Cosmetics for Prisoners


Evelyn Rosales

The topic of cosmetics for prisoners has been in debate for a long time. There are both pros and cons to this significant decision and the reasoning has been extensive and controversial. 

Most prisons or correctional facilities do not sell makeup. Even when products are available in prisons, they can often be hard to come by. Especially now with the COVID-19 pandemic, cosmetics have been in low supply.  Many inmates have used creativity and innovated their own products. Paint chips off cell walls, pages from prison library books, and food are just a few items used to create homemade cosmetics. Not to mention, Kool-Aid doubles as hair dye, clear deodorant for blush, and M&M’s for a lip stain. They are willing to go the extra mile to have some form of cosmetics. 

Joyce Pequeno at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Ore. said, “It makes me feel good, like a real human being — not just a number.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many inmates have been getting ill and some have even died. Numerous inmates find that beauty routine help distracts them. Susan Ferguson at the Central California Women’s Facility, in Chowchilla, declared, “Everyone is sick… it makes me feel normal.” Many inmates find that cosmetics help them express themselves in a place without freedom.

Cosmetics are viewed as a luxury or contraband but they have psychological benefits. An examination found that cosmetics decreased violence among inmates. In addition, prison beauty schools help formerly incarcerated people land jobs once they rejoin society. As a result, these beauty schools improve inmates’ self-esteem and provide them with marketable skills.