Yesterday, it was impossible to scroll through my Twitter feed without seeing a news story about musician Alicia Keys and her newfound appreciation for a makeup-free life. It all started when she arrived on the set of a photoshoot, just after hitting the gym. The photographer insisted on shooting her as is, “raw and real,” just like her music. While Alicia was nervous at the offset, she quickly embraced her makeup free look. In an essay she wrote for Lenny Letter, she said, “I swear it is the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt.”
— Alicia Keys (@aliciakeys) May 4, 2016
Alicia hopes that a #nomakeup revolution is possible, and her quest for realness, for many, comes at the perfect time. We’re in the era of photoshopped thigh gap, secret lip injections, and contoured necks; our disillusion toward anything “fake” is growing. Photographers are highlighting the beauty of female body hair and cellulite, plus-size models are getting featured in major ad campaigns, and the fake tan look is fading fast. We can all appreciate realness, but when it comes to the no makeup movement, it seems as if many of its fresh faced, all-natural ambassadors have something in common: They seem to have really effing good skin.
Just like it’s easier for visible body hair to be seen as beautiful and edgy on (thin) white girls as opposed to women of color, and for a size 14 to star in more plus-size modeling campaigns than a size 18, it’s a lot easier for people who don’t seem to have a single solitary pore on their faces to espouse the joys of going makeup-free when they don’t have cystic acne, discoloration, or blackheads.
For the record, I’m not coming from a staunchly pro-makeup stance. Yes, I feel naked without eyeliner and lipstick, but I couldn’t contour my face to save my life and I barely know how to use concealer. I consider foundation, eyeliner, and lipstick to be a full face of makeup and I’m too low maintenance to include powders, color correctors, and setting sprays into my routine. I love seeing people’s makeup transformations, and watching Snapchat videos from friends who shamelessly gas up their on point highlighter, but I know I could never spend more than five minutes on my makeup. And yet, while I could never see mascara ever having permanent residence in my makeup bag, there’s something about the no-makeup phenomenon that bothers. There’s nothing wrong with not liking makeup, but there’s something incredibly condescending about the no-makeup movement’s gatekeepers having flawless skin.
This is what I felt when I tried a “skin tint” by Glossier, the new-ish beauty brand with some seriously aesthetically pleasing products and advertising. Glossier’s image sort of presents itself as a supporter of the “realness” movement, but when it came to the skin tint, it’s almost as if that realness went to far. The tint was meant for light coverage, nowhere near the heavy duty properties of a concealer. But when I applied the light brown fluid to my cheeks, I was immediately confused: I know that it was meant to be light coverage, but it didn’t really look like there was any coverage, whatsoever. It was as if I applied moisturizer to my cheeks. Who could get coverage out of this? Immediately, I realized that this skin tint wasn’t for someone like me, with discoloration and massive pores. It was meant for someone who looked like a Glossier model, with perfect skin, who could take pleasure out of wearing next to no makeup and embrace the natural look without worrying how red their zit looked.
As retaliation to the no-makeup movement, I’ve seen countless rants insisting that makeup is about self-expression and accentuating features. This is absolutely true for many, but let’s be real: Plenty wear makeup to mask “imperfections.” There shouldn’t be shame in that, especially since we live in a society that, frankly, craps on women who don’t wear makeup. Studies have shown that women who wear makeup are paid more than women who don’t, and women who wear makeup in the workplace appear more “competent” than those who don’t. This, frankly, is a bigger problem in our society than someone daring to contour their face.
When all is said and done, the problem isn’t the fact that people use makeup as a confidence clutch; that’s simply a result of the real problem: We live in a culture that praises perfect skin. We use products that erase the sight of our pores, slather cream under our eyes to reduce naturally occurring under eye darkness, we inject our faces with chemicals to appear more youthful. Nobody cares about wearing SPF to avoid skin cancer, we care about wearing SPF so that we avoid getting wrinkles. As a human being who lives in the universe and is unable to have every cultural expectation bounce off of me, I too become obsessed about the appearance of the blackheads peppering my nose, or a zit that I can feel lurking below the surface of my skin. If you worry about those things too, it’s unfair for you to be labeled as some sort of mindless makeup drone just because you live in a society that makes you feel self-conscious about your acne. How dare we shame people who want to reach for some concealer to feel a little better about themselves? And how dare people who either won the genetic lottery or have the money to have pricey skincare products and rituals, tell the “less fortunate” that they should embrace a makeup free lifestyle?
Is realness really so skin deep?
If someone feels more empowered without makeup, more power to them. If someone likes wearing makeup because it’s fun, or because it makes them feel less miserable about their scars, acne, hyperpigmentation, etc, more power to them. What both sides of the makeup debate need to agree on is that placing value on whether or not someone used color corrector under their eyes before daring to leave the house. This isn’t a chicken versus egg situation. It was shaming imperfections that boosted the makeup industry and our complicated love/hate and dependency on it. If a woman can walk around with zits, under eye sags, laugh lines, and sallow skin without having her paycheck at stake, or having others worry that she’s ill, then maybe the no-makeup movement will seem a little more legitimate. Until then, it comes across as a revolution for a lucky select few who aren’t actually changing much about our society’s approach to female beauty standards.
What do you think about the no makeup movement? Tell us in the comments!