For the month of May, Bustle is presenting our Beauty IRL package, which is a tribute to our readers' love of beauty and the way they use makeup and skin care to express themselves, to embrace their identities, and to self-soothe. Check out more of those stories here.
Despite what everyone tells you — society, commercials, movies, the well-intentioned woman behind the makeup counter, your great aunt — makeup can be something you wear to make yourself feel beautiful, not something you put on to impress a man, woman, friend, or coworker. Sure, the compliments can be nice, but ultimately, what's more important is how the makeup item makes you feel.
According to a survey of 1,800 Bustle readers, 35 percent of women reported that they choose to wear makeup because it makes them feel more confident. Prepping to give an important work presentation? You can swipe on a red lip for a boost of confidence. Feeling extra flirty and fab? Grab that ultra-volumizing mascara. Want to look natural, but still feel glam? Brow gel, brow gel, brow gel. There's no limit to what makeup can do for your mood, and it's about time we squash the myth that we put foundation and blush on for anyone else but ourselves.
The conversation about self-care has been more relevant than ever. After all, we're living in a time where we still have to fight for equal pay, the ownership of our own bodies, and for more representation in leadership, be it in the workplace or the government. Makeup is more than just a tool to make us look and feel like Beyonce on the Grammys stage — it can help us feel self-assured, unique, creative, empowered, and happy, and most importantly, ready to take on what life has to offer, both the good and the bullshit. The following women couldn't agree more.
Here are the products and moments that made 17 different women realize they wore makeup for themselves — and no one else.
"I was pretty intimidated when I first experimented with makeup. I was afraid of making wrong color combinations and was hesitant to try new styles out of the fear of not 'pulling it off.' Eyeshadow was the first makeup item I started to play around with and over the years I've realized there is no correct template for a perfect look. As long as I love it, that's all that matters. I love being able to express the way I'm feeling with my makeup, especially with some bold eyeshadows."
"I never really wore lipstick until after college when I discovered Ruby Woo by MAC. The moment I put this lipstick on, I immediately felt like a badass Rosie the Riveter. It's the kind of color that has carried itself through generations. Even though it's been years since I first tried this lipstick, I feel that same power and femininity every time I wear it."
"Growing up, I didn't have many role models or inspiration. There weren't really any women who looked like me being celebrated, and it was often hard for me to find products that matched my skin tone. One of the reasons I love working with Make Up Forever and The Colored Girl is because they embrace diversity, inclusion, self love, authenticity and they are willing to show it. I love [their] Ultra HD Foundation, and have been using it ever since my first campaign with The Colored Girl last year. We all deserve to be, celebrated because the differences are beautiful."
"When it comes to my makeup routine, it's always been all about my eyes. I can easily look sleepy without makeup, so I try not to leave the house without at least putting on a little mascara or curling my eyelashes. Ever since I struggled through my first cat eye, I haven't put the liquid liner down. There's something about a perfect wing that makes me feel sexy, pulled together and wide awake. Even though it can get too thick and winged out on off days, the cat eye is something that makes me happy, even if others might find it too Amy Winehouse-ish."
"Mascara and eyeliner were the two products that made me realize I wear makeup for myself. I remember, early in my career, I was told to stop wearing makeup because I was 'too glam.' Specifically, I wore 'too much eyeliner' and my lashes were fake. (I love mascara and have naturally long lashes.) It was odd to hear that, considering what I do for a living. I feel like makeup can almost be something frowned-upon by some people in this industry, which is bizarre to me, because I love makeup. When I have it on, I feel like I can transform into anyone I want to be, and I love taking the time to apply it. Some people like to paint canvases or adorn their walls or clothes. I like to adorn my face. I slowly came to realize that whatever amount of makeup I have on, I wear it for myself for no other reason than it makes me happy. And if you don't like it, bless your heart."
“I always throw on a bold lip when I need a boost of confidence or a boost of creativity. Whether I have to give a big presentation or am feeling uninspired in a brainstorm, I can always count on a bold lip to do the trick.”
"When I was a teenager — heck, even well into my 20s — I always wanted bigger lips. Because of this I always felt beholden to playing up my eyes or cheekbones, but never dared to wear anything bright, bold, or dark enough to draw all the attention to my mouth. Then, one day, I just decided to say f*ck it. Since then it's become the look I wear just for me — and it's a reminder that beauty is not one size fits all. I feel powerful, polished, and incredibly chic in red lipstick. I constantly rely upon it when I want to feel like a badass, whether that's cleaning my house on Saturday morning (when I test new makeup, for the record) or at a fancy party in Hollywood. If you see me in a red lip, you best believe I'm feelin' myself."
"Wearing mascara adds a little spark of magic. It somehow makes me feel like my eyes are open to see all the beauty our surroundings have to offer. Not to mention, Too Faced's Better Than Sex mascara adds volume, is easily buildable, and leaves your lashes fluttery. The name says it all."
"A makeup item that made me realize that I wear makeup for myself is Lime Crime’s Black Velvet Matte Velvetine Liquid Lipstick. I’ve been a makeup lover ever since I can remember, but this lipstick holds so much meaning to me because it was the first time I decided to just go for it and stop worrying about what people think. This is such a bold, dark, and intimidating lipstick that there’s no way I would wear it to impress boys or for any other reason than just because I love it. When I wear this lipstick, I feel badass, unstoppable, and empowered. Who cares what people think of it when it makes you feel that awesome, right?"
"I am a huge believer of having a great canvas. Highlighter always makes your skin look healthy & hydrated (especially ColourPop's Super Shock Cheeks). It gives you a great glow. Whenever I travel to tropical countries, I just throw on some highlighter and draw my brows in. Done and done!"
"I have always loved a winged eyeliner look, but was absolutely awful at applying it. Eventually I decided — screw it! Practice makes perfect. I rocked a crooked/uneven winged eyeliner for about a year haha. I think I finally have it mastered."
"The one product that I wear for myself and no one else would have to be my Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream 8-in-1 skin perfector. Gone are the days of being negligent with my skin and foregoing sunscreen. I'm very concerned about sun damage and the toll it takes on your skin. I also like that this product gives me a very light, fresh dewy glow that says, 'I'm not trying too hard' even though I am trying very hard to maintain a grade A skin care routine."
"The day I discovered my love of black lipstick was the day I discovered I truly DGAF if my makeup appears subtle or invisible or traditionally 'pretty' like we're taught it's supposed to. My first black lipstick was Manic Panic's Lethal Lipstick in Raven, a product that came across my desk at random and that I applied half out of curiosity, half out of irony. Instantly, however, it felt like the black lipstick represented my identity on a profound level (or as profound as makeup can be, anyway) — that of a feminine presenting person who also isn't afraid of being loud and looking loud to match. I'll also never forget that the first photo I posted on social media of myself in black lipstick elicited comments from a few really smart people I admire a lot who normally don't care about makeup. This made me feel rather validated, like I had found a way to wear makeup and stick it to the man at the same time. Which is all I ever want to do in life, really."
"My brows are sort of the one thing that I do the way I want regardless of people's opinion. As a makeup artist, my look is constantly being judged — I can't tell you the number of times I've heard 'not as dark as yours' comments in regards to my brows. I started wearing this look about six or seven years ago. Maybe it was an adaptation to NYC-living and not wanting to look sweet and gullible, so adding a little structure and toughness to my face fared well with me from then on. I don't think I'll ever drop the look, even when my hair is platinum! (Cue early Madonna reference.) Regardless of what anyone thinks, I wear my brows structured and dark for myself. Because it makes me feel like I can conquer NYC — I mean, LA — I mean, the world.
"I could wear solely mascara and be happy. I feel like it is the window to my big blue eyes. I love all mascara, but am partial to drugstore ones like Maybelline’s The Rocket."
"I love to have my brows done, even on those no-makeup kind of days. In my opinion, brows really shape the face and make an impact unlike any other makeup product. I always feel more confident and ready to conquer the day when my brows are looking good."
"I don't blush. Ever. But growing up, I had friends who'd get red in the face when they were embarrassed, and believe it or not, I was so envious! I thought their flushed cheeks looked feminine and pretty — never mind if one of my girlfriends had just tripped in front of the hottest boy in school. Yet when I peed my pants in elementary school (in front of the entire class, mind you), I was not blessed with even a hint of rosiness.
So when I started wearing makeup as a teen, I went straight for the powders, first experimenting with colors (I quickly discovered bright reds and warm berries didn't pair well with my fair skin), then branching out to all sorts of creams, stains, tints, and eventually bronzers. It took years, but I finally found the shades and formulas that give me a natural, healthy-looking glow. Now, having a little color in my face is just my thing... and so is embarrassing myself all too often."
The next time someone suggests you wear red lipstick to look sexy for your date or a magazine tells you to only wear a certain shade of blush based on your skin tone, know that there are legions of women standing behind you, encouraging you to wear whatever makeup you want for you, and only you.