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What does makeup really mean to us?

I became a true makeup lover about seven years ago. Before that time I wore only simple, very minimal makeup without much thought as to what I was doing or the products I was using to paint myself. But then the explosion of social media happened, information was everywhere and you could easily access visual guides, like YouTube makeup tutorials. So I started experimenting more with makeup, with different colors and textures on my eyes and face. I slowly began to understand how makeup could be used to enhance certain features. One day I could play up my eyes by using certain contrasting colors, and the next day I could play up my cheeks with a rosy blush. With each little enhancement I felt more and more confident. I felt pretty, I felt strong. I understood then that makeup could make me feel things.

When I put makeup on, whether it’s simple, no-fuss makeup or more dramatic, glamorous makeup for evening, I’m not trying in any way to change myself. My goal is to feel like the best version of myself. I don’t want people to look at my makeup necessarily, I want them to look at me and think “Oh, she looks nice today.” But any compliments I may get are really just an added bonus. I apply makeup for myself.

But I wondered, is this why others apply makeup as well? What motivates women to seek out professional artists to apply makeup? I set out to try and answer these questions.

I’ve had my makeup done professionally just a few times in my life. I always loved the experience because I have a passion for beauty and I love interacting in that space. What techniques does the artist like to use? Which products are their favorites? What is their opinion on a current makeup trend? These are the kinds of questions I love to ask. Lydia, a digital marketing strategist, feels a similar way. She had this to say about makeup artistry: “I’ve been into beauty my entire life, and I always love having my makeup done by an artist. It allows me to learn new techniques and chat with others who are just as obsessed with makeup as I am. By the end of it, I’ve remained relaxed and feel beautiful because I’ve been given a new look that I may not have normally been brave enough to try on my own."

There are also many women out there who are much more casual about beauty. Those that might not be as obsessed with the latest products or trends, but who still participate in the beauty industry to an extent. What does makeup and the experience of professional makeup artistry mean to them? For Amanda, an HR director, makeup is about confidence and professional artists help build that confidence. “Getting my makeup done gives me the confidence I never knew I had."

Nicole, a childcare specialist, has had some up’s and down’s with professional artists but sees makeup as a conduit for self-improvement. “When I was a little girl, I couldn’t wait to play with makeup! I’ve had my makeup professionally done several times and there were times I honestly felt like a clown, overly ‘made up’ as if the makeup’s sole purpose was to cover up my face. Other times I felt beautiful inside and out. I don’t like to think of makeup as a necessity, it’s more of a tool for enhancement.”

Others seek out the services of professional artists to help them navigate tricky subjects like finding the right foundation shade or the most complimentary colors for your complexion. “Getting my makeup done professionally is a learning experience,” Nani, a tennis coach says, “because I never seem to know what I am doing.” Kathy, a marketing director, echoes that sentiment: "I enjoy getting my makeup done professionally because I learn the techniques and get ideas that work well for my skin tone and features."

To some women makeup signifies special occasions, big life events or happiness. Ann Marie, a real estate salesperson, shares the following anecdote: "I remember the first time I had my makeup done professionally. It was for my wedding trial, and I had absolutely no vision of what I wanted to look like. I knew a lot about what I didn't want; I didn't prefer dark lip colors or having a smokey eye. Other than that, I left the rest up to the professional. I looked at the mirror and was blown away by the face staring back at me. The face was mine, and it was stunning. My best features were highlighted, and I felt so beautiful in that moment.”

Do you need to wear makeup in order to feel pretty, to feel confident and secure in yourself? Absolutely not. Ideas of beauty and self-worth vary greatly from culture to culture, country to country, or even city to city. Not one idea is right or wrong. But it is fascinating to hear the responses of women from different walks of life when you ask them what makeup means to them. It can mean passion, happiness, confidence, education, technique, creativity, opportunity.

What does it mean to you?

—Erica La Sala

Check out my beauty blog, We are glamerus, for product reviews, videos, information on new launches, and other beauty news. And follow me across social media: Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest.

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