Do You Really Need to Roll Out of Bed Looking Beautiful?

What the new permanent makeup trend says about our body image

Last week, The New York Times reported on the growing market for permanent makeup (think eyeliner that never smudges and perfectly defined brows). While the benefits seemed obvious to many of the women interviewed (“It’s amazing how you can wake up looking absolutely fabulous,” said one fan), writer Abby Ellin pointed out that these procedures are seriously under-regulated and can actually pose major health risks.

Even folks in the permanent makeup industry have admitted there are flaws: “We see thousands of faces being destroyed by people who don’t get trained properly, and that’s the biggest problem in permanent cosmetics,” said John Hashey, the owner of John Hashey’s Advanced School of Permanent Cosmetics in Oldsmar, FL. Hashey said that 90 percent of his business is fixing mistakes.

Of course it’s not news that beauty products and services don’t receive enough scrutiny. (For more on what you really learn in beauty school, click here.) Which is why I think Ellin skipped over one of the most important questions: Why do so many of us think we need permanent makeup in the first place?

I get that it’s a time-saver (though the woman quoted above said she still applies “blush, lip gloss and mascara” daily). And if you have a long commute to the kind of job where you need to be professionally made up every day, I can see where permanent makeup comes in handy. But what happens on your days off? Do women really need to be perfectly made up seven days a week?

I’ve fallen in and out of love with makeup over the years, but one thing I’ve noticed: Whenever I start wearing makeup regularly, I start thinking that I need to wear makeup regularly. My natural face looks less fresh and defined. My non-made-up eyes look tired all the time. I think about how my cheeks could be pinker. But when I go through a phase where I wear makeup less (I work from home, so the office dress code is decidedly lax), I get used to my face again. I even like how it looks without makeup. Not because I’ve been blessed with such perfect features. But because it looks like me.

If permanent makeup seems like the miracle time-saving solution you’ve been looking for all these years, more power to you. (But please, read the NYT story first and make sure you find a practitioner who has been thoroughly trained!) I get that everybody has different beauty needs and preferences. But if we’re getting to the point where cosmetic-free faces won't cut it, even when we’re hanging out at home in our PJs? Well, color me conflicted.

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