The term ‘makeup’ can have many different meanings based on the context. Makeup can refer to the physical cosmetics applied to the body, the act of said application, and can often have different connotations from person to person. The beauty industry itself is worth billions of dollars and is full of artists and brands that are often praised as much as critiqued by users (Sorvino).



  1. Makeup-Shaping History
  2. Modern Makeup
    1. Recent Rise in Popularity
    2. Backlash and The Power of Makeup
  3. The Beauty Industry
    1. Racism and Colorism Controversy
  4. Conclusion
  5. Resources and Works Cited


  1. Makeup-Shaping History

One of the earliest societies who we can date makeup usage back to 6,000 BC is claimed by the Egyptians (The story of make-up). Both Egyptian men and women were known for creating and wearing face makeup made from natural resources. Early into the 20th century, make-up was considered ‘questionable’, and the “middle classes in particular felt make- up was unacceptable in polite society and remained in the realms of prostitutes and actresses” (The story of make-up). During the Women’s Suffrage movement, women reclaimed makeup and spoke out against these stigmas by wearing red lipstick, which became “a symbol of strength, power and liberty during the suffrage movement; before it always carried sexual undertones” (The story of make-up). Later on, with the emergence of Hollywood, high fashion and glamour, makeup began to rise in use and popularity. From movie stars to models, makeup began to be used to enhance beauty, and also became more marketed to the masses (The story of make-up).


  1. Modern MakeupRecent Rise in Popularity

Over the past decade, makeup as a whole has gained popularity and has boosted the sales of cosmetics worldwide. This is primarily due to new, millennial-esque advertising techniques, such as Instagram and Youtube. Ulta Beauty has opened nearly “100 new stores annually in recent years”, while revenues at Sephora “have doubled since 2011” (Creswell). Beauty blogging and vlogging is not a new concept, but with the recent growth in social media usage, influencers and makeup artists everywhere are creating followings and partnerships with brands, endorsing hot and new products for consumers to try. Perhaps the newest and most popular platform for beauty influencers is Youtube, where many gain their followings, teach application techniques in tutorial-style videos, and endorse personal or other cosmetic brands and products.

Backlash and The Power Of Makeup

With the rise in popularity of makeup comes an inevitable backlash. While the majority of makeup users and wearers can attest that the process is a fun hobby used to enhance one’s natural beauty, some have received hate and backlash for wearing makeup. Youtuber and makeup artist NikkieTutorials received stigma and backlash herself from makeup critics claiming people who wear makeup only do so “because of insecure reasons such as self-hatred or the attention of men. In reality, some women just love the act of putting on lipstick and faux eyelashes for an enhanced look” (Hurst). In response to these claims, Nikkie created #ThePowerOfMakeup, a video concept turned hashtag movement empowering makeup lovers to love themselves while also loving creating art with makeup. In the Youtube video, Nikkie applies a full application of makeup to only one half of her face, leaving the other side bare and natural, emphasizing the power of makeup and what it can do to and for the user. “It’s as if putting makeup on to have fun is a shame” Nikkie explains in her video, “Therefore, I thought it would be cool to show you the power of makeup, a transformation. Because makeup is fun!” (Shapouri).

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  1. The Beauty Industry

    Racism and Colorism Controversy

While the growth of the makeup empowerment movement is a positive aspect of the beauty industry, apparent and obvious racist and colorist offenses have and continue to negatively impact the industry and community. As explained throughout #ThePowerOfMakeup, the goal is to empower the user in an inclusive and personal experience with makeup. However; some brands have proven to not be inclusive after all. Numerous companies and brands have failed to produce inclusive ranges of skin-toned products, often creating a plethora of lighter, similar, fair-colored shades, “but then [brands] throw in two dark shades like, ‘Here, just to shut y’all up’” quotes Jackie Aina, a black beauty influencer on Youtube (Stone). In 2018, Tarte Cosmetics faced controversy over the release of their Shape Tape foundation which featured 15 shades, which featured only three ‘deep’ shades. Aina was one of the influencers who spoke out about Tarte’s release, sharing in a Youtube video “”I don’t appreciate the blatant erasure of a whole spectrum of people. It doesn’t even look like they tried” (Underwood). Beautyblender was another perpetrator of discrimination, launching their highly anticipated foundation, which also received backlash for their lack of darker shades.

However, Fenty Beauty, Rihanna’s makeup line, debuted with 40 diverse shades, offering numerous complexions and undertones. Fenty has set the standard in regards to inclusion and empowering the user to enhance their features.

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  1. Conclusion

Makeup is a tool that can be used to empower the user while embracing and enhancing natural beauty for a plethora of reasons, yet the industry itself both faces and contributes to stigma and controversy. Makeup users have faced backlash and accusations of lust and/or lack of self-confidence, while brands in the beauty industry have blatantly reflected racism and colorism through lack of inclusivity. Every aspect of makeup, including the controversy, is directly related to bodylore. Those who wear/apply makeup attest to enhancing the literal body to its most ideal representation, and then receive body-based backlash through claims of perceived body image. Brands throughout the beauty industry have been considered contributors to these claims, by making racist moves when excluding and erasing entire races through representation, or lack thereof, of skin color. It is through a bodylore lens that decisions can be made about makeup application, use, connotation, and representation of and to one’s self.


  1. Resources

Works Cited

Creswell, Julie. “Millennials’ Lust for Makeup Driving a Boom in the Cosmetics Industry.” Financial Post, The New York Times, 24 Nov. 2017,

Hurst, Alysha. “The Power of Makeup Is More than Just ‘Putting on a Face’.” The University Star, 4 Apr. 2016,

Shapouri, Beth. “These Before-and-After Transformations Show How Powerful Makeup Can Be.” Glamour, Glamour Magazine, 26 May 2017,

Sorvino, Chloe. “Why The $445 Billion Beauty Industry Is A Gold Mine For Self-Made Women.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 24 May 2017,

Stone, Brianna. “Beauty YouTuber Jackie Aina Addresses Issues of Colorism in the Industry.” The Daily Dot, 26 Jan. 2018,

“The Story of Make-Up.” BBC News IWonder, BBC,

Underwood, Khalea. Tarte’s Highly Anticipated Shape Tape Foundation Is Here – & Fans Are Not Happy. Refinery29, 17 Jan. 2018,

Aiyana Roll is a current sophomore at Old Dominion University who is double majoring in English with a focus in Journalism and Women’s Studies. Along with writing and studying gender, race, and body studies, she is also passionate about cosmetology and fashion. She expresses her love for makeup through working as a makeup artist at Sephora, and is able to show her love for fashion and thrifting by working at Starlight Exchange, a resale boutique.  She hopes to one day combine all of her passions by writing for a blog or magazine where she is able to discuss beauty, fashion, the body, feminism, equality, intersectionality… the list goes on. She also loves coffee, her cat Mouse, food, music, and tattoos.