Makeup Magic: Beauty as Ritual and Reclamation
People adorn themselves with fragrance, embellish their look with cosmetics, and indulge in beauty practices for many reasons. Perhaps the addition of a red lip or sultry scent gives your confidence a boost, or you wear winged liner and fierce contouring like you would any accessory. Maybe a moisturizing bath helps you to wash away your troubles. Perhaps you feel a sense of renewal in being able to wipe it all away and start fresh. Regardless of your reason, the artistic practice of choosing shades, scents, and salves can easily become a ritual of self love, reclamation, and empowerment.
It is an all too common misconception that makeup is to be worn only by women, to please men, in the ways which men find acceptable. This is abundantly clear in the slew of “makeup trends men hate” that clog up the internet and unsolicited beauty advice on many a femme’s selfies. This attitude operates under the assumption that only women wear makeup, all women are attracted to men, and that every woman’s sole motivation is to attract men. This is all entirely untrue. People of all genders can and do wear makeup, many of them have no interest at all in attracting men, and almost all of them are doing it first and foremost for themselves.
This patriarchal standard for how people should present themselves creates the opportunity to use beauty as a tool to empower yourself and others, reclaiming something that has long been a method of oppression. This can go beyond the physical act of applying makeup, nail polish, or perfumes, and become a ritualistic practice, weaving magic into maquillage.
Regardless of whether or not you practice magic and witchery on a daily basis, the cycle of the moon has an intense energy and power over our emotions and creative energy, creating the perfect environment for meaningful ritual. Each appearance of the moon can be celebrated and honored in many ways, and a beauty ritual is no exception.
The New Moon begins the cycle, and therefore represents new beginnings. This is a great time to set intentions and meditate on what you would like to bring into your life. An intention can be set for anything, no matter how great or small. Take this time to reflect on habits you wish to form; being sure to wash your face every night before bed or regularly cleaning your makeup brushes. Perhaps there is a daring new shade of lipstick you’ve been wanting to try; set an intention to step outside your comfort zone and wear it.
The Full Moon is an extremely powerful phase that empowers creativity and facilitates change. This is the time to let go of things that no longer serve you and aspects of yourself that you have outgrown. Of course, this can mean letting go of toxic relationships or bad habits, but it can also be a great time to make changes to your look. The transformative power of a new haircut or color can be just the change you need to renew your confidence. It is easy to get into a simple, but unimaginative beauty routine. Reflect upon your sense of originality and the ways in which you feel unique, and open yourself up to new ideas and inspiration.
Setting a daily or weekly intention is a great way to stay connected and driven. Your beauty routine can be a great way to physically manifest these intentions and serve as a constant reminder. The choice of nail polish or lip color can go beyond an aesthetic choice, and represent something more personally meaningful.
Whether you adorn your hands with witchy claws, or prefer to keep them short and simple, the act of doing your nails can easily become a ritual. Begin with choosing a color that speaks to you. You may be attracted to retro red one week, followed by silver glitter, and then a magical amethyst the next. When making this choice, think about what you need that week, what this color can represent for you, and how you can use it as an empowering reminder. If you need to feel grounded, perhaps go with a neutral, earthy tone. If you need to feel energized, a bright color at your fingertips may serve you. Perhaps you want to remind yourself of your sex appeal with a blood red. As you go through the process of painting your color of choice, let this intention sink in. Meditate on the meaning, and take this time to yourself to relax and look inward.
Applying your makeup on a daily basis can also be a meaningful process. The simple act of wearing makeup on your own terms, despite the many reminders of how people, especially women, “should look,” is empowering. Each day, when you apply your dramatic cat eye, purple lipstick, or rainbow highlight, you are committing an act of rebellion against a system of control. You are prioritizing your own happiness, creativity, and individuality over what may be accepted as attractive.
Each step in your routine can also hold its own power and meaning. As you apply your foundation, promise yourself that you will walk with confidence and purpose. Your liquid eyeliner can serve as a reminder to move through the day with unapologetic ferocity. Set the intention to be kind and compassionate as your apply your pink lipstick. Your strong eyebrow game reminds you to be firm in your convictions. You are not only putting a series of products on your face, but using them to manifest the energy you need to get through the day.
Regardless of whether you choose to wear a full face, opt for the simplicity of mascara and lipstick, or change your look on a daily basis, the art of makeup can truly be reclaimed as an empowering and personal ritual. Adorn yourself in a way that speaks to your inner magic, honors your creativity, and evokes your confidence.
Header image by Maika Keuben / @liquidnight