Makeup, a Rite of Passage

Depending on your own pre-teen or teen interests, ladies, you may have memories of an exciting rite of passage—being given a tube of lipstick, buying drugstore powdered blush, or even being taken to a department store for a makeup lesson before your first school dance. You felt instantly mature and sophisticated. How about women who are blind or visually impaired? Do they have this rite of passage? Do they wear makeup? They do! Just as with sighted women, makeup use varies by personal and lifestyle preference. Most sighted and visually impaired women do have basic knowledge about makeup and recognize they have the choice to wear it and refine the application process or to be beautifully bare-faced. This is what we want to provide our teens with visual impairments. We want to give them this rite of passage, as unlike the rite of passage that is driving, it is one in which they can participate alongside their peers. Let’s teach them how to apply makeup and allow them to choose whether or not to wear it.

A Conversation on Makeup for Blind Teens

Depending on your teen’s usable vision, she may not have an understanding of the coverage, color, and formality makeup provides. This is where to begin. Talk about why many teens and women choose to wear makeup (covering uneven skin tones or blemishes, refining appearances, and temporarily boosting self-esteem) and why others choose not to wear makeup. Regardless of whether your daughter is currently interested in wearing makeup for coverage, color, and formality, it’s wise for her to become acquainted with makeup products and techniques in order to be able to converse about them with peers. She may also want to learn simply for future use and special occasions.

The Makeup Process for a Visually Impaired Person

Assuming you are a sighted parent, teaching your teen how to choose and apply makeup as a blind or visually impaired person will involve learning new processes and techniques. Below you will find a few recommendations as well as a resource that offers specific application techniques.
  • Have your teen schedule a professional color matching session at an on-trend makeup shop such as Sephora, Ulta, or MAC. She may wish to bring a friend for peer input.
  • Ask the professional to teach your child application techniques using fingertips when possible. Record the process with video and provide dictation to be used during practice sessions at home.
  • Have your teen start with simple makeup processes and techniques specific to her skin type, such as cleanser, tinted moisturizer with SPF, cream blush, finishing powder, and tinted lip balm. Ease into concealer, primer, eye makeup, contouring techniques, and darker lipstick.
  • Communicate the importance of over-blending to ensure an even application.
  • Encourage your daughter to memorize the product sequence (cleanser, moisturizer, blush, etc.) and application pattern (beginning at the nose, swiping outward, followed by the forehead and chin) and to not stray from the routine to ensure steps aren’t omitted or repeated.
  • Encourage your daughter to label makeup (particularly items within similar or identical containers) and organize them effectively, similarly to how one might label and organize medication.
  • If your teen has low vision, utilize a magnification mirror, additional task lighting, or window coverings, depending on your child’s eye condition and remaining vision as discussed in Adapting Your Home for a Child Who Is Blind or Has Low Vision.
  • Let your daughter know makeup can smear and smudge, particularly eye makeup, and it’s acceptable to ask a sighted family member or close friend to look over the applied makeup before leaving the house. Likewise, makeup often smears when crying, sweating, swimming, and when one is in the rain, so it’s important to have a touchup process and to again ask a trusted friend to double check the application.
Lastly, read through the APH VisionAware article series entitled Makeup Application After Vision Loss to learn specific techniques visually impaired people can use to apply makeup. While geared for adults who have lost vision, the techniques are just as beneficial to blind or visually impaired teens.