The Real Truth About Makeup

Recently, David Ben-Ariel posted the article “Truth About Makeup”.  I really mean he “posted” it and not “wrote” it, as it is a recycling job of one of Herbert W Armstrong’s (HWA) articles.

Well, here is an interesting quote from that article:

The English word "lipstick" is not used anywhere in any English translation or version of the Bible. Nor do we find the modern words "makeup" or "cosmetics." Most people have believed that the right or wrong of using makeup is not directly or specifically mentioned in the Scriptures.

Well, yes, I would conclude that based upon the evidence.

HWA goes on to write about the spirit of the Law forbidding the alteration of one’s face.  Specifically, he mentions “wanton eyes”, apparently in Isa 3:16 (he writes as though it is from 1:16, but it is not).  Essentially, there seems to not be a one-to-one correlation between the Hebrew and English, so the KJV translators chose to translate it “wanton”, which means “unchaste, lewd, licentious, immoral”.  The question HWA brings up is how it was wanton is not explained directly in the texts.  He then turns to Adam Clarke’s Commentary and others to explain it meant to become sexually alluring through the use of painting the eyes.

Blow the Dust off Your Bibles!

Well, HWA always said to not believe him, believe the Bible, so let’s look at it.

 16Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: (Isaiah 3:16, King James Version)

OK, so “wanton” comes from “saqar”, Strong’s H8265, which means “to ogle, be wanton, ogling”.  However, on the Blue Letter Bible site, there is also this interesting note under “Gesenius’s Lexicon (Help)”:


When you look at it strictly, though, it appears that the sin is not necessarily in the painting of the eyes.  HWA is correct that it means to “deceive with the eyes”, but notice how the CEV chooses to translate it:

The LORD says:

   The women of Jerusalem

   are proud

   and strut around,

   winking shamelessly.

   They wear anklets that jingle

   and call attention

   to the way they walk.

And, the NIV:

The LORD says,

       "The women of Zion are haughty,

       walking along with outstretched necks,

       flirting with their eyes,

       tripping along with mincing steps,

       with ornaments jingling on their ankles.

The NASB calls it “seductive eyes”.  You can flirt in many ways, not just through eye makeup.  The real sin, then, is attempting to appear seductive.  That is one use of eye makeup, but it is not the only use, and it is not the only way to be seductive.

Where the Bias Really Originated

HWA tells this story, which is revealing:

My wife remembered an incident that occurred when she was a little girl nine years old. Her father ran a small town general store. In the store she found two small packages of face powder, one white, the other red. She began to apply some of the colored powder to her face. Her mother saw her, and quickly took the powder away from her.

"No, no! Loma," said her mother. "You mustn’t ever put that on your face. Only the bad women use that!"

My mother — before she died — remembered that she used to apply a little powder on her cheeks but didn’t seem to remember at what time this custom started. But she did distinctly remember that her mother never once applied powder, paint, or any kind of cosmetics whatsoever to her face. She was a very virtuous and religious woman, and in her time "only the bad women" put paint or powder on their faces. My own mother very emphatically declared that no lipstick ever touched her lips — a fact in which she took great satisfaction.

We must remember that HWA grew up in a Quaker home, living modestly and simply.  Therefore, an extravagance such as makeup would have been considered sinful not only from a religious perspective but from a practical one (needlessly spending money).

I want you to think about this, though.  Gesenius’ Lexicon was written in 1846!  Not everyone from that time period was of the persuasion that assumed a woman was a loose woman just because she wore makeup!

Best Defense: The Bible, Not Culture

So, let’s get down to brass tacks.  Beauty and sexuality are defined in large part by our culture.  While hormones may make us attracted to the opposite sex, the culture tends to define what qualities make the opposite sex attractive.

Certainly, the men God used to write the Bible were shaped by their culture and time.  However, isn’t the Bible a book for all cultures and times?

I sometimes think that the Church of God gets out of balance on a number of issues way to easily.  Some in the COG get obsessed with finding pagans under every rock.  You know what?  Chances are the clothes you are wearing came from pagan influences.  Are you going to do without clothing?  Maize was introduced to the white settlers from the American Indians living in the region.  Do you eat corn?

We cannot help but be shaped by our culture.  Does the fork go on the left or the right?  Do we eat with chopsticks?  Can we eat certain things with our hands?  Does God care about all of that?  No, He does not.  If it is not a violation of His Law, then don’t you think He will give someone the benefit of the doubt?  God will look upon the intent of the heart as well as the action.

Is beauty wrong?  Well, let’s let the Bible determine that!

After Job suffered for what some estimate to be about 18 months (not sure how they come up with that figure), don’t you think he would have been extra careful not to sin?  I know I would have been.  He had 7 more sons and 3 more daughters, and what are we told?

 13He had also seven sons and three daughters.

 14And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Kerenhappuch.

 15And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren. (Job 42:13-15, King James Version)

We are told that his daughters were "fair".  The NIV renders the word as “beautiful”.  Beauty is not a sin!

You want to know something even more amazing about the story?  Would Job have intentionally named his daughter after a sinful substance?  After all he had been through?  Yet, he named his daughter “Horn of antimony” (H7161 + H6320).  The definition of Strong’s H6320, “puwk”, is:

1) antimony, stibium, black paint

a) eye cosmetic

Interesting, isn’t it?


  1. Yet here's the amazing thing — Mr. Armstrong wore makeup when he taped World Tomorrow telecasts, at least during the 1980's.

    I was told this by someone who worked with the tapings in Pasadena, who went on to become at least a Ministerial Trainee. (I've lost track of him now.)

    I worked at a cable news network on the writing staff in the mid-1980's, and one night this man asked at a Spokesman Club meeting if I was interested in anchoring. I told him WCG makeup rules would not allow that — and that's when he made his comment about Mr. Armstrong.

    So it was wrong for women — but right for men, if they were appearing on TV to preach the gospel?! That admittedly puzzled me, and should have raised more questions for me than it did at the time.

  2. I believe GTA did as well during the 70s. I forgot that little gem. I remember being told that it was because the lighting of the television made it "necessary".

    Even back then, I couldn't help but think about how inconsistent it really was. Even twice that when it switched back again to no makeup!

  3. >> Yet, he named his daughter “Horn of antimony” (H7161 + H6320). The definition of Strong’s H6320, “puwk”, is… <<

    Oh no — is that where teenagers get the word P-U-K-E? :-O

  4. Now, THERE'S a thought! If you don't want your young daughter to wear makeup, tell her she is putting puke on her eyes!