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Why Do I Keep Buying Makeup?

You Don't Need 50 Shades of Grey

You don't need 50 shades of grey — eye shadow, that is.

We live in a world of instant gratification. Between the Kardashians, Instagram, and social media, we are constantly told that we need a new contour palette, eye shadow palette, or lip kit to be "perfect." But perfection is unattainable, and we need to stop this needless shopping.

I can remember the day that I tried Dior's Diorshow mascara for the first time. I remember where I was standing in the cosmetics department. I looked in the mirror and I had never seen my eyelashes look so amazing in my life. I remember my friend gasping in shock at how long and supple my eyelashes looked. I have been chasing that moment ever since.

I eventually got sick of Diorshow and moved on to Chanel, IT, Lancome and a million others, trying to re-create that moment when I could look in the mirror and sigh with happiness at how beautiful I was. It has never happened again — yet I continue to buy mascara like a crack addict. Many of you do the same.

Every day of my life, as a working makeup artist, women who are dissatisfied with their looks and their cosmetics ask me for a new lipstick or a new eyeshadow. Time and time again, I warn them that the best way to make ourselves feel better is by making better skin care choices and creating a flawless look to our skin. Yet women keep seeking that elusive lipstick or eyeshadow colour to make them happy.

It doesn't matter that I have four open tubes of mascara right now or that I have tried millions. If someone tells me tomorrow that there's amazing new mascara that will change my lashes forever, I will buy three of them.

That is the underlying issue with this type of compulsive shopping. We go after a beauty high to make ourselves forget about our troubles. If we look and feel beautiful, we think that everything will be ok.

Eye shadow palettes and lipstick seem to be the top contenders in the category of "happiness-chasing cosmetics." In 2001, during a tough economic crisis, Estée Lauder reported that it had record-breaking lipstick sales and dubbed the phenomenon the "lipstick effect." Women needed a quick fix to feel better, and lipstick seemed to do the trick.

The sad truth is that no matter what we purchase, we won't ever really be happy. If I had to guess, those women who bought all of those lipsticks went home armed with their new red shade and found that once applied, they were still bummed out. That moment when you look in the mirror and see your supple lips outlined and filled with beautiful, juicy lip colour gives you a dopamine rush. Dopamine is a chemical that gives us feelings of euphoria, often confusing us into thinking that our wants are actual needs.

Make no mistake about it — women often confuse their desire for a favourite lipstick colour as a need. I cannot tell you how many women have gone to a cosmetic counter with a nearly empty lipstick tube with just trace amounts left. The remaining lipstick has fuzz in it and is clearly oxidized because it is at least 10 years old. Often, this colour has been discontinued decades before, and this woman has gone from store to store buying a lifetime supply of said colour. She is now going from store to store trying to find a match because her lifetime supply has run out.

To a fly on the wall, it might appear that this woman is on a desperate search for a cure to a fatal illness that will kill her in 24 hours. Her thought patterns and demands are irrational and erratic. She will use a cotton swab to rescue the tiniest amount out of the tube and run around asking if anyone can match this colour as though her life depends on it.

In a way, she actually believes her life depends on it.

In her mind, the euphoria and happiness that this lipstick has brought her is irreplaceable. We need to shift our mindset. We need to realize that this one shade of lipstick is not the answer to all of our troubles and insecurities. If you can't find that one perfect shade, it might just be the universe telling you it's time to break up with your favourite lipstick.

Dr. Krista Wells, a psychologist and life coach in West Hartford, Connecticut, explains that if we pay attention to our mood when we make purchases and when we have buyer's remorse, we can become more mindful shoppers and not fall into the trap of buying just to buy. Her advice: "Treat yourself to a new item as a reward for hard work versus mindlessly overspending on something you already own. That only leaves you with buyer's remorse."

I like her "less is more" way of thinking. We can feel good about a few purchases instead of an endless stream of mindless buys that clog our makeup drawer and never bring us pleasure.

Eye shadow palettes are the modern-day answer to lipstick. The younger generation of women runs into stores to buy the latest palettes the day they launch, frantic to get the newest slate of eyeshadows that they already have, as if they are winning the lottery.

As a makeup artist, I have quite possibly hundreds of eyeshadow colours in my possession. Like most women, I regularly use three. So what is this obsessive compulsion with buying palettes of 10 to 20 shadow colours?

I asked a friend who I know is guilty of acquiring needless eye shadow palettes, "Why do you keep buying eye shadow palettes? You actually don't need any more eye shadow."

"Yes, I know," she said. "But I like knowing that I have a lot of options. In my head, I am buying options."

I responded: "OK, well I have known you for 30 years and your eye makeup always looks the same."

Her answer was enlightening: "One day I might want to look different — and I know that I will be able to do that, since I have 10 eye shadow palettes. I am addicted to eye shadow and you are my dealer."

This conversation confirmed my theory that these purchases are fulfilling a need that has absolutely nothing to do with eye shadow.

We don't need or want 50 neutral eye shadows, or 10 lipsticks that are essentially the same colour. What we really want is to be beautiful and perfect.

But perfection does not exist.

So throw out your 50 shades of grey eye shadow and rock a violet or pink that screams this is the "new me" and own it. Or create your perfect face using skin care. Just remember that you're going to find true happiness outside of the cosmetic department.

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