Makeup at Work: A Double Standard

Sherry Lee
30 June, 2020

Interestingly enough, makeup started out as more of a tool than something used to enhance beauty with. In ancient Egypt, the rich and the poor of both genders used kohl, their liquid eyeliner made of galena, to block the blaring sun, prevent eye infections, as a bug repellent, and finally, as a beauty aid. In ancient Rome, cosmetics were frowned upon. During the Victorian era, clear skin was the craze. So, how did it go from that to “women must wear makeup in the workplace”? 

Photo by Sujeeth Potla on Unsplash

The Unreasonable Requirement

Makeup was initially used for the purpose of boosting self-confidence if need be, but now women feel pressured to wear makeup to work regardless if it is specified in the workplace’s dress code. Not only that, how we put on makeup might also end up as the talk of the office. If we’re wearing too much, we’d be told to redo it because it doesn’t follow “appearance rules”. Men might judge how we look, and women might compare our makeup with their own, making the entire working environment feel shallow and unpleasant.

Photo by Bianca Berg on Unsplash

The main requirement for our makeup is that we would have to look “natural”, as in not be obvious that we have applied colors on our face. But it has to be as if we did not put on makeup, just as freshened up. Meanwhile, we turn to our male coworker, who’s sitting there with his five o’clock shadow, bed hair that he attempted to tame with his hands, and his wrinkled dress shirt messily stuffed in his pants. And we’re getting told to put makeup on because we “look like we’re sick” just from comparatively having less color on our faces without it on.

Looks aren’t More Important than Abilities

More women, no matter what job positions they are in, are told to put makeup on in their workplaces. The reason that is often told with this request is for women to not “scare people away” or “discourage others” as they work. Basically claiming if we do not have makeup on, our faces will drive people away or affect the companies’ reputation, disregarding what we have accomplished before as a hardworking employee of the association. In many cases, unlike men, women are hired to have a more passive job of being the face of the company instead of what they can contribute. While looking professional to represent the brand is completely understandable, having how we look overshadow our skills and achievements is absurd.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

For instance, Yoko Shono, a Japanese newscaster, had to report an emergency earthquake broadcast and had no time to apply makeup before she had to be live. Unfortunately, people ended up being more focused on how different her face looks without makeup than the natural disaster that was occurring in the country. Suddenly, it’s as if everything she has done before became meaningless, and the talk of her bare face is forever embedded with her job as an announcer. The talk of her bare face would be brought back up again from time to time whenever she appears on television, overshadowing her performance and dexterity as a newscaster.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels

Another issue that is pressuring more women to wear cosmetics, whether they like it or not, is the treatment women with makeup get as compared to those who do not wear makeup. It seems that women who wear cosmetics would be promoted much easier and are treated with much more enthusiasm. These kinds of behaviors will not only hide the potential we carry, but also possibly turn women against each other into a battle of who looks better with the style of makeup they have on to earn special treatment from colleagues and employers.

Makeup is Personal

Photo by on Pexels

The whole point of makeup is for us to use whenever we want for whatever purpose we have. Whether we put on makeup or not, what kind of makeup we use, and how we want to put our makeup on is our own choice. Besides, we aren’t born with makeup on. No woman’s bare face should be considered as disrespecting. We love what we look like, with or without makeup. Makeup is also a way for us to express who we are, even with the need to keep a professional image to represent the corporation we work in. Unless we work as a professional clown, how we put on makeup is entirely for us to judge ourselves.

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