Here’s Why Not Wearing Makeup Doesn’t Make You Better Than Anybody Else

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 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.

@georgiehobday in the Phase 1 Set and Boy Brow in blond

A photo posted by Glossier. (@glossier) on

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!

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  • Just another bagel girl

    i dont need Alicia or any celebrity to tell me my skin isnt perfect but its okay to be normal …. i’m normal every day of my life, i know its okay
    but i understand if this kind of “movement” needs someone visible, like a singer, to have some kind of impact …

    i think if you put the main point in what other people think about your looks then you are doing it wrong. this supposed to be about you feeling good in your own skin …. not about trying to prove something by looking good or bad without make up

  • Eleanor

    Huh, I found this post interesting. I actually loathe wearing makeup, but started wearing it fairly early on because I had HORRIBLE skin from middle school to mid college. I would never go out without foundation. I remember my perfect-skin friends used to tease me a little that I was “vain” for wearing make-up, but they never had cheekfuls of pimples to be ashamed of! At 25, I now wear almost no make-up as my skin is near perfect (I did Retin-A for a year, went gluten-free, drink loads of water, and use no soap on my face- just Ponds and tallow cream! no scars, woo) However, do I feel better with a bit of lipstick, blush, and mascara? Yes! Do I like wearing them? No! I wish I didn’t, that I could just wake up and go, but still look perfect. But fact of life is, no, I did not win the genetic lottery and feel like my coloring could use some help with some blushing cheeks and rosy lips. Love/hate is right.

  • ashialuvasians

    Alicia Keys isn’t the ideal representative for a no makeup “movement” since her natural skin seems to fit inside society’s standard for beauty; however,the point of the no makeup “movement” is still very positive.I understand that you find a problem with this movement because of how commenters are going about it, saying things such as “I’d show my skin if it was as pretty as Alicia’s”. They are missing the point that no matter how beautiful theh believe Alicia’s skin to be, some portion of society sees/saw her skin as ugly. See how subjective beauty is?Anyone not wearing makeup is honestly a good representation of this movement because it is about how the FELT, not how they actually look. I know that contradicts my first statement but I only said that to help lead up to this one. Btw, I used quotations around movement because I would not really consider what Alicia did a movement.