Can You Wear Makeup In Prison?

Makeup has been a timeless staple for women around the world, making it a billion-dollar industry, its presence spawning drugstore brands like Covergirl or L’Oreal to cult favorites such as Tom Ford and Armani.

Makeup has a variety of uses in several industries, one of such is the movie industry, helping actors visually into their roles. It has also found its way into a surprising place where most would not consider it.

Surprisingly, there are prison commissaries that offer make-up products although they are far and few in between.


Few Options Available


Prison is not meant to offer the luxuries in life for its inmates, but some commissaries do offer the bare minimum –  bronzer, mascara, and eyeliner.

Although due to the stock rotations of commissaries, it’s vital to stock up on whatever products are available. They might not be in stock for another six months.

The lack of access or consistency of what few beauty products are made available to female inmates forces many of them to look for more easily available alternatives as unconventional as they may seem.

Creative Alternatives

With few options available, women inmates have to become creative if they want to wear more than just bronzer or mascara.

Colored pencils, newspapers, birthday cards and everyday materials become so much more when you’re looking for ways to achieve ideal beauty looks without proper tools.

Female inmates are always on the lookout for new items. What may seem like a simple marker or candy can become a tool for beauty.

Coffee Grounds For Your Skincare Regimen

Coffee grounds serve a greater purpose than simple caffeine boosts for female inmates.

By incorporating into a skincare routine, the small grounds can serve as an exfoliating tool, which helps keep the skin clean and fresh.

Another use for coffee grounds is repurposing it for skin foundation. By mixing the grounds with lotion or creams, female inmates can create a tinted cream similar to the widely accessible BB or CC creams sold at stores today.

Kool-Aid For Hair?


Instead of creating sugary drinks, female inmates are creating sugary hairstyles.

By mixing the drink with water and leaving it to soak into the hair strands, women are able to create unnatural hair colors such as cherry red or blue, giving them a pop of unique color otherwise unattainable under their imprisonment circumstances.

Sweet Beauty Routine

Some female inmates go as far as using the dye from M&M shells to use as lip stains. By mixing the colored shells with water and applying it to the lips, inmates are able to achieve that sheer lip tint look. Another option is to use Skittles. Soaking them in water can help create a similar result.

Unsafe Make-up Practices


Even in earlier decades, women inmates have always found creative ways to create and apply makeup. In 1908 female inmates resorted to licking the limestone walls and using to powder their faces.

A common practice is to soften the tip of a colored pencil and rub it across the eyelids, resulting in an effect similar to eyeshadow.

Rubbing anything pointed across your eyelid is generally not recommended due to safety risks and the color inside the pencils can possibly be toxic. Both of these pose safety risks that female prisoners are willing to risk in order to express themselves through their makeup.

Another unsafe practice is using Sharpies or other permanent markers to achieve winged eyeliner styles that set them apart. It poses a significant danger due to the risk of getting the marker pigment into the eye, which can cause severe irritation.

Prison Guards Will Often Overlook Make-Up Usage


Prisons have strict rules in place to prevent women from altering their look too severely. The main reason is to ensure that in the event of a rouge prisoner, law enforcement and the public alike are able to identify them in the event of a pursuit.

More often than not, these creative ways of applying makeup are often overlooked by workers. As long as the practices do not actively place anyone in danger, it’s not a crime to apply to red tint to your lips even if it is not allowed.

Although, there was one instance in 1908 where prison guards were baffled by a female prisoner who, seemingly did not have access to any sort of makeup, managed to appear with perfectly rouged cheeks.

Despite the guard’s frantic search for any type of contraband, they remained mystified by the inmate until they observed her more closely.

By taking out the red thread from her clothes and soaking the small colored fibers in water, she was able to create a pink color for her cheeks.

Do Prisons Cater To Women?


Reports show that the female inmate populations have risen over 700% between the years of 1980 and 2016.

Most of the rules regarding female inmates’ rights to reasonable access to makeup were formed long ago, and have not adapted to the increase of female inmates.

These regulations make it harder for women inmates to access makeup products and have them resort to possibly dangerous practices such as using household or food items to create makeup tools.


Can Makeup Have A Positive Effect On Female Inmates?


Why do female inmates go to such lengths to apply makeup?


The same report that shows the increase of the female population of inmates also states that incarcerated women are more likely to have a history of abuse, trauma, and mental health.

Women use makeup to enhance their features or completely change them to their preference which brings them satisfaction.

Female inmates, despite their situation, are still human and want to be able to have their desired appearance, even if they have to resort to using food items and craft supplies to achieve it.

By providing the proper makeup supplies to women inmates, prisons may be able to improve the overall morale of their inmates and reduce the risk of harm due to unsafe makeup application practices.

Despite living out their sentences and having limited access, female inmates find creative and innovative ways to achieve their desired look.


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