A weird thing happens when I am at work. I am a librarian at an urban high school. I have 11 individual, twelfth-grade, ladies that are my assistants each day. Here’s the weird part. Every single girl watches makeup tutorials in their spare time. They also speak about makeup like … I have no words to describe it… like it is a real part of who they are, and it is also what they have in common with other people.
They vary in myriad ways… as all of us do. But not when it comes to makeup tutorials or how they view wearing makeup. I noticed these commonalities, and because all parts of everything they do surrounding makeup is so foreign to how I view makeup, I started asking questions. Maybe this was generational? I asked all my assistants, my twelve year old daughter, and some coworkers how they learned to put on makeup, and what they think wearing makeup (or not wearing makeup) means.
Almost all of us “grownups” were taken to the mall or the drug store and guided. We believe that you should be loyal to a brand because all products work together. (I’m pretty sure this is an urban legend to trick us into buying everything at one counter.) The most important thing to figure out was which foundation blended perfectly with your skin tone and you tested it on the back of your hand, or on your jawline. If you were brown or yellow (like me) then you should steer clear of Cover Girl’s pinkness. We have day (natural), evening (reserved for prom and now that we are grown a night out), and no-makeup faces. If we wore makeup to high school we almost always wore the same products, the same ways, even if we had a special day. Wearing makeup means nothing except that you feel “polished,” “pulled-together,” or “professional.” Everyone my age says it takes less than ten minutes to do their daily makeup. If they are going out, it takes fifteen or twenty minutes. If you don’t wear makeup it means that’s not how you choose to finish your look; maybe you wear jewelry, or have great hair. All of these women’s responses were very similar.
The teenagers also gave similar responses, but they were vastly different from my generation’s answers. First, they have a zillion products. They spend real money on brushes and sponges. They shop online, at Ulta Beauty, Walmart, and they talk about Sephora like it’s the promised land. None were taken to the mall. None were told that brands have “chemistry.” They say things like, “My silly sponge came in yesterday! I had to wait two months for it,” and “Jeffree Star is my spirit animal.” Today they were talking about where to buy “falsies.” I thought they were looking for those silicone bra inserts. Nope. They were looking for fake eyelashes. They see nothing wrong with donning “full-face makeup” one day (my equivalent of putting on makeup for prom) and then wearing nothing the next day because they didn’t feel like it. They feel confident both ways.
Whether or not the girls wear makeup, they all watch tutorials. They like Carli Bybel, Nicole Guerriero (“they’re best friends”), Haley Wright, Glam and Gore-Mykie, and Kimberley Margarita. I’ve no idea who those people are. They choose their favorites not based on a similar face shape, or completion color, or even if they are using products they have. They pick based on who seems friendly, who is funny, and if they give honest feedback about products.
Almost half of the girls signed up and really, really look forward to their monthly Ipsy Box ($10 a month for five samples – click the picture to sign up!). When I ask how long it takes to do their makeup I cannot get a simple answer. They all start speaking about “baking,” contouring, and the difference between “full face” and whatever they call the opposite of full face makeup.
I am fascinated by how differently we approach makeup, because my daughter will start wearing some soon. I’d like to make sense of what they are doing and why before my kid starts. When I asked my daughter questions, she responded the same way as my assistants, even though she is nowhere near 18 years old, and she does not wear any makeup. Well, she does not wear makeup in her day-to-day life. She dances competitively, and she wears a lot of makeup on competition days. I want J to think about wearing (or not wearing) makeup before she starts layering it on. I also want her amazingly beautiful inner beauty to shine brighter than Kat Von D brightening powder!
I asked each young lady what they wished their mothers understood about their makeup habits and choices. They all laughed. I don’t think they believe that they can bridge the gap between what we Gen X mamas think and their Millennial mindsets. After pressing them, they said, “Makeup is like art; I can express how I feel about myself,” “Let me have the time to apply my makeup. I really like doing it,” and my favorite comment, “This is something that we can talk about. I can do her makeup and we just … click. It’s giving us one more thing to connect with.”
Are any of you MammaTech mamas watching makeup tutorials? Do you squeal with glee when your Ipsy Box comes in the mail? Are you baffled or excited by the thought of your daughters not only wearing makeup, but using it to show the world who they are? Please comment. My daughter has already asked for makeup for her birthday!