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  • Emiru Okada

I Love Myself Series #4: The story about how difficult it is to wear the makeup I want in Japan

My full makeup debut was at my high school graduation when I was 18. I know it's a little late for me, and my mother even suggested I wear a little makeup since I was already in high school. While my classmates around me were waking up early and working hard to show how good their skin looked, I was focused on how long I can sleep.

Even after entering college, I continued to go to lectures with glasses and no makeup. I only put on contacts and a full face of makeup when I went out with my friends. At that time, I was referring to YouTube and magazines to learn about various makeup methods and saw a video on "popular makeup that men like."

“Don't draw the eyeliner too thick or too long. If you make it too winged, it will look crazy, so just a little bit from the corner of the eye is enough.”

“If the eyeshadow is too pigmented, it will look too gaudy, so you have to choose a softer pink shade!"

“False eyelashes are too flashy, so put some effort into growing your own eyelashes!"

It was unclear what constituted "popular makeup that men like," but I knew it was the exact opposite of what I was doing: Winged eyeliner and orange and shimmery eyeshadow, with the finishing touch of false eyelashes facing up. I wasn't wearing makeup to appeal to men, but I felt conflicted that none of my favorite makeup methods fell under that category.

The more I looked into it, the more I found that the makeup I liked was so strong that it was considered to be “gyaru makeup” in Japan, or one of those “don’ts for date makeup.” Like with my own body size, I was reminded once again that I did not meet Japanese standards.

Around that time, a cosmetic brand called Fenty Beauty launched in the United States. The brand, founded by artist Rihanna in 2017, was the first in the cosmetics industry to launch a 40-color foundation. The foundation and concealer released after the first launch expanded the color range further to 50 shades.

I remember how shocking this announcement was to me, as I had always bought a foundation that suited my skin color.

"There were people who couldn’t find the right color for their foundation? In this era?"

These questions came to my mind, but it was obvious that there was not a trace of inclusivity when I looked at the Japanese cosmetics industry.

The foundation colors typically sold in Japan only have a few color variations. Even though there are many of them, it can be seen that there is not a wide range of colors. Some people may think it is difficult to find the right shade for their skin tone in Japan because the products are usually lighter, have stronger undertones, or have a limited variety of colors.

What about magazines that cover foreign brands or makeup pages on the Internet?

Magazine pages with headlines like “You can get the beautiful skin you’ve always wanted!” do not usually include darker shades of foundation. Does beautiful skin have to be fair?

Of course, there may be a target audience for the magazine, but what about the way the publication unconsciously associates beautiful skin with fair skin? It may be inevitable that the ingredients of products divide the age groups. But at a time when diversity is wanted in various areas, product development and marketing that lacks inclusiveness could affect the younger generation.

There are many other areas for improvement.

Untidy natural eyebrows are said to be "unrefined," heavy makeup is said to be "gaudy" and an "unfavorable makeup." In addition, most of the close-ups of the eyes that appear on makeup pages are double eyelids. In fact, in teen magazines, there is usually a page where people with a mono eyelid can learn how to use eye patches to make their eyes double eyelid. Excessive use of eyelid patches can lead to inflammation and sagging of the eyelids, as well as other risks, but I cannot find any cautions written about this. If a reader with dark skin or monolid eyes wants to use the makeup listed, do they have to imagine it instead of actually seeing it? If a reader with dark skin wants to use the makeup listed, do they have to imagine it instead of actually seeing it? If a reader with monolid eyes wants to try new makeup, do they have to follow techniques that may not be suitable for their facial parts?

Like fashion, makeup trends always change. The shape and fineness of eyebrows and techniques change with fashion. Why does the definition of "cute" change each time? Whether the eyebrows are thick or thin, parallel or arched, if it suits the person or not, it is cute, is it not? We could use a pigmented lip product regardless of your skin tone, the weather, or the event.

Because magazines catch many eyes, I hope they do not enforce trends. I hope to see models of different skin tones and genders so that everyone can enjoy makeup. I hope to see articles on self-love so that more people can become confident. I hope they diversify models in the magazines, so both teenagers and adults can love themselves for who they are.

“Fuck the unfavorable make-up. The sharpness and angle of the eyeliner is a sign of confidence.”

I do not care about the ideals and standards demanded by others or society.

It is more important for me to be confident in myself and to love myself wholeheartedly.

I put on the makeup I like while advocating these thoughts.


In hopes that beauty standards in Japan become more inclusive, to a point of extinction.

In hopes that everyone will be able to live the way they want to.

And most importantly, in hopes that people will be able to love themselves the way they are.

I am writing this series, “I Love Myself” with these hopes in mind.

Written by Emiru Okada

Translated by Kana Miyazawa and Emiru Okada

Graphics by Claudia MacPhail


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