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Cover-up Makeup Myths


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Since commercial (mass marketed) cosmetics were first sold in the early 1920s, cosmetic companies have used unobtainable promises and advertising hype to promote and sell their products to female consumers, thus creating unrealistic expectations and the promise of impossible results. Even today, many professional makeup artists believe these same myths, thinking that they are a reality. Makeup artists lack training, especially in the field of color, specifically the three dimensions of color (hue, intensity, and value) and color mixing, as well as the principles of makeup for photography, especially black-and-white photography. These gaps in training have left them unable to successfully challenge these myths, thus perpetuating them to today’s women.

The two most common myths that have continued to reappear are that facial shape and the size of a woman’s features can be changed by contouring or highlighting with makeup; and that undesirable skin coloration can be neutralized with makeup undertoners or neutralizing colors.

Contouring Myth

You can diminish or eliminate a double chin by contouring it, you can narrow a nose by shading it, you can make a square face appear oval, and you can highlight a receding chin to make it stand out.

Contouring Fact

The principle of contouring (highlighting and/or shadowing) came to the world of makeup from the theatre, where it was important for the audience to see the facial expressions of the actors from a distance. Thus, their features were magnified and enhanced by contouring.

The transition of contouring to the field of photography came about in the silent film days, when it took an extraordinary volume of light to create the images on the early film stock, thus burning out the details of the facial features of the actors.

Contouring continued in motion pictures, even as film stock became more sensitive and needed less light. This was also true in still photography (because of the actors’ publicity photos) and then in television. Contouring was used to enhance or minimize facial proportions and features, not to create or eliminate them. In the early days of motion pictures, consumer cosmetics came on the scene and it was because of the glamour of Hollywood actresses that film makeup techniques were adopted. After all, if these techniques could beautify and glamourize a film star, think what they could do for consumers. Women to this day are continually bombarded with this antiquated consumer concept and are only told half of the contouring story. The half they don’t hear is that the stars of Hollywood have their makeup and contouring done by professional makeup Artists. They are filmed under a controlled lighting source from a controlled point of view (the camera); and then they are viewed on a two-dimensional medium (a movie screen).

Subtle contouring under the controlled conditions mentioned earlier can be effective for motion pictures, television, and print work, but not for the consumer! Let’s explore this statement. The average consumer is certainly not a makeup professional; the day-to-day (and nighttime) lighting sources can come from above, below, to the right or left, the back or the front, and even underneath. The consumer is viewed from 360 degrees. If you were to highlight a receding chin and the client turned sideways, you would see a receding chin with a highlight on it; if you were to shadow a double chin and your subject turned sideways, you would see the double chin with part of it painted dark (shadowed). Contouring cannot change facial shapes or features.

Neutralizing Myth

It’s possible to neutralize undesirable skin discoloration: e.g., green undertoners neutralize a florid (red) complexion; lavender undertoner will negate a sallow (yellow) complexion.

Neutralizing Fact

Makeup neutralizers and undertoners have been around for many years. They were especially popular in the 1920s and 1930s. They popped up again in the 1950s and seem to come back into popularity about every 10 to 12 years, becoming a so-called new item for a new generation. With the advent of laser resurfacing and other aesthetic surgical procedures, the neutralizer/ undertoners have gained new popularity for neutralizing the redness after laser resurfacing and other temporary skin discoloration that normally follows many aesthetic surgery procedures. Makeup companies have picked up an old, outdated concept, repackaged it, embellished its imagined purpose and value, and presented it as the new miracle makeup for skin discoloration. This marketing ploy only complicates the makeup process and puts the patient in a no-win situation. Color theory tells us that when any two colors are mixed, the result is a third color. Mixing opposite colors on the color wheel, e.g., green and red, blue and orange, or yellow and purple, results in an unattractive grayishgreen- brown color. This changes the intensity of the two colors and causes them to become dull. The cosmetic industry calls this neutralizing.

The makeup neutralizers/undertoners that are offered— green to neutralize redness, lavender to neutralize sallowness—do nothing more than create a third color, they do not create a skin color. This third color must then be concealed with a color that matches the skin, which adds an extra step and additional thickness to the makeup, not to mention the possibility of dirtylooking makeup.

Many of these myths are created and spread due to lack of education and half-truths perpetrated by articles and advertisements in fashion magazines. These myths are then carried into the workplace by makeup artists and salespeople to sell product. These myths are confusing and cause consumers to become discouraged when the results are complicated, less-than-desirable, and can look muddy and artificial.