Make-up: the crayons of adulthood

As the world’s most skeptical beauty professional, I find myself brooding over the psychology and sociology of makeup; its uses and abuses, and the business of it.   I have come to the conclusion that for many women – and I mean adults – make-up is a toy, and now more than ever, cosmetic companies are getting the picture.

All those tantalizing colors and textures, packaged to promote a sense of playful abandon in the buyer, are finding their way into our lives whether they’re actually useful or not.  Who cares?  Make-up is marketed and merchandised to be absolutely irresistible to our sense of play.  It’s just as much an escape as reality TV, and about as beneficial.

What retail space could look more like a toy store to a grown woman than Sephora, or Ulta?  And how many times have you heard someone say, or you’ve heard yourself say, that she/you loves to “play” with make-up?  Trust me, manufacturers are listening and delivering the goodies.

Strategies to win your inner child’s heart are getting less and less subtle, when companies like Disney are partnering with Sephora to produce Minnie Mouse-themed palettes (sold out, and available for a premium on eBay) and Crayola gets into the playpen with Clinique.  Yeah, that’s a photo of a real lip color set, not something I cooked up in Photoshop to make my point.Recently, I worked with a 50-something client who pulled the Chocolate Bon Bons palette from Too Faced (a paint box with heart-shaped eye shadows) out of her make-up bag with a complete lack of irony.   In this box of fun, amidst all of that shimmering love, was exactly one truly useful eye shadow.Go ahead and play – I’m not utterly unsympathetic to the cultivation and maintenance of a youthful good nature.  My message is simple: be aware that this is how, in part, you end up with drawers full of useless color cosmetics, feeling no more young and beautiful than when you had more money in your pocket.

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