Eye makeup

Illustration: Cate Parr

Southern Comfort
When Tennessee native Amy Maclin moved to New York City, she discovered that "serious" women don't wear lip gloss. But frankly, she didn't give a damn.

Read the full story: What Every Southern Woman Knows About the Power of Makeup

Illustration: Cate Parr

Crossing the Line
A retro eye doesn't make Katie Arnold-Ratliff a bad feminist. It makes her more herself.

Read the full story: Does Wearing Makeup Make You a Bad Feminist?

Illustration: Cate Parr

After she bought foundation to "correct" her skin tone, Maya Rupert saw herself in a gorgeous new light.

Read the full story: What Foundation Taught Me About True Beauty

Illustration: OWN Digital

Pencil Me In
Leave the house without perfect brows? That's where Valerie Monroe draws the line.

At a book party recently, I discovered that I had become one of those Women Who Never Leave the House Without.... Until that moment, I hadn't understood people who said, "I never leave the house without mascara [or lip gloss or blush]." For me, makeup was optional, totally for fun. But that night I was introduced to a studiously casual and unmade-up young woman who was clearly confident about her style and flawless 20-something-year-old skin. And I realized that I don't go out—not even for a walk alone—without penciling in my eyebrows. Sometimes I go out without a bra—but not without eyebrows. I race my bike in 90-degree heat—but not without eyebrows.

I first penciled in my brows five years ago when they started thinning (a result of age and overzealous plucking as a teen). I was delighted to see that a brow pencil did a fine job of restoring them. Soon I noticed I was getting compliments about them. (Which struck me as odd—as if they were attracting too much attention, and why? Was that feather in my cap too dark? Overstyled?)

But more important, after I got used to made-up eyebrows, I began to feel naked without them. I've always liked my "I woke up like this" face, but now I wish the brows I draw on were the brows that greeted me in the morning. They're still optional, I suppose, but they function in some way like a zip code: Even without any other makeup, they make me feel complete enough to address the world.

Illustration: Cate Parr

Portrait of the Artists
Her father painted canvases. Ayana Byrd paints faces.

In 41 years, my father and I have had just one public showdown, a battle after a parent-teacher conference about my decision to drop a high school art class. "What's wrong with art?" Dad the painter demanded to know. Nothing, I told him—except I couldn't even manage stick figures.

The real disagreement wasn't about my curriculum, but about his desire to connect with me through art. We hadn't realized that a legacy had already been passed on. When I was a little girl, I used to sit on his lap in front of an easel as he showed me how to mix colors and handle brushes. He thought he was teaching that blue and yellow make green, but I believed Dad was magical, swirling colors to create shades that conjured everything from vivid grass to dark, velvety moss. I wanted to be a color master like him. So I listened, swirled and experimented.

As I grew, the colors I had my eyes on were more Max Factor than Matisse. My teenage bedroom walls were covered with photos of models whose makeup I marveled at. But it wasn't until I was a college senior, artfully re-creating on my own face a postpunk beauty look from a magazine, that it hit me: I don't paint canvases; I paint faces.

Stick figures are still a challenge, but a smoky eye has never defeated me. I've volunteered to do the bridal makeup for two friends; it is an honor—and a chance for unexpected intimacies—to help a woman on her wedding day. For me, though, the biggest gift is what my father has given me, this ability to create beauty with color and brushstrokes. And he's as happy as I am that I found my own path to the art he offered me as a girl.

Illustration: OWN Digital

The Vanity Case
Makeup obsession runs in her family, writes Amy Fine Collins—but it skips a generation.

My grandmother's vanity table was an altar to beauty. I worshiped, as a child, the swansdown powder puffs, gold-cased eyeshadow pans, and crystal perfume vials. The sweet, waxy aroma of her red lipsticks intoxicated me as much as her eau de toilette. Grandma's instruments of femininity were all the more wondrous because my mother had none. An artist, she believed in a more bohemian, minimal elegance. Instead of a laden vanity, she had a cabinet drawer, where she stashed exactly one cinnamon-toned lipstick, a solitary eyeliner wand and a single, essentially untouched compact.

I did not yield fully to the temptation of makeup until the seventh grade, when I was compelled to acquire a Maybelline Blooming Colors eyeshadow palette. I furtively made the purchase and tinted my lids a tender pastel green in the school bathroom. When I came home, my mother pronounced my new look "trashy" and ordered me to return my cherished Blooming Colors. I was humiliated not only by the insult to my adolescent appearance, but also by the act of asking for my money back.

So I am today, like my grandmother, a makeup maximalist. I don't trowel on an inordinate quantity; but I am profligate with my purchases. As I paint my face, I see my grandmother's reflection within my own. I wear the same French perfume, a bottle of which sits on my dressing table. Through discipline, trial, and considerable error, I have learned, like Grandma, to achieve exactly the look I desire.

Illustration: Cate Parr

The Perfect Cover-Up
Meredith Bryan's ode to concealer.

Concealer, concealer, I love you, I think!
You hide my dark circles when I've had a drink,
Or two...or four (it's so hard to recall).
And you might even hydrate. (I can have it all!)
I'm so lucky you're tucked in my makeup bag there.
You make me feel dewy, and bright-eyed, and fair.
You do what you say; our transaction's so simple!
You banish raccoon eyes and maybe a pimple.
You don't pledge to erase every trace of my years.
Like those newfangled serums that cash in on fears.
You just cover my tracks when I've stayed out too late...
Or failed to work out, or planned a hot date.
You get that I can't just drink green juice all day.
In a world full of tacos and chocolate soufflé,
You forgive all my lapses; you say, "Just have fun!"
For there's much to enjoy! All is not said and done!
And youth is a trick of the mind, not the skin.
Concealer, you tell me to take it all in!
You're there in the morning; you make it okay.
You camouflage all when I go greet the day.
You do me more good (and cost less) than a shrink.
Concealer, concealer, I love you, I think!

Illustration: OWN Digital

In the Nude
The women in her family can keep their bold red lips. Veronica Chambers makes her mark in pale pink.

"There's no reason not to be clean. A bar of soap costs 50 cents," my grandmother used to say. My Miami cousins would add, "And no reason you can't look good, too, when a lipstick costs a dollar."

But they weren't talking about just any lipstick—it had to be red, a matador red. It was the weapon of choice for the beauty icons of my mother's and grandmother's generations: Rita Moreno, Chita Rivera, Celia Cruz. Today when I see Zoe Saldana or Eva Longoria rock a fantastic red lip, a part of me says, Así lo hace! That's how you do it!

But red is not for me. Thanks to my favorite aunt, Diana, who has always deeply understood me, I prefer a nude, glossy mouth.

When I was 14, my mother remarried, and we moved cross-country. It was a tough transition, and Aunt Diana knew it. I was awkward and had no idea how to apply makeup. As I was leaving for the airport, my aunt gave me an all-in-one palette of makeup from a fancy department store. I was astonished that she thought I deserved something so luxurious. "It's got everything you need," she said. And it did: a little mascara, two subtle eyeshadows, a rosy pink blush, and a ballet pink lip gloss. It wasn't until then that I realized that not every swipe of lipstick had to be a vivid paint job. I didn't know that makeup could whisper as arrestingly as it could shout. And the whisper—just right for me.

That little makeup kit became my beauty story: understated, not va-va-voom. My cousins still wish I wore un poquito más color. But I know I don't need the flag of red lipstick to celebrate my femininity or my Latinidad. Wearing my subtle, ballet pink lips, I'm as womanly and sexy as I want to be.