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Is wearing makeup is sinful according to Catholic teaching? If so, why?

I am not asking about someone who would put makeup to cover some kind of deformity on his face (like when someone gets burned on his face) but about regular cases.

Edit (My conclusion so far).

It would seem to me that Aquinas is saying that wearing makeup can not be devoid of sin. It seems to me that Aquinas in his article separates two questions:

  1. Whether the adornment (and here adornment (ornatus) means wearing clothes, jewelry or something which is added onto the body and is not like makeup which applies paint on the body as Aquinas says in a replay to the second objection) of women is devoid of mortal sin?

With this question, it seems to me, he deals in 'I answer with (Respondeo)'.

  1. Whether applying paint(and here is painting (fucatio) something that we would call wearing makeup) on the body can be devoid of sin?

With this question, it seems to me, he deals in 'Reply to Objection 2'.

I am here interested in question 2 and as far as I can see, Aquinas says in Reply to Objection 2 that it is sinful to wear makeup:

Cyprian is speaking of women painting themselves: this is a kind of falsification, which cannot be devoid of sin.

It seems to me, that the reason that he gives for why wearing makeup can not be devoid of sin is that it is some kind of deceiving. I could try to formalize his argument in this way:

  1. It is wrong to deceive others.
  2. Wearing makeup is the same as counterfeiting a beauty one has not, therefore wearing makeup includes deceiving others.
  3. Therefore, it is wrong to wear makeup.

The reason why this argument would not work for wearing clothes is that clothes are to cover the body, while makeup applies paint on the body. Clothes to the body are not the same as makeup to face.

Also, this argument would not convict applying products against skin dehydration (or something like that) because those products could be understood as medicine.

Also, we could see that the same argument (principle) which I gave is used against those who paint themselves in a way to seem to be of different sex (ie. transgenders). One of the reasons why is it sinful for them to paint themselves that way is because they deceive others.

If I am still misunderstanding something please correct me.

  • Why do you think they might? – curiousdannii May 20 at 0:18
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    @curiousdanni "And indeed at this point in my address, because of the fear of God which faith excites in me, and the affection which brotherhood demands, I think that not only virgins and widows but married women also, and all women in general should be warned that the work of God and His creature and image should in no way be falsified by employing yellow coloring or black powder or rouge, or, finally, any cosmetic at all that spoils the natural features." St. Cyprian – Thom May 20 at 0:37
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    Please explain down vote? – Thom May 20 at 0:38
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    Please include such details in the question itself. – curiousdannii May 20 at 4:31
5

If a woman wears makeup for vane or scandalous purposes (e.g., impressing others, making others envious, inciting men to lust, etc.), it's sinful. If she wears makeup to please her husband (e.g., so he doesn't commit adultery or despise her), it's not sinful.

St. Thomas Aquinas writes, in Summa Theologica II-II q. 169 a. 2 ("Whether the adornment of women is devoid of mortal sin?") co.:

As regards the adornment of women, we must bear in mind the general statements made above (Article 1) concerning outward apparel, and also something special, namely that a woman's apparel may incite men to lust, according to Prov. 7:10, "Behold a woman meeteth him in harlot's attire, prepared to deceive souls."

Nevertheless a woman may use means to please her husband, lest through despising her he fall into adultery. Hence it is written (1 Cor. 7:34) that the woman "that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband." Wherefore if a married woman adorn herself in order to please her husband she can do this without sin.

But those women who have no husband nor wish to have one, or who are in a state of life inconsistent with marriage, cannot without sin desire to give lustful pleasure to those men who see them, because this is to incite them to sin. And if indeed they adorn themselves with this intention of provoking others to lust, they sin mortally; whereas if they do so from frivolity, or from vanity for the sake of ostentation, it is not always mortal, but sometimes venial. And the same applies to men in this respect. Hence Augustine says (Ep. ccxlv ad Possid.):

I do not wish you to be hasty in forbidding the wearing of gold or costly attire except in the case of those who being neither married nor wishful to marry, should think how they may please God: whereas the others think on the things of the world, either husbands how they may please their wives, or wives how they may please their husbands, except that it is unbecoming for women though married to uncover their hair, since the Apostle commands them to cover the head.
Yet in this case some might be excused from sin, when they do this not through vanity but on account of some contrary custom: although such a custom is not to be commended.

  • Does impressing others mean looking nicer before others? Would regular makeup to look nicer in workplace count as impressing others? – Thom May 20 at 0:28
  • @Thom "if this be done through ostentation or pride, in order to set oneself above others, it is a sin" (Summa Theologica II-II q. 169 a. 1 ad 2). – Geremia May 20 at 0:34
  • Have you read 'The Dress of Virgins' chapter 15 by St. Cyprian? He seems there to make a different argument than Aquinas. It seems that he would not approve any make-up because it would be distortion of Work of God. And from that, it seems, that he would disagree with Aquinas on allowing wifes to use make-up to look better for their husband. Is there anyway to reconcile the two or I am misunderstanding something? – Thom May 20 at 0:51
  • I am quite shocked, see last paragraph of quotation, at Thomas Aquinas 'excusing sin' on account of 'contrary custom'. I would not have thought he would say such a thing. – Nigel J May 20 at 4:00
  • @Thom St. Thomas replies to St. Cyprian's De habitu virginum §15 in II-II q. 169 a. 2 ad 2: – Geremia May 20 at 4:03
2

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.

  • It seems to me that it would still be sinful to use makeup. See my edit on the question. Do you agree? – Thom May 27 at 0:54
  • My linked sources to Aquinas say no. – Ken Graham May 27 at 10:29
  • Did Padre Pio really post a sign referring to himself as St. Padre Pio? – Andreas Blass Jul 23 at 18:04

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