Should Christians Wear Makeup?

Image by Jay Wennington at Snapwire

Image by Jay Wennington at Snapwire

If someone gave you a bottle of ethanolamine, would you apply some on your face? Well, countless numbers of women around the world do exactly that. Ethanolamines, while banned in cosmetics by the European Commission, are still present in a variety of cosmetics in the United States. According to ISH Markit, they are also present in surfactants, gas purification, herbicides, and wood preservatives—yuck.

Putting aside for a moment the health-related issues involved with the many chemicals used in cosmetics production, let's consider whether Christians should even be using makeup.

What does the Bible say about Christians wearing makeup?

Some Christians think it’s fine to wear makeup, while other Christians think makeup-free and natural is the only godly way to go. Are there any restrictions in the Bible regarding the use of cosmetics?

Here are two biblical passages that give us some clarity on this question. In 1 Timothy 2:9-10, the apostle Paul does exhort women to dress modestly:

Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

The apostle Peter makes the same point in his first epistle:

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. (1 Pet. 3:3-4)

At first glance, it appears that Paul and Peter are exhorting women not to braid their hair. Really? As with every passage in the Bible, we must approach these verses within their proper context.

At the time Paul and Peter wrote their letters, women spent excessively long hours braiding their hair into very intricate styles, which caused them to put an inordinate amount of time into their appearance for the sake of their hair being a status symbol.[1] In his commentary on 1 Peter, Daniel M. Doriani explains,

The problem does not lie with braided hair or gold per se. A gold wedding band is a simple symbol of commitment. But elaborate hair took hours to prepare and so became a conspicuous display of wealth and rank. Inner beauty is what counts. “Virtue is the one garment any woman can wear with pride.” Peter singles out a gentle and quiet spirit. He blesses amiable friendliness, calm peace, a refusal to quarrel or show bad temper. (p. 114)

So, Paul and Peter are actually exhorting women not to be vain and overly concerned with their appearance but rather to focus on the beauty that comes from an obedient heart devoted to loving God and their neighbor. They aren’t saying that women can’t ever braid their hair, wear gold or pearls, make wise purchases of quality clothing, or improve their appearance in appropriate ways—including by using makeup.

Choosing Cosmetic Products Wisely

As stewards of God's gifts, which include our bodies, it’s worth taking note of the potential long-term health issues from the use of cosmetics that are filled with chemicals that are known carcinogens and neurotoxins. Savannah Wallace gives us helpful guidance in her article from A Beautiful Mess entitled “10 Non-Toxic Makeup Brands to Try.” While consumers are going to continue to use makeup containing chemicals, it makes sense to explore more natural alternatives.

[1] Peter Doriani, 1 Peter: Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 2014), 114.

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