Slapp Gets Serious About: Makeup Shaming


In our new series, we delve into the topics that matter to you and us. First up, we talk makeup shaming.

Slapp contributor Esmeralda Voegele-Downing, shares her thoughts...


Let’s talk about makeup shaming. It falls in between slut shaming and body policing, because it is a particular mix of resentment, that targets what we perceive to be attractiveness, and autonomy.


The kicker is that it’s a complex misogyny; women often inflict it on other women. You’ve probably encountered or been the kind of girl who “isn’t like other girls”; who makes a lot of efforts to be seen as kooky, yet totally chill and low-maintenance. She thinks that intrinsically, makeup’s purpose is to fish for attention. That’s why so often this girl will jokingly find ways to compare herself to a made-up person - just to prove she’s above it. As Tina Fey famously said in Mean Girls: “there’s been some girl-on-girl crime here.” This outlook provokes shame in an innocent party, and inhibits their pride in expression. It wounds without creating a scene, and the only way to escape its trap, is to claw your own way out.


I bought my first dark lipstick when I was eighteen. I had just left home for university and I was clumsy with makeup, but determined to improve. It was my first exercise in independence, and shrugging off the sheltered attitudes of my hometown, was my priority as a fresher. I chose, as I told myself some historic icons probably did, to start small with my lipstick choice - so when I finally found a blackened, smokey shade of damson in Topshop labelled “Ruthless” I decided that I wanted to be ruthless too. I had this epiphany in the middle of the shop floor, that I was finally in control of myself. I could do things for me.


When I emerged from my dorm room later that day with my dark lipstick applied quite painstakingly perfectly, and an excited grin lighting it up in all its empowering glory, my new flatmate guffawed. I remember stopping in my tracks, and wondering if I’d smudged it. “That’s way too much, it’s not halloween for another month”, she chortled, calling her boyfriend from her room to agree with her. I made my excuses and removed it.



I’m thankful that I was just stubborn enough to reapply the lipstick the next day. I left for my lecture to the sound of laughter, but kept walking. One year later I was helping my new flatmate pick out his first green lipstick. I learned that the kind of people I wanted as friends were the kind with big ideas, brains and hearts. I also learned that those sort of people generally didn’t have a problem rocking lime green winged liner, sparkling oxblood lips, or glistening golden highlights. They’d help you pick a good shade in the department store, or call you over in a club to help fix your lipgloss. These people make the world of being a girl so much easier to be in.


Kevyn Aucoin once said “that’s why I began doing makeup in the first place: I was hoping that through helping people see the beauty in themselves, I could try to find it in me”. While I became happier in my own skin, I also noticed that I no longer sized up other girls as competition. The look on someone’s face when they’re told that their bold eyeliner looks incredible, is indescribably better than the three seconds of superiority you feel for sneering at them. A little extra positivity can never go amiss. Getting over makeup shaming is a long process, and it includes weeding the nasty thoughts from your own head, but it’s life changing. It’s finally cool to be kind.


I think about how my old flatmate ushered her boyfriend in to laugh at my makeup, and it saddens me that many would rather rip another girl to shreds for the promise of short-lived approval, than empower her. With the tragedies that happen every day, lording how little makeup you wear over others seems so silly. Rather than uninviting yourself, it’s so much more fun to join the party.


Words and illustrations by: Esmeralda Voegele-Downing

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