Brave? Boring? Sloppy? Depressed? Confident? Beautiful? What’s the first thing you think of when you see a woman with no makeup at all? If she’s a model, probably nothing since models are, well, models. But for the rest of us where, how and what type of makeup we wear says a lot about our social standing, personality and self-perception.
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There’s a new trend sweeping the Instagrams of both celebrities and regular folks. From supermodel Karlie Kloss, known for her natural beauty, to Nicki Minaj, known for her over-the-top wigs and makeups, women are posting pictures of themselves wearing no makeup at all to show their “real” selves. It’s become such a thing that it even got its own feature in The New York Times.
And it has certainly ruffled some feathers. After being called “ugly as f***,” noted fashion blogger Leandra Medine, took to her site, The Man-Repeller, to explain why she chooses to go bare-faced all the time. “I’m not making a statement,” she says. “The reason I don’t wear makeup is because I am lazy. More important than that though, I am comfortable with how I look. I don’t hate what I see when I look in the mirror. Even if legions of others don’t agree.”
Not everyone is as comfortable as Medine, though. While the range of makeup that women wear varies quite a lot, for most of us wearing some makeup is just part of getting dressed. Often we don’t feel “done” without it. Everyone has at least one friend who won’t even go to the gas station without foundation, lipstick and fake eyelashes. But all this may be changing thanks to the new #nomakeup bare-faced trend.
For some women it’s just a matter of simplicity. Actress Sutton Foster says she ditches the stage pancake in her everyday life because she says, “I’d rather spend my time doing other things than staring at myself in the mirror.”
Makeup adds just one more layer — figuratively and literally — of complication that many women are deciding they just don’t want to deal with anymore. In the past, this type of exasperation was often mocked as “letting yourself go” so it says good things about society that we are beginning to see going makeup free as practical instead of a white flag.
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Yet for others it’s a symbol of power. It’s long been the standard that while Steve Jobs could get away with wearing jeans and turtlenecks to board meetings, female Silicon Valley CEOs like Sheryl Sandberg not only have to have trim figures, expensive outfits and jewelry but also wear a full face of makeup to be respected.
It’s even worse in politics. Remember the horror Hillary Clinton was subjected to for daring to look “old” and not try to cover it up with a million creams and shadows? Skipping makeup is a subtle but in-your-face way (sorry, couldn’t help it) of saying they’re not playing the game anymore and they’d like to be valued for their contributions not looks.
And of course there’s the fashion crowd — although here’s where it gets a little dicey. Lots of celebs have been posting #nomakeup selfies but rather than being practical or political, it seems to be more about saying “Look how beautiful I am anyhow!” Soft lighting, Instagram filters and “tightlining” (a trick for applying makeup that amps up your eyes while still looking like you’re not wearing makeup) are all routinely used to buff up these #allnatural beauties.
Rather than destroying the beauty stereotype, they’re almost reinforcing it by saying women now not only need to look gorgeous when they’re glammed up but also first thing in the morning before they even roll out of bed.
But who says you have to choose? I don’t bother with makeup on the school run or at the gym but I’ll admit eyeliner and mascara do give me a boost of confidence at work or going out. Plus I think makeup is fun. I collect vintage dresses and love recreating classic pin-up looks, bold red lipstick and all.
In the end, I think this is really about learning to make what choices you feel best about and then not having to apologize for them. No woman should feel like she has to wear makeup to be beautiful or successful and on the flip side I don’t think women should be mocked for being “high maintenance” if they do decide to go all out.