The M Word

I previously posted a blog about cosmetic surgery in Iran here. This feature however is about the more everyday look of Iranian women. The thing that most women put on in the morning regardless of where they are from, every morning, and they seem to have on their face all day, the big M – make-up.

There is often the global debate, from all sides of the world about women, their image and make-up. Some think less is more, a more natural look is better than a face that is covered, layer by layer with artificial products. Some campaigns are definitely for the natural beauty look, notably toiletries giant Dove, with their successful Campaign For Real Beauty. I agree, a more natural look is the way forward.

I often see fellow Iranians with make-up bags full to the brim with products, facial tools and aids. Iran, behind Saudi Arabia, is interestingly the second highest cosmetic consumer country in the Middle East. With a highly young and urban population, Iran is contributing to the significant boom of cosmetics. It is estimated that 0.1% of the country’s imports are cosmetics and they are from luxury brands such as Yves Saint Laurent. The country spends around £1.5 million on cosmetics every year.

The make-up bags I have seen in Iran contain many different items and seem to just be stuffed with everything. From lip liners to eyebrow brushes, to that one lipstick that was used forever ago. There always seems to be about three or four of the same type of product too. It seems to me as though anything and everything is put on their faces. Some women are literally caking their face with beauty products. To me, it just seems a little too much. And yes, they carry this make-up bag with them everywhere.

The amount of make-up, can depend on the family background of the person you are talking about. A girl from a more religious background may not really wear any make-up until after marriage. Eyebrow plucking can also cause raised glances in some cases. Maybe a newly married woman feels as though she is experimenting and expressing herself. It’s a sense of freedom, now once married. If one was clearly single and wearing make-up, it might attract unwanted attention.

In some religious families, if a single girl wears make-up to a special occasion for example, to a wedding where men and women would be separated, it can sometimes create attention amongst the females. Who is that girl? Is she looking to get married? She becomes a different woman it can seem. One for somebody’s son potentially. One to become somebody’s daughter-in-law. The day after you may expect a phone call between parents to try and arrange a first meeting between the families.

Other female Iranians from more liberal families who are not married may also be applying make-up to express themselves too. Some say because of the obligatory hijab and the fact that their face is the only thing on show, their make-up is a bold statement. They want to make a lasting statement and an impression.

I think the topic of make-up can also depend on where you are talking about in the country too. I recently visited Tehran, and noticed a big change in the appearance of women. They seem more liberal there compared to other cities, wearing brighter colours and more visible make-up. Things seem to be moving in the capital and people aren’t afraid to show that they have experimented with cosmetic products.

Whatever the reasons are behind such extensive wearing of make-up, it’s clear that Iran, with a young population, with over half being under thirty years old, is significantly contributing to the world of cosmetic products.  This boom symbolises more than just economy. It is about personal opinions and self-expression. And that is something we can say for the rest of the make-up wearing world too.

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