‘I see my face as a blank canvas’

February 17, 2017 GMT

Featured in countless magazine spreads, television commercials and in the aisles of drug stores, the U.S. beauty and cosmetics industry is the largest in the world.

According to Statista, it produced upward of $62 billion in revenue in 2016 — nearly $20 billion more than just 10 years before.

Despite the fact that “beauty and cosmetics” can range from a stick of deodorant and toothbrush to lipstick and a tube of mascara, the personal care industry is still heavily dominated by women consumers. In fact, Mint, an online personal finance manager, found the average women will spend $15,000 on makeup during her lifetime.

For most of these women, makeup is used to enhance their appearance and emphasize personal traits. But it can take on a negative connotation.

For example, the Renfrew Center Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the treatment of eating disorders, released reports in 2012 that said 44 percent of women feel unattractive, self-conscious or as if something is missing when they are not wearing makeup.

But makeup is not just for “covering up” or “hiding” flaws, several local teens said.

For Rachel Rael, a 16-year-old junior at Santa Fe High School, makeup is positive self-expression and a form of art. “The definition of art is the application or expression of human imagination and skill,” Rael said. “And that’s everything that makeup is.”

Rael began experimenting with makeup and various “looks” as early as in sixth grade, but never saw it as anything other than a way to showcase her artistic capabilities.

“People have the wrong impression of me because I wear heavy makeup on a daily basis. But the idea of doing my makeup gets me out of bed each morning, because I look forward to playing with all the colors, shades and products that I’ve collected,” Rael said. “I see my face as a blank canvas and the application of my makeup is like painting a beautiful picture — even if it’ll only last for one day.”

Although Rael is unsure if she will pursue a career as a makeup artist or cosmetologist, she helps others with makeup jobs for special events such as quinceañeras and homecomings, and has amassed nearly 3,000 followers on Instagram, where she showcases unique looks and abilities.

Nicole Thompson, a junior at Santa Fe High School, echoes Rael’s thoughts that makeup is a form of art that can be unique with every coming day.

“I think makeup has affected society in a positive way that allows people to use it to do a multitude of things, from changing their appearance to expressing themselves. It’s just a cool way to change your look without any drastic alteration to yourself,” she said.

Although Thompson got into makeup when she was 10 years old, she doesn’t believe she is any different with or without makeup.

“I think it’s ignorant to say that makeup is superficial, because it isn’t all about how pretty you look. It’s about talent and skill, and it’s practically just another art form. The only difference is the canvas is your face,” she said.

For teens like Thompson and Rael, makeup is widely accepted in society as a “norm.” But this is not the case for males.

“It’s less socially acceptable for men to wear makeup,” says Terrance Matthews, a sophomore at New Mexico School for the Arts. “Wearing makeup as a man may be seen as trying to hide your flaws, and as men we are told not to be afraid of what we look like. [For men], wearing makeup is not being confident, which is what we are ‘supposed’ to be.”

Zack Funtanilla, a 20-year-old sophomore at Santa Fe Community College, agrees. “Men have been told that wearing makeup is less masculine because he is seen hiding himself, or being in touch with his sensitive side,” he said.

Funtanilla pursued drama in high school as part of a theater club and always had a passion for film. But after two years of acting, he decided that being in front of the camera wasn’t for him. Funtanilla is enrolled in a film makeup class and has come to discover that the standards of beauty and needs for makeup in media are different from everyday expectations.

“There’s a cultural standard of beauty that is required in almost all aspects of media,” said Funtanilla, referring to “cliche” aesthetic looks such as the stereotypical blonde. “Men are allowed to do almost anything when it comes to appearances, while only recently have women been able to have a slight freedom in what defines beauty in the media.”

Funtanilla might be right: The cosmetics industry is definitely changing and pushing old limits. For example, last year, the nearly 60-year-old Cover Girl magazine chose social media star James Charles as its first male cover model, demonstrating the continuous evolution of makeup and its impact.

Ramona Park is a junior at Santa Fe High School. Contact her at yoharamona@gmail.com.