By: Grace White
Makeup is an art medium. Therefore, logistically, the practice of makeup application should not be gendered. This holds true throughout much of history, as makeup has been used globally for centuries by both men and women.
The assigning of femininity to makeup is closely tied to the spread of religion. During the 1800s, the Church of England viewed makeup as an abomination, associated with vanity and the “devil’s work,” leading it to fall out of use for over 200 hundred years. It wasn’t until the boom of Hollywood that makeup would become popularized again.
While women have always been used to market makeup products in the modern era, like many other art mediums, the professional application of makeup was almost exclusive to men. The likes of Ben Nye and Maksymilian Faktorowicz, or MaxFactor, were favorites among early Hollywood directors and would go onto create their own brands that exist to this day.
Although iconic women in makeup such as Estee Lauder and Mary Kay Ash have certainly made a name for themselves, there is no doubt that the cosmetics industry, like all industries, is male-dominated. Even when women like Estee and Mary Kay have established themselves, both of their brands have been purchased and run by men. According to Willet & Gould, to this day, several male-run major conglomerates own the majority of all popular makeup brands.
This is not to say that men do not have a place in the cosmetics industry, nor a call for men to step down from their positions of power within the industry. However, consumers should be aware that even though something is seemingly exclusive to women, this is rarely the case. When accounting for these circumstances, it becomes clear that women have merely been puppets of the industry, selling products and standards of beauty established by men.