How Dangerous Can Lip Gloss Be: Cosmetics and Confidence

As the question of beauty continues to evolve, cosmetics are still being utilized as an avenue of self-acceptance for some. These rituals of winged eyeliner, pressed powder, and matte lipstick, provided by the endless aisles at Sephora or Ulta, can be temporary confidence boosters. You might remember your mother dabbing a bit of pale pink lipstick on your adolescent lips before being dropped off at an elementary school dance, or drowning eyelids with blue pigments when the inevitable “give your friend a makeover” activity started at a sleepover. Your cosmetics could have also been hidden away in drawers by less accepting relatives, or touched and never bought again because who can really spend $32 on a regular basis to cover spots here and there? Regardless of your cosmetic journey, the question must be asked: how much time do you spend free of makeup to truly weigh yourself on the confidence scale?  At the end of the day, when you have to wipe off all the products and get into bed bare-faced, do you suddenly lose the confidence, and find that it’s embedded in the lipstick? Should you lose the confidence? What if it’s the only way for you to be able to get out the door some days? 

Jessica Backman, a holder of a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and business administration, has taken a liking to the world of makeup recently. Jessica consistently posts looks on her Instagram that leave you in awe of her blending talent or jealous of the way she handles a highlight. The images are usually followed by captions that list all products used, tagging each company, ending with popular hashtags such as#undiscovered_muas and #freelancemua, and one that is subtle yet empowered, #jessdidit. As a lover of confidence and cosmetics, Backman takes a stance on makeup that isn’t out of the ordinary: do what makes YOU happy. 

Lithium: How did you begin using makeup? What age and why? Was it because you were a teenager who wanted to wear eyeliner like all of your friends, or did you just believe colored eyelids were cool? 
Jessica: My love for makeup began with some curiosity [about] what the big deal [was] behind it. In middle school, the older girls would always talk about how they couldn't wait to buy this new eyeshadow palette (all Walmart or drugstore, of course) and this fabulous BB cream that made your skin look FLAWLESS! So, being the inquisitive seventh-grader I was, I asked my mom if we could go to Walmart so I could get all dolled up like the other girls at my school. My mom said, "You don't need that stuff, you're beautiful just the way you are." It wasn't until my sophomore year of high school, when I was able to get a job, make my own money, and to my benefit, have friends that could drive, that I finally made it to a Walmart where I purchased my first Wet 'n Wild eyeshadow compact. Of course, at the time, I didn't know what the heck I was getting myself into. This was back when I used the eyeshadow applicator provided in the compact and my fingers as eyeshadow brushes. I also purchased my first Elf liquid eyeliner. I was introduced to YouTube through a friend which led me to watch endless amounts of tutorials on how to get perfect winged liner and [pull off] simple eyeshadow looks.

Lithium: What advice would you give to people who still use makeup as a means to cover themselves up? 
Jessica: My advice would be to wear makeup for yourself, and do what you think is best. Never think that you have to wear makeup to get the approval of others. Being confident in your own skin is one of the best gifts you could ever give yourself. We were all created differently, but that's what makes each of us unique. You should think of makeup as a way to express yourself creatively. Makeup can be fun!

This type of motivation to prioritize self-love over cosmetics is where Backman says you should find yourselfjust make sure you are not coating yourself with blush for society, but because you love a bit of coral on your cheeks. Taylor Birch, who is on the other side of the cosmetic spectrum, agrees. Birch is an eighteen-year-old undergraduate student studying creative and professional writing at Converse College. She who won the Scholastic Art and Writing Award in 2017 and was published in The Griffin. She tends to go days, sometimes weeks, without wearing makeup of any sort, but doesn’t believe in bashing people who decide to wear makeup. “It’s not a cosmetic game at some point,” she says, “it’s just being who you are. People should be able to do what they want with their face, I just decide to keep mine bare.” 

Lithium: Do you feel a certain confidence not wearing makeup? 
Taylor: Of course. For me, it’s time-consuming and I’ve been told all my life that I look the same with or without makeup. So, at one point, I figured that if I look exactly the same, why bother? I’m not skilled enough in makeup to do anything face altering, and I feel happy without makeup. That’s the most important thing. 

Lithium: Do you believe it is right to use makeup to heighten your self-confidence rather than destroy it?
Taylor: If it makes you feel good about yourself, do it. When you feel good about yourself, you do good things. I think the overall majority use makeup as a means to feel confident in their own beauty, but learning how to embrace yourself, with or without makeup, should be the number one goal. 

Lithium: What advice would you give people who use makeup as a means to cover themselves up? 
Taylor: This is a cliche, and it’s fine to use cliches when they’re true; make sure you know how beautiful you are without the makeup. I should start singing Jesse Mccartney right now, and I hate how relevant that song is ("Beautiful Soul"). Do what makes you feel good, but learn to feel good without it. It’s you at the end of the day, not the makeup. It’s a complicated subject; I just want people to know they should do what they feel is right for them. 

Wherever you land on the scale, there seems to be a consensus on the question of whether makeup tends to be self-destructive: makeup will not benefit the ones who feel it’s an obligation, a chore, a task you fit in between mopping the floors and taking out the trash. There is a fine line to walk, but the battle between cosmetics and confidence can be won. 

To keep up with Jessica’s contagious empowerment and beauty expertise, you can follow her Instagram here.
You can follow Taylor Birch’s writing journey and open mind through her Instagram.

By Breia Gore

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