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File:MaleficentMakeupMAC 6940.jpg

... yet it's still pretty fashionable.


Why should false painting imitate his cheek,

And steal dead seeming of his living hue?

Why should poor beauty indirectly seek

Roses of shadow, since his rose is true?
William Shakespeare, "Sonnet 67"

A Forgotten Trope nowadays, but one that lasted for many centuries: wearing any form of "paint" on your face is a sign of evil, particularly dishonesty, more to be expected of the Deadly Decadent Court or Vice City than any more wholesome place. Only an actress or some such disreputable woman would paint, which is why "painted woman" is — not a compliment.

Historically, also, many forms of make-up have been hazardous — such as lead-based or arsenic based ones — so a woman who used them might sacrifice her health or even life, not to mention her looks in the long term, for a brief attractive appearance.

The trope faded out as make-up became acceptable, with points at which heavy make-up rather than make-up in general was the mark, and the degree of evil entailed varies widely.

May overlap with Beauty Equals Goodness and Evil Makes You Ugly: only evil people would need to paint, since good ones are naturally beautiful.

This often involved very heavy make-up in visual media, to make it clear that the character wears it, the alternatives being showing it being put on, having it run from tears or rain, or becoming lipstick kisses.

A staple of the Villainous Crossdresser.

Sister Trope to Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains and Delinquent Hair. An influence on Uncanny Valley Makeup. See also Excessive Evil Eyeshadow.

Examples of Make Up Is Evil include:


Comic Books

  • The Madam of Liquid Silver in Tank Girl is really overly made up.


  • In Little Shop of Horrors Audrey (the girl, not the plant) wears a lot of make-up due to her poor self image. She takes it off when Seymour convinces her she doesn't need it in the "Suddenly Seymour" number.
  • In The Hunger Games most citizens of the oppressive, decadent Capital wear heavy make-up (in the film, if not always in the book). The most evil characters tend to avert the trope, though.
  • A buttload of Disney movies do this, and some pretty recent ones as well! In most of these movies, the only person with makeup on is the villain; Evil Queen Grimhilde, Maleficent, Lady Tremaine, Medusa, Cruella, Jafar.. Ursula takes this Up to Eleven by squashing a sentient creature to produce lipstick, literally making her makeup evil.


  • In L. M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle, Valancy had once tried to put color in her cheeks before a party by pinching them. This started a rumor that she had worn rouge, which, unusually, did not manage to sink her reputation, because everyone knew that dowdy Valancy Sterling could not be fast.
    • In A Tangled Web, Aunt Beckie puts on rouge before her last family gathering, shocking her living companion, but insisting on it. Then she orders Nan to wash off her rouge — over Nan's objection that Aunt Beckie was wearing it herself. (Afterwards, Nan amuses herself by setting out to romance a young man to take him from his fiancee.)
  • In Gene Stratton Porter's Her Father's Daughter, this is a mark against Eileen.

 I never knew Eileen to be honest about anything in all her life unless the truth served her better than an evasion. Her hair was not honest color and it was not honest curl. Her eyebrows were not so dark as she made them. Her cheeks and lips were not so red, her forehead and throat were not so white, her form was not so perfect.

  • Queen Jezebel of The Bible notoriously put on makeup before confronting God's prophet.
  • In the Victorian story "The Fatal Cosmetic" a woman who starts out flattering a poor performance ends up using a dangerous cosmetic, not disposing of it properly and then lying about it, so that it is mistaken for medicine and administered to another woman with fatal results.
  • In Tom Robbins' book Skinny Legs and All, this is the in-universe Berserk Button for fundamentalist preacher Buddy Winkler, he calls the protagonist a jezebel for wearing makeup and once washes her face till she bleeds.
  • In Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Meg is made up "like Cinderella" but it includes this — though she revolts at rouge.

 On the Thursday evening, Belle shut herself up with her maid, and between them they turned Meg into a fine lady. They crimped and curled her hair, they polished her neck and arms with some fragrant powder, touched her lips with coralline salve to make them redder, and Hortense would have added 'a soupcon of rouge', if Meg had not rebelled.

    • There is no doubt of the evaluation, since when later confessing to bad behavior at the party, Meg includes it:

 "Of course not. Don't I always tell you everything? I was ashamed to speak of it before the younger children, but I want you to know all the dreadful things I did at the Moffats'."

"We are prepared," said Mrs. March, smiling but looking a little anxious.

"I told you they dressed me up, but I didn't tell you that they powdered and squeezed and frizzled, and made me look like a fashion-plate. Laurie thought I wasn't proper. I know he did, though he didn't say so,

  • In G. K. Chesterton's The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond, one character comments on its decreasing significance, but still thinks it shows something of character.

 we all know that making-up and even dyeing your hair doesn't mean what it once did; lots of women do it who are perfectly decent; but not those who are--well, utterly inexperienced.


Live-Action TV

  • Subverted in Full House. The older girls who pick on DJ her first day of junior high wear tons of makeup and are huge bitches, but the end of the episode has DJ herself wearing a little, with Becky's help putting it on.

Music Video

  • This appears in the video for the Paramore song 'Misery Business'. As part of a Humiliation Conga inflicted on the preppy, evil high school bully at the end of the video, Hayley Williams wipes a damp towel across her face, revealing that she is caked in makeup. Hayley then tuts and walks away. Rendered deliberately ironic by Hayley's spectacularly dyed hair and flamboyant eyeshadow, but nevertheless...


  • Shakespeare's "Sonnet 67" is a lament that people try to imitiate a man's beauty with make-up, so that he is actually a corrupting influence.
    • "Sonnet 68" chiefly complains in similar tones of wig-wearing, but opens with the observation:

 Thus is his cheek the map of days outworn,

When beauty lived and died as flowers do now,

  • Christina Rossetti wrote an early poem about a woman who fainted at a ball, but had not grown pale — did this woman paint?
  • In Robert Browning's The Flight of the Duchess, the Duchess used damaging make-up that ruined her looks.


  • In Hamlet, the Prince berates Ophelia (or, rather, all women) for being false in various ways, and through makeup:

 I have heard of your paintings too, well enough; God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another.


Video Games

  • Medusa's appearance in Kid Icarus Uprising, while based off of her depiction in the original game, seems to have taken on a more gothic look, with (among other things) eyeshadow and a tattoo around her left eye.
  • Inverted in Mass Effect with the turians, who for the most part wear facial paint indicating which world they're from, a tradition stemming from a civil war between turian colonies a thousand years before the events of the series. 'Barefaced' turians are considered untrustworthy, and the term 'barefaced' is even used as slang for a politician. It's worth mentioning that all this is told through the codex, which is intentionally a bit of an Unreliable Narrator, and given that Shepard never sees any prejudice between turians in game, the stigma may have faded.
    • Could also have something to do with the fact that the only turian consistently seen with an unpainted face is Saren...

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • On Atomic Betty, Penelope Lang is the only girl in school who wears eyeshadow. In contrast Betty just wears lipstick, mostly while in her Galactic Guardian uniform, but she sometimes she puts on lipstick for special occasions. Also, Betty's mom wears both eyeshadow and lipstick, but while she might be a bit of a neglectful and self-absorbed mother she's not evil.

Real Life

  • "Cosmetics" used to be a euphemism, because still earlier a cosmetic meant something that would actually improve appearance, removing a blemish or freckle or whatever instead of hiding it.