By Ashley Goodman.
Since the dawn of human civilization, people have used makeup to beautify themselves, express themselves, and, in a sense, turn themselves into art. In recent times, young women and girls have started to favor trends such as smoky eyeshadow, sharply winged eyeliner, and vibrant lip colors to stand out and fit in.
Today, however, makeup can feel more like an obligation than a means of expression. As enforced by fashion magazines and cosmetic ads, society mandates that women must stack up to an ideal image– thin, beautiful, and flawless– even if it means altering themselves in the process.
As a result, women are left feeling self conscious and lesser, unable to attain the perfect female image. Some women express that they won’t, or even can’t, leave the house without makeup. These feelings of insecurity are imposed on women and girls from an especially young age. According to statistics reported by the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 58 percent of women between the ages of eight and 18 wear makeup. Sixty-five percent of those women began wearing it before the age of 13.
Many women have had enough. In an act of protest, young women across the world are engaging in an entirely new makeup trend: wearing no makeup at all. Wielding the hashtag #NoMakeup, actors and everyday people alike have posted pictures of themselves makeup-free across social media, and some have even vowed to quit makeup altogether.
The current movement against makeup was started by musician Alicia Keys when she published an article in Lenny Letter, a weekly feminist newsletter started by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner. In the article, Keys details her struggles with finding her place in a society that demands she alter and cover herself. Keys says that she used to feel as though she wasn’t good enough for the world to see her as she was.
Keys grapples with the ideas that society imposes on women, which seem to equate their worth with their skinniness and sexiness. She discusses her use of music to come to terms with her frustration with society. Her song, “When A Girl Can’t Be Herself” features the lyrics, “What if I don’t want to put on all that makeup / Who says I must conceal what I’m made of / Maybe all this Maybelline is covering my self-esteem.”
Though her music uses bold, impactful lyrics to challenge the idea that women should be forced to look a certain way, Keys says that she wanted to do something more tangible. She made a promise to herself and her fans that she would no longer wear makeup or paint her skin to fit in with society’s idea of the “perfect” woman.
Since then, Keys has gone “au naturel” for photo shoots as well as selfies on her personal social media accounts. Other celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga, and Kylie Jenner, have posted makeup-less selfies to social media with the tag #NoMakeup. Young women from all walks of life have taken to the hashtag- the movement’s tag currently has 13.9 million posts on Instagram.
Women have embraced the hashtag as an opportunity to share self-love and pride for their natural beauty. Proudly showing off acne, birthmarks, and freckles, these women are standing up to the expectation of the flawless woman and showing that true beauty, in fact, lies in those imperfections.
Makeup is not inherently evil; it is not the underlying cause of oppression against women. Makeup can invite adventurous new looks, provide boosts of self esteem, and give way to a medium of expression through colorful body art. It is the problematic expectation that women should wear makeup to hide their flaws or to look desirable.
Alicia Keys and the millions of women embracing the #NoMakeup trend are using self-love and solidarity to protest the very real objectification and criticism of women’s bodies. This still-growing act of sisterhood argues that, with or without makeup, women deserve to be confident and proud of the bodies they have.