sometimes feel like a machine when I get out of bed, programmed to line my eyes and blush my cheeks. This goes for any sort of event as well. As soon as there’s an hour left before I need to leave, it turns into prep time. I tend to feel hurried or frenzied in the event that I run out of time, worrying that someone, somewhere will notice that I don’t look like I normally do. Then there are the days where I choose to go without it, but those are very infrequent.
And then I woke up one Monday morning, having slept through my alarm, and dragged myself out of bed. I felt somewhat frantic, knowing that I didn’t have enough time to get ready as I normally do, and stared at myself in the mirror. I don’t know why, but I felt a fire within me, a desire to do something different for once. I decided that I wouldn’t wear makeup to school this week. Before I could change my mind, I grabbed my bag and headed out the door.
I felt uncomfortable that day, shifting in my chairs at school. I kept waiting for a snide comment, a critique from someone to reduce me to shame, but it never came. No one cared except for me. I went to school, I went to work, and no one noticed that I might have looked different.
The next day I woke up later than I normally do, thankful for the extra time to sleep that I would have spent on my makeup. I pulled on leggings and a shirt, ready to leave, and a thought dawned on me: I always wear makeup with dresses. When I go out somewhere, I always straighten my hair and put on as much makeup as possible. It just feels like a mandatory rule. So, I put on a dress and boots, leaving my hair wavy and natural, my face bare.
That day, I spent my lunch playing with three-week-old kittens. I was happy, and I didn’t care how I looked. It felt good and that’s what mattered to me. I told my friend’s girlfriend on the way back to school that I wasn’t wearing makeup. She stared at me, slack-mouthed, realizing what I was saying. She hadn’t even noticed that I looked different and still thought I looked pretty that day.
The rest of the week continued like this and I felt better and better as the days progressed. No one cared what I looked like without makeup. There were still times that I felt uncomfortable, but it was nice to go a week without being all-done-up. Even when I was told that I “look tired” on one occasion, a phrase that would normally cause me to squirm, I realized that I was sincerely exhausted that day.
Then on Friday, I decided to do my eye makeup, leaving my cheeks bare. I sat outside in the sun, I went to lunch with a friend, and I enjoyed the oncoming Denver spring. My friends noticed that I hadn’t been wearing makeup for a while. It meant a lot to me that they didn’t care and they told me that I looked great no matter what.
That week experiment changed how I feel about makeup at school. My skin felt better without foundation, concealer, and powder every day. My eyelashes weren’t clumped together. I felt confident in the way I looked without needing to apply lip gloss to feel better. I was me, and that was more than enough.
Why did I care about makeup so much?
I’ve grown up in a world that focuses on what “true beauty” looks like. Walking through the store, watching TV, or reading magazines, there are ads showing beautiful women modeling makeup. “You too can look like this!” cosmetics companies tell us. Would I kill to look like Blake Lively? Heck yes. But do I feel disgusted that 37% of articles in teen magazines tell me how to look, whereas 12% focus on advice about school or careers? Absolutely. I’m bombarded with commercials telling me to be easy, breezy, beautiful, when I’m just trying to watch some zombies get killed. Girls younger than I are starting to hate their appearance, and make themselves look like grown adults because of their makeup. Teenagers should be able to live their lives free from someone else’s standards of beauty.
In high school, people will criticize you if you don’t wear makeup, and people will criticize you if you do. If you spend time on yourself, you’re labeled as “wearing a mask,” you’re “uncomfortable with how you really look,” or you “look like a doll.” However if you don’t spend time making yourself look done up, you “don’t care about how you look,” you’re “lazy,” and you “look like you’re ill.” Even in drama class last year, the teacher informed us that makeup was required during our performances, even if we didn’t want to wear it. It would “make us look better,” he told us.
The things that people say hurt, no matter how confident you are. There will always be a comment that sets your skin on fire, and I am still working on making sense of these contractions.
But here’s what I’ve learned: no matter how much makeup you’re wearing, if it’s “caked on” or bare, that’s your choice. No one can dictate what makes you comfortable, or what makes you feel like yourself.
So I’ve decided to take off my makeup, or wear lots of it when I want to. I’ll eat Oreos and binge-watch RuPaul’s Drag Race at 3 a.m. with my best friend. I’ll dance to Hamilton music in the school parking lot. I’m living my life the way that I want to live it, and that makes all the difference.
Jordan Prochnow is a young writer living in Denver, Colorado. In 2017, she will be attending the University of Iowa (go Hawks!) to major in creative writing. She wants to make a difference in the world, and to spread positivity through her writing. Jordan loves dogs, pretzels, crime shows, and Target.