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I asked 17 Fashion Journal readers if they wear makeup to work

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JASON HENLEY

WORDS BY IZZY WIGHT

“Placing makeup on a dichotomy – without considering ‘pretty privilege’ and the freedom that comes with it – leaves out a huge part of this important discourse.”

Do you wear makeup to work? While the question itself is simple, the answer can feel complicated. For some, cosmetics might feel like an unnecessary extra step in their morning routines but for others, a full-coverage makeup routine is mandatory – tied to broader themes like gender, body image and feminism.

Personally, I’ve experienced a variety of workplace beauty ‘expectations’. I’ve worked in luxury fashion, where personal appearance was everything and a polished face, brand-approved perfume and well-kept hair were ‘strongly encouraged’ (for men too, which was great).


We like nosy people. Don’t be shy, head to our Beauty section for more. 


And like a lot of people, I also spent a good portion of the last two years working from home, which often meant pyjamas, unbrushed hair and pimple patches. As female-identifying people, it sometimes feels as if we’re losing autonomy over our own bodies – and faces.  To find out more on the subject, I asked Fashion Journal readers if they wear makeup to work.

Maya, 27, she/her

I don’t wear makeup, partly because my company has a hybrid office/work from home model. Working from home has really reduced my willingness to wear makeup when I do go into the office. They’re also extremely progressive in their values and because of the company culture, I don’t feel any pressure to dress in a certain way or wear makeup.

Attitudes towards makeup in the workplace are changing, but not for everyone. Placing makeup on a dichotomy – without considering ‘pretty privilege’ and the freedom that comes with it – leaves out a huge part of this important discourse. Who do we encourage to embrace ‘natural’ beauty? And who do we keep encouraging to cover-up?

Tilly, 30, she/her

I sometimes wear makeup, but it’s always very minimal – eyebrows, mascara and lipstick only. I never wear foundation to work. This is mostly because I’d rather have a sleep-in than get up and put makeup on. If it’s taking more than five minutes, it’s not happening. I work in a very casual office (jeans and a t-shirt most days) so I feel very lucky to work somewhere where it’s not expected that I am wearing makeup every day.

Raina, 23, she/her

I don’t wear makeup to work. If a job required me to look ‘presentable’ (and they really meant a full face of makeup), I’d reconsider it. I feel very conflicted about this because I’d love to work as ground staff or as a flight attendant for an airline, and I know both of those positions require workers to look ‘presentable’ (meaning makeup required).

I think it’s bullshit that wearing makeup makes someone look more ‘neat’ or ‘professional’. Regardless of how long my eyelashes are or how flawless my skin is, I’m still capable of doing my job. Although I do understand that I’m coming from a position of privilege where I feel beautiful and confident regardless of how I look, I think that makeup should be the choice of the individual and not the workplace. I want customers to see the bags under my eyes because maybe they’ll leave me alone.

Maddison, 28, she/her

Yes, I work with patients and I feel more professional and presentable with makeup on. Sometimes I feel like I look super tired without makeup, so helps to give the illusion that I’ve got my shit together.

Talia, 49, she/her

No – as a nurse in the current climate (considering PPE), makeup is the least of my concerns. If I layered makeup underneath masks, shields and goggles, my skin – which is already taking a battering – would not survive. In saying that, I’ve never really worn makeup to work. Getting up at five in the morning, the only thing on my mind is coffee.

Georgia, 29, she/her

Yes, every time. It’s non-negotiable. My work makeup is just as much a part of my work wardrobe as my clothing or shoes. It’s the same look – basic and neutral base, bronzed eyes and a red lip – every day. For me, it adds to my professional look and helps me distinguish my work mentality from my home or weekend mentality. It provides me confidence moving into the workplace in the morning, knowing I can hide any blemishes or sleep deprivation-induced bags and turn on ‘work me’.

Anika, 25, she/her

I mostly won’t wear makeup. I don’t wear makeup at home, so why would I wear it at work. The cost of beauty for women is outrageous! The social pressure to wear makeup, get waxed, get our nails done, take care of our eyebrows, do skincare, pay for hair cuts and colouring… it’s literally impoverishing women. Meanwhile, a man has washed his face with soap, gets a $15 buzz cut and invests the surplus cash.

Yael, 33, she/her

No, I don’t wear makeup to work. Men aren’t expected to, so why should I? It clogs my pores, I’m allergic to most foundations and I hate spending money on products to just remove them from my face.

Ada, 25, she/her

I do wear makeup to work! Although my workplace doesn’t make me feel pressured, which I’m very grateful for – particularly as I work in the beauty industry for a massive company. Wearing makeup makes me feel polished, more confident and like I’m turning up to work as my best self.

There’s definitely something to be said for having to ‘add on’ to feel my best, but I love the confidence my self-care routine gives me. If I’m working from home though? Makeup is NOT being worn.

Imani, 26, she/her

I wear makeup when I feel like it. I always start a new job wearing makeup for the first week or so before I start removing certain parts of my makeup routine. First goes the foundation, next goes the bronzer… and so on. Although I usually keep the blush and mascara so I can at least look ‘awake’. People don’t shy away from telling me I look “tired”, so I have to do something.

Dina, 23, she/her

Not usually, but lately if I’m feeling a bit self-conscious (and have the time) I’ll swipe on some mascara and put a dot of cover-up over an acne scar. For the most part, I’ll skip it. I start work at five in the morning most days, so don’t want to get up any earlier than necessary.

I also want to become less reliant on wearing makeup to feel like myself or to gain self-worth. I struggled with acne a lot when I was younger; I was so self-conscious that I wouldn’t leave the house without makeup. I fear if I wore makeup every day I would again become too reliant on it and it would ultimately end up negatively impacting my mental health and self-worth.

Riley, 23, they/she

No, because it’s not a part of my routine. I don’t like looking super femme. I’ve had workplaces where makeup was part of the uniform policy for women, which sucked and I hated it. I don’t work somewhere like that now.

Lisa, 45, she/her

For work, I’ll do a 10-minute essential routine of tinted moisturizer, brows, bronzer and concealer (did I mention brows?). Essentially, the aim is to look like I got a full night’s sleep and am not iron deficient!

I think there’s an expectation for women to look ‘pulled together’ in order to be professional. The workplace is inherently ageist towards women approaching 50 – particularly if you’re not perceived as ‘polished’ or ‘taking care of yourself’.

Ginny, 28, she/her

Yes, it helps me to feel more put together and professional. I work in the fashion industry in marketing, so feel a need to always look ‘on’ and like I’ve put effort into my appearance. Why I feel like my appearance reflects my work ethic or experience is beyond me, but I think working predominantly in PR it’s been drilled into me to ‘always look presentable’. I also struggle with hormonal acne and scarring, so do secretly wish I could pull off tinted moisturiser rather than a full face of foundation.

I’d like to not be a ‘full makeup’ kind of girl, but my skin appearance is something I prefer to cover. It makes me feel less like I belong in the fashion industry, which is something I’m trying to care less about – but it’s ingrained in me. I’d prefer a natural makeup look that highlights my features rather than looking too ‘done’.

Emily, 30, she/her

When I’m in the office, no. When I’m out on location and face-to-face with customers, yes. It’s expected that I look presentable (made up) as someone with a customer-facing role. I’d go makeup-free on the job if it were more normalised.

Brianna, 20, she/her

Nine out of ten times, I will not wear makeup to work. I am reasonably comfortable with how my skin looks without makeup on. I take good care of my skin, and am really comfortable going bare-faced at work!

Most of the time it’s actually because I can’t be bothered, or I don’t have enough time to get ready. The only time I ever really wear it to work is if I need to go somewhere after and don’t have the time to go home and do my face.

Pema, 28, she/her

Yes. I feel I look more bright, awake and composed when I do. I also work in alcohol production, where my clothing is always messy and dirty. I have to wear steel caps and high vis, my hair has to be back and I can’t wear jewellery – so it’s one of the few ways I can still feel feminine and ‘put together’.

For more on makeup and work, head here.

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