It had to happen sooner or later. Perhaps it was a backlash from the Kardashians and the new Kylie Jenner school of makeup where caked-on foundation, gravity-defying brows and vibrant, look-at-me lips have become the new norm. A swathe of women are declaring that they don't want to wear makeup anymore, and suddenly it's become a new trend, or maybe even an anti-makeup revolution. We get it. There are many, many days that I go makeup free, using nothing but (non-tinted) moisturiser and sunscreen, and frankly it can be quite liberating not having to worry about your face or brows literally melting off in the Singapore swelter. But I have news for you. The whole #barefaced look is kind of a lie. Or a very clever illusion. Here's why. Look at this picture of Alicia Keys below. Is she wearing makeup?
If you answered no, I would have to disagree. Miss Keys is likely still wearing makeup — albeit very little. I can name at least three products, her or her makeup artist might have used — a skin tint of some sort to even out her skin, powder ('cos bright lights and cameras tend to make your skin look super shiny) and some lip gloss or a balm at the very least. Again, I can't say for sure if Keys is indeed completely free of all makeup, perhaps she is indeed just pulchritudinous and has just slathered Vaseline all over herself and the light is hitting her face just so. When Kim Kardashian appeared supposedly barefaced at the Balenciaga SS17 show in Paris, I kind of eyerolled, because she appeared to have worn tinted moisturiser, lash extensions, pink lipgloss and her brows were groomed to within an inch of their lives — going without makeup clearly takes work. As someone who has worked in magazines and now a fashion website for the past nine years, I can tell you that even the very physically flawless need a little help when it comes to standing in front of the camera's unforgiving glare. Even if you're not going full clown face, it's likely you'll need colourless gel to groom unruly brows, lip balm and perhaps some concealer for wayward spots. If you're appearing at the Grammys or even on a TV show like The Voice or being photographed from all angles at a fashion show, it'll be hard to go without a few key products, without looking like a hot mess.
When it comes to social media or putting everyday life on display, going barefaced is perhaps easier. If you take an #iwokeuplikethis selfie on your grocery run or after an actual run, you're not going to look that out of place. Some celebrities like actress Drew Barrymore even deign to post images of them and famous friends on Instagram — in this case Gwyneth Paltrow, Cameron Diaz and Nicole Richie — without a lick of makeup on. And more power to them as they put wrinkles, crow's feet, dark circles and eyebags on display, defying judgment and showing the world what really going without makeup looks like. Makeup is a very powerful symbol on women — whether we like it or not. Not putting on makeup signifies a serious or even mournful mood, or perhaps is a display of confidence in your own skin — witness Hillary Clinton's appearance at her first post-election speech with little makeup. Again, I would argue that Clinton was wearing some makeup... just much less than usual. Trolls and detractors said she looked tired and defeated. If I had a dollar for every time I've been told I look tired or under the weather when I've decided to go sans makeup... well I would be able to buy a small item from Gucci's newest collection.
But here are three main takeaways that I wanted to express, not because as a beauty editor my bread and butter kind of depends on women continuing to wear makeup, but because I do believe it.
1. The no-makeup trend can be yet another way of making women feel bad about themselves
Keys' intentions may have been good. She wrote in her essay for Lenny. "Every time I left the house, I would be worried if I didn't put on makeup: What if someone wanted a picture? What if they posted it? These were the insecure, superficial, but honest thoughts I was thinking. And all of it, one way or another, was based too much on what other people thought of me."
After feeling beholden to makeup, Keys felt she wanted to get rid of makeup completely, and that's fine. But that doesn't mean this is the right decision for all women. For those who suffer from adult acne and need cover-up to face the world, or even those who were not blessed with Keys' clear skin and symmetrical features, makeup may feel like a lifesaver instead of a shackle. Forcing women to conform to a new, yet again unrealistic ideal — looking pretty darn good and claiming not to wear any makeup — seems like just another hoop we have to jump through. Selling this unrealistic idea to a new generation of young women is like saying you shouldn't diet but you you should be a size 0... you know, naturally.
2. Every woman (and man) has the right to wear as much or as little makeup as they want
Okay I'm not perfect, and while I do feel that some women wear waaaaay too much makeup and look almost unrecognisable when stripped clean, at the end of the day, it's their perogative what they want to put on their face. If a woman wants to go completely barefaced and look 'ten years older' in the process, then so be it. Perhaps she has better things to do and wants to cultivate her personality and her wit instead of her contouring skills. If a man wants to wear lipstick, what's the issue? The world has enough problems to deal with than having society police the right amount of facepaint to flaunt.
Also, the occasion makes the difference. Repeated studies have shown that women who wear makeup to work, get better pay and promotion prospects, so while you may hate the game (or the patriarchy), it's good to know what you're up against. And newsflash: sometimes your ideals crumble in the face of real world pressure.
3. Makeup can be fun, and there's no real harm in indulging
Okay animal rights activists, vegans and the environmentally-conscious may argue against that — but if these are your concerns, there are ethical makeup brands that cater to the discerning. What I'm saying is that makeup can be something fun and empowering. Don't be afraid to try a new lipstick or be proud of the fact that you're ace at eyeliner, but don't run across the street every time someone sees you without your brows drawn on as well. As with everything it'll be great if you find the perfect balance between dependency and frivolity. At the end of the day, we all know that much-coveted inner glow comes from a sense of contentment and wellbeing, but heck, if a bottle of liquid illuminator gives you the same effect, why should you feel bad about using it?