Balancing Femininity and Makeup in Male-Dominated Professions


Makeup In Male-Dominated Professions

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balancing femininity and makeup in male dominated professions, photo of female detective in uniform and out of uniform

Who Is Detective Mary?


Well, Mary does a great job of outlining how we met below — but the reason why I wanted Mary to share her story and makeup routine with you is because:


  • she’s an amazing writer
  • I wanted to force her out of her male-dominated bubble (I know oh-so-well how that can be suffocating at times) and
  • I’ve seen this girl come full circle in embracing her natural beauty & use of makeup in her day-to-day life


Aside from that, she’s one of the hardest working people I know and always makes time for her friends. In this world when everyone is “busy,” it’s nice to have a friend who always manages to carve out time (she doesn’t have) to bake a yummy chocolate cake or just lend a listening ear. I touched on the topic of feminitiy in male-dominated workplaces in my post,  Military + Mommiehood + Makeup, which you can read here but I really wanted to offer a different perspective from a “normal” non-beauty industry perspective.

So alas, meet Mary.

Balancing Femininity and Makeup In Male-Dominated Professions: A Personal Perspective

When Natalie approached me about writing a guest blog, I agreed IMMEDIATELY — without hesitation or any thought, whatsoever. It was a tad reckless on my part, because as soon as, “Sure! Why not?!” left my lips, I realized I hadn’t given THAT much thought to my beauty and skin care routine. But after some reflection, I considered how my profession influenced my beliefs about beauty, and I thought it was maybe worth some dissection and discussion.


no makeup military

My Experience

Natalie and I met in 2004, while we were at a summer college program. A lot has happened during this time to include graduating college, joining the military, leaving the military, switching careers. You can mature and AGE.

After college, I commissioned in the U.S. Air Force, where I served as an officer for about four and a half years. In that time, I deployed to Peru where I lived in a twelve-person tent on a dusty plot in an indigenous part of the Andes for a few months. I also spent a tour in Afghanistan, where I lived in a wooden hut in dry, mountainous terrain for half a year. But full disclosure: much of my time was spent in a nice, air-conditioned office, but I still had to don the Blues and BDUs (professional and field uniforms, for you civilian readers).

I eventually moved on to a corporate career, where I enjoyed working within an almost exclusively female office. I absolutely loved it, and I was thrilled to have the chance to express my style and individuality, but I guess I couldn’t resist being in a uniform…

As a surprise not only to myself, but to my friends and family, I became a police officer — a uniformed, gun-wearing, patrol-car-driving, police officer. Not everything you see about policing on television is accurate, but COPS would paint a decent picture of a handful of my more exciting days. But those days came to an end when I recently promoted to detective. I have since hung up the uniform, but I still wear the gun!

I’m certainly no G.I. Jane, having served as a public affairs officer in what other armed services lovingly call the “Chair Force.” And I’m definitely not a Tactical Tina, especially now that I switched from the streets to a desk. However, I do have the unique experience (and initial inexperience) of developing a professional, feminine appearance in a male-dominated career field.


The Evolution of my “Beauty” Philosophy 


military female in makeup


The reason I shared my resume is to reveal some of the transitions I had, and how they impacted the opinion and practice of beauty and professionalism I hold today.

My first years in the Air Force were, in a word, embarrassing. I’m not referring to my work performance or anything in that realm. But if you took a snapshot of me in my professional life back then, I would burn the image to hide the evidence.

I REFUSED to wear make-up.

Beyond moisturizer, sunblock and clear mascara (why?!), I didn’t wear make-up. I’m not saying this to be critical of women who choose not to for whatever reason, but it was my personal rationale that confounds me to this day.

I wanted to assimilate. I did not want to be feminine. I felt that because I was in the same uniform as men, I needed to maintain this androgynous appearance to be considered professional.

I’m not sure how I convinced myself of this, but I eventually took notice of other women around me, and they were pretty! I remember admiring another lieutenant who impressed me with her confidence and performance, and commanders were impressed by her, as well. And in addition to absolutely killing it at work, she was attractive and feminine!

I slowly came to adopt conservative beauty products, like tinted moisturizer and ACTUAL mascara. For the infamous Blues Mondays, I eventually splurged with some cheap eye shadow. However, the real revelation came when I joined women in the business world. Between my supervisors and peers, I found that these ladies’ personal styles represented an entire spectrum, but every last one of these women was a true professional. They were smart, organized, progressive and totally motivated. In fact, my boss’ boss was just that. A straight up BOSS! But in addition to their remarkable professional traits, on the surface, they were groomed, polished and just beautiful.


detective mary makeup



In time, I developed a beauty routine that could keep pace with these savvy women, and I maintained it upon entering my current profession. But more important than my make-up makeover was my attitude adjustment about my personal appearance in a professional setting.

Even as a patrol officer, I rarely came to work without a face on. Although, I remember showing up a time or two accidently wearing no make-up (working swings and mids can sometimes give you temporary amnesia), and my male colleagues said they didn’t realize it even when I did. Thanks, skin care routine!

Ultimately, I concluded that I was going to show up to work with an appearance that made me feel comfortable and confident. For me, the choice to wear make-up isn’t a means to distinguish myself from the boys, or to be more attractive to men. It’s rooted in the belief that if I care about my appearance enough to make the effort, I’m sending a message that I care about myself, l care about my job, and I care about others.

I may be over-analyzing the role of cosmetics, but something that becomes a nearly daily ritual should have some gravity in one’s mind. Not to mention, it justifies my spending habits at Sephora…just sayin’.


makeup for beginners guide

My Detective Makeup Routine


For my current profession, I prefer a more conservative application for a more natural appearance. I’ve known some people (primarily dudes) to scoff at the idea of “looking natural” with make-up, but my message to them: worry about your own face!

So without further ado, these are my top five products for a fresh, working gal’s face (no matter who she works with!):


#1 Dior’s Hydra Life Pro-Youth Silk Crème


Holy decadence. I’ve been experimenting with moisturizers lately, but I’m looking forward to the day I run out of my current trial cream so I can return to my true love. To sum it up, this moisturizer is LUXURIOUS. While the price tag is a little high, one jar seems to last for months. And let’s be honest. Beauty is skin deep. Take care of it!


#2 Peter Thomas Roth’s CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Complexion Corrector


I have been using this cream for a year, and do you know how many tubes I went through? ONE. I’m not a big fan of regularly wearing foundation, and I reserve it for those full-face kind of days. Therefore, this CC cream is a multi-tasking dream and a great value. In terms of coverage, I think it does a fantastic job of evening out my skin tone, and it seems buildable! Additionally, it is moisturizing and has an SPF 30, making it the metaphorical foundation to my daily routine. (This has been featured in Natalie’s Top 3 Must-Have Cosmetics post, found here).


#3 Urban Decay’s Naked Palette



Who doesn’t have this palette? Or tried this palette? It’s popular and for good reason. It has solid pigments, a combination of mattes and shimmers, and the neutral spectrum has you covered from day to night. However, we all know what happens with palettes. You use up about four or five primary shades until you’re out and left trying to think of an occasion to wear Gunmetal. Nonetheless, I love it, and my day-to-day, quickly shrinking hues are Virgin, Naked and Buck, under my brow and on my eyelids, respectively. Darkhorse and Hustle rotate in the crease. The rest of the pigments get some love on the weekends!



#4 NARS Blush/Bronzer Duo In Orgasm/Laguna


Another oldie, but a goodie. There’s a reason this has a cubby in the check-out maze at Sephora. The colors are fresh and universally complementary. In my more conservative make-up days, I wasn’t sold on rouge. But has anyone ever said to you after being ill, “Hey! You got some color back in your cheeks!”? Why not put a little healthy color on your cheeks every day?


#5 Anastasia Beverly Hills’ Brow Wiz Dark Brown



They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. Therefore, your eyebrows are the frames to those windows, and a nicely groomed brow is something to behold! If you lived through the 90s and early 2000s, you probably had a run-in or two with a set of tweezers. My brows are currently under re-construction (i.e. I’m growing them back out), so I need a little bit of help in the more sparse areas. However, understand this. If you use a brow pencil like a toddler uses a crayon, you will look absolutely crazy. Or mad. Depends on how far outside the lines you color. Use with light wisps and sparingly.

You may have noticed I made no mention of mascara, and that is because everyone’s got their fave, and I practically switch mine as often as I switch toothbrushes. But my primary personal rule when it comes to mascara: save the clear stuff for your brows!

Share Your Thoughts

Thanks for reading! Are you a woman working in a male-dominated industry? What are some of your favorite products? What’s your approach to femininity in the workplace? Have you seen an evolution like Mary? If so, please comment below and let’s get a healthy dialogue going on. If you are curious, I wrote a post back in the day about military and motherhood and how I myself, lived with this double life of feminine and fierceness. You can read the post here.


Stay Beautiful,
Natalie Setareh

Look no Further!

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Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can't put on make-up, or dress yourself, or do you hair with any sort of fun or joy if you're doing it from a position of correction.

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