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 • Opinion  • Features  • We Asked Everyone from Psychologists to Drag Artists What Makeup Really Means to Us

We Asked Everyone from Psychologists to Drag Artists What Makeup Really Means to Us

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Main image – Sergefilimonov/Stocksy

I’m fascinated by the idea that, unlike, for example, during the 1950s, makeup often now goes far deeper than skin, resonating with who we are as individuals. Now, whether it’s an attempt to blend in or stand out, it’s your beauty – so your rules!  

Having said that, many of us do still feel pressure to meet certain beauty standards imposed by magazines, media, and even friends. In fact, a series of recent experimental studies published in Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts found that faces with makeup were viewed as more attractive, feminine and symmetrical than faces without. This also contributed to made up women feeling more confident, holding higher self-esteem.

Whether we’re wearing makeup as a form of self-expression or to fit in though, it’s clear how personal this topic really is.  Which is why I wanted to speak to everyone from psychologists to drag artists to find out exactly what makeup means to us.

Here’s what I learned.

 


The Ritual of Self-Care

Imagine this: soft music playing, a clean makeup brush gliding across your skin, and a sense of calm washing over you.

Applying makeup is more than just a daily routine; it’s a therapeutic process. The gentle strokes and careful blending provide a moment of mindfulness in our busy lives. 

Dr Rukshana Ali, a Clinical Psychologist specialising in Psychodermatology, explains that the daily ritual of applying makeup can act as a vital contributor to positive mental health. This unique version of art therapy, which allows you to express your inner self through varying colours, can enhance a sense of belonging in the modern world.    

Dr Rukshana states, “Makeup does act as a form of self-care. The type of psychology I link to applying makeup is more to do with mindfulness and being present. Makeup is a discrete period of time where you can focus on yourself without distraction, so it’s very personal.” 

But of course, makeup isn’t everyone’s first choice and that’s okay too. 

“When I’ve seen patients struggling with scarring or other visible differences, makeup can be used to enhance their self-perception. On the flip side, other patients have an aversive response to makeup as a camouflage, as it acts as a reminder of that visible difference”, Dr Rukshana adds. 

It’s important to remember that makeup reflects our own personal decisions, and no matter which daily trend pops up on our social media ‘for you’ page, fleeting beauty standards don’t need to be met.

 

Dr Rukshana Ali

 


The Art of Self-Expression

Every swipe of lipstick, every flick of eyeliner is an artistic expression of who we are. Makeup is our personal canvas, and the colours we choose can reflect our mood, style, and inner self. But for some, makeup is also used as a tool to re-connect with who they are, their self-confidence. 

Kelly Daniels, a beauty advisor working with cancer charity Macmillan at British pharmacy chain Boots, helps customers who are undertaking cancer treatments discover their newfound self-expression. This particular role, which is offered to all No7 Advisors at the start of their employment, allows them to possess a deep understanding of skin physiology for personalised customer advice.     

Daniels explains, “The journey through cancer treatment and the side effects can be daunting. These treatments can have a visible effect on our bodies which can be quite unsettling. We spend our lives learning to love the skin we are in and when it changes unexpectedly due to medical challenges it can be difficult for anyone.”

Alongside offering emotional support for customers resulting in positive psychological impacts, the Boots Macmillan Beauty Advisor is also there to provide useful tips and tricks to enhance application abilities. After all, makeup isn’t just a product; it’s your artistic signature. 

“Cancer treatments can have an impact on the skin resulting in hair loss in areas such as eyelashes and eyebrows, alongside a change in complexion. We offer emotional support and a relaxed space for patients to share their worries and emotions around their self-image, while providing techniques such as mapping out eyebrows or creating the illusion of eyelashes”, Daniels adds.  

 

Kelly Daniels

 


Makeup Knows No Gender

In today’s world, makeup isn’t limited by gender. It’s a universal tool that anyone can embrace to challenge stereotypes and celebrate diverse forms of beauty.

Particularly in the world of Drag, the careful precision of an eyebrow pencil, or a specific colour of lipstick can define a new personality; mentally and physically.   

Whitney Bae, a Drag Queen who performs around the North East of England, explains how the transformative power of cosmetics has the ability to break societal norms, whilst similarly educating audiences on topics essential to society.      

“Drag is armour for me, I feel invincible with it on. It’s needed for ‘Whitney’ to be ‘Whitney’ and I personally feel that there is a change in my psychology when applying makeup – the character takes over and I feel more empowered. Makeup to me is just chemicals and has no gender.”

Speaking about how makeup are now more inclusive than ever- no longer imagining that the consumers using it are looking for a Stepford identikit look- Bae says, “It’s amazing to see how far the industry has come.”

 

Luke Salmon as Whitney

 


The takeaway

The psychology behind makeup is a fascinating journey into the interplay of self-expression, confidence, and societal influences. Understanding this reminds us that beauty is not just skin deep; it’s a reflection of our inner selves, our individuality. 

As we navigate the world of cosmetics, let us embrace the multifaceted nature of makeup and appreciate the remarkable ways in which it can enhance our lives, one brushstroke at a time. 

 

Meet the experts

Dr. Rukshana Ali (BSc (Hons), MSc, PgDip, DClinPsy) is a Clinical Psychologist specialising in Psychodermatology for both the NHS and private practice. With 20 years’ worth of clinical experience, she is one of the best in her field. 

 

Kelly Daniels is an experienced No7 and Macmillan Beauty Advisor at Boots (UK). With an extensive background in a diverse range of industries including teaching and retail, Kelly is committed to providing her customers with exceptional service.    

 

Whitney Bae (Luke Salmon) is a talented 26 year-old Drag performer who has captivated audiences in and around the North East for a number of years. Her shows encompass comic musical numbers, performing at renowned events including Lindisfarne Festival.        

 

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author avatar
Maria Winter
Maria Winter is a freelance creative journalist who discovered her stylistic niche whilst completing a master’s degree in International Multimedia Journalism at Newcastle University. Having recently graduated, Maria is diving into the world of writing, whilst running her female-led music events company, Marisam Events.

Maria Winter is a freelance creative journalist who discovered her stylistic niche whilst completing a master’s degree in International Multimedia Journalism at Newcastle University. Having recently graduated, Maria is diving into the world of writing, whilst running her female-led music events company, Marisam Events.

Expertise: Makeup, skincare
Education: Newcastle University
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