Veracity of makeup addiction

‘Mamohaila Rampo

MASERU – Individuals with the obsession of seeking to look different and being unable to wear their natural face qualify as ‘cosmoholics’. Those who prioritize cosmetics at all costs, and frequently try to transform themselves in order to look and feel more accommodated by society.

This article examines the thin line between cosmetic addiction (make-up) and natural body image.

Poleka Lebusa (24) a female from Quthing, became a victim of make-up addiction from a young age. When she was 14 she developed a skin conditions called ‘ephelides’, which is also known as “Freckles”. Freckles are brownish colored spots on the skin that are a few millimeters in diameters apart and can either be caused by hereditary factors or sun exposure. In Lebusa‘s case, this skin condition was caused by a lot of sun exposure.  Anyone can get freckles, but those with sensitive skin like Lebusa, are more susceptible to this skin condition. Freckles may become more pronounced during the summer with excess sun exposure and often fade in the winter but her condition never seemed to halt in different seasons. She said her mother took her to different Doctors to try and find a solution to her skin condition but all her efforts were in vain.

Lebusa suffered from poor body image, low self-esteem and low self-confidence because she got bullied for having freckles at high school.

“At first I was not aware, that I stood out from other kids, but a severe case that affected me deeply was when everyone compared me to a soapie character who played the role of “Rachel” on Skeem Saam, the actress also has freckles on her face, I felt ugly, my confidence and self-esteem dropped. They also compared me to a lollipop that was famous at the time, it had dark spots on it, and so whenever one student bought it, my name always came up,” said Lebusa.

That is how Lebusa ‘s addiction to make-up started, one day when she went past the shops she bought a cover-up foundation and powder, she used it once and felt like she was more beautiful. It became an everyday thing, as time went by, the bullying stopped and she felt even more acceptable, her biggest priority became her foundation, she made sure that no one would see her without make up ever again except her close family members because without it she felt incomplete, she even got to a point where some people no longer recognized her without it.

In an interview with Arts&Lifestyle, MMT Counselling Services Psychologist ‘Matšebo Mosoeu said there is no problem in applying makeup because it enhances beauty, nonetheless it should not be worn to camouflage real issues that need to be dealt with, like lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem because such issues need physiological help to get to the root of the problem. She advised people to wear makeup for the right reasons and not misuse it. She said cosmoholic syndrome is a serious disorder that affects body image.

On the other hand Mosoeu said it serves as a mask and a false way of an individual’s representation. “It can actually give women a sense of becoming someone different and that can become a crutch when they do not like who they are. It gives the message that who you are naturally is not good enough,” she added, saying it could be a relief for many women to go a day without makeup.

MMT Counselling Services Counsellor ‘Mamohapi Thokoa said makeup is more than a physical experience for many women, which is wrong because a healthy body image requires a balance within whole self. Thokoa said if an individual is using makeup as a mask rather than an accessory, her feelings of vulnerability may remain buried inside of her, unspoken and unaddressed, but festering and growing. As a result, when without make-up, one may turn towards body shaming themselves, thereby affecting their body image. She added that indeed makeup does have a noticeable connection to mental health and body image. You know that someone is addicted if they prioritize buying cosmetics rather than buying food. She said it can be a problem if women feel unhappy when they do not wear makeup, and at that point they should take the time to go over their best inner and outer qualities, in order to avoid just focusing on physical characteristics.

Mosoeu said that turning to make-up to repair lack of inner peace, signals that something is bothering the individual, if the issues are not addressed, can affect one’s overall mental health and body image. “This is because when make-up is used to cover up emotions rather than to enhance one’s appearance, the emotions remain locked inside of an individual, growing in intensity but not being solved. You know that a person has reached a severe stage of cosmoholic syndrome when they even go to bed with it, some people do not want to be seen without it, and so they cannot leave a room no matter how urgently they have to leave the house without makeup,” Mosuoe noted.

The connection between body image and applying makeup is also visible, MMT Counselling Services Counselor Moliehi Molupi, said it all has to do with perceptions of how an individual sees themselves, believes others see her and how he or she feels like living in her body. Using makeup to mask feelings and thoughts can cause an illusion of well being that is short lived because important body signals perceived as ‘uncomfortable’ that need attention may be avoided. She believes it is an issue when women are afraid to go out in public without wearing makeup.

She also believes that a day without make-up is a step in the right direction for women to face the truth about their looks. She said majority do not look that different without make-up, yet people live under the deception that pop culture wants us to believe. Molupe advised women to not get to a point where they are unrecognizable without makeup because it can fiddle with their self-confidence.

According to Women’s Health & Wellness site, Rheyanne Waever advised cosmoholicsto start each day with a positive affirmation that compliments their inner attributes other than size, weight, shape or physical appearance to get past their addiction to cosmetics. They should also Minimize diet and weight talk, allowing more time to focus on positive, meaningful aspects of life. Remove the focus on physical appearance, allowing one to more fully reflect on their thoughts, feelings and words of self-acceptance.

When she got to tertiary, Lebusa finally learnt the importance of being comfortable in her own skin with or without make-up because there is something special about trying to look absolutely best and adding make-up to accentuate features. There’s also something equally as special in being confident enough with yourself to not ‘need’ make-up. She learnt after years of masking herself, but finally accepted it, “Even the world top models have freckles and have made peace with it, now I am more confident than ever and can go out without it. I have become my sister’s mentor because she also suffers from Vitiligo, which is a skin condition where patches of skin become pale or white so she does not fall in the same pit of self-doubt, zero confidence like she did,” she shared

Self-taught Makeup artist Lerato Motumi expands that for many women, putting on their makeup is an important part of the daily ritual. They see cosmetics not as a session, but as essential buys because they dislike the thought of people seeing them without a well made-up face and the notion that it makes their appearance more accepted. In a sense it boosts self-respect, too. She agrees that one should wear makeup, because it is also important to “dress the face” but not every day.