7 Billion Separate Beauty Standards

Grace Tepper discusses our unrealistic beauty standards and expectations of what defines the 'norm.' None of us have to play by those rules though, and make up can be a wonderful way of expressing ourselves and our unique style. Make up is not to 'cover up', to hide imperfections, but to challenge ourselves creatively and reflect ourselves as we wish to be seen. 

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were getting ready to go out to dinner. A few minutes before we were set to leave, she frowned and said, “I was going to wear makeup, but I don’t think I have enough time.” Instantly, I responded with, “You look fine! You don’t need makeup anyway.” Her expression afterwards was total confusion. After some discussion, I realized that I was perpetuating an outdated perspective on makeup that’s far from the truth: that makeup is solely for hiding, covering up, and pleasing others. Why is there this the common assumption about cosmetics, when they are so much more?

No matter who they are, the makeup industry can make people, as consumers, ashamed of their natural features and flaws, which everybody has. Often, the message portrayed in the media and in our cultures is, "Cover up your imperfection," or "Be like this person." In a world with so many body types, face shapes, and unique features, forcing all of them to adhere to one image is detrimental to self-confidence and self-acceptance.

Take Alicia Keys, for example. She’s been making waves in the media by going makeup-free everywhere, all the time. Her natural and glowing look challenges the unrealistic expectations of the press and of fame, and is a call to everyone to be free of any persona they feel they must fulfill. We need to liberate ourselves from others’ provocations. Yes, one of the purposes of cosmetics is to cover up those awful zits we get in the middle of our foreheads during exam week, but that’s simply to make us feel more comfortable and confident. Don’t ever wield that magic concealer stick just because you feel that you have to fit someone else’s description of beautiful. We are all beautiful.

If you get a kick out of painting, it may be easier to relate to the other side of makeup: artistic expression. Social media sites like Instagram, while dangerous for self-confidence in other ways, are giant art exhibitions when it comes to cosmetics. There are millions of people out there practicing their craft; everything from the eyeshadow version of Starry Night to full-body optical illusions and FX makeup is available at our fingertips. While not necessary, makeup can be an opportunity for us to showcase our personalities. For many, it is a job, lifestyle, favourite pastime, or an escape from daily stress and pressures. A lot of people in religions and cultures which restrict what they wear and show find wearing makeup to be an especially perfect way to further express themselves. As a whole, cosmetics have as much potential to bring us together as they do to drive us apart.

How often someone drops into Sephora or dons fake eyelashes is entirely their business and their choice. Unless your goal is to compliment someone on their look, no comments or critiques are necessary. Moving forward, it’s time for us to banish the mindset of a single beauty ideal and accept a new and more creative outlook on the topic. No one needs makeup to go out; we are wonderful as is. However, if you want to celebrate your features and show yourself and others who you are by rocking winged eyeliner sharp enough to kill someone on your night out, by all means do so.