Friday, August 30, 2013

The Perfect Oval and Other Myths

 Lately I've been reading mondo amounts of make-up manuals, for fun and education. I like to keep up with the latest ideas, techniques, and products. In my reading, I haven't learnt anything I didn't know already, though it is always exciting to see other artists in action and compare methods.

 What I've gotten out of the last 8 books, mostly, is inspiration, tempered with a little disbelief at how even the most open-minded people can cling to ideas that should have been kicked to the curb long ago. Without meaning to, we've become set in our ways, and I know this from reading books published just two years ago, that sadly reflect the same tired standards as the instructive texts I read when I was just starting out in makeup, 35 years ago.

  Bigotry still rules the world of beauty ideals. An unintentional bigotry, maybe, but potent nonetheless.

  I'm talking here about the Greco-Roman idea that the Oval is the Perfect Face Shape, which all other shapes should be contoured to mimic. This little fallacy has been bought and sold by almost every artist on the planet for hundreds of years, but it is still WRONG.

 Along with that, you've got your "standard" eye shape, your cupid's bow lips which must be neither too thin nor too full, and evenly colored, unmarked skin, plus HIGH cheekbones you can cut your fingers on.

 Which might be great if your parents are runways models from certain parts of Europe and India, not so great otherwise.

 It's funny how many fads in beauty have come and gone without touching this one-- despite the eternal popularity of the triangular or heart-shaped face, despite the (slooooooow) opening of the fashion world to women that aren't white, despite the breakthroughs we've had in recent years over body image and self-esteem. Somehow, the perfect face (and lip, and eye) shape has stayed set in the minds of artists, in the trade mags and textbooks, in all the literature of looks. The attitude that some women have fantastic bone structure, and some don't, is prevalent among the most lauded creatives in the world.

 But it is wrong. Good bone structure is having a face that holds your insides in without incident. And the best face shape for you is the one you were born with-- there may be other good shapes for you too, if you feel like playing around to make your face appear thinner, longer, rounder, less sharp. Still, you really are beautiful as you are. And the longer you live in your own face, the more comfortable, and beautiful, you should feel with it and in it. Contour because you like the look, not because someone told you your jaw isn't feminine-- of course it is, if it's yours and you're a woman!

Let's blow through a few more of these myths. A current favorite look is the full, big eyebrow. I agree that thinner brows can sometimes make us look older, but the catch is, that's only because younger people are wearing thicker brows these days. If you, like me, were from a generation that plucked a leaner line, then fill your brows in a little, sure, but don't try to pretend you have Mega-Brows just to fit in. Your brows belong here just as much as those of any eighteen year-old that has never picked up a pair of tweezers. Let those kids revel in their bushy beauty, but don't be intimidated by it.

 Lip bigotry should be easier to wipe away, since the fad for fuller lips hit about twenty years ago. The flipside, though, was that naturally thinner lips have come to be seen as nothing but an invitation to Botox, and that is sad. If you want proof, look at any of a dozen celebrities that have gone from gorgeous to scary by comparison with their old selves, because they weren't satisfied with their perfectly lovely lips.

 We can get used to their new looks and still find them beautiful; but why in hell can't they accept the faces they were born with, faces that helped make them famous?

 I'm guessing they each internalized someone else's opinion so thoroughly that they couldn't see themselves clearly. What's worse than feeling like your very self is wrong?

 Let's not do it. Ditch the baggage about our eye color, our freckles, our strong chins, our cheekbones...

Perfection isn't a static thing. To paraphrase Richard Bach in his novel Illusions, it's always a perfect sky, even though the sky is always changing. Our perfect look or shape or coloring, at any time, is what captures the moment, our moment-- not an attempt to capture the look of someone else's face.

Have a lovely weekend, friends--



  1. I have an oval face, and I do believe that that helps me to pull off many looks and styles, but thinking that oval is THE perfect face shape, that is indeed BS. I think it's about symmetry, proportion, features,... and not just the shape.

  2. Exactly. I had an oval face before I went on steroids, haha. But I never had trouble putting cool makeup onto my friends that weren't oval/high cheek-boned etc.