The End of the Mask Mandate and Its Effect on the Teenage Girl


Medical University of South Carolina

The standard viewpoint of a modern-day woman and the appearance of a medical mask covering her face.

Madison Austin, Photojournalist

“COVID-19 has finally ended” has reigned the national sentiment as of last Monday. Americans across the nation are proudly proclaiming the conclusion of the COVID-19 pandemic in widespread celebration. While many states have believed the pandemic to have ended several months ago, here in California, the Sunshine state, we are just barely dipping our toes into the pool of life without COVID-19.

Obviously, there is still a lingering trace of the virus in the air, and a large number of Californians remain cautious and wary of its reach. Nevertheless, the number of California cases is reaching an all time low, and now that almost 70% of Californians have been vaccinated against the virus, the public worry level is steadily declining (CDC). Furthermore, almost everyone in the community, and expectedly throughout the state has, at one point or another, been diagnosed with COVID-19, and widespread herd immunity is an expected proposition for most.

This sentiment was confirmed by Califorinia’s cool yet slightly controversial governor, Gavin Newsom, on February 28 when he made an announcement that left Califoirnians in utter shock and anticipation. Governor Newsom astonishingly announced that the statewide, public school mask mandate would be lifted on March 13, 2022. 

While the winding ending of the global pandemic and the termination of the statewide mask mandate is an unparalleled victory for most everyone around the state and the globe, there is one small demographic that is reluctant to celebrate its conclusion. A demographic that I so unfortunately find myself to be a leading member of… high school girls.

See, for any so-called “material girl” of the 21st century, makeup is a normal part of everyday life. From 10-45 minutes every morning, several high school girls around the state ,and around the world, for that matter–engage in the precise and calculated art of makeup. Social media and modern Western society have ingrained the importance of a well made up face to the minds of us impressionable teenage girls. There’s a reason that the average American teenage girl’s makeup bag is worth a predicted $525.88 (Cosmetics Business). Teenage girls are met with the unrealistic expectation that they have to appear in full glam for every random Tuesday, and this request is a daunting task for any ambitious teenage girl. 

With that in mind, the idea of a facial covering, spanning almost every inch of the mid and lower face, was an exciting proposition to teenage girls. Since  the return to school with a severe mask mandate last November, teen girls throughout the state have had the privilege of attending school as usual, but without the pressure of maintaining a face full of makeup. For me personally, those 14 months of school wearing masks was nothing short of alleviating, I was able to wake up an hour later, and I was able to flash my makeup-free face throughout my school without fear of judgment.

Then, there came the governor’s address. After almost a year and a half of a mask mandate, Califonrians were understandably excited to put the masks away. Even the teenage girl group cheered for the long awaited announcement of the elimination of the mask mandate. Then, an immediate realization of what a world without masks entailed occurred and led to the revelation of that deep-seated fear of morning makeup time.

An immediate realization of what a world without masks entailed occurred and led to the revelation of that deep-seated fear of morning makeup time.”

Throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, makeup sales plummeted, and according to a 2020 report by The Guardian, lipstick and foundation sales “were down by more than 70%” (The Guardian).  Even once students made the switch to in-person school last November, masks were all the rage, and given that they covered almost 2/3 of girls’ faces, there was not a prevalent need for makeup.

High school girls around the community, and around the entire state, entered a universal state of panic following the governor’s mandate. “I was so shocked,” recalled Alexandra Herrada (11), a pretty and proud wearer of makeup. Lexi Broadwater (12) shared the same sentiment, as she began to “think about all the makeup that [she] was going to have to buy” the second after she heard the big announcement. I too began to worry about the transition and what it entailed for someone who wears as much makeup as I do.

In the two-week lame duck period following the governor’s announcement, high school girls waited in unpleasant anticipation. Makeup sales went up 41% in Generation-Xers in California in the weeks following the announcement (Statista). Personally, I spent a great deal of time rewatching old makeup tutorial videos, in hope that I had maybe retained some skill from the time when I wore such makeup. 

When that highly anticipated monday finally arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. I was relieved to see that I was not the only high schooler who had made an abrupt return into the world of makeup. In fact, I received a flattering compliment from a girl in my first period who commented that I had arrived in “full glam” to school that day. Almost immediately, my pre-covid makeup confidence ws restored, and I felt less anxious about my return to makeup.

Now that it had been almost two weeks since that original announcement, the school environment seems to have returned to normal. Beautiful, smiling faces illuminate the high school crowd, and based off of the perfectly winged-eyeliner, and freshly glossed lips throughout the campus, I can safely say that the return to normalcy has been a successful transition among the makeup-wearing girls of California high schoolers.