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Applying makeup in public — Yea or nay ?

I recently came across the article Maintaining the Lady Mystery: Is Makeup on the Bus a FeministIssue? on xojane. As a feminist who hates it when people put makeup on public transportation, or, frankly, in public, I was intrigued.

The author, who puts her makeup on on the bus each morning, was surprised to learn that not everyone is a fan of this practice. She writes, “It’s nothing vicious, just a general balk — an overall sense of ‘’mnehhh’ no one can define. Except me. And my suspicion was confirmed by the friend who said: ‘It kinda ruins the mystery.’” And that, she argues, is why it’s a feminist issue. “Why is it not cool to be open about routines-women-have? Why do we frown on what everyone knows goes on, even if we’re not sure why exactly we disapprove?”

While I’m all for being more open about women’s routines, I disagree that this is why most people dislike it when women put their makeup on in public. While one of the author’s friends may think it ruins the mystery, I can’t let that person speak for all of us who are peeved by public makeup application. For me, it’s less about the mystery (duh, I know you don’t roll out of bed looking like that and don’t think anyone thinks I do either) and more about the fact that it’s a private act that doesn’t need to be done in public.

(For the record, I’m not talking about a little touch-up here. There’s quickly and discreetly swiping on some lipstick…and then there’s hauling out your whole makeup bag and putting on your entire face. I’m talking about the latter.)

Putting makeup on isn’t the only private behavior that I wish would stay private, and it’s not a feminist issue for me because I don’t like it when women or men cross that line. Sorry, but I don’t want to see people flossing, clipping or filing their nails, putting on deodorant, or brushing their hair in public. For me, these are things that you typically do in the bathroom, and, like most bathroom activities, that seems like a great place for them to stay. Why take them out of the bathroom?

For me, it’s also a sanitary issue. While I know that public transportation isn’t exactly sterile, there’s something kind of gross about used makeup and grooming tools. When personal space is at a minimum, it’s rude to do anything that releases extra bits of you into the atmosphere. I know what my bathroom looks like and I know it’s because personal grooming distributes hair, scalp flakes, eyelashes, and particles of bronzer all over every available surface. Even on something as dirty as the subway, I don’t feel like it’s appropriate to subject other people to that, and I’m always surprised when people aren’t conscious of this fact.

A lot of commenters on the xojane article said they have a long commute and can’t even think about putting their makeup on at 4:30 AM when they leave the house. While trying to apply mascara to still-sleepy eyes does sound awful, can’t they just pop into the lobby bathroom at the office before they get to their desks to do their makeup?

I think that how comfortable we are with someone putting on her makeup in public has a lot to do more to do with personal boundaries than the feminine mystique. And I don’t think we need to hide our routines…I just think we need to keep our loose bronzer to ourselves.

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Lauren Stewart
By: Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart is a freelancer writer from Michigan. She enjoys writing about beauty, health and fitness! She is passionate about learning new ways to take control of her health and wellness and is a makeup and skincare junkie! You can contact her by emailing