Face paint

Many Asian women like to look fair. Whiteness is associated with radiance, clear skin, and beauty. In Vietnam, the women ride their motorcycles in long-sleeved shirts and conical straw hats, or wear arm “gloves”. Japanese and Korean makeup tout their brightening properties, featuring dewy faces in their ads. We probably have to use less makeup on our faces as well, because it’s like a clean canvas waiting for the colours to be swiped on.

But there’s a flipside to being fair. (Caveat: I’m naturally fair because of the hours spent in the office – I do not own any whitening / brightening products.) Under studio lights, natural-looking makeup looks… naked. I look like I’ve got really fantastic skin, but no blood in the cheeks and lips, and slabs for eyelids, which makes my eyes look really small. So I’ve been reading and watching YouTube videos, figuring out what needs to be done. And it’s a JUNGLE out there. Millions of makeup reviews and tutorials, thousands of brands all claiming many things.

I remember one thread running through all the videos: you need makeup to look gorgeous. Some are well-meaning, showing pictures of celebrities with and without makeup, as encouragement to all of us normal women out there that they are mortals too, and that it’s makeup that gives them that ethereal, POW and oomph. And then those making the videos usually say something to the effect of love what you have, yaddah. Perhaps I’m missing something, but if we are loving what we have, then we should not be needing to transform ourselves every.single.day. to conform to society’s notions of beauty. Yes, we want to look good. But I still want to be recognisable with or without makeup. If ever I have kids, I don’t want my child to treat me like a stranger when I’m without makeup. I don’t want to have to put my face on before my husband (again, if I ever get one) wakes up, or remove the gunk only after he’s soundly asleep. I want my friends to recognise me even on my days off!

But for all my rants, there are societal expectations. And I have to conform somewhat, or look like a sheet on the small screen. Brushes and colours, please be nice to me.


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