Newsflash! Women Wear More Makeup Over the Holidays

Is it just me or is this a serious nobrainer? Holidays + Parties + Seeing People You Don't See All The Time = Wearing More Makeup To Look Fancy.
Publish date:
December 12, 2012
makeup, holiday beauty, things we already knew, my feminist polemic

Remember that woman who did without beauty products for a year? Well, one of the interesting discussions that happened in that post was about how we just sort of default to "makeup" or "heels" when we think "dressed up." This kind of thing is why I LOVE comments.

This notion is supported by a story that reports women wear three times as much makeup in December.

On the one hand, I want to kind of rant about how not only women wear makeup. (I'm looking at you, Tynan.) I'm totally curious if more makeup is being worn by people of all genders at the holidays.

On the other hand, it's been rainy and grey for three days and I am light-seeking like a tropical plant over here -- which means I am kind of depressed about everything and muscling through based on sheer stubbornness. I don't know if I have the energy for that rant right this very second.

So let's focus, for a moment, (because we all know women aren't the only people to wear makeup anyway, on how this report breaks makeup use/wear/application down.

The "average" woman, according to the poll, uses four products on a daily basis. That's mascara, foundation, blush, and lip gloss. I'm kind of fascinated by this because my own "essentials" -- in as much as any makeup is essential -- are rather different. But when I think about it, that list does seem to accurately reflect the obsession with having perfect skin. Then you've got some mascara and lip gloss to make sure your features are emphasized.

The poll further questioned women: on a "regular night out" (whatever that entails), the product count doubles to 8. Eyeliner, lipstick, eye shadow, and bronzer get added to the list.

Mathematically speaking, I am wondering how that works. Because if you're wearing lipstick, are you necessarily also wearing lip gloss? Is this one of those things that I just don't get because I don't follow makeup rules?

Once we hit the holiday season -- which is, probably not incorrectly, seen as a season of parties, there seems to be more emphasis on glamour. So the average number of products in use rises to 12. That's fake eyelashes, glitter, highlighter, and setting spray being pressed into service.

The timing involved follows a similar pattern: 20 minutes for an average routine, 40 minutes for a night out, 60 minutes for holiday glam face. Women go out more often in December as well; holiday makeup routines are repeated about 16 times in December.

That's the technical breakdown of the results. It's all very mathy with the numbers, right? That makes it sound official. But it also just seems like such d'uh moment in science-like reporting. Because, yes, there are the holidays. And there are holiday parties. And we tend to associate "dressing up" with wearing things like makeup.

I'd love to see a companion poll that asks how many people wear things they'd usually not wear during the holidays, things like Spanx or high heels. And then I realized, while it won't be official and it's not like I have any sort of sound research methodology going on at the moment, I CAN take an informal poll. This is where you come in. Do you wear things during December you'd normally not bother with? Why is that, do you think?

For me, part of the motivation -- because, yes, I absolutely participate in this, too -- is photographs. I know other people will be taking pictures at gatherings and that I won't have a lot of control over those photos. I'm pretty chill about pictures, in most ways. (Largely down to that time I posed naked for cancer.) But sometimes, when I'm going to be hanging out with lots of people I find attractive (and, really, that's most people because I have broad tastes) and there's going to be pictures, I want to make sure I'm looking "my best" -- and in some situations that photogenic best seems to be determined by social expectations.

Hey, I'm as culturally constructed as the next person, you know? Also, I do tend to walk on the femme side even when I don't wear makeup (which is most of the time).

But also, when there's a special occasion of any sort, be it a wedding or a concert of a holiday party, I want to make a sort of special effort with my presentation. I want to look FESTIVE. I budget more time for getting ready and it feels like a luxury, like I'm already getting myself in the proper celebratory mood.

I do freelance work in the mornings before I get ready for work. That means I often find myself putting lipstick on in the car once I'm safe in the parking lot at work -- if I bother with it at all. I don't find makeup necessary at all, but I enjoy putting bright colors on my face and special occasions -- because they are SPECIAL -- provide me with an excuse to go all out. Special occasions legitimize my desire to spend 20 minutes making my eye shadow look like a rainbow.

In more analytic terms, I don't think this increase in the wearing of makeup is itself a good thing or a bad thing. The poll results don't tell us WHY women are indulging in so many more products, after all. I object to any sort of compulsory beauty culture, but I'm also all for people tricking their face out in whatever fashion they feel best represents them.

And I'm no stranger to the idea of makeup as a mask -- as armor -- either. The holidays are fraught enough with all of the enforced family time. Even for folks with amazing wonderful families, the holidays can lead to a lot of culturally mandated togetherness that results in awkward conversations and judgment on your body/eating habits. I wonder if some of the women spending that hour applying makeup in December are doing so as a means of self-protection.

This year, I have to work both the day before and the day after Christmas. But just to find myself with a little more holiday spirit, maybe I'll haul out my sadly neglected eye shadows and paint my face in some bright, cheery colors. It'll take longer than my average routine (which is, right now, swiping my face with a cleaning cloth), and maybe I won't keep it up in the New Year. But in the middle of this grey and wet December I'm having? A little bit of sparkle might just count for a whole lot.

Marianne is on Twitter, wondering why brow powder never makes it onto lists of makeup "essentials": @TheRotund.