If we wear makeup when no one else is around to see it, does it matter?

This morning, on my Facebook page, I posted the following question: “Do you wear makeup if you know you’re not leaving your house for the day?” People – including a few cheeky men – were generous with their responses: some do, some don’t, some don’t like the underlying presumption in the way the question is worded (which was understood by some to be, “we all wear makeup when we leave the house” even though many people don’t).

Spending time on such a question could understandably lead people to think I have too much time on my hands. Maybe I do. But even a paucity of time to think about something so seemingly trite wouldn’t eliminate its existence for me.

For me, wearing makeup falls into the category of self-care. This is in part because while growing up, there was a fixation in my family on how people looked. How fixated on looks were they? My family was so fixated on how people looked that at my Nana’s shiva (the part of the Jewish mourning period when friends and family visit with the bereaved), one laughing spasm that involved nearly all of us (maybe 15 or so cousins, aunts and uncles) was provoked by a comment about how good she looked in the coffin. (It really was funny at the time and the memory alone makes me laugh.) But it was said in the way that we all understood: Nana would be so thrilled to know that even though she was dead, she looked great, and that observation alone would give her eternal peace.

For sure, there are subcategories of self-care – hygiene, fashion, nutrition, sleep, and then some broader far more basic (and critical) elements of it like education, finances, housing. But my point in saying the question of makeup, to me, is a question of self-care is that when I think about a question like whether people put on makeup if they know they’re not leaving their house, I’m actually wondering: If people know they’re not going to be around anyone besides whomever else populates their house, to what extent do they do anything that they might otherwise do only for others? To what extent does their own care get priority for themselves, if, emphasis on if, when they go out, they alter what they do because they will be in the presence of others?

For anyone whom I’ve lost in this explanation of why I wanted to know whether people put on makeup if they’re not going to be seen by others, this may fall into the TMI bucket, but this curiosity is a vestigial condition related to being raised by a narcissistic parent. We are so completely conditioned to not be allowed either to own our choices (when they’re good) or be free from criticism about them when something goes wrong, that we can have a very hard time making both simple and difficult decisions because our experience has been that we don’t get credit for the good and we get nothing but blame for the bad, so we don’t want to make decisions at all (in order to avoid both having someone else take credit for our work, or criticism).

The practical bottom line is, I didn’t grow up in a world where I was taught that I could both take care of myself and take care of others – that that was doable, okay or in fact important. And when I tried to do that either instinctively or intentionally, I suffered. So now, even deciding whether to put on makeup just for myself is that existential and honestly kind of an important question for me and today, all I wanted to know was, do other people put makeup on, just for themselves (almost as defiantly as others choose to not put makeup on, because that is the choice they want to make)? Is it okay to want to put makeup on, just for myself? Am I allowed to do something that pleases me, and only me? Can I give myself permission without the world collapsing around me (which is what a narcissistic parent would have you believe since to them it implies they’re no longer your focus)? If I knew that other people do it and they’re okay, well, that was kind of what I was actually hoping to learn – a kind of mirror image, pun intended, of feminism, which a few commenters mentioned.

For the record: Starting within the last few weeks, I have gone back and forth, consciously, between wearing makeup when I’m home and not wearing it. I do always put on moisturizer because I’m a person of a certain age and have no problem with wanting to take good care of my facial skin. But the makeup part is that removing it seems like potentially unnecessary wear and tear and so why not skip days when I don’t otherwise feel like I want it on because I’m going out. This entire process of how I think about putting on makeup is extremely new. For most of my life, I would never put on makeup if home – for working from home or otherwise. I didn’t think I was allowed to take the time, that it would be vain to do so. I don’t feel that way anymore although if I’m running late for something, I might skip the makeup.

Again, this is mostly to say, putting on makeup is a vehicle for learning how to make decisions for myself. And in learning how to do that, I’m fascinated to learn about how other people make decisions, particularly when it involves themselves.

Thanks for reading. This was a really personal one.





4 thoughts on “If we wear makeup when no one else is around to see it, does it matter?

  1. Good morning Jill,

    Absolutely! But I would phrase the question the other way: Does serving yourself exclude serving others? No. I think we are best, and best for those around us, when we are true to ourselves.

    Or as Ricky Nelson sang…



  2. Good morning Jill,

    I’ve always thought makeup–lipstick, rouge,eye shadow, &c.–to be unnecessary and, in some cases, off-putting.

    I agree that creating an outward persona is personal. How anyone wants to be perceived is a matter of choice and the only question is are the choices made to please themselves, others or some combination of both?

    For me, Jenny Joseph’s poem is sad–as are bucket lists–because age ought not to be a factor.

    Cue Bob…



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