The concept of a makeover is simple: you come in looking “less attractive” and come out looking “more attractive.” This is supposed to make you feel better physically, emotionally and–in the case of crying Swan contestants–apparently spiritually.

Typical makeovers consist of lots of foundation, some blush, heavy eye, brow, lip and cheek contouring, blown out hair, clothes that make the wearer appear thinner and an elevated voice inflection of about half an octave (okay, maybe that last one is just my own speculation). Basically, the average makeover involves giving the made-over person an entirely different appearance. I suppose it wouldn’t be called a “makeover” if it didn’t essentially translate scribbling over one look until it changes into an entirely different one, but I nevertheless find most of these processes unnecessary at best.


Getting a “makeover” isn’t something I would recommend most people do for their appearances. If anything, it’s something I would strongly advise against: it puts an unnecessary amount of focus on some obtuse transformational aspect, as though a person isn’t interesting or of value until they fit a very tiny, difficult mold shaped similarly to a life-size Barbie doll.

Side note: I say “Barbie doll” because men almost never get makeovers. How many films and television shows have you seen where a man gets a makeover? They certainly exist, but they typically involve just clothing changes plus the occasional shave in order to attract women, whereas women’s are about looking better in the office, looking more stereotypically feminine, helping your newfound boyfriend beat fellow assholes at bets, winning pageants for the FBI and not looking like a whore. Women are given dozens of reasons in dozens of programs as to why self-improvement must include an element of appearance.

As I’ve mentioned before, I did makeup for a long time. During that period of my life, I received several requests from friends, coworkers and acquaintances to give them a “makeover.” Although I love beauty products of all kinds–I see them as semi-addictive, mostly-harmless drugs–I typically cringed a little bit when they would ask.

Sometimes, it was because I knew the woman had low self-esteem and I felt like giving her a makeover would only encourage the idea that she wasn’t “good enough” without makeup on, and that in order to gain confidence, she should be “enhanced.” Other times, it was because I knew the results they were looking for weren’t all that possible to make natural-looking using simply makeup (i.e. complete bone structure alterations, neck weight reductions, etcetera), and I didn’t want them to be disappointed when they had nothing to feel bad about in the first place. Plus, I just don’t think people “need” much makeup, if any at all; I know that sounds hypocritical, but it’s a conclusion I’ve come to over a long time.

I grew up reading Bobbi Brown Teenage Beauty over and over each evening before bed–by the way, if you’re looking to buy a teenager interested in fashion or beauty a gift next month, that should be it. If you’re not familiar with the famed makeup artist or her wonderful line of cosmetics, she tends to go extremely natural with beauty products. In Teenage Beauty, she does numerous “makeovers” on teenage girls of various skin tones, bone structures, complexions and personalities. In each “Before” and “After” photo, the young woman would close to the same as the first photo, but with slight differences like a bit of blush to give a healthier-looking glow, some lip balm for those with braces, a bit of brown-black mascara here and there… it was all just cute, fun and experimental for the girls involved. But most importantly, all still looked like themselves.

In most makeovers, women do not continue looking like themselves plus just a bit more polish. Usually, they just result in being unrecognizable to your friends and family, whether it’s venturing as far as getting surgery for your wedding day or simply wearing exponentially more makeup than usual.

For example, the makeovers posted on Buzzfeed last week involved women who looked almost completely different in their “Before” and “After” photos. Of course, I have no idea if this is the look they prefer in themselves, but either way, it’s still remarkable how much a makeover translates to “completely altering one’s face.”

Extreme Makeover and The Swan, as well as movies like She’s All That and The Princess Diaries, have these dramatic makeover scenes in which women who were formerly considered “homely” now cascade down the steps to the Ooohs and Ahhhs of their loved ones/anybody they kinda knew who wanted to be on television. Seriously–they are always cascading.

...until they fall down the stairs + Freddie Prinze Jr.'s gotta catch 'em all.

The sad thing is that many people believe in the power of makeovers, whether they’re the ones getting it or not. I once had a friend who forced her then-boyfriend to completely change his appearance, from hair cut to clothing style, even his mannerisms and facial expressions would get criticized. And this was all because she perceived her own value as higher if his appearance was somehow “better.”

Yes–looking put-together and attractive in other people’s eyes will raise their opinion of you, however sad and backwards that may be. We all know that looking better to those around you can But the reason that this bias towards “attractive” people exists is because it’s continuously perpetuated by those whose mindset is, “I need to look better so people will like me better.” The more we feel the need to look a certain way to gain confidence, the more our appearances become integral to our self-esteem. I’m not naive enough to believe that people can simply detach their egos from their looks instantaneously, but putting even further emphasis on your appearance as a representation of value will do much more harm than good.

I don’t want to go too far on the “inner beauty” tangent–I already did that just a few days ago–but I will say that changing your appearance obviously doesn’t mean your personality, integrity, charm or intellect suddenly morph into some ultra-sexy ideal of a siren. In fact, makeovers do little besides clog your pores and stiffen your hair and put you on shitty reality television shows where Stacy London and the like shake their heads at your appearance, wondering how you got that way.

Getting a makeover won’t improve your skills, can’t be added to your resume and will not increase your typing speed. It won’t make you a better runner, it won’t get you to quit smoking and it won’t take away all your anxiety.

I suppose what I’m saying is not so much “don’t wear makeup”; by all means, please do if you want to! I, for one, LOVE makeup and wear it even when I don’t leave the house. If you want to lose weight, lose weight; do it for yourself, though, not because you don’t think you’re as valuable person at whatever weight you’re at compared to somebody else’s. If you want to reinvent your whole wardrobe, go for it! That can actually be incredibly fun. But again, hyst be sure that it’s something you’ve chosen for yourself, as your decisions primarily affect yourself and everyone else around you secondarily.

But if don’t get a makeover because you feel like it’ll raise your significance or self esteem; it probably won’t, because that’s just plain silly. Don’t do anything to yourself, in fact, that isn’t something you would do even if nobody else told you to. You are worthwhile because of your actions, not your appearance. You are not a duckling, you are not a swan, you are not a home improvement project: you are a person.

Photos: Miramax, Buzzfeed.