A close-up photo of a well-worn King James Version Bible, open to verses in Leviticus and Corinthians, surrounded by brushes, cosmetic products, and a reflective mirror.

What Does The Bible Say About Makeup?

Makeup has been used by women for thousands of years, with evidence dating back to ancient Egypt. Even today, makeup remains a hotly debated topic among Christians. Some view it as vanity, while others see it as a way to look nice. So what does the Bible actually say about makeup?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible does not explicitly prohibit makeup. However, it warns against vanity, immodesty and relying on outer appearance over inner beauty. There are also practical concerns like cost and health to consider.

Old Testament References to Makeup

Jezebel Painted Her Eyes

In the Old Testament, one of the most well-known references to the use of cosmetics is the story of Jezebel in 2 Kings 9. Jezebel was the wife of King Ahab, and she is portrayed as an evil queen who worshipped false gods.

2 Kings 9:30 mentions that Jezebel “painted her eyes and adorned her head” before her death.

This passage seems to carry a negative connotation regarding Jezebel’s use of eye makeup and self-adornment. Some interpret her makeup and self-decoration as a symbol of pride, vanity and seduction. However, there are also arguments that in Jezebel’s time, royalty and aristocratic women commonly wore eye makeup as a status symbol and not necessarily for seduction.

So Jezebel’s eye makeup could simply have been a custom of her status and culture. Overall, the biblical view of her makeup usage appears ambivalent.

Scriptural References to Beauty and Adornment

While Jezebel’s eye makeup is portrayed negatively, the Bible has other passages that view beauty and adornment more positively. For example, Song of Songs praises the physical beauty of the maiden, including her eyes that are compared to doves (Song 1:15).

Ezekiel 16:14 metaphorically describes God adorning Israel with gold, silver, fine linen, embroidery and bracelets.

Isaiah 3:18-23 provides an extensive list of beauty items that God will remove from the “daughters of Zion” as punishment, implying these items were in common use among Israelite women at the time. The list includes things like perfumes, jewels, fine robes, purses, veils, wigs and linen garments.

This shows that women in ancient Israel did practice self-adornment and wore makeup/cosmetics as part of their culture.

Some key principles are that adornment and makeup are neither condemned nor commanded in Scripture. Modesty and moderation are encouraged more than outward appearance. And the emphasis is on cultivating inner beauty over merely exterior beauty.

Most Christians believe modest makeup is acceptable while vanity, seduction and excess are to be avoided.

New Testament Teachings on Outer Beauty

Jesus Criticized the Pharisees’ Focus on Outward Appearance

In the New Testament, Jesus often criticized the Pharisees for focusing too much on outward appearances and neglecting what was inside. For example, in Matthew 23:25-26, Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!

You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Here, Jesus used the metaphor of washing dishes to make the point that working on inner purity is more important than focusing on outer appearance.

Similarly, in Luke 11:39-41, Jesus criticized the Pharisees for cleaning the outside of cups and dishes but inside being “full of greed and wickedness.” His point was that they were focused on appearing righteous externally but neglecting the internal condition of their hearts.

The emphasis was on cultivating inner godly virtues rather than mere outward appearances.

Instructions for Women to Adorn Themselves Modestly

The New Testament contains instructions for women to avoid vanity and immodest adornment and focus more on cultivating inner virtues. For example, 1 Timothy 2:9-10 states, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”

Here, outward adornment is discouraged while good works are encouraged.

1 Peter 3:3-4 similarly says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

Again, the emphasis is on developing inner virtues rather than relying on external embellishments.

Emphasis on Inner Beauty Over Outward Adornment

While the Old Testament focuses more on external beauty and adornment, the New Testament shifts the emphasis to inner beauty and godly virtues. As one analysis puts it, “Christianity elevated the importance of the ‘inner self’ – the condition of the spirit – and downplayed the importance of physical beauty.

1 This reflects Jesus’ teachings to focus less on the outward and more on the inward condition of the heart.

Practical Concerns About Makeup Use

Vanity and Pride

The Bible warns against vanity, pride, and placing too much emphasis on outward beauty over inward godliness. Some verses touch on this theme:

  • Proverbs 31:30 – “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
  • 1 Timothy 2:9 – “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.”
  • 1 Peter 3:3-4 – “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. “
  • These verses warn against focusing too much on physical beauty and “costly attire”, encouraging women instead to cultivate godly character and a gentle spirit. Makeup in moderation is not condemned, but vanity, showing off, and obsession over appearance are considered improper in light of biblical principles.

    Cost and Stewardship

    The Bible encourages wise stewardship of money and resources. While makeup itself is not prohibited, purchasing excessive cosmetics could conflict with principles of thrift and good stewardship of finances. Some relevant verses include:

  • Proverbs 21:20 – “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.”
  • Proverbs 27:23 – “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds.”
  • Luke 16:10 – “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”
  • The money spent on makeup could arguably be used in wiser, more charitable ways. Moderation and responsible spending are encouraged by biblical principles of stewardship and using one’s resources wisely.

    Health Effects

    Some makeup ingredients and application habits could have negative health effects that conflict with the Bible’s call to care for our bodies. For example:

    – Lead in lipstick or eye makeup can cause toxicity with excessive use
    – Sleeping in makeup clogs pores and can cause skin irritation
    – Sharing makeup can spread infections like pink eye
    – 34% of makeup products contain ingredients linked to cancer or reproductive toxicity (ewg.org)

    Verses encouraging bodily stewardship and health include:

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
  • Proverbs 14:30 – “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.”
  • In light of these verses, habits that could damage health may be unwise. Moderation, natural products, and sound application practices can help minimize any health risks of cosmetics.

    Viewpoints Among Christians Today

    Against Any Makeup Use

    Some Christians believe women should not wear any makeup at all, based on certain Bible verses that seem to condemn external adornment (1 Timothy 2:9, 1 Peter 3:3). They view makeup as deceptive enhancement of one’s natural appearance.

    Groups with this stance include conservative Mennonites, Amish, and some strict evangelical churches.

    Accepts Modest Makeup Use

    Many mainstream evangelical Christians accept moderate and modest use of makeup. They point to Bible verses allowing women to dress attractively (Song of Songs 4:3, Esther 2:12), and believe external beauty reflects inner godly virtues.

    As long as it’s not excessive, makeup can highlight natural beauty God gave.

    Surveys show 65% of Christian women wear light makeup to look professional or highlight features. Most avoid provocative and sexualized looks incompatible with Biblical values of modesty and inner beauty.

    Focus on Inner Beauty as Most Important

    While opinions differ on wearing makeup, most Christians agree that developing inner godly virtues is far more important for women than external appearance. Biblical qualities like a gentle and quiet spirit, good works, and bearing spiritual fruit should be top priority (1 Peter 3:1-6, Galatians 5:22, Colossians 1:10).

    Groups focused on inner beauty may wear little or no makeup, but accept those who do. The emphasis is spiritual character over outward looks. As 1 Samuel 16:7 states, “…The Lord looks at the heart.”


    The Bible does not explicitly prohibit the use of makeup. However, Scripture emphasizes developing inner beauty over relying on outward adornment. It also warns against vanity, immodesty and preoccupation with appearance.

    Most Christian teachings allow for modest use of makeup in moderation. The key principles are avoiding extravagance, immodesty and preoccupation with outward appearance over inner beauty. Christians should also consider stewardship, health and personal conscience when deciding about makeup use.

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