Men Don’t Hate Makeup. (Just Maybe Some Women.)

My 600-hour adventure in esthetics school. Read about the project or catch up if you’re behind on the reading.

Everyone is in a flutter about this new survey by the Daily Mail, which found that 1 in 5 men with their partner would tone down the makeup, while 1 in 10 guys want women to give up the face crack altogether. Oh, how enlightened they must be, celebrating the true warts-and-all beauty of women, right?

Sigh, but so wrong. Sadie over on Jezebel gets it right:

I’ll just say it once: men don’t “hate” makeup. Men don’t know what makeup looks like. Maybe they don’t like Tammy Faye Baker maquillage, but guess what: neither do we. […] The notion of cosmetics becomes problematic when people feel unworthy without them, when a woman feels a need to hide or disguise or change. But by the same token, it’s a very unfair standard to demand that women be “naturally” beautiful – as beautiful as a youthful princess gifted in the cradle – without their aid.

As I’ve been mulling over where we are with beauty standards these days, I keep coming back to my friend/fellow student Sue, who won’t go to the grocery store without her full face on. Now I’ve seen her without makeup and hand on heart, she’s perfectly lovely. A few more blemishes, sure, some under-eye circles. But you know, lovely. In a human way. Once she puts her makeup on, she’s still lovely, but also a bit plastic. Her skin takes on a golden tone that’s just not found in nature, even though she’s aiming for the “natural” beauty that the men in this survey said they like, without realizing just how much makeup it takes to achieve that kind of natural perfection.

So maybe they don’t get makeup. (And I know I’m generalizing here, but I’ve had more than one guy admit they’ve slacked on reading this very blog because the world of makeup frightens them so. “I still hold that what M. is doing in the bathroom before we go to dinner constitutes some unknowable Girl Magic,” says my friend K. of his girlfriend’s beauty routine.) But — twist! Miss Jenny says that her spa clientele is now 50 percent dudes coming in for facials, waxing and body treatments. “And they’re from all walks of life,” she reports. “Military men, businessmen, doctors. Not just your metrosexuals and such.”

Miss Jenny says she does modify her services for men: “I’ll do a hand massage, but I don’t really touch their shoulders or upper body. There’s just something about a female working on a male like that, it doesn’t work for me.”

She’s got good reason. And Miss Stacy reports that the Beauty U day students are dealing with a regular male client who comes in for body treatments and requests special attention on his upper thighs, claiming he’s a cyclist and bike shorts cause a lot of chafing. “He ends up sitting frog style on the table without any pants and it’s like, what do you think you’re here for?” says Miss Stacy. She and Miss Lisa insist on standing in the room while the students work on him.

There’s a clear consensus, but nobody wants to say it outright: Performing a spa service on a half-naked man makes you feel a little bit like a prostitute. Is that fair? Maybe not. I’m sure there are plenty of guys who just enjoy a good salt scrub and aren’t thinking about what would happen if they slipped their esthetician a Benjamin. And saying that these kinds of treatments are for women only just reinforces all the gendered beauty standards that have men so confused about makeup and women like Sue terrified to be seen in public without eyeliner.

But when he leaves your tip on the table beside the facial bed, I’m not sure how you’re supposed to avoid the Pretty Woman comparisons.

So guys: I’d love to hear from you on this. Is the world of makeup still so befuddling in this tell-all information age? What are you afraid of? And what the heck is going through your head when you go to a spa?

[Dating advice photos, circa 1938, from over here.]

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8 Comments

Filed under Beauty Schooled, For Extra Credit, In Class, Makeup, week 9

8 responses to “Men Don’t Hate Makeup. (Just Maybe Some Women.)

  1. JJG

    What frightens me about makeup? Nothing really. I just think certain women don’t need it (my girlfriend) and on the evening of the big event, they (my girlfriend) wear the gaudiest of red lipstick. What is it about the red lipstick at the big event? I think it’s more for her girlfriends than it is looking her best. She doesn’t do that when the two of us go out for a nice dinner. Just a thought.

    As far as getting a massage: I have received a professional massage once in my life and plan on getting many, many more. They feel great and everyone should do it. Did the happy ending cross my mind? Of course. It was my first massage and for all I knew, they were complimentary. Like fennel seeds at the Indian restaurant. I was actually wondering if she would offer at some point during, because I though that was what happens. I know, I watch too much Entourage. But nothing happened except for receiving an awesome massage. And now I know what to expect next time.

  2. Sarah

    What makes me sad about makeup is that I, as a woman, have no idea how to put it on. I never learned from my mother, or friends, having had a strict upbringing; now I go out in public, and have to deal with well-intentioned people remarking that I should “do something” about my face.

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  4. sk

    I’m a guy and I love it when girls make an effort with their appearance, espeially red lipstck 🙂 Not so wild about all the smells women feel the need to wear though. Sometimes when my s/o is in the bathroom doing something with her hair it stinks like she’s cooking meth in there, and there’s no getting away from it without getting far away from her.

  5. What scares me about make up? Not really knowing how to put it on properly, and never having found a make up that didn’t feel heavy or greasy or leave me with acne after an hour to a day of wear. I just give up. Thankfully, I am still young enough, and in work environments where my lack of make up is not an issue.

  6. Evan


    Everyone is in a flutter about this new survey by the Daily Mail, which found that 1 in 5 men with their partner would tone down the makeup, while 1 in 10 guys want women to give up the face crack altogether. Oh, how enlightened they must be, celebrating the true warts-and-all beauty of women, right?

    You assume unfoundedly that everyone has horrible skin, that beauty means “smoother skin”, and that beauty is a an objective requirement for something you haven’t even specified.


    …even though she’s aiming for the “natural” beauty that the men in this survey said they like, without realizing just how much makeup it takes to achieve that kind of natural perfection.

    And you provide no evidence of how you know the men surveyed don’t realize that this “look” takes makeup, and you don’t provide evidence of how you know that this description of “natural” beauty is what they want. Fail.


    So maybe they don’t get makeup. (And I know I’m generalizing here, but I’ve had more than one guy admit they’ve slacked on reading this very blog because the world of makeup frightens them so.

    More than one is still vastly less than ‘all’

    There’s nothing befuddling, but it screams “I want you to care about how I look, and disregard my mind”. And that’s exactly what I do.

    Someone wearing makeup is blatantly asking to be treated as a sex object.

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