"Beauty doesn't mind questions and she is fond of riddles. Beauty will dance with anyone who is brave enough to ask her." J. Ruth Gendler
There is no clear-cut mold for beauty—it ranges drastically, and is always relative. The only person's opinion of how you look that matters is yours. With the explosion of everything from fitness to nutrition, there has come an inevitable and new preoccupation with our bodies. Women, once again, are being put on display.
Feeling attractive is far more than how we physically look. Beauty should be fun and liberating, because let's be honest, much of what we perceive anyway happens in our brains. Are we content with how we look? Are we not? Do we want to believe people when they tell us we’re beautiful?
Women and makeup have a complicated relationship. Some of us revel in it, delighting in transformations with the flick of a brush. Others like to keep it simple, and abhor what it stands for. Love it or hate it, women have been using makeup, in different forms, for millennia. Cleopatra pretty much invented eyeliner, and what's more, she ruled a kingdom!
The power of red lipstick.
Studies have shown that women’s faces are more attractive to both sexes near ovulation, when they’re most fertile. During this time, the concentration of the hormone estrogen rises in comparison to progesterone. This hormonal shift enhances vascular blood flow under the skin’s surface, and leads to visible signals—pinker cheeks and redder lips.
The positive effects on attractiveness when wearing the color red, was the theme of another study out of Manchester University. Dr. Geoff Beattie, the study's lead scientist in 2010, found that red lips were shown to grab attention for an average of 7.3 seconds. “Women tend to be naturally darker around their eyes and mouths than men of the same skin tone. When women use cosmetics to darken the eyes and lips, they are exaggerating this sex difference to make the face appear more feminine,” said Dr. Richard Russell, Associate Professor of Psychology at Gettysburg College.
Foundation and cover-up also play a large role in making a woman look more attractive because even skintones give the impression of youth. “Both skin topography and skin coloration affect the perception of facial age, health and attractiveness,” said Dr. Bernhard Fink, a professor at the University of Göttingen who studies the evolutionary psychology of human mate preferences.
Makeup works because it exaggerates (or completely fabricates) our natural signs of youth, fertility and sexual availability, thus making a woman seem more appealing. “Skintone seems to be a strong age cue while skin coloration is a stronger predictor of facial health perception,” said Fink.
Subjects in this study from the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology were shown photos of female faces wearing varying levels of makeup and asked to choose which look they found the most attractive and which look they’d guess the opposite sex would find the most attractive. Both men and women agreed on the same amount of makeup they found attractive, but women actually thought men preferred way more makeup than they actually did.
"I hope to God it’s a revolution," Alicia Keys wrote about the no-makeup movement her "In Common" artwork has spawned. "'Cause I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing."
She shouldn't have to—and neither should anyone else. In other words, makeup is what you make of it. It is a choice.