No, this is not to say that I will be parting with my Fenty Beauty Candy Venom Mattemoiselle lipstick anytime soon, but that I’ve been considering doing it for a while now. Why? Because I hate the beauty industry.
Let’s start at the root of the problem, the brands and their owners. LVMH—the parent company of Sephora is handled by Bernard Arnault. L’Oreal’s CEO is Jean Paul Agon -the company also owns IT Cosmetics, YSL Beauty, Kiehls, among others. Fabrizio Freda is the CEO of Estée Lauder, which also owns MAC, JoMalone, and La Mer.
Notice anything about these CEOs? They’re all white men. Would be quite an ad hominem argument to say that they’re unqualified to run these companies because they happen to be rich, white and male—but what I’m trying to say is that we need to be aware how these are the people who are responsible for our 30 minute makeup routines, our “my lipstick is my war paint” mantras, our “oh I just need to put on some mascara and lipstick and I’m out the door”, or our “I look like sh*t I didn’t even have the time to fill in my brows”. Basically, these men are responsible for the way in which makeup is marketed to us.
According to a survey funded by Dove, “62% of all girls feel insecure or not sure of themselves.”And more than 70% of the girls with low self esteem feel that they are not pretty or stylish enough. These companies I mentioned? All complicit in these statistics. Fenty Beauty’s newest concealer’s is called “The Cure”, as if your dark circles are an illness and something to be ashamed of. Maybelline’s “instant age rewind” concealer is advertised as an eraser that erases everything that is wrong with your skin. I don’t know where this idea of perfectly matte flawless skin comes from, because it really is not realistic. Trust me.
The beauty industry devalues women and capitalizes off it—we’re being sold this idea every single day that our worthiness in any given environment is determined by how our faces and our bodies look. The beauty industry not only thrives on our insecurities but introduces those insecurities to us in the first place. I did not know having redness on my skin was a bad thing until I was sold colour-correcting concealer by a saleswoman at Sephora. I thought skin was meant to be imperfect. This idea of “concealing” our flaws/ pores/ dry patches/ uneven skin tone is the same idea that drives the billion dollar skin bleaching industry. And the same one that drives the hunger suppressing lollipop industry that women like Kim Kardashian sell. Kylie Jenner at 16 presented this vision of overly sexualised womanhood, who allows this? Who is complicit? Why do so many girls at that crucial age in their lives start saving up money for rhinoplasties, or lip fillers? Why do we justify going under the knife as something empowering and liberating, when it isn’t. Why have we started to celebrate makeup and beauty and forced conformity to a strict notion of femininity? Imagine the ideals it sets for trans-women who feel that to be valid, they need to look like the women in media.
Why aren’t we allowed to celebrate our own skin, regardless of those dry patches and sun spots that Tati Westbrook (who I actually love) will have you believe are flaws. These things aren’t flaws. Makeup and our societal obsession with flawlessness and perfection tells us that our naturalities are something to be ashamed of. When will we stop allowing girls from growing and showing those signs of growth that show up in the process—scars, acne, tree-climbing bruises as things to be proud of? And wrinkles and laugh lines as proof of life?
Consider how Millie Bobby Brown (star of Netflix series Stranger Things) is portrayed in the media. While her male co-stars act like the average 15 year old boys, Millie poses in high heels and dresses, lips parted, in a full face of makeup. Of course, her stylists are complicit in making her dress this way. But perhaps Brown also in her personal Instagram posts tries to mimic the hypersexualised version of girlhood that is sold to her on Instagram, or even through her peers. She wears dresses that 20+ year old women in the film industry wouldn’t look out of place wearing. This isn’t empowering, this isn’t something we should be proud of, but this is the ideal of femininity that we are sold and to a very young audience.
I know a lot of you will hate me for this, saying that makeup is an art and it’s also for men, so what? Capitalism has never been empowering, and the fact that it rests on constantly making women feel unworthy, makes it worse. Ask James Charles or Manny MUA or Jeffree Star if they have ever been asked why they look so tired when they show up to a meeting without wearing makeup, if they have ever been asked to conform to sexualised standards of beauty to fit into an industry that thrives on that sexualisation and disempowerment of young girls. Their answer will probably be no. Why is it empowering for men to wear makeup when the entire industry is based on its hatred of women? It’s privileged to think that makeup can be art when makeup’s profitability is dependent on how it makes you feel about yourself. Tell me, when was the last time a makeup advertisement made you like your skin?
Harleen is a sophomore at Georgetown University Qatar. She is also an overall cute and sassy person and your co-editor in chief.