Autism and Makeup

I don’t wear makeup anymore. Ever.

I used to wear it more often. To dress up for fancy occasions. For photographs. For dates. When I wanted to feel good about how I looked in a new outfit or for a new job.

But I don’t do it anymore and I thought I’d explain why many autistic women don’t like makeup. (There are autistic women who love makeup, so I’ll try not to speak for them here nor to make it sound like I think it’s inferior to wear makeup).

Makeup is unpleasant to have on my face. It’s not the putting on of the makeup that is most bothersome, either. I’ve had plenty of people offer to do “makeovers” on me and I can sit through the annoyance of having to not blink while someone puts something heavy on my eyelashes. I can stand the little bit of extra weight on my facial skin. I can live through pursing my lips so that lipstick can be properly applied.

The problem is that I can’t stand to keep it on. I can’t stand to not touch my face and wreck my makeup and I can’t stand to have to constantly monitor whether my makeup is still on properly on not. I’m not going to keep checking on it every time I go to the bathroom. It’s too much work and it’s not worth it to me. When I was younger, people often thought that I just needed some lessons on how to wear makeup properly or what kinds would look good on me. I’m sure those lessons are helpful for someone who wants to continue to weak makeup. I just don’t.

Even if the initial feeling of putting on makeup isn’t terrible, I really dislike the feel of it on my skin over long periods. And that means that even when I used to wear makeup, I would have to rush home after a night out and wash my face to get it all off. It was like wearing heels or a pushup bra (I can’t stand those, either). I’m going to end up spending most of the night thinking about the great relief that being home will offer me when I can go back to “normal.”

The second reason I don’t like makeup is a little more complicated. I noticed it when I was watching an old favorite TV showof mine from some years ago. I couldn’t help but think how strange the women’s faces looked. It was supposed to be a period drama, and the hair and the clothing were true to the period, but the makeup was one hundred percent the time period it had been filmed in (the 90s). The women’s eyebrows were plucked to a small line and that isn’t the style anymore and so it stood out to me. It felt like the men looked very normal and the women looked like mannequins of some kind.

I find eyebrow plucking and most makeup look strange to me. I understand theoretically that makeup is an artform. I can appreciate the beauty of makeup aesthetically in a formal way, like I would stare at a piece of art. But I sometimes feel strange when it is so gendered that men get to wear their regular faces and women do not. I find it sexist and a little creepy when women have to do so much torturing of their normal looks to be allowed to be in public. On a philosophical level, it seems wrong to me and on a personal level, it just looks strange and unsettling. Something like the uncanny valley, I think.

So I don’t wear makeup and while I’m not going to police other people or tell them that mine is the moral stance (something I might once have done a decade or two ago), I’m also going to refuse any more offers to do makeovers for me and I’m going to do photo shoots for my author profile like the last one I did, finally telling the photographer that I didn’t want people who met me in person when I never wore makeup to say that I looked nothing like the woman in the photograph that was heavily made up for show. I am me and I want my photos to look like the actual woman who you’ll meet in person if you have a chance. I want to be able to look seriously at the camera and not smile or flirt, and for my facial blemishes and age spots to make me look distinguished. I have a thing about honesty, if you haven’t noticed, and it weirdly extends to makeup.

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