More Than Just a Pretty Face

By Madison Woo and Zooey Nguyen

Brushes, palettes and sponges line the table. The artist lifts their materials to the canvas, deftly tracing fine lines, shading in edges and blending together brilliant pigments. But they are not a painter, nor an artist in the traditional sense — their face is their canvas and their makeup products are their tools.

The word “makeup” often evokes a negative image: people intent on hiding themselves behind their products to appear prettier. Girls especially are often bombarded with comments like “You’d be prettier without makeup,” “Take her swimming on the first date” or “This is why I don’t trust women.”

In actuality, makeup takes significant time and effort. For many who regularly use it, it’s an important way to express themselves and feel confident in their own skin. And in going beyond the average mascara and concealer, juniors Adeline Zwijsen and Abigail Mesel push against the perception that makeup is strictly to impress others, viewing makeup as an art form in itself.

“I think people have a stigma around makeup,” Adeline said. “They might… ask, ‘Why are you wearing like a full face of makeup for school?’ I don’t think people are necessarily doing [makeup] to cover up. It could just be purely for the fact that the makeup is fun.”

Abigail and Adeline were both exposed to makeup at an early age by their relatives. Their experiences were not shaped by pressures to look “pretty,” but by genuine enjoyment of experimenting with different techniques and colors. Now, they create their own eye-catching looks such as bright blue eyeshadow and glittery lips.

Abigail recalled a variety of experiences with makeup which piqued her interest, such as playing with makeup with her friend in third grade and watching her mother use MAC cosmetics. Her mother’s use of makeup unconsciously enforced the idea that makeup could be used to cover up imperfections to better one’s external appearance.

“I thought makeup was so interesting as a kid,” Abigail said. “I could tell when my mom put on makeup she felt better about herself. [And] so I guess there was some idea that if I’m not feeling so great about myself, I can put on makeup. It’s that idea that this could be a way to make yourself feel better.”

Art can be a way for a person to express emotions as well. Abigail artistically expresses herself through a variety of mediums other than makeup, such as singing, playing instruments and doing color guard. She has a strong love for both music and makeup and depending on her mood, she will use either one as her form of release.

“I am willing to sing in public and sing in front of people when it’s appropriate,” Abigail said. “And [I will] not be afraid to do some fun makeup and wear it out. It’s also nice because I get a lot of compliments, like ‘Your eyeshadow is so blended,’ it’s similar to singing in that way.”

Abigail and Adeline find inspiration for different makeup designs in many places. Adeline enjoys experimenting with colors, drawing inspiration from other talented makeup artists, or trying out different styles based on her mood.

“If I wake up in the morning and I’m feeling bold that day, I’ll do bold colors,” Adeline said. “I feel like when I am wearing makeup and I am using detailed eyeshadow or glitter, where I have a very full makeup look, then I feel more confident during that day. But other days I just wake up and I’m like, ‘I’m not doing it.’”

Similarly, Abigail has no particular style. Like a writer inspired by their personal life, her looks are situational to what’s going on in her life. She may use her friend’s favorite color while she’s talking to them on the phone. On Valentine’s Day, she drew red and white hearts on her eyelid over shimmering pink eyeshadow.

“I’m a perfectionist, so if I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’ll spend more time getting everything really perfect,” Abigail said. “When you feel proud of something, it releases endorphins and the more time I spend on a look, the more proud of it I feel at the end.”

To Abigail and Adeline, makeup is far more than an indulgence in vanity — it’s how they’ve found their creative outlets and confidence. At the end of the day, though the makeup wipes come out, what makeup means to them is something that nobody can take away.