Zadie Smith Says Putting On Makeup Is A 'Waste' — But She's Wrong

Kali Borovic
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This morning I got up, washed my face, grabbed a cup of coffee, and started my daily makeup routine. I applied foundation, glided on some concealer, and grabbed my favorite shade of lipstick — all despite the fact that I work from home.

After that, I cracked open my laptop to get my daily dose of beauty news. It's what I do habitually. Between beauty launches and viral videos, I found myself drawn into an article that championed writer and essayist Zadie Smith for saying that putting on makeup is a "waste."

"Did I just waste my morning?" I thought. No. No, I didn't.

The article lauded Smith for telling attendees of the Edinburgh International Book Festival that she doesn't let her 7-year-old daughter spend more than 15 minutes in the mirror each morning.

“I explained it to her in these terms: you are wasting time, your brother is not going to waste any time doing this," Smith said, according to The Times of London. "Every day of his life he will put a shirt on, he’s out the door and he doesn’t give a shit if you waste an hour and a half doing your makeup.”

That, my friends, is bullsh*t.

Putting on my makeup in the morning is my "me-time." It's the hour of the day that I am in complete control, and I use the calming nature of beauty self-care to help curb my anxiety. It's like a giant reset button that allows me to go through familiar motions and get my mind in the right place before starting my day.

I can't imagine anyone telling me that caring for myself in this deep, meaningful way is a "waste."

Maybe Smith's daughter feels — or could eventually feel, as she grows — the same way I do. She wouldn't be the first. Others have attested that beauty practices like going through a skin care routine or applying makeup helps sooth their anxiety, too.

Since Smith's daughter is only seven, it is possible she can't fully relate to this feeling of self-care yet. But it is important she feels comfortable exploring herself in front of the mirror, owning her appearance and her time.

"Putting on my makeup in the morning is the hour of the day that I can control, and I use it to curb my anxiety."

I use my time in front of the mirror as a therapy session. It's a way to sit with my thoughts, explore my creativity, and start the day my way. According to Quora, the average therapy session is 50 minutes long. Coincidentally, that's about as long as it takes me to get ready in the morning. Can you imagine going into a therapy session and only spending 15 minutes? That's not even enough time to get your jacket off and wrap your head around your thoughts.

While Smith has every right to parent her daughter the way she'd like, my main concern is the phrasing that she used in her talk. The writer and essayist compared her daughter to her son, suggesting she has to be more like him to achieve success. The message is that men have the key to success down pat, and women who value beauty can't possibly compete.

Instead of understanding why her daughter wants to be in the mirror for an hour each day — because, let's be honest, at the age of seven, it's a choice — she tells her that her actions are wrong and a waste of time. There's a good possibility that this ban will have her grow up thinking makeup is the enemy, and that women who value makeup are vain and unmotivated — a stereotype that women work hard to overcome.

While odds are that Smith's daughter will never read this, you are. I want you to know that makeup is not the enemy. Your mother, brother, and best friend will not have the same daily routine as you, but that doesn't mean that the rituals you like to do are wrong. It doesn't mean your type of self-care is a "waste."

So drink that second cup of coffee, apply those falsies, and carry a lipstick around in your bag. Whatever helps you get through the day.