New mothers are divided by the “birthing makeup” trend on TikTok.
With hashtag #birthingmakeup racking up more than 81.3 million views on the platform and one video from user @laedout garnering over 3.5 million likes alone, it seems as though welcoming your child with a full face of makeup has become popular amongst regular women. Some makeup artists predict that this trend is here to stay.
“My Instagram inbox is full of women wanting to book me for their birth,” makeup artist Sarah Stillenberg told Glamour. “Lots are women having planned C-sections who know the exact date and time, and so feel they have the time to book an appointment with me. I also get women asking what the most enduring foundation for labor is or which waterproof mascara is the best so that they can still look good in those postbirth selfies.”
In the past, birthing makeup was often relegated to image-conscious influencers like former reality TV star Heidi Montag, who posted a video of her makeup artist at work in the delivery room in 2022. The decision to get dolled up for the birthing process has long sparked disdain for “unrealistic beauty standards.”
Former Love Island contestant Hannah Elizabeth received backlash in 2019 from her followers when she donned a full face of makeup and blown-out hair in the photos she posted of herself after giving birth to her son.
“Got dolled up to have a wain…disgusting,” one person wrote at the time, while another added: “I love you but this is such an unrealistic display of what birth really is for most women.”
Others at the time were more supportive, praising the influencer for going for a “glam” look.
“So lovely how you wanted to make such an impression on your baby,” one person wrote. “No one should have to compromise who they are or what they like for others or because it’s the ‘norm’.”
“If she had no makeup and messy hair she would get slammed,” another defended her. “She wears makeup and has her hair done she gets slammed. Leave her be and let her just enjoy being a mum. Women should empower women. Especially new mums, makeup or no makeup.”
This concept of birthing makeup isn’t brand new. In the mid-1900s, women were faced with incredible societal pressure to look “pristine” and perfect at all times, including in the delivery room. To this day, the British royal family and press maintain this tradition, with royal couples like Prince William and Kate Middleton showboating for the masses by looking picture-perfect on the steps of the maternity ward.
Back in 2018, Keira Knightley wrote an essay for Scarlett Curtis’s book Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies on how the Princess of Wales was “out of hospital seven hours [after birth] with her face made up and high heels on,” which played into the idea that women should show “the face the world wants to see.”
“Hide. Hide our pain, our bodies splitting, our breasts leaking, our hormones raging,” the actor wrote at the time. “Look beautiful, look stylish, don’t show your battleground, Kate.”
Some medical professionals are worried that the birthing makeup trend is a side effect of the pressure to look perfect, but also one of internalised misogyny, harkening back to the days in which men wanted women to look and act a certain way after birth.
“I see so many women putting on makeup in the ward now and have had some new mums ask me if I thought they should do the same,” one midwife allegedly admitted to Glamour. “We often remark about how it feels as though we’re being pulled back to the days where women were given the ‘husband stitch’—a stitch performed by doctors to narrow the vaginal entrance, supposedly meant to ensure greater pleasure for men—without being asked.”
But some mothers note that they put on birthing makeup for themselves - not for the men in their lives - primarily because they want to be able to look back at photos of one of the happiest moments of their lives and not cringe at how “drained” they look.
“I didn’t wear any makeup when I gave birth to my first child, but now I can’t bear to look at those photos because I look so broken and drained in them,” Sherma - a mother of two - told Glamour. “It was such a happy experience, but the photos of the moment don’t show that at all. So, for my second birth, I decided I was going to wear some makeup but wasn’t sure how I could given that I was having a planned C-section and so wouldn’t be particularly mobile and probably limited to one hand. I searched online and came across the birthing makeup trend on TikTok, I found the product recommendations really useful and really treasure the photos I now have from the birth of my son.”
Other women called the act of putting on makeup empowering post-birth, saying it brought them back in touch with themselves. “For me, putting on foundation, bronzer, mascara, and lipstick brought me back to feeling myself after I’d given birth,” Jenen Unac explained to the outlet. “For 10 months I felt totally out of control of my body as I grew my baby and even less in control when I went into labor and my initial birth plan went awry.”
“Everything was new and alien,” she added. “Being in hospital, being a brand-new mum in, what felt like, a brand-new body, but applying makeup made me feel normal; it provided me with a link back to those mundane everyday tasks that made up my life prior to this moment.”