Pressure to be Perfect- A Look at the Highschool Girl’s Relationship with Makeup

I started wearing makeup in middle school. Drugstore foundation, heavy black eyeliner, and occasionally red lipstick that I managed to get more of on my teeth than my lips. (It’s not my fault, I had barely heard of Youtube, let alone beauty gurus). The thing is, I didn’t even like wearing makeup back then. Powdering my face and sticking my eyelashes together wasn’t actually fun. Applying makeup was a stressful experience that was rooted in a dark deep-seated desperation to hide my flaws. Even now, I’ll occasionally glance in a mirror and consider un-zombifying my dark under-eyes before leaving the house.

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 The variety of makeup choices available to the modern teen. Source: Skin Deep Beauty

But the thing is, four years after middle school, I’m totally cool with looking a little like the undead sometimes. People know what I look like with makeup, so why should I have to keep reminding them every day? Full contour days are great but should be optional, and I’m totally at peace with my unglamourous days. But I wasn’t in middle school. And looking around the high school cafeteria, a lot of SAS girls aren’t either.

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A typical makeup collection Source: crhserenity

When I was thinking about my own experience with makeup, I found some statistics by the Harris poll, conducted on behalf of the Renfrew Center Foundation, that reflect the modern teen’s relationship with cosmetics. A new study has found that over half of girls ages 14-17 wear makeup, 45% of these girls will touch up their makeup throughout the day (especially if they have bad skin), and 17% of teens refuse to leave the house without makeup. It’s that “refusing to leave the house” stuff that bothers me. Makeup should be embraced by those who aim to achieve self-expression and reinvent themselves. Not by those who think that their faces, alone, are not enough. Those aren’t girls who are having fun with makeup.

When I asked SAS girls why they choose to wear makeup, a senior, who wanted to stay anonymous, had this to say: “Makeup just makes me feel better about myself. I’m not scared of not wearing it, but I just prefer it when I am. School is stressful enough without having to worry if I’m having a bad skin day or not.” It appears that the enormous pressure SAS puts on its students to be academically successful is seeping into other areas of their lives, making students feel the heat to not only be perfect but to look perfect too. With close to 40% of SAS students sporting a GPA of 3.8 or higher, it’s no shock that the push to succeed is impacting students all around.   

Makeup should be embraced by those who aim to achieve self-expression and reinvent themselves. Not by those who think that their faces, alone, are not enough.

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Natural makeup tones. Source: Loreal

However, bearing in mind the fact that stress-induced mental health problems amongst teenagers are increasing day by day, makeup shouldn’t be viewed as all bad. Rather than a negative consequence of daily pressures, makeup could be seen as a stress reliever that can provide a creative outlet. As it turns out, beauty routines can bestow some pretty powerful cognitive benefits on the brain — especially if you commonly catch yourself stuck in negative thought patterns, like overanalyzing situations, blaming yourself for things beyond your control, or generally feeling pessimistic. These thought patterns are linked to neurological processes in the brain that have been associated with depression and anxiety, and certain actions — even those as seemingly simple as a skincare or makeup routine — can help to uproot them. As well as providing a creative outlet, or a way for a student to express their individuality, the benefits of makeup used correctly can have a positive effect on a stressed student’s life. However, it’s vital to remember that makeup should be your stress reliever, not a negative consequence of being an overachiever.

Author: Christina McDougall

SAS senior Christina McDougall, aspiring to be the next Amy Poehler, spends her free time doing nothing to reach that goal. While judging people based on how they use "you're" vs "your" on social media, she also likes chicken nuggets, being half Australian, and getting into fights with 12 year olds on Twitter. She can be contacted at mcdougall44636@sas.edu.sg.

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