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Winter 2006 Table of Contents
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Taking Up Makeup

by Cyral Miller, Director of Outreach, TSBVI

Abstract: Collected tips and resources to help parents and teachers provide instruction in how to use cosmetics for young girls with visual impairments.

Key Words: programming, blind, visual impairments, deafblind, makeup, cosmetics, self-esteem

Social acceptance and self-esteem are often related to how young people perceive others, or think their peers observe them. Physical appearance and types of grooming will factor enormously into those perceptions. It is no surprise that magazines aimed at this age group heavily feature advertisements for beauty products. In junior high or high school, many young girls are wearing makeup to class, to social events and even for sports. Young girls with visual impairments clearly need to be aware of this dimension of the peer scene and be offered enough information to make informed choices on how they approach cosmetics.

Learning the proper use of makeup is an aspect of independent living skills, part of the Expanded Core Curriculum for students who are blind or visually impaired. Many moms or older sisters teach makeup skills to their daughters and siblings, designing adaptations as needed. In that case, these skills will not need to be addressed at school. Other parents are not sure how to teach their child who either cannot see at all or who has impaired vision. In those situations, it would be appropriate to consider adding goals related to these skills to an IEP.

There are a variety of primarily informal sources for learning how to adapt the art of makeup to accommodate blindness or visual impairment. In the Independent Living Skills Curriculum published by the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Volume 2, there is only this short paragraph specifically about makeup: "Allow students to experiment with applying different types of cosmetics. Discuss colors and shades appropriate for their skin type, hair, and clothing. Discuss the importance of not using too much makeup. Help students choose people to give them advice and assistance when selecting makeup (e.g., friends, sales people at cosmetics counters)." (Independent Living Skills Curriculum, Vol. II: Self-Care and Maintenance of Personal Environment, Loumiet, R. and Levack, N., TSBVI, Austin, Texas, 1991) There are several important related skills in the personal hygiene and grooming section of that curriculum, such as exploring hairstyles, shaving, purchasing grooming supplies, and tweezing eyebrows.

A practical strategy is to seek out the expertise of cosmetic professionals. Many department stores have cosmetic sections with salespeople who are skilled in selection and application of a range of types of makeup. These individuals can give valuable tips and help to find the proper colors and tints for specific complexions. Teachers (or family members) may want to accompany a student with a visual impairment and provide verbal explanations of what the professional is doing.

An older written resource is The Art of Makeup for the Visually Handicapped by Dorothy Pirozzi. This booklet was published by The Lighthouse, from The New York Association for the Blind in the 1970s and may no longer be available. Ms. Priozzi, a former fashion model, asserts "I have discovered various methods of applying my own makeup that demonstrate that a blind person can makeup as well as any sighted person." The booklet is comparable to other written materials available on this topic, which are primarily suggestions written by blind adults with tips based upon their experiences.

Two other references of a similar nature are found on websites: The American Foundation for the Blind has an article with tips for makeup application. Look on the AFB website at <http://www.afb.org/Section.asp?SectionID=40&TopicID=215&DocumentID=2773>. Another written source based upon personal experience is the American Printing House for the Blind's Fred's Head. This is an excellent resource for a wide variety of tips and suggestions about both typical and unusual aspects of living with blindness. Go to <http://sun1.aph.org/cgi-bin/starfinder/18399/fred.txt> or go to <www.aph.org>, click on Fred's Head Database and search for "How to Apply Makeup". There is also some information on a British website, Action for Blind People at <http://www.afbp.org/information/advice/beautysense.asp>. Also, see Tips for Makeup Application If You are Blind or Have Low Vision <http://www.visionaware.org/how_can_i_continue_to_apply_makeup_0>.

Nancy Hefner and Jeri Cleveland, teachers at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, also shared their suggestions. Nancy even took a free period to put on her makeup and shared tips as she went along! The consensus from these women, and others, is that the face is such a sensitive part of the body that it is relatively easy to be able to monitor putting on makeup.

The following are tips found in many of these sources:

Many, if not most, people with visual impairments have some level of residual vision. A strong magnifier mirror and proper lighting can help take some of the guesswork out of applying makeup. There are also products such as the Eye-To-Eye cosmetic lens (<http://www.see-eye-to-eye.com>) that offer magnifying powers with a single lens designed to only cover one eye at a time. This allows application of makeup to one eye while getting the best possible vision from the other. A visit to a cosmetics department will yield many other products designed for any user that can help make the task easier for a person with visual impairment, too.

Looking good can be as important to a young girl with a visual impairment as it is to her sighted peers. Not all girls will want to wear makeup, but knowing what it is, and how to apply it for the best effect, is another way to provide a girl with opportunities for self-expression and self-determination on how to present herself to the world. Have fun exploring the world of cosmetics!

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Last Revision: September 1, 2010