Surface Level: How students justify spending loads on makeup and beauty products

Sophomore Nikki Reifler has an expensive hobby. 

“I fell in love with the power of transformation in makeup through drag. And it’s taken about three years to get a solid face down that is branded as mine and mine alone,” said the creative producing major, who doubles as drag queen “Pal Poxy”.

At a school ranked No. 1 for hottest girls on two years in a row, it’s clear that some Chapman students go above and beyond to maintain a certain look. California itself is known for high standards of beauty. According to a 2017 study published in SkinStore, California is the sixth most expensive face in the country with women paying an average of $9.50 per day on makeup, cosmetics and skin care compared to the $8 national average. Although many Chapman students play into the latest fashion trends, some Chapman students who work toward their appearance call their efforts entertaining, empowering and anything but superficial.

“When I get a chance to do my makeup I always love going all out and trying new tricks on my face. It really just makes me feel beautiful,” said Sydney Burke, a senior communications major.

The U.S. beauty industry saw 6 percent growth from 2016 to 2017, which brought the industry to it’s $17.7 billion value, according to market research company The NPD Group. Skincare products accounted for 45% of this growth and makeup for 6%.

More recently, online content creators have garnered attention with videos featuring various beauty products and techniques. Chapman itself has students who are well known for their hair, makeup and fashion talents: Scarlett Turner, Lindsey Rem, and Orly Shapiro are all Chapman women who have made a name for themselves with their YouTube videos.

Makeup and beauty products aren’t cheap, so for those who consider it a hobby, it can drive a high price tag. Though it may appear otherwise, millennials are actually spending less on makeup than Baby Boomers and Gen X, according to research from Coresight, which references lower incomes and higher costs as factors in this trend.

“I like to use more affordable makeup that I know works well,” said Vi Luong, a senior business major who uses drug store brands. “I’m still a college student and like to dabble in Instagram just on the side, so I don’t think makeup or vanity has really influenced what I’m doing.”

One of Luong’s Instagram photos | Photo courtesy VI LUONG

Luong said she follows a “less is more” philosophy.

“I’m a huge fan of keeping my makeup simple and natural-looking regardless of if I’m at school or taking photos for my Instagram posts,” she said.

But for other Chapman students interested in beauty, makeup and hair have become more extravagant aspects of their lives. Creating beauty looks is like art to some students and is a big part of their identity, making the price tag worth it.

Pal Proxy’s signature makeup look | Photo courtesy NIKKI REIFLER

Reifler’s last makeup haul cost around $200, and the artists insists that the more high-end a product is, the easier it is to play with new looks.

“I like the challenge of remapping out an entire face to look like something else,” Reifler said, explaining that the process is all about individuality.

According to research from the University of Stirling, people, especially women, tend to make negative assumptions about each other based on how much makeup they apply. Heavy makeup is often perceived as more promiscuous and dominant.

Yet the cultural importance of makeup is significant – its use dates back to ancient Egyptians and early Arabian societies, and makeup was used frequently in ceremonies and traditions. To students like Tori O’Leary, a junior creative writing major, makeup can still carry that emotional weight, even as the industry becomes more commercialized.

O’Leary said when she started wearing makeup, it helped expand her creativity | Photo courtesy TORI O’LEARY

“Makeup expands my creativity every time I wear it. My makeup depends on my mood and helps me express myself,” O’Leary said. The writer uses the artistic elements of makeup to get in touch with the characters she writes about. Her favorite brands include Tarte, Anastasia and Mac, which are some of the most expensive brands on the market.

“Makeup was a huge part of my life when I used to do theater and cosplay. It helped me become a character and in turn understand characters,” she said.

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