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Makeup or mask-up?

Huzaima Bukhari

It’s our hearts and brains that we should exercise more often. You can put on all the makeup you want, but it won’t make your soul prettyKevyn Aucoin

One of the basic instincts of human beings, regardless of sex, is to look presentable. For this purpose, they use different kinds of things including soaps, oils, scents, clothes, jewellery, accessories, and of course, makeup. Known to have been in existence for more than three millennia, cosmetics made from various naturally occurring elements like fruits, herbs, metals etc. are used by both men and women for a more emphatic appearance although these are mostly considered as being female specific. Over the centuries, using hit and trial methods, researches and experimentation, the cosmetic industry has passed through evolutionary processes resulting in the manufacture of safe and effective products for beautification of humans. Today, other than usage of chemically concocted toiletries, resort to blepharoplasty or cosmetic surgery is now a flourishing business.

As if covering one’s facial flaws with concealers was insufficient that women as well as men have decided to correct them with the help of surgery. This is the height of dissatisfaction with one’s naturally adorned features! Nonetheless, cosmetic or plastic surgeons are minting millions because many of us are unhappy with the way we look and in our eagerness to look prettier and younger countless nose jobs, liposuctions, face-lifts, breast implants, skin grafting, hair transplant, botox injections and what not, are resorted to; so much so that some of us become unrecognizable even by our relatives. Many celebrities from the film and media industry (which is understandable) and now even politics, have gone under the knife to appear photogenic and attractive.

Unquestionably, makeup forms a crucial part of good grooming as it converts pallor into rosiness that helps to lift up spirits and invokes self-confidence. If there are two receptionists (regardless of gender) of equal competence at a desk, one pallid and the other slightly made up, people would be likely to be drawn towards the latter. Beauty and glamour do captivate attention no matter how much anyone denies this fact. A colour television is more appealing compared to black and white.

One can evaluate the volume of both cosmetics and plastic surgery from the following two statements:

“The global cosmetics market size was valued at USD 380.2 billion in 2019, and is projected to reach USD 463.5 billion by 2027, registering a compound annual growth rate CAGR of 5.3% from 2021 to 2027.”

“The Global Cosmetic Surgery and Services Market is relied upon to achieve USD 39,842.8 million by 2025, from USD 23,715.6 million out of 2017, developing at a CAGR of 6.7% amid the gauge time of 2018 to 2025.”

Generally speaking,  usage of cosmetics has advantages other than aesthetics. This includes boosting self-esteem and protection against ultra violet rays. There are a number of products in the market that help in giving a natural look to people by covering up spots and blemishes while providing them an umbrella against environmental predicaments. Besides, being a much desired industry, there are plentiful opportunities for research, development and employment which adds to its benefits. Presently in the world there are quite a number of brands that are acknowledged internationally and are in great demand in almost all the countries.

Having discussed the importance of the cosmetic industry, it would be interesting to observe the ways in which people in our country exploit prettification products. This is especially visible on two occasions—in a wedding and on the television. In many instances the objects of embellishment are given a complete turn-round look with such a heavy coating that faces appear artificial as if covered by a mask. Consequently, some peculiar jokes have become viral wherein, appearances can be deceptive. A newly-wed husband in arranged marriage is said to have fainted in shock after seeing his wife’s freshly washed face the next morning. A news clip got circulated some time back that a husband divorced his wife the very next day after she removed her makeup. Late Omer Sharif had many witty one-liners among which a popular piece was that some children, refusing to recognize their mother because her makeup had washed off in a rainfall desperately called out to her, “Aunty, aunty, do you know where our mom is?”

Agreed that one earnestly wants to look beautiful or handsome but that does not mean a total facial lift or bizarre appearance. In fact, ideally made up persons are ones whose natural features are enhanced without disturbing their original visage. Genuine cosmetologists also keep a few other things in mind before application of makeup. These are skin type, tone and complexion, occasion and time—whether day or evening. This means that no single rule applies to all which makes it even more challenging for them. In the words of Pat McGrath, a British makeup artist: “Makeup is malleable and mercurial: The biggest joy I have every day is the opportunity to create, to play, and to invent with something I’ve loved forever.”

One honestly wishes that people understand the significance of cosmetics in redefining and accentuating their personalities making them look pleasant without, however, unsettling their real selves. 


The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE).

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