Q&A: Biblical Guidance on Makeup
Written by Arnoud Vergunst
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Reformed Practice - Modesty and Dress

Question: 

 Aside from Jezebel, is there any mention (positive or negative) in the Bible about women using makeup? Until recently, it was frowned upon, and I would prefer that my daughters refrain from it, but I would appreciate some Biblical guidance on the issue.  Mrs. S.


Answer:

Dear Mrs S,

Indeed in 2 Kings 9:30 we read, “And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window.” The reason she applied her makeup and did up her hair was to try to allure Jehu into different actions. Jezebel’s use of makeup shows us one negative reason for wearing makeup (it was meant to help her in seducing Jehu), and Jezebel herself is set before us in Scripture as the extreme of a negative role model, one of the most ungodly and grossly wicked women in the Bible, who led both her weak husband and her children into sin and forsaking God.

As far as I can see, there are no other direct references to the use of facial makeup. However, there are various references in the Bible that teach us clear principles about our outward appearance, and these principles can certainly be applied to our use of makeup today.

Peter speaks plainly to women about making themselves attractive (1Peter 3:3-4): “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair [to put it in modern terms—hair styles], and of wearing of gold [jewelry], or of putting on of apparel [clothes]; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”

Is Peter saying that doing up your hair is sinful? Are women allowed no jewelry at all? One might think so until we read “putting on of apparel.” Obviously women were allowed to put on clothes, and by inference, we can conclude that he was accepting the fact that women wear clothes, style their hair and wear jewelry. (Note that makeup is not part of this list, however!)  He was describing the entire appearance of a woman. Peter is not saying the three items he listed are wrong; he is saying, Let your adorning—your making yourself attractive—not be focused on the outward appearance, but focus your attention on your inner attitude and spirit. And what attitude and frame of mind should the woman put on which is very pleasing and very attractive to the Lord? “A meek and quiet spirit.”

A meek and quiet spirit does not seek to draw attention to itself. Does your outward appearance—your choice of clothes, jewelry, hair style—reflect that mindset of not attracting attention to yourself? How does makeup fit in with that mindset? Are you using makeup to attract attention to your eyes, lips, flawless skin? Are you using makeup to enhance your outward appearance in order to tempt others? The Bible tells us this is wrong.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shame-facedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:9-10. Again, clear principles about women’s dress: modest, not calling attention to itself, sober, simple. Above all, it is the inside that really matters to God, and that will reveal itself in our actions. Do we spend precious time adorning our bodies, or going about doing good to others?

Modesty in clothing and appearance is commanded. What are the motives for wearing makeup? Is it to make oneself more attractive to men? Is it to make oneself more beautiful in order for the men to notice you or admire you (lust after you)? Perhaps the answer is given that “I don’t use make-up for that reason at all. I simply use it because I like to make myself look better.  Isn’t that allowed?  Didn’t God even create the desire in women to be pretty?”  Without judging anyone’s motives for using makeup, the question that Christian women should first ask themselves, “What does my makeup (and also clothing style and jewelry) do to the men folk that see me?”   I am convinced that the vast majority of women have no clue what their efforts to make themselves look attractive do to men.  The Lord Jesus touched on a very common area in which men fall into sin when He said, “…that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” But that Scripture isn’t only spoken to men.  Women should also read this and ask themselves, “Have I in any way encouraged or caused him to lust after my beauty by not concealing my beauty or by sending him the message with my looks or my mannerisms that I desire his attention?”  If so, even though the woman did this unintentionally by a dress code or use of make-up and/or jewelry, she is also guilty of leading the man into adultery.

Another principle is given in 1 Cor. 6:12-20.  Our bodies are not for fornication or any other sin but are for the Lord and the Lord for the body.  Paul even mentions the grand truth that “our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost.”  That’s what they were created to be and upon salvation, they again have become so.  What a weighty truth this is!  Our body was made to be the temple in which the Holy Spirit would dwell.  Both men and women are to remember this in the way we display our bodies in public.  In 2 Cor. 6:16-18 Paul brought out another application of this truth.  Again, referring to the fact that our bodies are (or were meant to be) the temple of the living God, he made the application,“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” When people see us, do they see this difference in how we display or decorate our body?

“But I have such ugly blemishes on my face.  Is it unacceptable that I use some moderate ‘touch-up makeup’ to hide that?”  The best answer I can think of is asking a few other questions, “Would any object when I touch up my clothing when it is dirtied so I look acceptable?  Is there any objection when I tidy up my hair so it doesn’t look as if I just came out of bed?  Is it wrong to wear a long-sleeve shirt to cover up an ugly scar on my lower arm?”    Subtle use of concealing makeup is totally different from makeup used to draw attention to oneself, to make oneself more attractive, or to look like the world.  Let’s be clear about this: adding colors to eye lids that God never put there, accentuating eyelashes to draw attention to yourself and drawing attention to your lips is actually an offense to your Creator as if He didn’t make us good enough without it.

So to sum it up:

1. Do not focus on the outward appearance, but rather the inner attitudes of heart. True beauty in a woman is a meek and quiet spirit. Do not try to enhance or adorn the body. Dress simply and moderately. Does the world’s makeup fit these guidelines?

2. Modesty is commanded. In no way is a woman to try to entice a man, or cause him to lust after her in his heart. Does the use of makeup make you more or less modest? Does it call attention to desirable or enticing features in your appearance?  Who are you trying to please?

3.  As a Christian, should you try to look just like the world looks? Can it be seen that you belong to God’s church? Would you glorify God by wearing makeup?

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst

Rev. A Vergunst is the pastor of The Reformed Congregation of Carlton, New Zealand.  He answers questions on his church's website, www.rcnz.org.