I Stopped Wearing Makeup In Quarantine, Here's Why
Daily makeup, nightly skin care, weekly manicures, monthly facials and quarterly hair appointments. It can be expensive — and exhausting — to be a woman. In the Video Op-Ed above, the beauty guru and YouTube creator Ingrid Nilsen challenges women to start asking whom we're getting dolled up for — and stop apologizing for how we actually look.
That's not to say you should throw out your makeup bag because the world's on fire. During the Great Depression, cosmetic sales actually shot up by 25 percent. In the 2001 recession, revenues from lipstick increased 11 percent in the United States. As the economy shrank in 2008, nail polish sales skyrocketed 65 percent. As Ms. Nilsen notes, a little indulgence may be the pick-me-up you need to get through tough times. But before you click to buy, it's worth asking: Who is it actually for?
Three members of the White House coronavirus task force, including the U.S. top doctor Anthony Fauci, are now in quarantine.
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Wearing makeup is my job. Over the last decade I've used hundreds of lipsticks, thousands of face creams and I've amassed millions of followers making original lifestyle content for my YouTube channel. I use cosmetics almost every single day. Then came the pandemic. In quarantine, I can count the number of times that I've worn makeup on one hand, and it's not because I've suddenly come to dislike it. It's because I no longer have the need or the desire to perform for the external world. Life as I knew it has evaporated. What's left is the question, why do I apologize for looking like me. Like many women, my relationship with how I look has been complicated. At 14, I fell in love with strawberry-flavored lip gloss and bright eyeshadow. And by 19, I was wearing makeup every single day. It even got to the point where I was showering with makeup on because I didn't want a boyfriend to see my acne underneath. At 22, making beauty videos on YouTube officially became my full-time job, and how I looked was directly connected to how much people liked me. The world has expectations for women. I've appeared on camera without makeup, and people have told me that I'm lazy or even worse. They told me to take pride in myself. If I wore makeup the next day, then I was fake and shallow. And if I went more than a few days without wearing makeup, then my credibility as a beauty expert was questioned. I'm 31 now, and I thought I finally had my relationship to makeup figured out. I wore makeup for myself, not for others. Or at least, that's what I told myself. Now two months into quarantine, I'm realizing just how much I was still performing for other people. I've come a long way from showering with makeup on, but I still feel uneasy attending a meeting or an event, even on Zoom, when I'm at home, without makeup. I'm noticing myself in this familiar pattern when I get on video calls. I apologize for how I look, and then I regret it. And almost every woman I'm on a Zoom call with does this, too. We spend the first few minutes in this ritual of picking ourselves apart for gray hairs, wearing sweatpants, having dark circles, wrinkles, pimples, and apologizing for not wearing makeup and covering it all up. Things like acne and dark circles are universal realities, but women aren't allowed those things. And the science shows that women who aren't considered to be well groomed are actually paid less. It took a pandemic, but finally women can focus less on how we look and focus more on what we do. In this crisis, what I'm seeing on Zoom or when I look out my window are women. Women who are useful, not just seen by the world as decorative. In quarantine, an active self-care for me is using makeup as a mirror to express my emotions, not mask them. So I'm challenging women to do something new with me. No more apologizing for how we look. One part public protest, two parts self-compassion. If isolation has taught us anything, it's that our most important audience is actually ourself.