Is wearing makeup sinful according to Catholic teaching?
Answer: That will depend on the situation!
Remember that Christ rebuked those who fasted publicly in order that all may know it:
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
This is an age old question and Catholics will seemingly always be divided on this issue.
Thomas Aquinas is aware that St Cyprian of Carthage had some hard words for women who painted their faces “with the aid of yellow pigments, black powders or rouge, or by applying any dye that alters the natural features.” According to Cyprian, “This is an assault on the Divine handiwork, a distortion of the truth.” Cyprian seems convinced that cosmetic wearing women will “not see God” – by which I assume he means that they will go to Hell.
Thomas replies that the wearing of cosmetics is only a sin for women who wear cosmetics for the “sake of sensuous pleasure or in contempt of God” (II-II, q. 169, a. 2, ad. 2). In the case of married women: “If a married woman adorn herself in order to please her husband, she can do this without sin” (II-II, q. 169, a. 2, c). Thomas explains in detail that married women may adorn themselves moderately with clothing and with cosmetics in order to please their husbands.
So rest easy, ladies. Saint Thomas has made a theological defense for your lipstick so long as its not for the “sake of sensuous pleasure or in contempt of God.” - Aquinas on Women’s Cosmetics
St. Francis de Sales has his input on the subject also:
St. Frances de Sales says in Chapter 25 of Introduction to the Devout Life, that "a wife may dress to please her husband, and that it is lawful for a maiden to dress to please her friends." He explains that "propriety in dress consists in material, fashion, and cleanliness." And as "to the material and fashion of clothes, propriety in these respects depends on various circumstances such as time, age, rank, those with whom you associate; and it varies on different occasions." This sounds reasonable and even very practical. One dresses nicer for a wedding than for everyday occasions. And it would be silly to paint the house or scrub the floor in my best clothes! Once again one is to pay attention to the social acceptability. When considering cleanliness there is frequent bathing (which is often hard for mother's of young children) and maintaining other hygienic habits. - On the Morality of Wearing Makeup
In all that we do and wear, we should always take care as not to offend Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our Lady of Fatima: "The sins of the world are too great! The sins which lead most souls to hell are sins of the flesh! Certain fashions are going to be introduced which will offend Our Lord very much."
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women [and men] of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful." (1 Peter 3:3-6)
Padre Pio tolerated neither tight skirts nor short or low-necked dresses. He also forbade his spiritual daughters to wear transparent stockings. He would dismiss women from the confessional, even before they got inside, if he discerned their dress to be inappropriate. Many mornings he drove one out after another – ending up hearing only very few confessions. He also had a sign fastened to the church door, declaring: “By St. Padre Pio’s explicit wish, women must enter his confessional wearing skirts at least eight inches (20 cm) below the knees.” - Vanity, Immodest Dress/Clothing, Shallow People, Cosmetics, Makeup
In all that we adorn on our bodies as Catholics let us not be an occasion of sin for others. Using makeup and clothing is always permitted for the faithful as long as modesty in dress and apparel are maintained.
Let us try to be saints and not vain people in our comings and our goings.
After all is said, if the wearing of make up were genuinely sinful many priests would be preaching about it at Mass, as many young ladies approach the priest at communion time wearing makeup. 💄
Not a word of rebuke has been heard in all my times at Mass.